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He was a little boy, so old in his shoes. When will those shoes grow to fit his feet? When does one lose innocence irrevocably until the second sleep of amnesiac old age? When one learns of death, sex, or the fundamental difference between the self and others? Object permanence, undeniable as memory. He clapped his hands over his eyes and saw a world that existed out there. In those shut eyelids kaleidoscopic patterns formed out of capillaries superimposed on the liquid lens. White noise, reach your hand into it and it will disappear.

He clasped his hands softly over his face and knew the world would continue to exist even though he didn't, when his hands would no longer move of his own volition. Anterograde and retrograde amnesia in tandem, a perception lasting for less than a millisecond before it disappears, statements of self revising themselves midsentence.

The alternative was a slow mold towards form, embarrassing at every step. A foot put forward and withdrawn at the first feeling of cold. The smell of vaseline and chlorine hung in the air. From beyond the corner of his eye he saw the graceful curves, the easy walk, upright spine, and narrow shoulders. Frozen in place, he was pushed into the pool and the image disappeared. Reaction displacing thought, the kick-in of the vagus nerve, paralyzed panic, the steady rise, and the relief of air. The girl was gone, the chlorine overpowering. He threw up in a trashcan.

Each year a shoe size larger, the kaleidescope growing more vivid. Patterns of jealously and rage and the peace of two eyelids that meet. The female body was a form to emulate, whose skin was a sheath sewn, shafts of light penetrating through gaps in the fabric where the facade did not hold. He sat up in bed, shifted to the side, and looked down at his two shoes, brown and leathered, thick at the soles, laces hard and ropelike. When he ran his feet were fleet-footed, thin stalks of effortless motion, elflike, the anachronism of a modern-day agile hunter. Arrows, not bullets.

The muscle is thin and slippery, not condensed. Touching it gave a tingling sensation. Far away, like an idealization. When he closed his eyes, this happened.

In his mind's eye he saw the girl at the pool, and wanted to switch places with her. To take oneself into the eyes of another, a mastery of the self and other divide. Did she feel this same way? In a life-moment, this fleeting thought no matter how repressed would've arose. Colors danced around in his eye, a vision bright like a projection outwards.

 


 

She looked down towards two clunky pairs of small child's shoes. They were brown and old, worn too many a time. Her own feet tapered slightly, sheathed by fine invisible hairs, feet bare, her hands graceful, her spine upright. Those shoes used to be hers. The boy inside her smiled, starry eyed.

He was still thinking about her, although part of the reason he'd left his house was to try and get his mind on something else. He was sitting at his regular table in the Runcible Spoon, with a stack of copy to edit and a hot cup of coffee. This was his zone, the exact place and conditions under which he did his best work. But not tonight. Maybe it was the rain outside, because rain always made him maudlin. Maybe it was Jane, rearranging his mental furniture in absentia.

She was one of those people who always had to be rearranging the world to suit her, even if only in little ways. The endless shifting of the condiments on restaurant tables was only the second worst way it manifested. It had taken him months to pin down the more insidious first. Every time she left his house it felt strange to him. Different. One weekend he dusted - which he did very rarely - and noticed odd concentric patterns in the dust around his bricolage. He finally realized that she'd been making strange, tiny shifts in the position of nearly everything in the house. This bemused him. Not so much the question of why, which he had given up on in regard to the strange behavior of women in general - but how? How had she found the time? She was never alone long - he was an attentive host, even if attentive generally only involved refilling her cup with his abysmal coffee and a somewhat nervous attention to her state. He had never returned from the kitchen or bathroom to find her tinkering with things on the mantelpiece, but the number of overlapping dust rings indicated a regular attention to these details. It was almost as if her mere presence in a room caused things to shift, ever so slightly, to gravitate in tiny increments that reflected a desire in the world to be under her long white fingers.

Outside, the rain was falling harder. In the night, the streetlights reflecting off the rippling surface of the water, it was impossible to tell just how deep it was. Until a car sped by, shedding thick plumes of water from under its wheels, he could almost imagine that the streets were rivers. Which was not entirely out of the realm of possibility, the longer the rain continued. He imagined himself backstroking down 6th street, periodically spouting little spumes of shining water from his mouth, keening like an Enya-inspired humpback whale. He snorted. The porch was filling with Spoon regulars now, all out to experience the storm and the black-deep streets coppered by the sodium streetlights together. It was beautiful and strange, and strange beauty cannot be resisted by the kinds of people who prefer to spend their evenings in cafes sharing bowls of ice cream with street philosophers to endless evenings of Seinfeld reruns.

And where was Jane tonight? Was she out dancing in the rain, or was she sitting in the library near a window, reading the secret messages spelled out by rivulets of rain on the glass? Alphabetizing her creaking collection of vinyl albums? Drinking cheap wine out of the bottle next to the railroad tracks? Anything was possible. One of the things he found so fascinating about her was that she defied the limitations of his imagination. She could be doing anything, nothing, everything. And none of it would be out of character.

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