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those that will judge will say you're aloof

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Sometimes you think you could just kill for a major chord resolution; it's better than this hardscrabble plea for understanding, for acceptance; it just flat hurts too much.


Find the pattern: if you find it, you'll end the war. If you can do it, then you won't have anything to worry about. If you find the pattern, the if-then statement won't ever break down. It'll all be that certain. If you're as predictable as clockwork, then you're a code I can crack. But of course it doesn't work that way. There's the infinitesimal change in the chromosome, the wind that blows at just the wrong angle and brings down buildings and the people with them. People change.

People leave.


You're some kind of sociopath, she told you before she left. What are you, some kind of sociopath?

No, you want to say, if I were a sociopath, I wouldn't be afraid.

You don't say anything.


More and more frequently you believe you've mistaken scientific fact for mystery. You don't believe this every day. Just on the bad days. There are a lot of bad days.

I guess I was mistaken, you told her.


How easy it is to get trapped in the labels, the set patterns, the kingdom-phylum-order-class-family-genus-species. If there's room for joy in all that science you can't find it. On your good days you walk alone among the glass cases in the neoclassical monstrosity by the lake, and you imagine how bright your eyes must look, and you're pretty sure the feeling is called elation.

Later the 146 bus takes you away and sitting toward the front with your hands in your lap, it occurs to you that it must take a special kind of weirdo to see and love the magic in a bunch of dead bugs on pins, and maybe she was right about you after all.


How does the line go? she asked you, toward the end, and you let your head tilt back, and you said, We all live in a capital I.


What's the hurt in losing your humanity? Not like it could hurt worse; not like there's any way to become more human, not here, not now. Let it go, where it is everything. Make a commitment for once. Not as though you're not already on your way.

After all, it's not as though this was unexpected: people leave, the world keeps turning. It's not as though it should be a disaster every time.


At this point, coffee brewed, paper in front of you, sink of dishes and tank of hungry fishes waiting for you once you're done, you'll take a simple promise of renewal. As long as it's something you can believe in.

You decide it might be worth it to covenant with yourself, to engage in a little magical thinking: if I can just wake up, then I can see about finding some answers.

But the pretty lies you tell yourself aren't enough to change a thing. They don't answer the questions you have, and they don't stop your sinking feeling that maybe you're just another animal after all. You have a genus and a species, too, just like everyone else. Even thinking to yourself that animals think of themselves, and if you don't like thinking that you're just one of them you're selling the rest of the world awfully short -- that doesn't do anything, either.

Maybe it would be better to be an animal after all, you think. Maybe that's what it's all about. Becoming a real animal, instead of something that just can't accept what it is.


You overthink everything, she told you. You're never here. Not really.

Then you can't call me a robot, you point out, and you're a little ashamed by the vindictive triumph you feel. Robots don't think at all.


You abandon the places you wandered in before in favor of the other galleries in the museum -- the places you never wandered as often, when she was still around. More affecting than you expected are the stones carved in shapes; the red plastic letters in the middle read BIRDSTONES: Purpose Unknown. You wander further and see the same word over and over, by religious objects, by potsherds, by Cheyenne buffalo skins: effigy.


Reach back to move forward. You can find a little wisdom in the past: you can pull songs like artifacts, artifacts like prayers. Surely if people have been making these tools, addressing these themes, for years, surely you're not alone. Surely there's some scrap of humanity somewhere. Surely you share it.

It's only human folly that promises continuity and certainty, some gift bought through dedicated magical thinking. You can't give up your superstitions: if you envision the plane crashing before you board, the plane won't crash at all. Imagining your flesh tearing and burning, and trying to contemplate the intensity of that pain, lets you offer a tiny, awkward smile to the flight attendant before you make your way back to seat 27C and slump by the window with the shade down, your seat back upright, and your tray table securely fastened.

Maybe that's your humanity, you think, as you get out of town for a while. Accepting the end.


The language is broken, you think, gradually, over the course of a handful of cities distinguishable only by the way their riverfronts look. So cast your own.


You were in the ground in late November. December, now, and the cold saps everything from you, even when the wind doesn't bite as badly as usual. You find a place to be: somewhere warm, quiet, out of the elements. After a little experimentation, you find you like the acoustics of the room. It's got a good feeling. It's a place safe to think a little, to find something worth something, to let yourself wonder if there's a glimmer of humanity in you after all.

You don't even mind the crickets in the corners when they sing.


You thought you might kill for a major chord resolution. You don't really need one.

You cast your own.