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Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Oh, the places you’ll go.

I understand there is an American book called that. For children. I have no children, nor intentions. But I think of that phrase.

Xiaohui took me to a place. The vast back storeroom of a restaurant–oh, the places you’ll go. All of them secret.

There were women there, and men. All of them my kind. My tribe. My kindred. All of them eager, all of them shameless. This is her faction, Xiaohui’s battalion. Three of the women and one of the men had nothing on their skin at all. They were the most eager.

I often thought, on that long night, that I saw Chieko. Xiaohui knew her. She threw her name at me to see me flinch. She knew the gardener in Hokkaido, too. She has lists of lists. Her lists match everyone with everyone: what parts of Palimpsest they carry, how they were grouped when they entered…

And that’s the rub, she said, as a man cradled her head and suckled her neck. That place with the bowls of ink and the frog-headed woman, that first place we all go when we lose our peculiar virginities and our bodies cease to be our own. If we could but find them, those strangers, if we could complete her records, such wonders might happen. No one has managed it yet.

Oh, the things I’ve seen. In the night, in their arms. A river of cream curdling through the slums, bees with clockwork hearts, an opera house where all the patrons wear blindfolds and weep for the sorrow of a war only just done, a war I never knew, a war like the one at home, that destroyed everything, yet cannot be spoken of.

A war that still blazes, on this side of the world.

Heaven help me, but there is nothing I would not give to fight alongside the bees.


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