Let's see.. Big news down under today is the Brownlow Medal winner, Jason Akermanis. Yes folks, it's Grand Final week here in Melbourne. This is a good thing because it means that:

  • The football season is nearly over.
  • There's going to be about three weeks after this Saturday where nobody talks about the AFL! Heaven!

So I'm not the biggest football fan. I spent last night having a few beers with some mates and watching the Brownlow medal count. Somewhat of an Aussie tradition, I guess, the ritual of sitting around the television, drinking beer and refelecting on the season gone by. Of course there's the eye candy that is some of the trophy women who seem to exist solely to go to the Brownlow dinner on the arm of a footballer... I guess it needs something to get the punters to watch.

But fuck me gently with a chainsaw, I was stunned when the winner was interviewed with some of the inappropriate questions asked of the medal winner by dumbfuck commentator Bruce McAvaney:

  • "So, Jason, how did you feel growing up without a father?" (Excuse me?)
  • (On a camera shot of Kevin Sheedy "Ah, there's a shot of Sheeds, wonder what he's thinking now..." (Who give s a fuck? Sheeds didn't win the Brownlow!)
  • "So, did you come (to the dinner) on the motorbike tonight?" (Yes, in a dinner suit with his fiance in a dress)
  • "So when are you getting married?" (which has what exactly to do with football?)

The mind boggles.

Oh, and there's some stuff going on in America, but hell, it is Grand Final week after all! Roll on next week, I say. Bring on the cricket and the spring racing carnival, stuff most people could care less about.

We're so ridiculously good at cricket it's a joke, even if the whole game is fixed by some indian bookmakers and we have to put up with wankers like Shane Warne representing our great country.

All through high school, I was carpooled. I was 13 as a sophomore and didn't turn 16 until I was a senior, so by then I was so used to it that I didn't bug mom and dad for a license or a car. They couldn't afford to get me a car anyways. First I got carpooled by my English teacher, Mr. Isett, along with 3 boys who lived in my area and who tormented me every morning and afternoon as I bobbed up and down in the rumble seat in the back of Mr. Isett's station wagon; sometimes I sat up front with him because I could see what the boys were up to from the reflection in my ugly, red-framed, Sally Jesse fuckin' Raphael glasses (don't ask, I don't know either). We drove an hour to school, across the Maryland line into Delaware because our parents would rather send us to a podunk, middle of nowhere Christian school than risk sending us to a shitty local public school. Adam and Alan Cassell, two of the boys who rode with me, also went to the middle school I did, another podunk Christian school that was less far away. Adam would die the next year in a fatal truck accident coming home from his girlfriend's house one Thursday night in the fall.

The next year, a new girl came to our class. Our school, and most Christian schools in rural Maryland, tended to take in bad kids that the public schools couldn't handle. Jennifer was such a girl. She would introduce me, through her string of delinquent girlfriends, to drinking, sneaking out of the house, smoking, and my first and worst sexual encounter. I didn't let my parents in on this, of course, because I thought Jennifer was cool. I thought, by hanging around with her, that I would get something my life lacked, substance. Jennifer also had a license and her own car. She and I and another girl in our class, Eve, began carpooling, as we all lived pretty close together on our side of the Mason-Dixon.

Jennifer had an 80's model Colt, a dingy silver 2 door hatchback. I usually sat in the back, as I'd become accustomed over the years to catching up on the hour sleep I'd lost earlier that morning, when my father nudged me awake before daylight to get ready for school. One morning in particular I woke up from sleep unable to see.

The car was stopped. Everything was still. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't see. I rubbed my eyes, thinking my contacts, a new addition in an effort to spruce up my self-esteem, had clouded over somehow. I was sitting longwise in the back. My left foot was numb. I could feel the tear in my nylons, and my shoe was off. I couldn't find my shoe. Then I heard Jennifer sobbing in the front seat.

Are we dead? Are we dead?

"We're not dead, Laura. Shut up."

Well, that's good.

Some time later, I heard sirens, but before then I can't remember whether or not I'd heard voices from passersby who came to the car to check in on us. I remember a lot of voices after that, and hearing the back window of the car begin to break and crumble around me; before this I don't recall touching any broken glass. Someone put a neck brace around my head and the next thing I remember is feeling my vision return as the inside of an ambulance became more and more clear. I saw through the little window the tops of trees and thought for a moment that I was in a helicopter. Neat, I thought. Never ridden in a helicopter before. But it wasn't.

With the neckbrace on, I couldn't see much, and I couldn't feel much when people began sticking things into me, an IV, a shot to numb my foot, or the stitches they inserted to close a gash in the outer side of my left foot. Somehow in the impact, my foot must have snagged on something. Impact? I didn't remember any impact. And then, it happened.

I leaned over and threw up. It was thick brown. It was my birthday cake from the night before; we had celebrated a day early. The orderly, an older black man, looked at me and said jokingly, "Look at the mess you made!" I tried to laugh, and as far as I rememeber, it hadn't occured to me to cry.

Moments passed and soon the faces of our school's principal and my parents popped up in my line of vision, which at this point was still directed at the ceiling due to the brace. I left the hospital not long after that, my foot bandaged and me hobbling to my parents' car in a patient's shirt, trying to carry some gauze in my free hand that was rolling around in one of those kidney shaped plastic trays.

Jennifer bit the steering wheel and broke her collarbone. Eve broke her leg in two places and put her head through the windshield. I didn't break a single bone. None of us were wearing our seatbelts. A woman ran a red light and nearly killed us, Jennifer's tiny car compacting like an accordian during a swift exhale. But we were all alive.

I will never forget what happened on September 25th, 1990, partly because of the birthday cake incident. Because of that accident, I have 20% disability in my back and dead nerves on the left side of my foot, but I can live with that. Thank God I didn't die from that.

It's a great day to be alive, despite anything I may have previously told you.

i

I hear a canned rooster crow on my nighttable. Rolling in the chill of the morning, I face the alarm clock and with a shaking hand, slap it off. I roll back to the wall, clutching the blanket around me, resting my forehead on its white smoothness.

ii

I spun my locker combination and in a habit refined from three years of practice, attempted to lift the lock while slamming my hand against the cubby. Satisfied that it was locked, I set out in a brisk walk up the hall. I kept my eyes up, focused on the unknown room at the end, convinced that this would radiate an air of self confidence that others would immediately pick up on and worship me for.

I reached the door, the one I could only recognize by counting the stairways I passed venturing to it from my locker (always two). A petite blonde girl leaned against the doorjam of the next classroom in front of me, apathetic and obviously tired.

I glanced through the window of my destination and seeing it empty and darkened, I turned quickly. I forgot to slap my head and mutter to make the mistake someone else had made more obvious.

I could feel her eyes piercing my back and analyzing each step I took. The tap of her chunky, Steve Madden heel seemed to puncuate each hurried sentence my mind pieced together.

And suddenly my mind was once again tired and sluggish; I was far away enough that the petite blonde, with her amalgamation of acrylic tips and shimmer powder, had faded into my collection of old songs, lovers, and enemies.

iii

Heather and Laura sat on either side of me, more or less copying the answers to the science lab from my paper to theirs. We sat on child-size chairs in front of a black lab counter of something unknown that wouldn't burn or break down under acid. Those around us stood.

I felt the center of an island. The loneliness, the isolation. At least the beach has the water to play on its body. I have nothing but the beach, the sandy beach of unwavering color for miles around.

I watched the blonde to my left carefully, regarding with her my almost full attention, as my right hand explained how I had found the area of the circle. The lead felt too thin on the paper, my hands still shaking. I could feel perspiration oozing out of my body and I wanted to dive into the small fishtank in the back of the classroom.

I thought, after that last remark, how dirty and fake the fishtank looked from this angle, as I had never seen it. The beautiful, pristine blue and green of the water, as viewed from my seat for many days, seemed to fade into a murky gray, revealing that the beautiful greens and blues were simply old stains upon the glass.

I've written this part over several times. It seems near impossible for me to properly capture how these words came to me, how they seemed to be merely single stanzas in an epic, how they jumbled together, quite meaningless, until I tried very hard to piece them together.

"You hooked up with him?" Laura spoke over me. In my recollection, I'm invisible. She leans over me as though I were simply an empty chair between her and Heather.

"When?"

Heather. Her voice is strange. To me, maybe, just because I've never heard one like it. It has an odd, nasal tone to it, and a higher than average pitch. She always seems to carry the undertones of a giggle with her, wherever she goes. The way she speaks, you think she has an amazing zest for life; inquisitive, optimistic, easily excitable.

It is now, writing this, and it was then, hearing her, that I decided that, having known her for going on five years, this was all an elaborate, subconscious deception.

"At the bridge, last Friday." Laura's voice is lower. Today it is nasal, but of a different sort; earlier, she had complained of a cold.

She told me she gets $150 and a day off of school if she misses less than 10 days of school this year.

I told her I only got the day off for the same deal. We compared sick day quantities for previous years, our methods, how skilled our mothers were at detecting such lies.

"Oh right," giggled Heather, nodding her head, slightly embarassed.

Why do you care, bonita? You scared they can see you?

Suddenly the conversation changed, I missed the transition. But no matter, there is more being said.

I think I subconsciously leaned back in my chair, giving Laura more room to bend towards Heather.

"She told me she gave like five of them head," Laura said, a determined look on her face.

"God. Brittany needs to stop acting like such a slut," returned Heather, nodding her agreement. "She's not pretty, she doesn't have breasts, she has a terrible figure."

Maybe thats not the way she put it. It was something along those lines.

Let me describe Brittany to you: 5'10", thin as a rail, athletic, well dressed, amiable, and in the social stadium, holds skybox seats.

Let me tell you something else about Brittany; something which may surprise you, but for the first time today, did not strike me as more than routine for these girls;

(These girls, who lean over me like I am a chair, who speak in tongues, who laugh about everything, who hang out at the bridge each friday night, and who have all, at one point or another, been the leading scorer on their soccer team)

Brittany is one of Heather's best friends.

iv

I was walking from Academic Horizons, my 8th period, to Theatre Arts, my 9th.

This walk brought me down to the long hall; running from one end of the school, past the gym, school store, cafeteria, and ending in the lobby. If one is seeking out upperclassmen or slackers, the lobby end is where to find them, especially in the early morning or later afternoon.

I passed them all, lining the walls, again today, as I do every day. When they walk they slide; I wonder if their shoes exude a sort of transparent goo, a lubricant that might make their walk more easily possible. Could someone in 11th grade but still in freshmen biology really spend so much effort making sure they look good when they walk?

I wonder.

It's one of those things that I've noticed about my school: the lack of public displays of affection. The occasional hug, for some reason inevitably in front of the gymnasium, catches my eye occasionally. A quick peck on the cheek I saw once, between a girl and her male cousin, as they walked home in front of me. A boy with his arm around the waist of a girl, his fingertips resting lazily in her pocket in the crowded hallway sometime before first period.

I saw another one today. She walks standing straight, practiced. You can see an invisible book on her head; it doesn't fall or waver.

He looks like an amateur mimeist, the kind that can never establish an object's shape, who often puts his hand through the door or steps on the chair.

His arm is wrapped around her shoulders, barely touching them, resting on an invisible pair of shoulders outlined an inch above her body, slightly more square. His countenance is unreadable, but she;

She is in pain.

I made this note to myself, I wrote this story in my head, and without another look, I walked to my ninth period class, balancing two notebooks and a half empty bottle of water on my arm.

note

This was written in a span of about 4 hours (with several breaks), after school, dinner, the completion of my homework, and an hour long private viola lesson.

Hopefully, the reader will forgive me for my tresspasses, and the extreme pretentiousness of my writing; there are certain things that several weeks of Salinger reading will do to you, several things which are hard to undo.

I hope everyone understands that this is all very true and very unembellished.

Wow! what a day. I'm still home; stuck here because of tornadoes.

Larry and Meghan were missing for hours, the storm hit their college and did much damage. Paul's daughter also goes there. Her car was totaled by the tornado (she wasn't in it). 2 people were killed in their car, 1 is reported to be trapped, 4 others injured. It pales in comparison by numbers to the other recent tragedies but not to the parents of these children and not while your child is among the ones who have not been able to call home yet.

Ours are home at Meghan's mom's house (less than a mile from another area the tornato struck but 30 miles from the college) now, getting ready to go to bed and comforted by each other's presence. I'm so glad they have each other.

My honey is out covering the news so I'm off to bed alone but so emotionally wrung out that I probably won't notice.

After all my panic about not being able to fund Stanford, I owe you guys the good news that I've received a research assistantship. Although it'll draw out the amount of time I spend in grad school, this year's tuition will be paid--and I'll even get a bit of a salary. I found this out a couple of weeks ago but the timing seemed to be a bit wrong to announce it.

In other news, I performed an actual, legal wedding ceremony, was finally introduced to the evil silliness of Black Adder, and started a study journal/blog (/msg me for the address if you actually want to read it). I also more-or-less quit work, went to Lake Tahoe for the first time, took the Stanford Chinese placement test, heard from two long unheard-from friends, watched many many nodes bite the dust, had two flat tires, and took the phone message that my boyfriend's grandfather had died. It's been a couple of weeks of small and large (and cataclysmic) ups and downs. If I weren't so terrified of it, the start of school should be a welcoming bit of routine.

P. S. I put a flag up on the 13th, in solidarity and in sympathy. It was the one printed in the local newspaper--I think it's the first flag I've ever displayed in my life. I also registered as a disaster volunteer with the Red Cross, gave money to the firefighters' association, and wish I could do more than talk in order to help Muslim Americans and the others who are receiving the hatred of idiots... And it's all so little. Anyway, subject change!

I'm looking forward to a few TV shows. Enterprise (yeah, even though I'm a non-Trek-person), the return of Dark Angel, Gilmore Girls, and Frasier...

Off to grad student orientation tomorrow. See ya!

Talked to my orthopedic surgeon yesterday, he again emphasized how bad my knees really were, and how they wouldn't last another 20 years. How if I were older, he'd do a total knee replacement surgery on both knees. Great. So I asked him some more questions about the lateral release surgery; a small incision on the outside, four inch cut on the inside, weeks to heal. It won't make the pain worse, could help, and could help the kneecap last longer.

Told me to build up the quadriceps and hamstrings, which I have been doing. And stay away from hills when walking. And get in the water. I'll have to figure out a different strategy for exercise now, my neighborhood is pretty hilly.

This is really a downer. I'm really very unhappy about this physical situation. It's so hard to believe, cause they don't seem that bad, it's just annoying. I think I am so used to accomodating how to walk and bend and stuff so I don't have pain, that I have just forgotten what it's like to be normal. And I am still really grateful that this is all I have, that it could be something far, far worse.

Otherwise, work has gotten more interesting, I'm getting motivated to get my certificates in Domino Server now, and take a class in SQL Server and W2k server. We'll see how far I can get in the next month. And my romantic interest - A. - what to do, what to do. Such a complicated situation. Any sane, normal, practical person would have just walked away from her by now. I'm going to see her tonight. Can't wait.

Wow. Summer. Gone. Again. I've had 20 of those now...

This summer was a summer of firsts for several reasons:

  • I had my first full-time job.
  • I flew in an aeroplane for the first time (and second, third and fourth).
  • I bought my own holiday for the first time (and second).
  • I wrote my first c++ program that wasn't an exercise or examination question.
  • I went to a gym for the first time.
  • It was the first summer I didn't go back home.

All the signs point to a severe case of growing up, but I'm not too sure. According to my friend Mark: You're not a real man until your shit smells like your Dad's.

It's now clearly the start of a new university term here. People were queuing out of the door of the off license yesterday evening, I have about 200 flyers in my pockets, and my food shelf has lots of free noodles and pasta sauce on it. It's also raining a great deal.

When I was a fresher it rained solidly for about 6 weeks. Welcome to Leeds. British weather is wet.

So my housemates are back. For 10 weeks it's been my house, but now it's been invaded. We've had two 21st birthday parties already, and my head hurts today. There is a large inflatable moose head on our living room wall. (Honestly).

I am a student and there is no escape.

I can see the crippled egg from across this expanse of blackened char; its withering form pinned beneath the metal flipper. The life-giving box a shattered ghost writhing in agony, its wounds fanned by the same light breeze that teases my hair. A hundred faded memories are oozing from the wrecked shell, and they dance across the pan before being liquefied; sizzling spots of forgotten pleasures now consumed in this ebony wasteland.

The flipper belatedly raises itself from the corpse, and the leavings of a thousand lives spill forth, flooding the scorched plain with 8-tracks and army men and rocks named “Bernice.” Yellowed newspaper clippings run amongst a pair of outrageous white boots, a flood of spoilt yolk unaware as yet of what it has lost. More ghosts are escaping this grounded ship: crayoned drawings and tarnished coins and postcards of famous buildings, the diaspora of “The Me Decade.”

And then come the letters; a hundred hope-filled, bicameral visions of life then and now, spreading like pancake batter across the empty, dark expanse of abbreviated nothing. They’re stories of family and friendship and vacations and birthdays and peace; haunting past lives of recovering stock markets and throwaway freedom. They’re twelve-step predictions of a future of happiness and ice cream and maraschino sunsets, and they disappear on the gentle urging of a warm breeze.

There’s a fuss around the egg now; the workers are belatedly moving to stop the flight of memories from the box. An empty shell, now noticeably filled with the void that was always there to begin with, the box sits awkwardly within the crowd, each unsure of what has really happened here. There are no procedures for this, no contingency plans, no twenty hours of in-service training yearly on roles and responsibilities. Just the total, fantastical shock of watching a stream of thirty-year-old clippings and photos and the crushed components of a Mattel Electronic Football unit gush from the fire-scorched earth; all of us dim red blips in a field of black, searching for understanding within this incredible convergence.

Your photo tumbles to a rest against my boot, the eyes of a seventeen-year-old you burning through my heart again, like they did so many other times before, in so many different moments, dramas and silences. You never wore a watch because you always treated time as a flexible, dynamic person, an ally in life, not a cold, concrete absolute. We might sit for minutes that would pass like the most wonderful hours; such was the density of our time. And now, in silent tribute to you, your interrogator’s eyes and your understated smile, time loses all viscosity and grinds to a halt, and I can only stand here and return your Kodak gaze. There’s men collecting what memories remain, but most are lost to the heavens, gleaming flocks of torn-paper doves in a still shroud of sky. Your photo remains, as do I, both of us unwilling to leave this place of our creation and destruction. Memories of so many breakfasts and phone calls and store-aisle meetings, elevator rides and Christmas parties, and Acapulco in 1984 flooding past, tumbling out to sea, and us caught at anchor within this rip.

I don’t know what time it is when I finally go home – it’s after dark and I’ve lost my watch. I make some eggs, cracking them with ease, pouring their contents onto the skillet while your wrinkled photo lies on the table behind me. They spit and sizzle and solidify into meaningless plastic splendor, and I fill my stomach and read the paper and go to bed. Your photo rests on my table, and the skillet sizzles in the evenings, and time goes on without us.

Wore a red shirt today. More later.

Two Weeks. Two weeks since the WTC. That and a day since Hermetic said goodbye. I didn't know him, although I've read his homenode and some of his writeups subsequently. We had something in common...contact juggling. I like his writing...wish I'd gotten to know him before he left.

Life here is beginning to return to normal, although we all still seem to have a morbid facination with the T.V. I guess that after a certain amount of carnage, you just get calloused. I've been laying off the news channels, because I don't want to become numb to the size of the tragedy.

I'm worried about my friend Beau. He's in the reserves, and he's already been called once to confirm his address and his uniform size for his chemical warfare gear. It's scary to think that he might be called around the world, because some madman wants to kill us. I am proud of Beau, and I'm glad that we have people like that to protect us, but I'm worried. Damn the terrorists to hell anyway.

Today is different. Today the scent, the feel of Fall is in the air. The sky is that perfect cloudless turquoise, and the leaves are just beginning to think about turning. I'm glad that today is so nice. I found out that my office is probably gonna close. I'm gonna loose my job, and I just bought a house. Maybe this is the impetus I've needed to finish my degree. I'll just keep telling myself that opportunity is often disguised as trouble. Maybe I'll even buy it. I'm scared.

Happy birthday to Templeton, and Dialogue, and most of all happy 33rd to ME! (No, really, it's OK, you don't have to upvote this just because it's my birthday.) I don't remember a single gift for certain from last year; there may have been Star Wars shampoo. (No, really. One of the ingredients was "sea rocket juice".) Usually people make a big deal of your birthday when you are very close; apparently the person closest to me now is my sister Kim, who has invited me over for pizza. Probably Dad and Pam will be by later for coffee and cake (hopefully ice cream cake). Grandma sent me a card, I suppose I should call her, but I feel more distant from her than many other people I haven't spoken to in months. Chris sent me an e-card. A couple of fellow noders /msg'd me, bless your remote interfaces. Just for today, I love you all.

When I was a kid Mom wanted us to produce lists of things we might want for gifts, for birthdays and Christmas. Being a little on the obsessive side of the collector-hobbyist spectrum, there was always a multipage list of books, Atari games, Lego kits, and eventually albums and RPG things. Clothes were like a necessary evil, so I grudgingly conceded some clothing suggestions. For a long time my "want list" was one of the central documents of my life, up there with my journal and to-do list. Over past 5 years, my feelings about material goods have slowly reversed. I guess I considered material goods intrinsically valuable, an illimitable good. Now I feel like that line from Fight Club about the things I own coming to own me. I can accept belonging, but not to objects. This change is propagating to my feelings about gifts, money, work, leisure, and social life.

The Rhapsody Returns
09.25.01 :: 15:51

so no shit, here i am, at werk...i've been up for some twenty...seven? hours now, and i'm all out of ephedrine. you see, i haven't gone to class for a month, and i realised i had a test today. funny thing that. so i spent all night reading the finer points of greek history.

so, you see, now, i'm quite delirious. i think i'll tell a story...stop me if you've heard this one:

The Legend of Tree Bob
once upon a time, there was a huge scotsman named bob. now, bob had an unholy tolerance for alcohol, and a propensity to drink even past that. so, one night bob gets tanked at the pyrates' camp, and stumbles off into the woods to water some shrubbery or something. Time passes. much stumbling, thumping and crashing is heard from camp. finally, bob calls out: "hey! where are you guys?" and a pyrate calls back: "we're by the fire, bob!" and bob replies: "which one?" for he was apparently seeing three of them. someone yells back: "the middle one!", but bob is hopelessly, drunkenly lost, 20 feet away. so some useful pyrate lad goes into the woods to retrieve the tanked, but merry, bob. at this point, bob walks into something. "oh, excuse me, miss," says bob, gallantly, "my, you're pretty." the pyrate lad catches up to him, and stares, saying only: "it's a tree, bob." bob has yet to live this down, and most likely never will. i just wish like hell i knew *which* pyrate that was...

Today, as I was preparing for another day of gainful employment, I could hear a loud hissing from the street below. It was like the largest, angriest snake in the world. I looked out from my third-storey window in this low rise apartment complex. Peering through the thinning leaves of the tree outside the bedroom window, I thought that perhaps the backhoe across the street had blown a compressor or something. SEP, right? Off to the shower I went.

While in the shower, gustily singing "Cthulhu loves the little children..." I heard sirens. Fire truck sirens, and lots of them. They stopped nearby, but no fire bells were ringing in the building. SEP, right?

Out I got, to dry and get dressed for work. Still I could hear the hissing, as loud as ever, and now I smelled gas. Natural gas, that is. I dried and dressed rapidly, and looked out the window. I saw lots of firemen, all in gas masks. Their truck radios were making those strange beedely-boop noises that fire truck radios make. Police officers were arriving in force. All of these folks were running about, hooking up hoses and blocking traffic and so on. And now from the kitchen window I saw that the backhoe has punctured a gas main at the house across the street. (You probably had that part figured before now, right?)

So, I could have just left for work, but I couldn't leave my cat behind to be gassed. What to do? I stood there thinking, kind of woozy because the gas was now pretty intense. For some reason I decided I had to eat the rest of the chocolate chip cookies before doing anything else.

So, as I munched cookies, some firemen came and banged on the door of my apartment (and all of the others, too). They told me that the building was being evacuated. So, I grabbed my curious cat, stuffed him into the cat carrier, got a thin coat, and left.

It was cold and drizzly and my jacket was too thin. I walked a few blocks down to the veterinarian's, and the nice ladies working the desk said my cat and I could stay. (Clever, I thought, bringing my cat along.) For two hours we sat and waited. "Where's the kaboom?" I kept thinking. "Is there going to be an earth shattering kaboom?"

But eventually they got the gas shut off and let us all go home. I dropped the cat off, and aired out the apartment. Then I went to work. And only then did I have a bad moment where the image of firemen in gas masks at my door made a small but scary personal connection with September 11th. I wonder if the firemen thought of that as they walked the building and sent us all out. It's just a four story building, but they must have been waiting for the kaboom.

Firemen and policemen (and women) don't get paid enough.

The days are becoming clearer, crisper. Needles on the skin keep the world from becoming soft again, and the stars have never been so sharp.

I should take caution against becoming unreasonably optimistic, but the world is kind, these past weeks.

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