Prologue

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

What about them?

Something Ursula K. Le Guin said. That all of us—the total of us, our identities—is just a story. We tell ourselves a story to hold it all together. Which makes sense; seems like everything we do is stories; so why, in a pretty real way, can’t we be stories?

Chris looks off, like the rest of her thought is 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. I’m just saying, I think there was something about them you missed. Pass the pepper?

She stares off again. There are dreams we return to because we’re stuck on a certain event, and we’re trying to make sense of it, so going forward, we can tell the story differently. That’s what therapy’s about, 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 that, or that it contradicts all of accepted physics—why those events? My brother’s birthday party? My last Girls Night with Alice Gavelston? That dream about breaking into my elementary school after midnight? They just don’t sound like defining moments.

I guess that depends on how you tell the story.

Only you smirk when you’re annoyed.

Besides, she continues, didn’t you make a card like the one in your dream, and mail it to yourself? Isn’t that what’s at the back of your sock drawer?

It’s a memento!

I’m not judging. I keep my mother’s stuffed panda in storage.

Something’s been waiting to get out of me. God, I love you. That’s not it, but it’ll have to do. Chris smirks.

Now. I clap my thighs. Help me with these dishes.

When we’re done Chris goes to the 7/11 for nicotine gum, and after a few minutes on the edge of the bed, I fish around behind my socks. Something’s not right. In fact, none of it’s 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 I pulled it from the bottom of a pond. And look at the back.

Holy shit! Is that… you?

And it looks like it was taken yesterday.

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