I have kids of my own now and live in the centre of our nation, where its heart beats strong and true, and sometimes it is hard to remember the life I left behind. I am reborn, but the born-again must first pass away.

I died that summer night, when Intelligence came.

I was just minding my own business, as they say. I had made a couple of house calls, dispensed a batch of raving little Buddhas that let you dance your cares away. My wallet stuffed with dollars, I turned right, away from the water, into my own quiet street. My backdrop was the glittering dinosaur-tooth Manhattan skyline, minus the incisors. The cars on the Brooklyn Bridge were moving strings of lighted beads. Two men in black suits, identical in height, as if both made in a factory somewhere, walked towards me through the hot night. They both wore shades.

‘Mr Robert Culper?’ said one, as the second produced his badge. ‘What appears to be the problem?’ I asked cooly, as if I was I a movie. They even gave me time to examine the badge. ‘Take it in,’ said the second. ‘Yes, and think about it,’ said the first. Their faces were completely expressionless. Beneath the yellow streetlight, frowning, I looked at the logo, and read aloud the motto:

‘ANNUIT COEPTIS…’

And the needle was already in my arm.

When I regained consciousness I was blind. A hood was over my head. My throat was parched and my head ached. My hands were handcuffed behind the chair I sat on, and my feet were shackled to the ground.

The badge was the last thing I saw. Beneath the words ANNUIT COEPTIS was an eye, enclosed in a triangle, and beneath the triangle was a second motto: NOVO ORDO SECLORUM. I found this comforting, somehow. It told me these guys were a very special unit.

Members of the Intelligence community would from time to time pause outside my cell and I would hear the scrape of a slat being pulled open. The first time, I moved a little to let them know I was awake. Then the slat scraped shut and the footsteps receded. The second time, I cleared my throat. And so on. I waited patiently. Eventually I had to wet myself, and later on I fainted, from thirst I think. But I’m not criticising anybody. These guys have manuals to follow.

 

After days of being chained and hooded and marched about I was put on a plane and taken to a tropical island. But I can’t be sure. Maybe it was Texas. We all wore orange jumpsuits. It was very hot and we were kept in wire cages, outdoors. There was a roof to keep the sun off and a mat to lie on. A bucket for water and a bucket to go to the bathroom in. The other inmates were mostly Arabs, I think, dirty sonsabitches with beards. Pretty soon I had a beard too. We weren’t allowed to speak to each other. I wouldn’t have spoken to them anyway, in case my captors got the wrong idea. On the first day I’d said to the guard:

‘Hey, man, I’m an American citizen. I demand a lawyer.’

So they dragged me out of my cage by the heels and worked me over in the sunshine. It was hell, getting the crap beat out of me. But they had a job to do and I respected that. It made me a better man.

The interrogations were very repetitive. They’d ask lots of normal stuff, then throw in an Arab name, and I’d say I didn’t know him. Once by accident I denied knowing the little guy who carved the shish kebabs at my neighbourhood grill, so they had to hang me by my arms for a while. Which is a lot worse than it sounds, by the way. It was my own fault.

I had an attitude back in them days, and when they brought me back for another round I told the interrogator where he could find Bin Laden. I told him he could find him in Reno, doing romantic stuff to his mother.

So they threw me in the hole. A windowless cell that made you nostalgic for your dog cage. Stress positions, heavy metal music, sleep deprivation, the dogs, the beatings, more interrogations. I’d heard of the water torture thing, so I told myself, relax, these guys are professionals. But still there’s something about being trussed up, under the water, not getting to breathe when you want, especially when you’re all shaky after a spell in the hole.

Then they dragged me back to the dog cage and left me there to stew for a couple of months.

Then they threw me in the hole again. And so on.

 

It didn’t start to add up until the day Central Intelligence turned me over to ANNUIT COEPTIS and I was brought before John, my final interrogator. The black suit, the expressionless face behind the shades. He sat behind a massive desk, the ANNUIT COEPTIS emblem on the wall behind him, and informed me that he was my final stop. John had very short blonde hair. Very short, but he had managed to make a parting in it, which is practically impossible with hair that short, and perhaps pointless. But it scared me too, such determination. For the first few moments he said nothing. He looked at me. I shrugged. I shifted in the chair. My chains rattled when I shifted in the chair.

‘It can go one way or it can go another. I’m your last stop, Mr. Culper. Robert. Can I call you Robert? Please, call me John.’

I thought to ask if I could call him Johnny. But then I had an image of him attaching electrodes to my nipples.

‘See that?’ He was pointing at the emblem on the wall above his head. The eye in a triangle. I nodded. ‘Know what it means?’

I shook my head.

‘Means you better look out.’

This was after an eternity in one of those stress positions. My feet had been chained to the floor, and my hands chained to the floor, behind my feet. You couldn’t stand up. You couldn’t lie down. Then the satanic music. In the dark.

‘It means, just because you can’t see us, don’t mean we can’t see you.’

He rose from his seat and walked around the desk and leaned into my face. ‘That’s how people used to feel about God. You don’t believe in God, do you Mr Culper?’

Sweat was rolling into my eyes..

‘I believe in the possibility of… um… a cosmic force… um… an all-transcendent… um… an entity beyond human… ahh…’

He bitch-slapped me forehand and back, warned me verbally against trying to put over any ‘fruit-cocktail’ religion on him, then returned to his side of the desk. He resumed his seat and took a deep breath. He indicated again the emblem above our heads.

‘NOVO ORDO SECLORUM. What about that one?’ I shook my head.
‘Means we’re moving into a new era. A final battle. With an enemy elusive as smoke, that knows no borders, that cannot be seen or pinned down by conventional means. An enemy as insubstantial and as all pervasive as evil itself. And how do you fight such an enemy?’
‘Bomb the shit out of them, I guess.’

‘That’s a good start, Robert. We have the toys, and we’re going to use them. But what you need to understand, in order to lose your chains, is that munitions are the cruder half of the solution. For what profit us to hammer them with depleted uranium ordnance abroad, and yet lose the fight at home?’
‘John, I dealt some pills and stuff, but I’m as patriotic as the next guy. I’m not a terrorist.’

He paused for a moment, drumming his fingers on the table. Then he leaned forward, the hard stare behind the shades. I was two little dolls, reflected in the lenses. He pressed a button and the lights began to slowly dim. He leaned forward and recited slowly, emphasising each word:

‘The sun will swell up and engulf the earth. But long before that happens the oceans will burn off as steam and the earth, becoming tired of its journey, will be slowing in its orbit. The days will become very long indeed. The whole thing has an expiry date on it, the whole human venture.’

He leaned back again.

‘Recognise them words?’

I nodded. I felt I had heard them before. At my birth, or tripping out on mescaline, the TV in the background tuned by chance onto one of those religious shows.

‘The Bible?’

He shook his head.

‘No. These are your words.’

I was busted. An icy tremor passed up my back, tingled across my scalp. It was as if he could read my dreams and tell me what they meant. The pieces of my life floated loose in the sky, and he could pull the pieces down, reassemble them, judge them, label them. He pointed to the all-seeing eye.

‘NOVO ORDO SECLORUM. Some people are losing faith in our mission, just as it enters its crucial phase. We cannot vanquish the enemy without, if we yield to the enemy within. The job of Intelligence is to locate the rot and excise it before it spreads. You are the rot.’

He pressed another button and a screen rose out of the desk. A porno movie began to play. The production values, the lighting and so on, were very poor. A guy was whipping a girl with a belt. She was blindfolded, kneeling, ass in the air, her hands tied to something on or near the ground. He unties her. There’s some fucking, some sucking and so on. Then I saw the guy’s face.
He was me!

‘Um,’ I interjected. ‘This puts me in a bad light. It was at the request of this lady, actually. People in stable relationships, they sometimes have trouble expressing their needs to their partners. I’d had two, three pills and a quantity of vodka and Mad Bull, so here we are a long time after the sun went down…’ There is a noise, wind in the microphone, ripping, rumbling, and the image shudders. The man gets off the woman, moves out of frame. Light fills the room, overwhelming the image. It becomes a sheet of white. Morning has broken, presumably. You hear the disembodied voices:

MAN: HEY, TAKE A LOOK. ONE OF THE TWIN TOWERS JUST EXPLODED.
WOMAN: OMIGOD!
MAN: NO WAY THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IS PUTTING THAT OUT.
WOMAN: WHAT HAPPENED!!??
MAN: DUNNO. LOOKS LIKE IT BLEW UP. MAYBE IT WAS THE WIRING OR SOMETHING.
WOMAN: WHILE WE WERE FUCKING LIKE DOGS!
MAN: WHAT’S THAT GOT TO DO WITH IT?
WOMAN: IT’S JUST… (Woman begins to sob). ALL THOSE POOR PEOPLE…
MAN: HERE, GET AWAY FROM THE WINDOW.

The curtain falls back across the bright morning and the room reappears. The naked man and woman walk back into frame. They sit on a sofa. He has a little pot belly. Her tits sag. They both look grey and bloodless and tired. He passes her a cigarette and lights it for her, then lights his own. They smoke for a while, then the man removes the condom from his reposing member and throws it towards the camera. The man looks straight at us.

MAN: HEY, LOOK, IT LANDED ON THE TV.
WOMAN: AND US, GOING AT IT LIKE PIGS!
MAN: PIGS, DOGS. CAMELS, MAMMALS.

WOMAN: THIS IS THE END. THE END OF SOMETHING. CAN’T YOU FEEL IT?
MAN: WE GOT HALF A BOTTLE OF VODKA LEFT AND TWO PILLS. I SAY WE KEEP GOING AS LONG AS WE CAN.
WOMAN: YOU TAKE THEM. I DON’T FEEL VERY WELL…
MAN: I FEEL LIKE I’M IN ONE OF THOSE GODZILLA MOVIES, KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
WOMAN: ALL THOSE POOR PEOPLE…

The frame shudders to another explosion, the woman screams.

MAN: NOW WHAT THE FUCK?

The naked man gets up and walks to the window. The picture disappears again.

MAN: YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS.

The picture resumes, the man enters the frame.

WOMAN: WHAT?
MAN: THE OTHER TOWER JUST EXPLODED TOO!

The woman gets up, covers herself with a blanket, sits down again, sobbing into her hands. The man lights another cigarette, pops a pill and washes it down with a pull from a bottle.

MAN: WEIRD, HUH? I GUESS IT WASN’T THE WIRING.
WOMAN: WE’RE BEING PUNISHED.
MAN: WHAT GOES AROUND.
WOMAN: STANLEY IS A GOOD MAN…
MAN: WHO THE FUCK IS STANLEY?
WOMAN: THE GUY I’M MARRIED TO, STANLEY!
MAN: OH YEAH, STANLEY.
WOMAN: IT DOESN’T SEEM RIGHT, US HERE WHILE, YOU KNOW…
MAN: (taking a pull from the bottle) THE WHOLE HUMAN VENTURE HAS AN EXPIRY DATE ON IT. LIKE A CARTON OF YOGURT. I MEAN, IF YOU ARRIVED FROM OUTER SPACE AND LOOKED AT US, WE’D LOOK LIKE A GANG OF MONKEYS SITTING AROUND IN THE ZOO, EATING OUR OWN SHIT.
WOMAN: YOU CAN’T COMPARE HUMAN LIFE TO A CARTON OF YOGURT.
MAN: (Passes her a cigarette, lights it for her). THE END OF THE WORLD IS A SCIENTIFIC FACT. I DON’T MEAN THE PLAGUES AND WAR AND OPPRESSION. I MEAN, THE SUN IS SWELLING UP, DID YOU KNOW THAT? YEAH, SWELLING UP. ONCE IT WAS A LITTLE COOLER, WHILE WE WERE RUNNING ROUND GETTING THE HANG OF BEATING EACH OTHER WITH BONES, LIKE IN THAT ONE FILM, WHAT’S IT CALLED? THE ONE WITH THE MUSIC. NOW IT’S A BIT BIGGER, ANGRIER. THE EARTH IS SLOWING DOWN IN ITS ORBIT. IT’S GETTING TIRED OF THE SAME OLD JOURNEY. THE DAYS ARE GETTING LONGER. THE DAYS WILL BECOME VERY LONG INDEED BEFORE IT’S ALL OVER. THIS IS A FORETASTE. HERE. I KNOW A BREATHING EXERCISE FOR THIS. IN. OUT. IN. OUT…
WOMAN: SOMETHING’S GOTTA CHANGE…
MAN: I’M GETTING A SURGE. FUCK, THAT’S GOOD. STARTING IN MY FINGERTIPS, WASHING OVER ME. UUUUGGHHHH!!!!!

When the screen went dead and the lights were back on, I sat there in my shackles, exposed, under the blonde glare of ANNUIT COEPTIS, beneath the all-seeing eye. I didn’t even shrug. I didn’t want to hear the clank of my chains. It was becoming clear. While Stanley was in his firefighter’s uniform, performing the ultimate sacrifice, I was rapping on the end of the world with the help of a pill which cost about thirteen bucks.

‘And ANNUIT COEPTIS was on to me the whole time…’
‘Intelligence is everywhere.’

To underline the point the guards entered the room and beat the shit out of me. It was hell, but I admired their patriotism. Then they dragged me down to the hole and chained me in a stress position and put on the music. After maybe a day they unchained me and gave me a blanket, and just as I was falling asleep they hosed me down with cold water. I don’t know how many times that happened. Stanley visited me that night, in his firefighter’s uniform, covered in white dust from head to toe, floating above the ground in a halo of pale light, and to a death-metal soundtrack he revealed to me that the banners of the crusading army were unfurled. It was marching out to meet the barbarian, to trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were stored. He saw the palaces of Babylon burn with phosphorus flame, their rivers run with blood. The defeated soil would be ploughed with salt, the pregnant beasts of the field would bring forth monsters. Village elders would have pages from the book of democracy rammed in their gullets until it arrested respiration, while their volumes of laws were piled high and torched in their holy courtyards. Their refugees would be scattered down burning roads, the survivors dispersed like chaff on a smoking poisoned wind. From the hills of Jerusalem to the mighty Himalayas, their sacred places would be defiled. Their daughters would blow sailors for the price of a sandwich. War all the time, and everywhere, until the final defeat of Terror. ‘These mothers gonna hear from us,’ Stanley revealed. ‘No way, air power like ours, we take a running kick in the nuts from a bunch of camel jockeys.’ I started sobbing, at the apparition of Stanley, at my own unworthiness, and the guards came in and began to work me over, and Stanley got the boot in a few times too, and I tried to say thank you each time, but I did not have much of a voice left.

 

We were on the plane, descending, back to Earth, back to America, to the beginning of my second life. John was sitting next to me, by the window. I was wondering if I’d get a suit too, and the shades.

For a few weeks they had been preparing me. I had been moved away from the dirty Arabs and into a kind of apartment more suitable for an American. I had a shave. I was fed pepperoni pizza and allowed watch CNN. Stanley hadn’t been joking. A lot had happened in the two years I’d been out of circulation. John said I could get out if I agreed to work for them and I told him I was ready now to fight for Freedom.

John had not spoken since take-off, but as we banked into our approach path the sun came through the window behind his face, and he turned and gave me my instructions:

‘Listen up, Bob. We’re taking you to a suburban location. This will be your home, and in time you’ll find yourself suitable employment. You will be dropped at a corner and will proceed to a church yard sale down the street. You will approach a wholesome-looking woman of childbearing years. She will say, “How you doin’?” Got that straight?’
‘“How you doin’,” yeah.’

‘And you will respond with “Great thanks, how you doin’?” Got it?’ I nodded, repeated it, with the stress in the right place.
‘Then she’ll say “Real good,” and you’ll say “Fine day,” and she’ll say “Mighty fine.”’
‘Mighty fine,’ I repeated.

John went quiet and he turned to the window as the jet took aim at the runway. We were losing altitude fast and I swallowed hard to bring my hearing back.

‘And then what happens?’

He turned and regarded me from behind the shades.

‘I can’t reveal more than that. Take your cues from the lady. She’ll know what to do.’

The features of my country were reasserting themselves. The highways like mighty rivers, flowing in both directions. The underpasses and overpasses, the spaghetti junctions. The endless commerce of vehicles, their metal and glass shells glinting in the sunlight. The shining towers of the financial district of a city. The strips and malls and car parks of the suburbs, the rows of suburban homes, and a vast brown plain beyond. Some of the houses had pools in their backyards. I was heading for barbecue country. Men in shorts and baseball caps flipping sizzling steaks and burgers with the right hand, holding a bottle of beer in the left, while they shot the shit with other male Americans. Perhaps there were wives in the picture, and children. This was the birthright I had squandered, but I was being offered a second shot.

A limo with tinted windows met us on the tarmac, and within minutes we were cruising through some nice looking ‘burbs. John handed me an envelope. It contained an address written on a slip of paper, a wallet containing cash and cards, and a Chicago Bears keychain with a set of house and car keys. My mission was to blend in and never mention anything about the orange jumpsuit. If asked, I had been hiking in Alaska.

The car stopped. John threw the door open and I got out and looked around. The sun was shining pleasantly on the houses and their lawns and trees and mailboxes. I could see a gathering further down the street. It was the church sale.

‘Good luck, Bob,’ said John. ‘You might not see us. Don’t mean we can’t see you.’

This was his farewell. He pulled the door closed and the limo pulled away, almost silently, and I watched it grow smaller and round a corner and disappear. I was on my own now. I checked the address on the slip. I was standing at the end of my own driveway. ‘Culper’ was written on the mailbox. It was a strange way to come home, but it looked like I had a car too, and I felt good about the future.

I approached the church sale, nervous about blending in. People stood around talking, kids ran about. Everybody was smiling, nearly the whole time. The scene was extra bright and colourful, like a Hollywood picture.

There was a little billboard. Little black plastic letters spelled out the lesson:

LIFT UP YOUR TIRED HANDS, THEN,
AND STRENGTHEN YOUR TREMBLING KNEES!
KEEP WALKING ON STRAIGHT PATHS,
SO THAT THE LAME FOOT MAY NOT BE DISABLED,
BUT INSTEAD BE HEALED —Heb 12.12

I got a visual on the operative I was to contact. I admired her cover. You’d never have guessed she was regular Intelligence, never mind ANNUIT COEPTIS. She stood behind a stall with home-made pies and cookies and muffins and brownies, wearing a tasteful print dress. Maybe it’s not polite to call a lady plump, but she certainly filled it. Her hair was straw coloured. She wasn’t wearing make- up. It wouldn’t have worked on her. I could see her hauling herself out of a station wagon with big paper bags of groceries.

I gave a kid a quarter for a little plastic cup of lemonade and drank it down, watching her from a distance, getting more nervous. Then I walked up, checked out the pies, normal as could be. She gave me a big smile.
‘How you doin’?’
My heart was going like a jackhammer. I managed to smile back. ‘Great, thanks. How you doin’?’
‘Real good.’
‘Fine day.’
‘Mighty fine.’
I paused, looking at the pies, waiting for a cue. I could feel the sweat coming out on my forehead.
‘You new in town?’
‘Yeah, well, pretty new. Just got here, in fact.’
‘It’s a fine community, real good folks.’

I looked around. Was she trying to tell me something? I decided to just act natural. I pointed out my house. She said she lived a block over. Her name was Martha. I bought a cherry pie.

Her thumb was pointing straight at it, clear as day, as she handed me my change. I looked up at her, expecting a further signal. She was cool as could be. A real pro.

‘Three dollars,’ she said. ‘Change of ten.’

I put the change in my wallet. My hands were shaking. ‘See you around,’ I said. 

‘Have a nice day, now.’

I went back to my place. I checked the mailbox and, sure enough, a letter awaited me. I paused in the driveway. They’d given me a Pontiac Pilgrim, a good sturdy car. I opened the door. It had been freshly valeted and there was only a few thousand on the clock. Then I went up to the porch and let myself into my house. I put the cherry pie down on the kitchen table and opened the letter. It was from the bank. I had a mortgage, but the terms were very favourable. I checked out the cupboards. I had what seemed like a lifetime supply of cans of Bumblebee Tuna and Gatorade and the freezer was full of meat for the barbecue.

 

It was a nice three-bedroomed place, big enough for a family. The drawers and wardrobes contained fresh new clothing, in my size, folded and stacked. I went into the backyard. I was a little disappointed not to get the swimming pool. But the basement had a pool table.

When I had reassured myself I had the power appliances to take care of the yard, I sat down at the kitchen table and took out my wallet and examined the dollar note. I beheld what I had, in the course of a lifetime, failed to see. What Martha had shown me.
On the right-hand side, a pyramid. And the apex of the pyramid was the triangle, containing the eye. Below the pyramid, the words:
NOVO ORDO SECLORUM
And above it: ANNUIT COEPTIS

I put the banknote on the table and sat back in the chair, and gazed a long time through the open door into the backyard, at the leaves in the trees, glimmering and trembling in the sunlight of a perfect evening, and I had a revelation of the interconnectedness of all things. I had been blind. But now I could see, and my second life on this earth, as an active operative of ANNUIT COEPTIS, began.

Two days later Martha and her mother called around with an pie to welcome me to the community. It was a real pie-eating town and I was soon putting on the pounds I’d lost in the dog cage. When I met Martha in the supermarket shortly thereafter, both our trolleys loaded with goods, I praised the pie and she invited me to her bowling night. Whenever she gave me a cue, I took it, and shortly we were talking about getting married. She said I was a good steady guy, all any girl could want, as she ran her hands  through my thinning hair. She said a lot of nice things about me and I didn’t argue. Ever.

Years have passed and sometimes it is hard to remember my life was not always like this—the kids on their bicycles on the sidewalk after school, or me in the stand on Saturday evening and Bobby Jr dressed up in his first baseball suit. It makes me proud as hell when he swings that little bat and connects and sends that ball sailing over their heads. Bobby is eight, he’s the oldest, then there’s Jim who’s five, and Lisa is three.

I belong to a single-cell organism called Bob-and-Martha. We meet other units called Sam-and-Arlene, Roy-and-Sally, Henry-and -Priscilla, and as we play bridge and send each other signals, glancing over the cards, I wonder who is an operative and who is not. I have my suspicions, but say nothing. The cameras are everywhere these days. There’s one behind most mirrors. I’m pretty sure the televisions do not just give us information, but are monitoring our living rooms. Cables go everywhere and every phone call, every purchase with a card, is information into the central database at ANNUIT COEPTIS. You fill up for gas, the card tells them who and where, and how far you expect to go. Our mobile phones have GPS. We manoeuvre around a coloured map, monitored by satellite.

I occasionally glimpse an operative—the suit and shades—turning a corner, or in a car passing in the opposite direction. One night I was watching basketball on TV, and I saw John in the audience, as the camera panned swiftly across the stands. He sat there cooly, as the unsuspecting crowd went wild.

Sometimes the woman who lives next door washes her car, in her shorts, gets lots of foam going on the windscreen. But there’s no point jacking off behind the curtain, even if I was still that kind of man, because Martha has her channels. Arlene doesn’t know the score or else it was a set-up, but I believe last week she gave me a come-on. We’d had a few whisky-sodas and I had slipped out onto the porch to join her while she had a smoke. She complained about Bill, said he was ‘absent’, and leaned close and put her hand on my leg. And I just said, ‘Arlene, I think we better go in now, it’s getting cold out here.’

In the evenings, after the kids are in bed, me and Martha might drink a bottle of beer on the porch, listening to the crickets. A flag flies over our tranquil lawn, for our brave men and women in the service. Beyond our island of peace, far beyond, a crusade is being waged, and I know that terror bides its time, just out of sight, beyond our borders. And I know, equally, that evil lies in every human heart, awaiting the faltering of our vigilance. Sometimes Stanley visits me in my sleep, covered in the dust of the fallen tower. We mostly talk about football games and he never brings it up, about me balling his wife, for which I am grateful, and he occasionally says things that encourage me.

‘Keep paying your taxes, big guy—we’re smoking those sand-niggers.’ Yes, we sit on our porch and listen to the crickets. There is no need to say too much to Martha, because she knows already. She finishes her beer and says, ‘I don’t know about you honey, but I’m all beat,’ and I nod and follow her into the house. While she’s on the can, I lock the doors and switch off the lights. I look in on the children for a moment, sleeping peacefully, and there can be nothing more beautiful. Then I use the bathroom and wash my face and brush my teeth then get into bed beside her.
‘Honey,’ she says, ‘don’t forget the PTA meeting tomorrow.’
‘Sure thing.’
‘You know?’
‘What?’
‘I’m thinking we should try that new diet. The fruit and high protein one Roy-and-Sally were talking about. I mean, don’t take it wrong…’
‘What?’
‘We’re both getting a little bit tubby…’

The way Martha’s been swelling up, in a couple of months she can join the circus.

‘Maybe we should just buy a bigger bed, honey.’

We both laugh. Martha’s a good sport. She can take my little jokes. We roll towards each other and there is the wet sound in the dark as our lips slap together. Then we roll apart and sigh. We are so close to each other, it is hard in such moments to believe in the evil, the terror, of the world. It does not seem true. And yet the struggle depends on people like us, on our quiet work.
‘Goodnight honey,’ she says.
‘Goodnight hon.’