It’s four o’clock and I’m pretending to read Better Housekeeping at the bay window, in the sun, but really I’m keeping an eye on my kids playing with the neighbor kids out on the lawn. That oldest one Kenny, from around the corner, I don’t trust him. His eyes are always red and have these purple crescent shadows, like bruises, under ‘em. His mother, Francine, says it’s allergies, but the kid looks like he’ll grow up to be something shameful like a drug-dealer or a strip club manager or a comedian.
The businessman was uploading the selfie he had taken with his new Maserati on Instagram, when the interphone rang.
He didn’t bother checking through the peephole, and he regretted it the moment he opened the door.
In this story—for trust me, this is a story, just like you are and just like we are—the Autodidact squints and realises that all this time the young boy with the freckles must have been standing in the shade of the Corinthian column. The single buckle on his satchel is open, the large flap fluttering like a newborn’s breath. The Autodidact inhales. Having read and reread the same paragraph since lunch, the one that starts “Capital is dead labour, vampire-like,” there is finally an opening in the room. He bows his head, attempts to resume his studies, only to have the words start spinning—they twirl and empty the page, pile up near the edge of the desk before dropping to the floorboards with a hush. The boy stands almost within reach. His naked forearm ivory.
Julieta is almost late to pick up her son. She sees Kareem’s mom Rima, her little ones in the double stroller, and the preschooler stomping around the flagpole garden near the school’s office. The dark-haired girls have black, black eyes, but the little boy is fair like Rima. Julieta waves as she approaches, lowers her face to the stroller, and tweaks the girls’ noses to their delight. Rima smiles shyly; her English is good, and her accent doesn’t bother Julieta. Kareem and Omar are in the same second grade class—friends who’ve been to each other’s birthday parties. Unlike the American moms who drop off and ask what time to pick up, Julieta had stayed the whole time and socialized with all the ladies, some wearing the jihab, others without. Julieta felt closer to those ladies than the PTA moms and wishes she knew more about her long dead Lebanese grandfather. Just before exchanging niceties, Julieta remembers something she heard on the radio.
Never trust anyone who’s got Good News. News is never good when it’s Good News.
Email sent to legions with the subject: “Good News.” Pyramid schemes, dream getaways, and the chance to watch horny coeds disrobe in real time.
January 10, 1546
I was writing a sermon concerning the Israelites’ faith when they were in bondage, in Egypt. It stressed suffering of the laborers who built the great pyramids. A superior sermon.
Luther, have you pondered the pyramid’s perfect geometry? From the pinnacle, four sides slope down tiers to the stout base. Pyramids can only be built with leadership and the coordinated efforts of many hands.
You asked about our relations with the local powers. Geneva has sometimes been an Eden spot that’s a pleasure to do God’s work in. Lately, however, the council badgers me endlessly. Some seek to usurp my authority. Frankly, Luther, there is temptation to resign this struggle and let them rule how they will.
S 21 Aug 97.9°
Gin and tonic on the menu for tonight then. #chinup
M 22 Aug 97.7°
Really, why did I expect anything else?
T 23 Aug 97.8°
I miss Andy.
W 24 Aug 97.8°
I am a mature, intelligent, successful woman. Buying tampons should not throw me into a tailspin.
T 25 Aug 97.7°
Andy’s back tomorrow night. #justkeepswimming
I find you in Paris—you’re sick yellow and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The métro spits me out at the top of the street that is home for now, and you’re there waiting, heavy, deafening and exhilarating. I pretend to shelter from you in the doorway of the Monoprix, laughing with the others standing there, gurgling like a child with my belly pushed out as you soak through my shoes and make my toes squeak in the cheap rubber. The air is thick with electricity that combs my hair like fingers, the sky ochre and low above our heads. I feel like you see me.
Forever stretches out before me, as I stare across hill after hill, mountain after mountain. Deep browns blend into dark greens and steely greys in a sea of nature. Leaves hang heavy with thick droplets, and the earth is soft underfoot. The sun is on the cusp of the horizon and lights up the cloud-streaked sky with vibrant pinks and deep purples. Nothing stirs except for the grass and trees in the gentle wind. I stand, minute against the vast expanse of nature.
Rhea hurried towards the bus stop. The place was drowned in an eerie silence. Somewhere, she could hear the distant ringing of a bell, but for that, nothing made a sound in the stillness. The street lamps flickered and made a crackling noise. She looked up to search for the moon but instead was rewarded with a cold lashing to the eyes. The rain splashed her curly hair and pale face, but it had been wet long before the rain touched it. She had been crying and was mopping her tears when a gloved hand rested on her shoulder.
Rhea flinched and looked behind her. Under a pitch black umbrella was a tall, lean figure in a grey suit and a red shirt. He looked oddly familiar.