In the movie that is my life, Buratino is played by Haley Joel Osment in a plaid shirt and prosthetic nose. I am Kevin Costner as he exists in Dances with Wolves. Just as I am teaching my new lovers to make the white man talk, Haley Joel rides into camp on a World War II motorcycle. Everyone reacts badly and for a while it looks like Haley’s going to do something stupid until I manage to buy him off with a set of Richard Nixon’s golf clubs. I’m not used to such forced diplomacy, but I promise Stands With A Fist that I will return before the harvest.

We make a plan that I will pretend to be him and he will hide in the mausoleum. We will be twins.

We ride for three or four hours, following the river until the land flattens out and the air is colder. When Haley stops the bike the earth is hard underfoot. The river has become a lake and the lake is frozen. There is a layer of snow on the ice. We walk to the edge. Ignoring the crude warning signs, Haley stretches one foot onto the thin surface. He anchors himself by grabbing my forearm. “Haven’t you ever wondered?” he says as I try to pull him back. “Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like?”

I am born in the St. Helier hospital on the southern outskirts of Greater London. At the age of five, I am placed in St. Anthony’s Convent School, one hundred twenty miles west of the city. This is where I meet Buratino.

The first day, in the playground, he tells me he was born with an extra finger on each hand, removed by himself with catgut and a sharp knife. Months later, in the copse behind the mausoleum, he takes the knife from his satchel. He does not bleed as I slide the blade across his palm. I am afraid and jerk my hand away when he tries to draw blood from mine.

In chapel the next morning, Father Selwyn marks our foreheads with an ashen cross. He tells us, “Remember…remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” Buratino looks across at me as we kneel at the rail. We chant a prayer and process out behind Sister Josephine, through the oak doors and across the playground. In the classroom we are told of The Lives of the Saints and instructed to assemble our own communion. My favorite is Saint Francis. I learn his prayer by heart and resolve to a life of asceticism and veterinary science: an instrument of peace, in dying born to eternal life.

To mark the end of the twentieth century, the city of London chose to erect a large Ferris wheel on the South Bank, along with an enigmatic tent-like structure that turned out to be only a large auditorium. As midnight struck, it was planned that through a system of pyrotechnics, the river itself would be set ablaze. Something went wrong. The materials failed to ignite and the city had to make do with the not insubstantial fireworks.

At this interlude, time found the apparatus for some curious gymnastics. That is, the twenty-first century appeared with both proximity and distance. There it was, malfunctions aside, prodigal and indifferent, yet all of its perceived hallmarks were markedly absent. I remember sitting with Buratino on a hillside in the mud, unaware that we were growing into a decade of paranoia, attrition, and exploding skyscrapers. Unaware that fewer than two years earlier, the skeleton of a four-year-old child with attributes of both Neanderthals and modern humans had been found in Portugal. Unaware that Buratino had begun to understand the world as an interconnected system of events, a sequence of intensities he could manipulate and exhaust.

In terms of solid, liquid and gas, I do not understand fire. It is a plasma? What is a plasma?

I am fifteen when the convent school sends me to Switzerland to board with a priest and his elderly wife. The house is adjacent to an elementary school that rings in its classes with a digital bell. This makes it hard to sleep during the daytime, which is unfortunate because I stay up most of the night watching the calendar as if it were a television, imagining stories that I will tell to Buratino once I return.

In the afternoons I walk around the city, take the trolley to the lake. There is a place I like to walk called Needle Park, where the public lavatories are lit by blue bulbs. They make it difficult to find your veins. In my room, on the top floor of the priest’s house, I read a book that has German on the left and an English translation on the right. It is supposed to improve my language skills, but I ignore the German. It is a story about a woman with pale skin and tiny scars all over her face and arms. I look for the woman in the park. I take a boat onto the lake. I ride the trolley in circles until it shuts down for the night and I walk the six miles home through the city.

We make a plan that I will pretend to be him and he will hide in the mausoleum. We will be twins. Buratino has found a book that says Jesus had a twin named Thomas. I ask Sister Josephine if this is true and she gives me cook’s duty for the next seven days. At the end of the week I have to scrub the corner of the playground where everyone writes bad words with chalk. Fuck, shit, piss, wank; I scrub them all from the asphalt.

Shinichi Fujimura: an amateur archaeologist. In the years before the new century, he establishes a reputation through his miraculous knack for discovery. It earns him the nickname “God’s hand.” Based on his findings, textbooks are rewritten, historical epochs are extended. Each dig reveals older and older artifacts until his discoveries are estimated to be over half a million years old.

Within weeks, photographs that show Fujimura burying these same artifacts the day before they are found are made public. He holds a press conference, confesses, and apologizes. Of all his discoveries over the last thirty years, only four are legit. “It is the work of an evil demon,” he says. A case of possession.

Months later, university professor Mitsuo Kagawa is linked to the hoax in a series of three magazine articles. Less than a week before the third article is published, Kagawa hangs himself at his home in Hinode. He is found by his wife, Toshiko, along with three separate suicide notes, one of which addresses the hoax directly. “I am not guilty of any wrongdoing…I would like my death to be a sign of protest.”

This morning I spend hours reading anonymous suicide notes I find on the Internet. I stop when I cannot read anymore. I return the next day, and the next, until there are no more notes to read. A week passes and I start again from the beginning. As I read the notes for a second time it’s as if, with the exception of a few lines, I’d never seen any of them before. With the third and fourth readings I grow more familiar. By the fifth, I have to read each one aloud. I soon forego the names and salutations. I do not pause between each note and let them run into each other. They work better this way.

I know what I’m doing. I write my own notes and leave them on the trolley; I am not afraid of having nowhere to go. A wooden boy is only a hoax. The water is tainted by the bodies they threw down the well.

If you fall into freezing water, do not panic. Try to regulate your breathing. Reach for where the ice appears thickest and try to swim your way out. Kick your legs with your body in a vertical position. If you are certain that escape is impossible, do not struggle; instead, prepare for loss of consciousness. Try to prop your head where it will remain above water. Don’t think about the girl from convent school who was trying to save her dog. Don’t think about Haley Joel or the poem he read at her funeral.

In Anya’s kitchen we eat from place mats that reproduce Constable’s landscapes. The Hay Wain. The Cornfield. Boat-building near Flatford Mill. On the wall above the table is a poster of the morning sun through trees. Words are superimposed over the image. Two Foundation Facts of Human Enlightenment: 1. There is a God. 2. You are not him.

Before convent school I lived next to three different graveyards. Now I live next to a park that was originally a huge cemetery. When the land was rezoned, it was decided that digging up the bodies would be sacrilegious at worst, impractical at best. Boundaries were established and it was agreed that the area would never be developed. The law was honored and the dead largely forgotten until construction began on an underground parking facility thought to be outside the perimeter. This, I suppose, is the relation between the Old and New Testaments.

We travel to Lourdes to be blessed by the Virgin. The wooden boy’s logic is sound. If he cannot be God then he will settle for sainthood. Before he is beatified, he must receive this blessing. We stand in line during the hours when the sun is strongest. There are two women ahead of us; one tells how she was burned as a child and had to take ice baths twice daily for the next two years. The other has pale skin and tiny scars all over her face and arms. We have to talk in whispers, otherwise we are shushed by automated loudspeakers hidden in the bushes.

In the final years of the Cold War, the U.S.-based Trinity Broadcasting Network claimed proof of the literal existence of hell, accessible via a borehole in the Siberian wilderness. When the well reached a depth of around nine miles, drills broke through to a cavity. Various heatproof sensory devices were lowered. Among the data returned were temperatures in excess of two thousand degrees Fahrenheit and audio recordings of the screaming damned. Accompanying reports described an ephemeral winged creature rising from the well and stealing across Soviet airspace.

Here is my favorite story: you are a statue and I am a mechanical bird. Everything we have we give to the sun. First upon the table: our neuromance, then: to solve the riddle of bodies.

I always try for the back of the carriage. When the window is open I breathe harder to smell the water. I am sorry for ruining your photograph. I was trying to look drunk. It was a kind of double bluff. I wish I had something else to say that would make these other things seem trivial. The trolley stops where police cars have blocked the roadway. Some of the people get off and continue on foot. This makes no sense to me. After several attempts to engage the police, the driver backs up and we take another route.

When I open my eyes I pretend I am someone else. I try to see the city with new eyes, confuse myself within the familiar, like remembered scraps of an old dream. We are crossing the bridge that this body has crossed a hundred times before. But in this new occupation, I encounter it as original.

Where are you, Buratino? Remember how we’d walk into rooms carrying everything we knew, our bodies like weapons, the night something to be taken and emptied? Here is the most important thing I will ever write:

My single motivation is authentic experience. I can only approach it by telling stories.

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