You reach one number measuring chronologically, something else altogether using emotion or sex – when determining her age by memories faint now as a billboard forgotten and overgrown on a gravel road. Leaves pile up in the low places and water congregates as if afraid of the cold. I harbor sentiments there are no names for anymore, pithy black edifices at the center of my chest that reconfigure their outlines every hour on the hour, that mimic the shadows cast by skyscrapers and those cast by nothing whatsoever, that just appear out of nowhere and slide along the forest floor as if in search of a meal. Maybe someday I’ll jot down a few of these impressions and flesh them out with the assistance of someone else’s nightmares. The rickety stairs, the bits of raw goat flesh left lying around on a table. The difficulty arises in the fact that so few people are willing to expound upon where they have been at night and with whom. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Whole neighborhoods (not posh exactly, but not run down either, with streets named after indigenous tribes) are threatened by what we call a mindset because we have to call it something. Otherwise, no one will realize what we are up to, that we are analyzing a particular object or situation. We are not simply speaking to ourselves like those lost souls who have ingested exotic hallucinogens and are walking around aimlessly by the pier or those who manage others and tell them how to sell things, who make decisions that seem, on the outside at any rate, of the utmost importance. When you throw it all up onto a screen afterward, when you give life to it by putting wise and belligerent phrases into the mouths of characters who otherwise wouldn’t say anything because there would be no motivation and no larynx, the proceeds are apt to hit the seven figures, before they return again to two or three like the population cycles of the monarch butterfly. Eulalie too occupied a place without a center, spent her evenings documenting that place by speaking of it to those who had never been and had no hope of getting there. Who saw the place as somehow equivalent to the taiga with its cold vistas and its clouds of mosquitoes. Eulalie patterned all this after the visions she had once in the afternoon, a series of such involving nebulae and the sun and the whole numbers in their totality, visions that altered her voice forever, that pitched it so low as to remind one of the humming of the furnace just before it engages, or the interminable turning of empty belts in a sawmill when there is no timber on hand. Turns out no commercial flights depart from here, only military transport of a haphazard nature, reminding one of recurring dreams that recur only rarely, and that when you’ve consumed too many raw vegetables or you’ve been on your feet all day. Exhaustion is the name we give a whole galaxy of ailments because we no longer have, by definition, the energy to create or commit to memory a thorough taxonomy, for driving a wedge between one concept and another and letting the moisture in to do its dirty work. Eulalie taunts me from some location I can’t quite identify, a place of solid palms and people whispering conspiratorially in the background. She says the idea of climax is almost as good as the climax itself and brings up past episodes in which the eyes rolled back in the head, and the feet curled up like stamens deprived of light. Wouldn’t we rather have this conversation over the telephone? Or in the back of a tavern where someone is playing the mandolin? Wouldn’t we come to appreciate labels for each body part and each movement the body makes before it comes to a complete stop? We could affix them at night when the owner of that body is sleeping and when questioned about it later, we could lie and dissemble and eventually admit our mistakes, our jealousies and failures of will that, when stacked up together in this accusatory fashion, begin to resemble a tower, an actual stone and mortar tower of the sort that people used to spend their entire lives in, especially when they had been deceived and double crossed by powerful family members with a noticeable lisp or fungus on their toenails. I strap myself in close by the cargo, the containers of ammunition and the broken-down vehicles, mostly jeeps I gather by the shape of them, covered in tarps, and I watch the others, seated close behind the cockpit, get up a game of chess with a board and pieces left behind by previous passengers, I suppose, by those who have been deposited in the far flung mountains and jungles to meet their fates with whatever dignity they could muster. And jars of mayonnaise. Eulalie retreats then into a permanent obscurity, into the glare of sunlight on glass, and I have difficulty retaining my composure as the forest stretches out beneath us in all directions like a net or a sentence. But I know the others are watching carefully for any sign that I might turn against them, that I might abandon whatever measure of self I still possess in exchange for a single one of her fingers traced slowly along my temple. For a hymn done up in what they used to call a minor key.