G2A Many GEOs
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  1. Chapter 1:
  2.  
  3. Jack shut the laminated menu gently—as if he could have hurt it—and gave it to the server.
  4. “Do you really think that I should go?"
  5. Pepe slouched into the padded seats.
  6. “Well, it doesn’t matter to me.”
  7. “What would you do if you were in my situation?"
  8. Pepe turned glum.
  9. “I don’t know. I don’t think I ever will be. I barely knew my mother."
  10. “I’m sorry—I guess I never asked you about her."
  11. Pepe waved his hand away. “Oh, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. Really—to tell you the truth,” He looked at the kitchen. “I’d rather not see her again."
  12. The server he had seen came and set down the appetizers. Pepe ate quickly and quietly. Jack spun a chicken leg between his fingers.
  13. “So it’s up to me, then?"
  14. “If you don’t want to go, I’ll tell you not to go."
  15. Jack sighed and took a bite. “No, no, you don’t need to do that.” He looked at the table. "If there’s really nobody else who will take responsibility, I’ll go.”
  16. Pepe raised his eyebrows. “So we’re doing it, then? We’re going?"
  17. “Yes."
  18.  
  19. Pepe stood in front of the bathroom mirror, alternately brushing spots of dandruff from his shoulders and gazing deeply into his own eyes—lost in the depths of himself.
  20.  
  21. Jack climbed out of the Uber, shading the sun from his eyes with a hand. He looked around. “I guess everyone else is already here."
  22.  
  23. Pepe looked around. The golden rims of his sunglasses cast wary comets across the sidewalk and the walls. “I guess so."
  24.  
  25. They entered the church—which seemed itself like a massive sepulcher—and drifted apart from one another. Jack’s uncle on his mother’s side was the first to see him. His red face contorted with pity. “Jack—!” He called, stretching out his arms. Jack embraced him politely, and the two quickly drew apart. Jack's aunt approached him. She was a short, stout blonde woman in a dark dress. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am.” She said, and embraced him, too. “Thank you.” He said. There were at least a dozen apologies and embraces left. He made quick work of them all—like a sushi chef.
  26.  
  27. The only surprise was his cousin, Felina, who drew herself so close to him that he could feel her pert young breasts pressing against his chest. He withheld the urge to recoil in fright, and merely bit the inside of his lip, raising his eyes and fixing them on the tortured figure on the cross at the center of the church. She drew herself back from him in a single fluid motion and regarded him. There was real pity in her eyes. “Jack. It hurts, doesn’t it? It really, really really—“ her voice was rough with sympathy “—hurts." Jack seemed to look through her. He felt that she was trying to punish him for something he had done. He withheld everything, and simply looked at her. “Of course it does.”
  28.  
  29. At length, the family went outdoors into the graveyard.
  30.  
  31. Continuing an old family custom, the women moved to lift the casket. Felina floated quickly to the side, where she knelt down and took hold of the gold lifting-rod. But soon it became clear that one side was unbalanced. There were no more able-bodied female relatives in the family. For a moment, there was confusion—then Felina turned, her hair sweeping around her head, and called to Jack.
  32. "Jack, come help us!"
  33. Jack was taken aback. She's choosing me, he thought, in spite of himself. He approached the casket bar behind Felina and looked around. The ruddy smiling faces of his female family met him, the joy on their faces half-hidden beneath grief and piety.
  34.  
  35. Jack watched as the muscles on Felina's back and shoulders rose and fell in perfectly symmetrical shapes on the back of her dress as she carried the casket. As they carried her up the hill, the women began to pant and sweat with exertion. It wasn't a hot day, but the casket was very heavy.
  36.  
  37. When she turned to check her grip, Jack noticed that a thread of golden hair had fallen, loosed by sweat, across Felina's face.
  38.  
  39. At last they reached the grave. The bearers shifted their grip and lowered the casket down onto the green carpet. They glowed with sorority, their tradition triumphantly upheld. Only Jack felt uncomfortable, and he turned from the casket and moved away a little faster than the rest of them.
  40.  
  41. "Thanks, Jack." Felina sighed, and he turned back and smiled innocently at her.
  42.  
  43. During his Eulogy, the priest said that the greatest emancipator was not death, but love; a few adults nodded dutifully.
  44.  
  45. Afterwards, each person had their time with the casket. Pepe wrapped his arms around it and pressed his cheek against the black plastic. He closed his eyes, uttered a single syllable, and released his grip. Jack tried not to look too sad as he rested his hand on the casket for a single moment. “Some things follow you forever,” he thought.
  46.  
  47. Back at his seat, Jack watched Felina give her last regards to his mother. Pepe, tilted over to him and whispered in his ear. “Your cousin is very beautiful.” Jack smirked in spite of himself. Pepe leaned in again. “It’s hard to believe that you two are related.”
  48.  
  49. Jack smiled and shook his head. “You’re ridiculous."
  50.  
  51. “Does she live around here?"
  52.  
  53. Jack looked up. “I think she lives near Heronville."
  54.  
  55. Afterwards, he searched for his aunt—the one who had arranged the funeral—and found her, seated in a pew in the shadow of a rainbow made by the sunset through the church windows. She turned to look at him, and the rainbow glided off her. She was old, but still very beautiful. There was a streak of grey in her dry red hair.
  56.  
  57. “Hello, Jack."
  58.  
  59. He didn’t want to sit down beside her, so her leaned against the wooden pew and brought up a smile.
  60.  
  61. “Jeanne. I just wanted to thank you for organizing all this. It’s made things so much easier for me."
  62.  
  63. She smiled with plain good-heartedness. “Well, you’re welcome.” She drew her arm up on the back of the pew and leaned a little closer to him.
  64.  
  65. “I know that, all things considered, it would have been reasonable for you not to want to come here. I appreciate—that you made it."
  66.  
  67. He looked straight at her. “There was never any doubt."
  68.  
  69. He heard Pepe calling for him, in a faux whisper; he patted her shoulder like a soldier, to say goodbye.
  70.  
  71. Pepe lay in the bed next to Jack’s bed, gazing at the ceiling, listening to music. It was the last night of their hotel stay.
  72.  
  73. The male half of an argument was audible in the next room.
  74.  
  75. Chapter 2:
  76.  
  77. They met as she had asked him in a sylvan glade where the mottled shadows sliding on her skin brought out the effect that there was something permanent beneath the surface. It was the only place where the two of them could be alone. She had been speaking for some time, and building up to a kind of crescendo. Now it was impossible to ignore; Her chest rose and fell with great strokes, her face was flushed, and she seemed to be so full of light that it was flowing out of her—as if she was the source of all rivers:
  78.  
  79. “—that’s because I love the whole world. I love the whole universe.  I don’t want to see suffering or unhappiness anymore. I don’t want to see people hurting each other anymore. I just want to see people accepted and loved for being who they are, and I want that to go and keep on blooming forever, Jack, I want that forever. I don’t think that it should ever end. Why should it? If we can, why shouldn’t we? That’s what I’m talking about. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I’m with you—” She took his hand in hers. "I want to share that with you. Don’t you want that, too? Don’t you want that, Jack?"
  80.  
  81. She had never known anything else; she had never known of anything else. All the prior centuries seemed to her to have been nothing more than a long and tedious prologue to the task that had at last—that had, at long, long last!—been stamped by love’s great seal of approval. Her generation was to be the generation that broke the first ground; they would make the world into what it always could have been.
  82.  
  83. She was as full of life as a herd of horses charging on a plain. Jack could see the full circle of her green irises as they widened to let the light in. He felt that this was the crucial moment—the instant within which the future would be decided. And all he had to do was to grasp her hand and stand with his chest out and let the river carry them to that sweet country of purpose and reward.
  84.  
  85. But—somehow, somehow, somehow—that was impossible.
  86.  
  87. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do anything but lay next to her, wan and silent as a ghost, pretending to have been forgotten by everything and to have himself forgotten everything. But the awful truth was that pretending could never accomplish anything; reality imposed itself like a solicitor—when one was in the bath, so to speak.
  88.  
  89. He closed his hand around hers—but the gesture was cursory.
  90.  
  91. Jack was overcome with an inexpressible sadness. It was inexpressible because it was inexpressible.
  92.  
  93. Nothing in those days was left in darkness. Everything was brought out and illuminated—
  94.  
  95. “You don’t have much time left, do you?"
  96.  
  97. He looked up like a dog recognizing his own name. “What?”
  98.  
  99. “You’re a senior, right?"
  100.  
  101. Chapter 3:
  102.  
  103. He looked out of his dorm-room window into the orange american dawn. There was something pale and contracted on the grass. There were some people milling back and forth around it, crushing little clods of dirt beneath their shoes. Jack leaned up to try to see what they were gathering around. One after another, the women on the field (for somehow he saw that they were all women) were leaning down to look at the blanched white form.
  104.  
  105. Seeming to intuit what he was thinking, the first one stepped forward—heels clicking on the linoleum floor—and spoke:
  106.  
  107. “You can’t think in such simple terms, you know. Things change—sometimes from moment to moment. Who can say that the person who fell asleep in your bed last night is the same one who woke up this morning?”
  108.  
  109. He was stunned by her size. She seemed almost to reach the ceiling-panels. “Nobody fell asleep in my bed last night."
  110.  
  111. Before she could chastise him further, however, the door at the end of the auditorium opened. The woman turned swiftly, and crowd seemed to grow quiet with expectation. The people parted, and Jack’s eyes widened in shock. Upon a little cart, someone was pushing a cold, naked little corpse. It hadn’t died very long ago, but there had been enough time for rigor mortis to have contorted its features into a frightening rictus. When the trolley reached his desk, however, it seemed to relax, as if it had been delivered into the company of an equal. It lifted its grey eyelids and looked at him. He was completely still. At last, it spoke:
  112.  
  113. “Oh, grow up! Don’t act like you’ve never seen a dead person before."
  114.  
  115. Everybody but Jack seemed relieved by this ejaculation. The corpse began to stretch life back into its clammy limbs. When it fell, it sounded like someone had dropped a fish on the floor.
  116.  
  117. The first terror wore off quickly, but a sense of disquiet remained—at least from Jack’s perspective. His schoolmates seemed perfectly content. The corpse was delivering a powerpoint on day to day life in the kingdom of death. He had even brought a laser-pointer with him.
  118.  
  119. He made jokes from time to time, which everybody enjoyed. Jack, however, was already finding it difficult to concentrate. He was usually too far away to hear the jokes, and even when he did, he didn’t understand them. He drew in his notebook until class was over. When the presentation ended, he saw his schoolmates moving to the front of the room to talk to the corpse. The tall women stood by him. She seemed to be involved with him somehow.
  120.  
  121. As he walked out, he saw that the corpse had left a stain where it had fallen on the floor.
  122.  
  123. He woke up very early the next morning. The campus was so empty and in such a sublime state of silence that—buildings and all—Jack felt what he imagined god must have felt as he strolled through the garden of eden for the first time.
  124.  
  125. After a while, however, he found himself thinking of Felina.
  126.  
  127. She was as brilliant as a ribbon that had been flung from a balcony; It was pleasant just to think about her.
  128.  
  129. It was as if his thinking of her had been a conjuration—for she had suddenly appeared, in reality, clutching a piece of paper and looking around her with a shadow of worry in her pretty face.
  130.  
  131. His eyes widened in surprise. “Felina!” He exclaimed. “What are you doing here?"
  132.  
  133. She did not recognize him.
  134.  
  135. She stepped back; her expression of worry transformed into confusion. “I don’t think I’m the person who you think I am."
  136.  
  137. Jack gently shook his head in disbelief. “That’s impossible. I’m Jack—we met at the funeral. Don’t you recognize me?"
  138.  
  139. She looked into his eyes. Her expression had changed again. She was no longer disgusted by him. Now, she was searching without finding.
  140.  
  141. She looked a little afraid, and a little frustrated. “I don’t know who you are, but I’m not who you think I am. Please, leave me alone.”
  142.  
  143. Jack felt confused and embarrassed. He leaned against a bike-rack and put his hand against his forehead. He looked at her, closely. Her clothes had changed since he had seen her at the funeral, but that was only natural, wasn’t it? Moreover, she was exactly as beautiful as when he had seen her last—that is to say, her essential features had not changed. But it was impossible to argue with her. “I’m sorry. You look a lot like a friend of mine.”
  144.  
  145. She had begun to laugh quietly at the absurdity of their situation. “I’m sorry,” she put her hand to her mouth. “—but this is so strange. This has never happened to me before.”
  146.  
  147. We’re all intimidated by God’s sense of humor. It is so avant-garde that it has already raced ahead, impossibly far beyond us; it has travelled so far into the future that we cannot begin to understand it. What we mistake as humorlessness is really only a form of irony so beautifully and perfectly crafted that it has no equal in the universe.
  148.  
  149. “Please, just forget I said anything." he said. He started to laugh awkwardly. “Does this happen to you, often?"
  150.  
  151. “Letter for you.” Pepe waved his hand carelessly, in the direction of the small table just inside the door. Jack picked up the letter and looked at it. There was no return address, but he recognized his mother's handwriting as easily as he would recognize his own. He retrieved the letter from the envelope and unfolded it:
  152.  
  153. "Remember me”
  154.  
  155. He turned it over, but there was nothing on the other side. He rolled his eyes and shook his head. That was just like her.
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