Prologue

I’ve been thinking, Christine says, about those dreams you had a few years ago. The ones about Wellesley.

I don’t look up. What about them?

Something Ursula K. Le Guin said. That all of us—our identities—is just a story. We tell ourselves a story to hold it all together. So if everything we do is stories, why can’t we be stories?

That’s creepy.

Chris looks for the rest of her thought on the fire escape. It’s like, you kept pulling yourself back to these crucial moments of your childhood, but you could never figure out why you were there.

So? Everyone has dreams like that.

I’ve had dreams like that. I’m sure my mother has had dreams like that… but I don’t think even PTSD dreams get the way those did. Pass the pepper?

She stares off again. There are dreams we come back to ’cause we’re stuck on a certain event, and we’re trying to make sense of it, so we can tell the story differently. That’s therapy, right? She pauses. I don’t think you were there to make sense of your story; I think you were trying to change it.

You think I traveled through space and time, in my dreams, to fix my childhood.

That’s not allowed?

Well, never mind how I’d do it—why my brother’s birthday party, or my last Girls Night with Alice Gavelston? My dream about about breaking into the elementary school? These just don’t sound like life-altering moments.

I guess that depends on how you tell the story.

And didn’t you make a card like the one you dreamed you got from your elementary school? She says it less like she’s mocking me, more like she’s mocking me mocking myself. And mail it to yourself? Don’t worry, it’s still under your socks.

I look at her long enough for two whole thoughts to form and un-form.

You’ve been to Wellesley. You’ve seen the looks. That place didn’t have room for me; it exiled me. Yeah, I used to believe in crazy shit—you heard my brother—and he doesn’t even know half the things I was convinced of as a kid. Art is one thing; of course there’s craziness in art. But literally chasing your dreams? That’s just something you give up with childhood.

Chris chuckles. I don’t think you gave it up, my love. I think you keep it in a box. And you get off on holding down the lid.

After dishes Chris goes to the 7/11 for nicotine gum. I don’t know why I’m fishing at the back of my socks; of course it’s there. But something about it’s not right.

When she gets back I pull her under the hallway light and make her look at it for 40 solid seconds.

What? she says. I can read. It’s an invitation.

I’ve had this piece of paper for over 25 years, I say. It’s always been so blurred it was impossible to read, like it came off the bottom of a pond. And look at the back.

Holy shit! Is that… you?

Yeah.

And it looks like it was taken yesterday.

What if the world really was ending when you were a kid… and no one noticed?