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 From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2016 9:19 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Helloooo fellow Normals!!

I’m Nomi’s girlfriend, Amanita! I’m so glad Nomi finally compiled all our email addresses! It’s about fucking time!

So, The Birthday™ is coming up and I just realized the other day that none of our bffs/S.O.s can actually pull off any surprises for each other, considering that they’re all, ya know, telepathically linked. So I was wondering if y’all would be up for planning something special?

Let me know what you guys think!

~Amanita

 

From: Daniela Velasquez <dani@velasquez.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2016 9:47 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Amanita Winterson, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

OMG Yes!! This sounds so fun!!!!!!

(I’m Daniela BTW, Lito and Hernando’s... friend? Live-in beard? I’m not sure if we’ve officially sat down to DTR yet.)

What kind of surprise are we thinking of? A party? A present? Both? I’d vote both!

<3 Daniela

 

From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2016 10:10 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Ooooh yeah, Party + Present sounds great! How do y’all feel about that???

 

From: Felix Berner <catburglar299@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2016 4:02 AM
To: Amanita Winterson, Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Hi, this is Felix. I’m Wolfgang’s friend. I will help as much as I can!

-Felix

 

From: Hernando Morales <hernando.morales@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2016 11:29 AM
To: Amanita Winterson, Felix Berner, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Hello,

This is Hernando, I am Lito’s boyfriend. Sorry I did not see the email until now, three minutes ago I woke up. We went to bed very late last night.

I like your idea. I think we could use Skype to give the party? We could schedule a date, but the time would be a problem because the timezones are different.

It’s nice to meet you all,

Hernando

 

From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2016 5:34 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Awesome, it looks like we’re all in! I like Hernando’s idea about setting up a Skype call for the party. The sensates may have built-in facetime but the rest of us gotta do it the old fashioned way. ;)

How about we set the party time for 11:00 PM PST? That’s 8:00 AM in Berlin and 1:00 AM in Mexico City (sorry guys!). I figured that might be the best time to try to get all the semsates together without making anyone wake up too early or too late.

And as for gifts.... I was thinking maybe we could try to pull together a photo collection for the sensates. Maybe find some fun pictures, etc, and put them in a scrapbook or something. Do you think they’d like that? Or is that dumb? Thoughts?

~Amanita

 

From: Daniela Velasquez <dani@velasquez.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2016 5:55 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Amanita Winterson, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Oooh, photo album!! Sounds like a lot of fun! ;)

Though, I hear that some of the sensates are in some hard-to-reach places. How are we going to get photos for everyone?

 

From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2016 6:14 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Oh, don’t worry, Daniela. I’m sure we can find a way. ;)

-∞-

Amanita starts with Will and Riley.

It isn’t very difficult to find pictures of them on the internet. Facebook is a great resource, and while neither of them are avid users, their friends have a habit of tagging them in photos. It’s interesting, seeing them just through the photos that others thought were important to share. In a way, they almost seem like outsiders to their own lives.

Amanita starts with Will’s profile picture—the only picture he’s uploaded to Facebook himself. It’s a photo of him and his dog. It is, objectively, the best picture of Will that exists on the entire internet. He looks... happy, more or less. The smile might be a little forced, and the pose might be a little awkward, but he still seems mostly genuine. The dog is cute.

After more scouring, Amanita finds another photo of Will and his dog on the profile page of Will’s friend, Diego. The dog is splayed out over Will’s chest as he sits on an armchair, watching something on a small tablet. He’s not looking at the camera—a candid, then. Amanita wonders how much time Will spend alone at home with his dog. Does he park the cruiser and take off his holster every night and spend a quiet evening by himself? How much of his life has been overrun by his job with the police force?

She keeps scrolling through Diego’s profile and finds two more photos. They’re not the best pictures, but the pickings are a little slim, so she saves them. One was taken at a restaurant of some kind. Will wears a skeptical, closed-off expression, his arms crossed over his chest like he’d asked the photographer not to take photos but had little faith that they would actually comply with the request. The second photo has Will caught mid-sentence as he stands in what looks like a gym or a canteen—maybe at the police station? His hands are tucked in his pockets. Whoever took the photo clearly didn’t prepare him.

The rest of the images are all of Will in his police uniform, looking mostly serious. It makes a girl think—did anyone really know Will before his cluster?

Riley has a similar story. She has a facebook account, but it’s fairly new—only a couple years old. The majority of her feed is full of reposted pictures that other people have taken of her while DJ-ing. In them, Riley is just a woman with headphones standing over a control panel. She looks so focused and in her own world that it’s impossible to tell what she’s thinking.

Amanita is only able to find two other photos of Riley away from the disk jockey scene. One is far back in her timeline when she first made her account. Riley is looking at the camera with an entirely neutral expression; it gives nothing away. The second picture is a little better. Amanita finds it on Riley’s father’s facebook. In it Riley looks lost in thought—peaceful. She’s staring off camera with her hands folded on the table in front of her, wearing a loose-fitting wool sweater. Amanita thinks that of all the photos she’s seen, this one comes the closest to showing Riley as she really is.

And that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Giving the sensates another way to connect with each other. It must be hard to share your life so intimately with seven other people without having any physical way to prove the bond. If all goes well, the photo collection will be one more tangible way to unite them.

Amanita hopes it’s good enough. It looks like Riley and Will might need it.

-∞-

From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, July 5, 2016 12:23 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Hey y’all,

I got a few photos of Riley and Will we can add to the collection—I’ll attach it to this email! There really aren’t a lot of photos of them out there. This is the best I could do.

Good luck!

~Amanita

 

Attachments:

Will-and-pup.jpg

Will-and-pup2.jpg

Grumpy-Will.jpg

Unflattering-Will.jpg

DJ-Riley.jpg

Blah-Riley.jpg

Soft-Riley.jpg

 

From: Felix Berner <catburglar299@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, July 5, 2016 1:02 PM
To: Amanita Winterson, Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Great pictures! I found a website that said Van Damme in a article, I think that is the van that Capheus drives? I am trying to contact them to get photos.

-Felix

 

From: Hernando Morales <hernando.morales@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, July 5, 2016 3:52 PM
To: Amanita Winterson, Felix Berner, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

I love the photos! Good idea, Felix. I will start a collection of photos of Lito. For him, we will not have not sufficient amount of photos like Riley and Will, jaja 

-Hernando

 

From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, July 5, 2016 6:33 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Yay! Thanks guys, I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

~Amanita

-∞-

When he first starts looking, Hernando almost makes the mistake of choosing photos from Google. Lito has been in so many professional photoshoots, has taken center stage at so many press events, that his face is spattered all across the internet. Many of the photos are good photos—sexy photos, even. Here’s one with Lito posing for the press in front of a white backdrop with a TV network logo printed over it. Here’s a picture of Lito dressed for an Armani advertisement. Hernando has picked out a few of his favorites by the time he stumbles across a picture of Lito and Daniela on the cover of a gossip magazine. They’re standing arm in arm, smiling at a journalist, looking to all the world like the perfect pair. If he didn’t know better, Hernando is sure that even he would believe it.

He scraps all the photos he gathered, closes his internet browser, and starts over.

He begins again by looking through Daniela’s photos. They're not hard to find—every major news outlet has them—but he doesn't take them from the internet. Instead he opens up the folder where they're saved on his laptop. He has the photos because in a way, to possess them makes it feel a bit more like they're his again, that they belong to him, no matter how many others have seen them. Some of them are nice—too nice for the history they have. These pictures almost ended his boyfriend’s career, but in a way they also freed Lito to be himself. They show the real Lito. The world may see these photos in a thousand different ways but to Hernando, they are always truth.

Hernando sets two of them aside for later.

Finally, he takes out his own phone and opens up his camera roll. These are his and his alone. Here he finds the silly photos, the unflattering photos, the ones he took when Lito wasn’t looking. When they first started dating it was so difficult to capture these moments, but now it’s almost second nature.

He finds the perfect photo after only a couple minutes. He took it while they were vacationing on a private beach on the Yucatan Peninsula a few months ago. In the photo, Lito is sitting upright on a gaudy blue beach towel, reading a book in his swim trunks and sunglasses. He’s holding the book in one hand while his other rests just above his knee. The lighting is awful, and you can see the rolls of Lito’s stomach, and Lito’s swim trunks have hiked up a little to show an unflattering amount of thigh, and there’s a streak of sand on Lito’s shoulder clinging to the patch of sunblock they forgot to rub all the way in, and he’s far too engrossed in his book to bother looking at the camera—but it’s perfect. This is Lito.

Hernando writes up a quick email, attaches the photos, and clicks ‘Send’.

-∞-

From: Hernando Morales <hernando.morales@gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, July 6, 2016 8:30 AM
To: Amanita Winterson, Felix Berner, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Hello,

Here are some photos of Lito. They are not all flattering but they are genuine, yes?

-Hernando

 

Attachments:

DANICAM038904.jpg

DANICAM038909.jpg

Lito-playa-9.jpg

-∞-

“Hey, Jela!” Hanif yells from across the street. Jela turns and waves.

“Hanif,” Jela says, smiling. “What’s going on? Are there not enough tourists around for you to swindle today?”

Hanif laughs. “No—there are plenty like always. I came to you because I got a message. You remember the website I made for European tourists?”

“Yes, I remember,” Jela says.

“You remember that I mentioned Van Damme by name in the transportation section?’

“Yes.”

“I got a message yesterday from someone in Germany who says he is a friend of your friend Capheus. He wanted some photos of Capheus for a gift. Strange, hm?”

Jela knows that Capheus has some strange friends in faraway places. He said that those friend were what helped him take back his mother’s medicine when it was stolen several months ago. Jela doesn’t quite understand how it works, but Capheus has assured him that it is “very cool”. He’ll have to take Capheus’s word for it.

“Did the friend give a name?” Jela asks.

Hanif nods. “He said he was Felix and that his friend was named Wolfgang.”

Wolfgang. The name sounds familiar.

“What kind of photos did he want?”

“He said any photos of Capheus,” Hanif says, shrugging. “It’s for a photo album of some kind. Any photos you have will be fine, he said.”

“Tell him that I will get the photos,” Jela says. “Thank you, Hanif. I’ll bring you the photos tomorrow.”

Jela knows what photos he will bring. They don’t have many to choose from. He will bring a couple of the photos they were given when a white travel journalist wrote an article about Nairobi buses a year ago. The final article was far from favorable but the photos turned out nice, and Capheus is featured in two of them. The journalist sent them a few copies of the magazine the article was published in, and Jela knows that they still have them. He can find them if he looks hard enough.

He will also bring the photo of Capheus and his mother that they took with a disposable camera a few months ago. Shiro has been doing worse and worse. Capheus wanted some way to remember her, just in case, and so Jela bought the camera and developed the film in town after the photos had been taken. The quality is far from perfect but the love between mother and son is so obviously there—almost palpable.

Jela trusts that this is what Felix is looking for.

-∞-

From: Felix Berner <catburglar299@gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, July 8, 2016 5:20 AM
To: Amanita Winterson, Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Hello,

The man I emailed about photos for Capheus replied to me today. He has scanned in three photos that a friend of Capheus gave him. I attached these photos to this email.

-Felix

 

Attachments:

SCAN0001.jpeg

SCAN0002.jpeg

SCAN0003.jpeg

-∞-

Dani wants to help. She wants to do something nice for Lito and the people who helped him help her, and this, she thinks, is one way she can do that.

Kala Dandekar—that’s the name of the Indian woman. Dani tries a Google search first and finds a wedding event page full of photos. Jackpot.

There are dozens of cheesy wedding photos to choose from, but Dani finds herself hesitating. Somehow, this woman—Kala—doesn’t look the way a happy bride should. Her smiles are more resigned than jubilant. Even the way she touches her husband-to-be makes it look like she’s holding back. The photos betray a positon that Dani is all too familiar with, and her heart breaks a little for this woman. No woman should have to marry a man she doesn’t want to marry.

Dani skims through the rest of the wedding photos until she finds what she’s looking for: two photos of Kala alone, and one of Kala as a child with her family. She saves these onto her computer.

Sun Bak, the Korean woman, is a little more difficult. She’s a bit like Lito—a scandal has put her face all over the media world. The majority of the photos that Google turns up are photos of her getting into a car to go to her court trial, or photos of her in a prison uniform. There are also photos that were taken of her before the scandal came to light—photos of her in interviews and press conferences and the like. She wears the same expression in every picture, which is to say she wears no expression at all. Her face is blank, emotionless. Sun has the face of a soldier—Dani would know. She and Sun are the same, only Dani’s battle face is a smile.

She keeps digging.

Eventually, she stumbles across an interview with Sun’s father. The article includes photos of a much younger Sun, as well as a family portrait with her and her mother, father, and brother. She knows the moment she sees them that she’s found the right ones. She saves the photos with Kala’s and starts to write an email.

-∞-

From: Daniela Velasquez <dani@velasquez.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2016 10:39 AM
To: Hernando Morales, Amanita Winterson, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Here are some photos I found for Kala and Sun, I hope this helps!

<3 Dani

 

Attachments:

Kala1.jpg

Kala2.jpg

KalaFamilia.jpg

Sun1.jpg

Sun2.jpg

SunFamilia.jpg

-∞-

Felix is at a bit of a loss.

The bottom line is this: he doesn’t actually have many photos of Wolfgang. Neither of them are the sentimental types. In all the years they’ve known each other, they’ve never made a fuss about collecting memories.

He rakes through the files on his computer and the photos on his phone, and, finally, he comes up with a decent selection. He eliminates the photos showing Wolfgang with women hanging off his arm, because considering the way that Wolfgang’s relationship with Kala has developed, he suspects those might be in poor taste.

He picks an unflattering one of Wolfgang standing next to an art piece in a gallery. He picks one of the two of them, arms slung over each other’s shoulders. He also picks an old one, one from when they were younger. He knows that Wolfgang doesn’t like to remember his past. But this photo, it’s nice. Wolfgang is crouched on the ground, holding his dog close and smiling at the camera. Maybe Felix lied. Maybe he is a little sentimental. He’s kept this photo through the years because he likes to think that someday, Wolfgang is going to want this picture back.

-∞-

From: Felix Berner <catburglar299@gmail.com>
Sent: Sunday, July 14, 2016 5:20 AM
To: Amanita Winterson, Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Hello,

Here are the photos of Wolfgang I have. Warning: Wolfgang is not photogenic.

-Felix

 

Attachments:

Wolfgang-museum.jpg

felix-wolfgang.jpg

SCAN01-wolfgang-und-hund.jpg

-∞-

Amanita did not expect it to take her this long to choose which photos of Nomi to include, but here she is, the last one to send pictures in. Who would have thought?

She and Nomi have so many photos. They take photos together almost constantly. Their facebook walls are just streams of images of the two of them going out to eat, or kissing, or hanging out with friends. Amanita might feel bad if they weren’t so goddamn cute together.

In the end, she picks four images: two of both of them and two of just Nomi. All of them were taken within the last couple months. The first picture of Nomi was taken at Pier 39 the last time they were in downtown San Francisco. She’s leaning on the wooden railing with the ocean at her back, her hair catching the sunlight just right, and God, she’s gorgeous. The next solo picture is of Nomi in a form-fitting dress standing behind a bar with vodka bottles on either side. She looks a little washed out because the club was dark and Amanita had to use her flash, but the wild, crazy, unbridled joy on Nomi’s face is unmistakable.

The next photo is from Pride. Nomi is straddling her on her motorcycle, all gussied up with makeup and bright colors. The last photo is a selfie they took yesterday of them kissing, chastely, their lips barely touching. Their eyes are closed and the photo quality isn’t the best, but Amanita knows it’s the right choice. They live in the moment. The past is the past—not something either of them plan on dwelling on. What matters is now.

-∞-

From: Amanita Winterson <bonita.amanita@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2016 2:30 PM
To: Hernando Morales, Daniela Velasquez, Felix Berner
Subject: Re: SUPER SECRET PLANS (FOR NON-SENSATES ONLY!!!)

Heeeey!!!

I finally got Nomi’s pictures put together, which means WE HAVE ALL THE PHOTOS COLLECTED!!! I’m going to start printing them and getting some albums ready to send out!

Good work, team!

Amanita

 

Attachments:

Nomi-Pier39.jpg

Nomi-ClubX.jpg

Pride2016-41.jpg

CAM100064.jpg

-∞-

“I know it’s not a lot, but we wanted to do a little something for all of you,” Amanita says. Some of the giftees are watching her through the computer’s webcam, while others are looking through Nomi’s eyes. Sometimes Amanita thinks she can almost see them there, just behind those beautiful blues. She sees them in a gesture, in a tilting of the head, in a new facial expression she’s never seen on Nomi’s face before. It’s strange, sometimes, knowing that the moments she shares with Nomi are also moments she shares with seven other strangers. But they’re adjusting. And they aren’t really strangers anymore, are they?

“We sent out real albums, too, but... not all of you are staying at home right now, and Sun is in prison....” Hernando says.

Dani nods. “It was a lot of fun to make, though.”

“We tried our best,” says Felix.

“It’s perfect,” Nomi murmurs, and Amanita knows that she speaks for more than just herself when she says it. “Thank you. Thank you all so, so much.”

Amanita leans in and kisses her—kisses Lito and Wolfgang and Sun and Capheus and Kala and Riley and Will. It’s soft. She grins against Nomi’s lips and whispers, “You’re welcome.”