What am I doing on a train to Philadelphia? Chewing bills someone on the platform gave me as change for a hundred, and when I take them out of my mouth, they are frayed and Canadian. So I wake up. Shit, it’s 10. Quick—bathroom, face in water, must call office, make up a story why I’m late. Who will pick up the phone? The angry fuck from Loans? Pregnant Tara? Larry? Then I wake up, really wake up, unemployed, yet still somehow late for something. I plunge my head under the cold faucet, make sure this is being awake. What time is it? My body doesn’t care. It keeps waltzing, oblivious to temporal constraints. It doesn’t think of death, only I do, but I’m not the body, I’m the 21 grams that leave when the dancing stops. And I wake up again, this time for real, because the subway smell is real, and Aida, the bank guard, holds the door for me and says Good morning. It must be real because for an instant I see a tiger tackling the teller, dragging the limp body by the neck toward the vault. Then everything quiets again. The day is ready for its preposterous charm, the magnolia blooms bobbing behind the pane. How can I help you?
You outline a novel about a man who eats angels. A man who, in the mist of spitting oil, jerks the handle of a wok. A decent man with a flaw. After a meal of ribs, your publisher ponders how certain cuts of veal remind him of tiny calves, how far he's willing to trust your relationship with devotion. Hours slip by. At 3 a.m. he calls your agent. Your agent picks up on the second ring. No, he answers, it’s a fictional account. The line goes quiet. The publisher drinks warm milk. It helps him sleep. In the morning your agent calls to tell you about his dream. You listen and nod, saying nothing, because your chair faces the publisher who’s observing you from behind his desk. His magnified, swimming eyes watch your every move, the way you switch the phone right ear to left. Is this the end of beauty? he asks when you hang up. Hot gusts rustle the palm fronds outside the open window, bring the smell of Santa Ana sand. You show him a coin. Look, you say and flick it high in the air. The instant is brief. Both of you wedged between the future and the past, gazing up, watching it flip end over end, beginning over beginning, each rotation a tiny glint — end, beginning, end, beginning, end, beginning, end.