Too frequently we start from a location that has already been created, has been forged of something like iron but without the secondary qualities and the increased chances of rust. I attempt to identify through cross-reference my own particular origins using an appendix in a hefty textbook from a past course of study I pursued in accounting, and then, when that doesn’t work, I file it under a heading I promptly forget, but it doesn’t matter. Everywhere you turn there are like substances and like phenomena and trying to differentiate between them will only lead you to something very similar to mental collapse. Or away from it should you already be in the vicinity. Eulalie takes the cup proffered and encourages me to do the same but I am leery and I’m not precisely sure why. Certainly poison crops up in my thoughts more frequently than it ought, and my attempts to rid myself of it just increase the instances until I spend at least twelve to eighteen of the finite hours in a week obsessing over who has had access to what I put in my body and who has had access to my body itself and what the overlap suggests. The man pulls a framed photograph down from the shelf and we pass it around as if it contained a psychotropic substance of the sort that causes benevolent hallucination involving forest creatures, say, not yet altered through the taste of blood, sailing vessels approaching on a bay that stretches eighty miles in either direction and reminds us that it’s not possible to see beyond the curvature of the earth without the use of specialized equipment and an imagination such as Dante possessed when he was first learning to speak but hadn’t yet met his Beatrice. When he didn’t yet view the world the way we do when we have suffered a lesion on the prefrontal cortex due to a skiing accident, perhaps, or just an ordinary mutation in the genes that help configure that particular portion of the gray matter. The woman in the photograph attempts a smile, but her head is tilted toward the earth and her eyes are averted and you can tell she has been told previously one or two very brutal things by this man who has presented us with the picture as if nothing were out of the ordinary, things that would alter the very texture of your skin should you hear them. Would turn your skin, in fact, into just the sort of pale imitation it appears to be in this or any photograph. A facsimile, a poor, reverse-engineered replica that, if you were possessed of it instead of the skin you were actually born in, you would suffer to the very end of your days from tremors and phantom pains and a sense that whatever is outside is painstakingly trying to make its way in.