The new beginning looks a lot like the old one in that strangers seem to understand something I do not. They carry food in their coat pockets – biscuits wrapped in tin foil and lengths of jerky – and part with it only reluctantly. You have to know a great deal about the revolutionary war and the scholars who study that war in universities found so far off the beaten track as to seem afterthoughts, places where people congregate only so as to escape the cold winds that bare down on them from the north and west. Eulalie turns an ankle while competing in a sport of her own invention – something kin to badminton, I believe, without the net but with a great deal of bodily contact encouraged through the perverseness of the rules. From the windowsill where she spends hours each day as a consequence she laments ever laying eyes on the collected works of Browning, says there is something in the approach, the desire to speak in as many different voices as the fallible human imagination will allow, that got her into this mess to begin with. When pushed to elaborate, she waves me away as if I were carrying narrow steel implements which I intended to force into the vulnerable soft portions of her body. There is genuine terror in her eyes for a moment, but it gives way almost immediately to an ache that mimics, I suppose, that centered near her metatarsal bones and travels the length of the body along nerve fibers that translate the purely physical into the almost spiritual through a process no one really understands but which is best illustrated, in both its mystery and its odd efficiency, I suppose, by referring to the steam engine. If by steam engine you mean a contraption capable of generating super-heated water from dry soil or sand or even nothing whatsoever. From a vacuum, say, existing where before there had been the sound of birds trying to dupe or enthrall one another with the wavelengths produced in the region of the throat, and certain scents originating in the moist and pulpy center of the iris and allowed to drift here and there without supervision or even purpose. To say we miss them, to say that their absence is something that causes us confusion and pain on par with that which just naturally settles over us each morning when the sun comes up and our heads are still on the pillows, is to exaggerate a little, but not much. In fact, there is no need any more for entities like exaggeration, according to Eulalie who studies intently the traffic moving past on the streets below. There is no need whatsoever, she says, of careful discernment of patterns and our passing them down to posterity through rites like song and liturgy and mythmaking. Rather, we should be concentrating on the haphazard and the ludicrous, those pockets of ordinary insanity that float about on the collective bloodstream like molecules of glucose and deposit themselves on the surface of whatever passes for the universal mind and take over apropos of nothing. They have the potential to en-fever us, she says, to derange us at the mere sight of a striped shirt on a bony man or a riotous gathering of starlings over the fallow fields come winter.