Cards. 52 of them, each one with a unique face, a unique value. Depending on who you talk to, each one has its own unique meaning and derivation from the depths of the common psyche. Real deep James Campbell stuff, yeah?
Imagine cards shuffling together. Things dovetailing, overlapping in an almost perfect mesh of 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2.
Imagine playing with less than a full deck for what you believe to have been your entire life, only to discover that you're not even playing with half of it. Imagine only learning you're playing with not-quite-a-full-deck after you've had a few more cards mixed in.
Imagine learning this and suddenly knowing it, and knowing that you did and didn't know it, an didn't know it, and still don't know it, and god knows if you'll ever know it all at once.
That's what happened when I tried to get "Robert" to let go of me, "Bob". Or rather, when I tried to wrest myself from my own grip.
Some giant jigsaw puzzle that was me. Him.
And apparently a bunch of other people.
The world came back into focus - a little apartment in a little fourplex somewhere in Northern California. Out of college, sprawled on a big oval rattan orientalist beastie of a chair. Inhale. Exhale. That still works. Good.
The room is very, very quiet. I know, somehow, there should be noises. These places aren't built with soundproofing in mind. People upstairs (one grey fluffy cat which I continually mistake as female), next door (70's Hard Rock when they think I've gone to work), lots of cars and trucks rumbling outside. But it's quiet. Unusually quiet.
After some flailing, I use my legs to cantelever myself from the bowl-of-Bob chair and manage to make it to my feet. I take stock. Jeans, collarless shirt, Converse All-Stars. Not much money and barely squeaking by. Ok. This is me. I remember all this.
Only I didn't remember it when I was, where, Austin? Moments ago.
"That's right, white boy. You didn't."
Great. Now I'm talking to myself. That's a sure sign of an impending mental collapse.
"No, it's a coping mechanism you developed from all those years of being an only child and being quite content in your own company, brought on by the awkwardness of moving about so much and always being the new kid. Especially after Brentwood."
Yeah. Got a point there. OK, inner voice. What's going on?
"Simple. You need to find yourself."
Everyone in California says that.
"No, you need to find... right. Look outside."
The curtains are behind the chair of doom, and I can't lean over them to open that up. So I walk to the front door, bumping the overbuilt desk chair I brought all the way out here from Austin, and had reclaimed all the way from Utah, and open the front door.
Into the white hot light of something that was not California.