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You have boundless ambition, but are able to take comfort in the company of friends. This is expressed wordlessly, to my own reflection, which hovers ghostly pale in the pitch blackness of an airplane window at night.

I am flying away from Jennifer Fine at an adequate speed. But as it is Jennifer I fly from, it is Jennifer I'll return to, and the thought makes it hard for me to choke down my lobster ravioli.

Jennifer has long blond hair. It's thin. You couldn't weave a rope from it and hang yourself, much as the idea might seem appealing, from time to time.

I cut the crabcake with a plastic knife. I have a metal fork, a metal spoon, and a plastic knife. Terrorists have killed 6300 people, demolished half the Pentagon, and stripped the nation's airplanes and airports of decent silverware.

The savages.

Jennifer says little in any given conversation, unless you trigger one of her special topics. Then she trips along lightly, asking questions that she answers, setting up and demolishing glittering straw-men and spilling out banks of facts she might have gathered from The Economist or the other boy she is fucking.

No human being is unique, but most of us are irreplacable. A good many of us are someone's Polaris or the crux of someone's Big Dipper, and while we may eventually shift position or fade away, we are currently critical to navigation. Even after death, we can shine for a while before finally winking out, or covering the sky with the hard white flash called Nova.

There once was a time when Jennifer Fine was a celestial curiosity like Betelgeuse. Worth gazing at, ultimately tangential, a little whiff of a girl, a blond-headed cottonball with a degree in political science and a white-toothed smile that was rare and honest.

Aldebaran. Deneb. Rigel. Arabs in the sky. Remnants of an empire that made all of Christendom look like the muddy collection of blood and donkey paths that it most certainly was. Eminently civilized.

The tiled mosques of Islam have a cool geometry and polychromatic balance that recall the best a night sky can possibly offer.

Jennifer Fine likes Islamic art and architecture, and she likes mint tea, and she likes a clean thumb stuck up her ass at the moment of climax, and she likes to go hiking in Maine.

I can't mentally expel the things I know about her without vomiting the full load. Right now, she has broken me and I, in turn, have broken her down. In my haste to tear her to pieces, I review everything I can remember, to reduce her to a constellation of cold glittering attributes as harmless as tile and grout.

But art's never harmless, and even the accidental wasteland of dust and gas we call "the night sky" stands for something important to us, the symbol-readers.

I know the blue bedspread Jennifer Fine must put her bare ass upon, at Jacob's house. I have a memory that is clear in its detail, strong in its grasp, long in its reach.

Conjecture is easy. Does Jacob conjecture about me? Does a thief consider where his mark may have spent the money that now sits in someone else's pocket, hot and stolen, begging to be spent?

Fucking A. I'm in an airplane, having a breakdown, in an era where they cut you off after two watered-down "cocktails." A sure sign that I've lost it is how little I've accomplished on this trip. My laptop is on, but the screen is empty. I have a speech to write. The campaign is on, and some of the guys are talking about a game of poker tonight, so we can all sit around and drink, and talk trash, and pretend to like each other.

There seems to be a single star in the sky tonight, and it isn't exploding. I am exploding. The star's light remains steady and constant, strong and crystaline, alive and intact. 


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