In the dark, cool Virginia Cafe. Here and there light gleams on polished wood: light from the windows, zigzagging in, on its third or fourth bounce. The windows look west, right at the mass of the Central Library: even on this fair, high-summer day, not much of the sunlight that makes it around the library and through the windows gets back to the booths. Back here, such light as there is comes from dim orange globes floating by the walls. I think you're supposed to kiss in here. That's what Virginia is for, right? In any case, you're not supposed to read.
I neglected to bring someone to kiss, so I'll just mull instead. Mulled Dale, that's what we've got on tap. But all my usual topics bore me. I've said too much and stretched my thinking muscles too little, lately. I think I need a book of poetry that will slap me around a little, kick my feet from under me, give me a sharp little push. It's not thinking, when you're just wandering around the bric a brac of your mind, absent-mindedly fingering thoughts you stowed away twenty years ago. It's not even mulling.
But I am a spirit of a different sort, says Ariel. Ariel and me, you know, we go way back: both bound to services that have stopped meaning anything, the aides of a resigned congressman, lingering on in Washington, or the wait-staff of the Cannibal Isles, maybe, while our principals have vanished. Voices, empty corridors, beaches piled with stormwrack. We wander about and amuse ourselves with practicing ventriloquism: we are dull, and faintly predatory. We're waiting for another storm and another cast of characters, I suppose.
I'm tired, despite my surefootedness and quickness. There's an old, old fatigue gaining on me. I've cut to the chase a few times too often, maybe. The rewinds flicker past me and I'm not even slightly interested. Why would I care about the backstory? I don't even care about the frontstory. I'm puzzled, impatient, tetchy. There's nothing here for me to do. Othello's occupation's gone.
Another day comes, after an evening of thunder and lightning, and of hoots and shrieks from drunks under the window where I was doing my massage. A deep, deep gloom overtakes me: unreasonable spurts of anger and impatience. I know that most of it is a response to the humidity, which I have always hated, but it's more than that: a sense of everything I ever grasped at drifting away, a profound sense of failure, of the world going on without me and leaving me behind with the other wrecks. Not a characteristic frame of mind for me, and not one that will produce anything good.
I challenge myself to endure this anger without having a single opinion, without blaming a single person, without reaching for a single solution. The lightning from last night is still flickering in my mind's eye; the thunder is still in my marrow. May it shake me to pieces, blast me to bits, scatter me on the gasping winds.
You will have to do things you have never done before, said the Night Horse. And I will.