Chapter Twenty Five I

 A guy goes in to see a psychiatrist for help in dealing with his brother.
 It seems his brother insists he’s a chicken.
 The psychiatrist says, “Look, have you tried just sitting your brother down and  convincing him he’s not a chicken?”
The guys says, “I can’t do that. I need the eggs.”
Woody Allen

James’ expertise is diagnosis. His new job is consultant to the resident psychiatrists working with Dr. Epstein, his old instructor and friend. He wanted his position structured as a consultancy. He didn’t want to have to accept any patient the hospital sent his way, which would have been the case had he been on staff.
It’s not that there are so many possible choices for a psychiatric diagnosis, it’s that lines are blurry and symptoms overlap. Is the patient borderline or hysterical? Schizoid, compulsive or just pristinely neat? Is the patient obsessive or is it the manic part of bipolar disorder? You couldn’t rely on the patients, they didn’t know the truth of themselves. They knew only their twisted reality.
This evening, the families are sitting together at the Svensson’s condo having cocktails. I’m in the kitchen, a meatloaf finished, it is resting on the counter, cooling so it won’t fall apart when I slice it. I have green beans simmering in bacon, ham pieces, lots of pepper, a touch of sugar, and am mashing potatoes with roasted garlic.
Susan asks James, “Daphne says your role at the hospital is diagnostics. So you tell the patient what he’s got, right?”
James laughs, “I make the best guess I can, yes.”
Chris, “Doesn’t each doctor, psychiatrist, make his own diagnosis? What happens when you disagree?”
James looks serious, “We flip for it. Heads the blue pill, tails the red one.”
Chris, “That works?”
James, “About as well as our guesses. It’s kind of embarrassing really.”
Kara chides, “You don’t do that! Flip for it. You told me you play scissor, paper, rock, best two out of three.”
James, “That’s for the really crazy ones, not your everyday personality disorder.”
Susan, “Okay. I want to know now that Chris has raised the question. How’s the diagnosis come about? It must be a problem or they wouldn’t have a specialist.”
Kara, “She’s got you there. You’re going to have to answer, buster.”
James nods, “Do you really want me to bore you with this? It’s my work, and I can happily go on about it.”
Chris and Susan, “Yes.”
James, “Okay. Let’s see. A diagnosis has to be objective, many aren’t. It’s not just overconfidence or even superciliousness. Psychiatrists, like everyone, don’t always know their own biases. A missed diagnosis means wasted therapy time and potentially inadequate or contraindicated medication. There are a multitude of options, depending on the patient’s history, prior illnesses, physical problems, age and bodyweight. If the doctor doesn’t have the mental condition right, he could give them pills until hell froze over and they wouldn’t help. Medications for the same diagnosis produce different responses in different patients. If someone takes an antihistamine, they overwhelmingly get some allergy relief. It isn’t that clean with drugs for mental illness.”
Chris, “And the patient is crazy.”
Susan, “Chris, your sensitivity is showing.”
James, “Well, she has a point. Even the best doctor can’t fix a patient without the patient’s cooperation, or at least not the patient’s interference. He or she can help get the best possible handle on where to start. If the patient gets proper treatment and encouragement from the beginning, it favors the odds of them sticking with the program. It’s also a given that patients lie about their symptoms. They misremember or fabricate their history and anything else they think might be embarrassing or damaging.”
Chris, “Must be a nightmare to figure out.”
James, “It can be. In some cases, they even invent symptoms so they can get medications they want.”
Chris, “I hear women at my dojang coaching each other or what to tell the doctor in order to get this or that drug. It’s strange. They want some pill because somebody they know says it made them feel less anxious or more energetic. A couple of other women we know are always complaining about their prescriptions, it makes them tired or fat.”
James, “Patients have a love-hate relationship with their meds, like a marriage where one spouse is completely dependent on the other. Not codependent--the pills don’t need you. Patients know they need the medication to function with some normalcy and they hate it for the same reason. Many drugs do have annoying side effects, weight gain and lethargy are high on the list. Advertising and the internet perversely tout freedom from every worry; no pain, live happily ever after. The pills regulate mood swings, they don’t bring freedom from everyday problems. For some, it’s easier to be ill than to have to deal with life, so they quit the medication, and the cycle begins all over again.”
I take a break from mashing, letting butter melt over the potatoes in a warm oven, “Janah wonders if the diagnosis actually gets in the way of the treatment.”
Susan, “What does that mean?”
James, “She’s plotting to put me out of work. Want to explain, Janah?”
Janah, “The brain is neurons, axons, synapses and chemicals. It’s a bio-chemical-electrical machine. Different behaviors emerge as a result of the interaction of the brain with its environment, both the internal environment of the organism and data received from the external environment. Dad introduces chemicals that enhance, or support, some chemical activity and others that suppress it. When a balance is found that helps the brain operate less destructively, the patient functions better. Labeling of the behavior as this disease versus that disease doesn’t mean anything. It’s an extra step that misleads as much as it helps.”
Chris, “Does she always talk like this?’
I can't resist, “Wait until she brings up catecholaminergic and seretonergic neurons, and their friends, the postganglionic neurotransmitters. She does it right in the middle of me painting her toenails. Everyone knows you’re supposed to flip through fashion magazines while you’re having your toes done. I can barely concentrate.”
Kara, “She paints your toenails? That’s a first, you never did it.”
Janah, “I was reading a research report and the next thing I knew I had red toes. She did my nails too, see,” she stretched out her hand.
Susan, “How does she know about that stuff? Catecho….whatever.”
 “She reads her dad’s books. The other night we were both reading in bed. I had Vogue, she had a textbook on neuroscience. I was reading about fashionista snobs, and a picture of a brain appeared on the page. I told her to quit leaking her thoughts onto my magazine. We got the giggles and went to sleep.”
Susan, “That is so weird.”
“Yes, a fashion model with a brain, go figure.”
Chris asks James, “I don’t suppose there’s any shortage of work?”
“Manhattan is the world headquarters of stress, anxiety and neurosis. No, there is no shortage of work. Although my age is showing, the term neurosis is out of favor. We’ve moved on to personality disorder. It’s the same thing.”
Chris, “You have private patients too?”
James, “Yes, some. Ones that are interesting or particularly complicated.”
Susan, “Sounds like a full day.”
James doesn’t reply, Kara adds, “He stays busy. Not having to deal directly with the patients at the hospital helps. He generally talks to the other doctors. He might see the patient initially, mostly to look for physical problems and to get a sense of whether they are really ill or just med shopping. If he thinks everyone’s on the same page, he stays out of it.”
James, “It’s mostly a matter of follow-up, keeping tabs. I’m there for the problems.”
Chris, “So you get the crap?”
Susan, “Chris skipped certain classes, subtlety, discretion, appropriate language 101.”
James smiles, “I get the crap.”

Chapter Twenty Six I

A few weeks after the move, the three women are together at Kara’s for lunch.
Susan asks about Janah, “Daphne says she’s a genius.”
Kara tilts her head, “We’ve never tested her IQ. James says he’s never sure what genius means. Do you want the whole story?
“I’d like to know whatever you’re comfortable telling.”
Kara, “I’ve never told anyone, it sounds so bizarre. Janah’s school headmistress, Lacy Chapman, knows a bit because she’s seen Janah’s work in school.”
Kara stops to organize her thoughts, then “Janah has always been a very quiet child, it was almost scary. She didn’t cry, she didn’t babble. She looked at you with those blue eyes like she was intent on everything you said and taking in everything you did. When she got mobile, she sat on the floor and flipped through books and magazines. I read to her…and she listened. When she began to walk, she would bring James a book from his library when he got home and he would read to her. He didn’t keep children’s books in his library, didn’t keep books I understood in his library. We assumed she liked to hear his voice and the books were his so she drew the association between him and the books. I tried kid’s books, she ignored them and would bring me the newspaper or one of my art magazines.”
Chris, “That’s strange.”
Kara, “More than a little. She wasn’t interested in stories. We finally realized she liked facts, substance, how things worked. I have no idea how she knew the difference. At three years, she spent all morning in her dad’s office, sitting on the floor, turning pages in one of his books. If he had patients, she stayed with me, flipping through magazines, mostly art magazines. She was never much for television. I would make us lunch and she would nap. One of the few typical things about her.”
“At three? Psychiatry books?”
“Psychiatry, medical books, neurology, the medical reference book Gray’s Anatomy was a big favorite. One day, Janah was four then, James came out of his office. He suggested I sit down. I sat. He said he’d just heard Janah say more than she had said in her four years. He told me she'd been paging through a book on the history of psychiatry and said, clear as day: ‘I see why Freud fell out of favor. He doesn’t make any sense.’
Chris, “Get out of town, girl! She’s what, four, as in years old? At four I was still trying to color inside the lines.”
Kara laughs, shrugs, “I know, I know. James asked what she meant and she gave him a summary of the chapter versus contemporary psychiatric thought with direct quotes, line for line from the book. Then she quoted from books she had only flipped through a week or a month earlier. Our mistake, we thought she only flipped through. James asked where she read something and she told him the name of the book, the chapter and the page. I was stunned.”
Susan, “I can only imagine. I think I’d have a heart attack.”
Kara, “James went to my studio and returned with an art magazine. He asked her if she had looked at it. When she said yes, he opened the magazine and asked her if she recalled anything about the article on Matisse on page twenty seven. She quoted it word for word, the entire article, off the top of her head. I was shaking, silently thanking James for suggesting I sit.”
Susan, “I guess!”
Kara, “My heart was racing. I’m not normally an anxious person. This was hardly normal. I knew better than to start with frantic mom questions. James asked her, not about things she remembered, what she preferred; the art magazines or the books in his office. She said, simply, ‘The books. The photographs of the paintings are lovely, but I like the articles more than the pictures. Except the pictures of the brain, I like those.’ It struck me at the time that she used the word lovely, not pretty or even beautiful, a more grown up word. James, bless him, didn’t press the point or make any big deal out of it.”
Chris, “You had no idea?”
“She never said anything of any length before that. I knew she had an unusual vocabulary because she would ask for a glass of water, or something to eat. She never used little kid language. It took a while to figure that out because I was always asking her if she wanted some water or a sandwich, she would just say yes or no. She kept herself so well occupied, there wasn’t much to say. James and I were reading to her most of our free time. After the fact, I wondered how I missed it. James reminded me that we had no expectation of her capability, no reason to look for it. She was clearly happy, she never complained, she was just quiet. We let well enough alone.”
Susan, “Is there some, what, explanation? I don’t think I’ve heard of anything quite like this.”
Kara, “There is a partial explanation. Janah has an eidetic, or photographic, or mnemonic memory. We never have figured out what bucket to put her in. Eidetic memory is not supposed to be a real phenomenon, not scientifically supported. It mostly means people who can look at a page or a series of numbers and recall them exactly, like a photograph in their head.”
Chris, “What’s the other one, nemon…?”
Kara, “Mnemonic, yes. Like when we use a word rhyme to remember a list. There’s a lot of conflicting information. James thought it might be something called Hyperthymesia, people who remember ever individual day of their lives, exactly.”
Susan, “I have a good memory, but only for certain details, like tech commands, html, Java Script, that kind of thing. But I use it every day. I don’t remember every detail of last Sunday.”
Kara, “Janah doesn’t either, so he tossed out that diagnosis. Naturally, they’ve turned Hyperthymesia into a ‘syndrome,’ even though it doesn’t seem to be anything but mostly annoying. It is associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, but not everyone with either diagnosis has the other. Janah can remember what she wants to remember, and she can do some mental tricks, day of the week January 25th 1876, she’s good with numbers and words, like definitions, spellings.”
Chris, “I wouldn’t want to remember every day. There are days I remember I’d like to forget.”
Kara, “Oh yes. However it works for Janah, it’s not just a memory trick. She doesn’t just regurgitate the data, she understands what it means. She teaches calculus at her school. I struggled with calculus in college, James knows the basics, certainly not to teach to anyone. We have no idea where she picked it up, she says there are plenty of courses on the internet, she digs around in there all the time. She taught herself.”
Susan, “Holy crap! She taught herself calculus. Nobody teaches themselves calculus. Well, I guess Newton and Leibniz did, they invented it, kind of simultaneously as I recall. But they weren’t children when they did it. Geez.”
Kara, “James refused to test her or subject her to any outside scrutiny. If it was some childhood mental fluke, fine. We don’t discourage her explorations nor encourage her to do mental tricks. We won’t have her become some genius or gifted poster child. She has been a joy to be around, even though she says almost nothing. When I took her places as an infant, people would stop and stare at her. I thought it was just me, you know, she’s my precious angel, all the mommy stuff. They would catch themselves and apologize for staring. Everyone said the same thing; she seemed so peaceful that she made them peaceful. People would look at her, she would smile, they would smile back.
Susan, “There’s a lot of whackos in the city. Was it scary, having people come up like that?”
Kara, “At first, but I was careful. No one ever said or did anything weird or threatening. We never discuss these abilities with anyone, I’m only telling you guys because of the unique situation. Daphne already knows of course. We tried putting Janah in school, that was pointless. She just sat there all day, the subject matter was useless. The kids liked her, she showed them how to do math, or read. She never played games. We gave her a chessboard, she learned the moves, but said it didn't interest her, 'too predictable' were her exact words. She started yoga about age 4 or 5 after seeing a television program. She followed that for a while, went to a class, then asked for more advanced books and videos, which we got. She didn’t go back to regular school until she was nine. Last year was her second year at Chapmans.”
Chris, “What’s Chapmans?”
Susan, “You’ve seen the building. It’s the girls school a few blocks over.”
Chris, “I never registered the name. Yeah, I know it now, in fact, one of the taekwondo students goes there.”
Susan, “Why does Chapmans work, as opposed to the other schools you tried?”
Kara, “It’s designed for girls more like her. There’s no rigid structure. You know, like you’re age twelve, so you have to be in the fifth grade and you will study these subjects. They don’t really have grades. Janah finished all the high school requirements before the end of the first year. Now she spends the day tutoring some of the others. She teaches a yoga class as well, and works with Lacy Chapman, the Headmaster. When I hear myself saying all this, it sounds pretentious.”
Susan, “It would only be pretentious if you went around telling everyone you met and trying to make mileage out of it. We asked you, you told us what happened. It’s who Janah is, that’s all.”
Kara is relieved, “Thank you for understanding. It’s James and I that have done the adjusting. Janah just floats along, and now that she’s with Daphne, everything seems like it fits. It’s hard to be surprised anymore with Janah. It’s more like just waiting for the next thing.”
Susan, “Hearing you talk about Janah calmly waiting…that’s exactly what Daphne did. I can only guess that since they were somehow in regular contact, it helped make it more bearable. An old friend, a woman Daphne grew up with, Ms. Alva, had complete faith in Daphne’s premonitions, told her it would be a good thing. Alva passed away not quite two years ago, she would have been in her glory to see this now.”
Chris, “Given what the girls can do, maybe she can.”

Chapter Twenty Seven I 

If you don’t know where you’re going,
any road will take you there.
                                   Common saying
Sounds like fun.
                               Janah Svensson

The parents watch and listen. There wasn’t a hint of a reason to object to our deepening symbiosis. They watch objectively, neither looking for problems, nor overlooking them. What they see isn’t remarkable, it is ethereal. We seem to flow together. When we enter a room Janah is first, me off her right shoulder. Which makes sense, I’m taller. On entering the living room for instance, we greet everyone, then sit together on the couch, I on Janah’s right. If Janah crosses her left leg over right, I do it the same way at the same instant. I usually talk, Janah silent. When we mental we often turn to look at each other. Then turn to whoever we are talking to at the same moment. It isn’t choreographed. At the beginning, we were unaware of our syncopation. James said seeing us together was other-worldly, almost dreamlike. Susan said we were like watching a sublimely choreographed ballet.
When everyone gathers around the table in the dining area, or in the living room, I am generally in the kitchen cooking, Janah sits with the others. Although there is hardly any audible conversation between us, I know what Janah wants and make it.
The parents adapted to the routine of the us sleeping either at one condo or the other. Susan and I, the early birds, have coffee in the kitchen almost every morning.
“Janah’s beginning to wake up, I need to get her breakfast started.”
“You can even feel her waking up?”
“Sure. She’s trying to decide how bad she needs to pee or can she get another few minutes rest.”
Sis laughs, “I know the feeling.”
“I get a vibe she’s in the last stages of sleep and, this is handy, we discovered that I can wake her up.”
Susan was incredulous, “No, that’s not…. no. Can you do that? That can’t be done.”
“I don’t usually, unless we need to get someplace. I want her to rest. She burns more calories thinking than a marathoner does running. When it’s time to get going, I get in her head and tell her I’m bringing breakfast. Then she gets moving. She’s always hungry.”
Susan, “You guys. I see her washing and folding clothes for both of you, giving you foot massages, brushing your hair. It’s funny, she’s giggling away alone in the laundry room; I know you’re mentaling, but it looks like she finds something hilarious about folding clothes.”
Susan studies my eyes, “Do either of you know how incredible this is?”
I reflect, then answer, “Sis, we know it’s unique. Janah’s always prowling the net, she’s looked for anything or anyone that sounds like us. She’s unique by herself, that’s plain. I guess the point is, what? Do we sit around feeling unique or get on with life?”
“So you get on with it.”
“Janah has things to do, Sis. For now, all I need to know is that she needs me, and needs me to do what I do, martial arts.”
Susan is perplexed, “What does martial arts have to do with it?”
“Janah wants to be more mobile, out in the world. She’s going to go out in it and observe it, not just read about things. She’s not naïve. The city is the city, not always safe.”
“And you are the security.”
“Yes, I look out for her. There’s no job in the known universe I’d rather do.”
“You guys aren’t even thirteen. What is it that she wants to observe out in the city?”
“It’s Manhattan. There are zillions of people, many of them strange. Janah wants to be out, watching, taking in actual life. She’s spent most of her life absorbing information, lots of it on human behavior. She wants to see ordinary daily life as it happens. Chapmans is different, it’s not the everyday world.”
Susan thinks for a minute, “I’ve been observing ordinary daily life for a while. It doesn’t seem all that fascinating.”
I smile, “Janah doesn’t see it the way we see it.”
Susan lifted an eyebrow, “I’m sensing something new here.”
“When Janah watches someone doing something, or an exchange between two people, she takes in the entire activity. We see the same things she sees, but our brains ignore much of it. She sees every nuance, a lifted eyebrow, the sideways glance, foot shuffling, hand motion. In her brain, it isn’t two guys talking. She doesn’t need to hear what they say. She can’t tell you specifics about their conversation if she’s out of earshot, but she can tell you how they feel about the subject, how one feels about the other. If they trust each other, if one is lying, or they both are. It’s fun.”
Susan, “And you get the story just by being there.”
“Yes. And sometimes more. I can hear things most people can’t. So if we want to know what someone is saying, I can usually tune in to get the play by play, Janah can get it out of my head. And when Janah gets focused on someone, really focused, she’s barely aware of her surroundings.”
Susan nods, “I’m on the page now. You watch her, she can watch whatever.”
“That’s a good plan.”
“Janah doesn’t make bad plans, when she plans at all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Janah is anti-plan. I mean, she doesn’t get all uptight about not planning, like it’s a mission or something. She might think about going to MOMA, and we go. What I mean is, she doesn’t think about the future. She doesn’t plot out some course of study, or job path.”
“She’s brilliant. It seems like she would plan better than most. I mean because she’s not like some math brilliant person who can’t remember to tie her shoes, or where she left her laptop. She seems on top of things, even organized.”
“Nice compliment from the queen of organization.”
“Me? You’re as bad as I am.”
“I like organization, but I have to think about it. Janah’s so quick, it just happens. She’s not anal, it’s just that she understands it’s ultimately easier to know where things are. She couldn’t forget where stuff is anyway.”
“Nice problem, I have to make notes.”
“We’re mentally deficient compared to Janah. Fortunately for me, I can tap into her head. I don’t have to remember much, I just Google Janah.”
“So, she really doesn’t think about her future, or you guys’ future?”
“She says most planning is a waste of time.”
“For her.”
“For everyone.”
Susan looks at me, tilts her head. She seems, not confused, rather thinking it over. I take a sip of my coffee and smile at her. Then I get Janah’s breakfast together and take it to our room.
Susan pours another cup of coffee and stares at nothing, wondering. Janah said planning is a waste of time. What did she mean?

Chapter Twenty Eight I

Everybody wants to be somebody else, someplace else.
                                                             Janah Svensson

That first summer together, we spend a lot of time with the parents, playing board games, watching movies. When the moms are working, we wander the neighborhood. I know most of the restaurant and store owners, and many of the local residents. In the West Village, we aren’t in any danger. Even Manhattan isn’t completely anonymous. Janah enjoys sitting a few blocks over in Washington Square park, drinking tea, sharing a muffin or a doughnut, just hanging out. Often we go to The Village Diner for lunch. I know Mini, the cook, and Chuck, his business partner. They took in Janah as if she had been coming there for years.
Mini, all 300 plus pounds of him, bellows out of the pass through from the kitchen to the counter, “Daphne, Janah, how’s the most be-you-ti-ful girls in Manhattan…the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, anyplace, anywhere?”
“Good Mini, very good. Janah needs to be fed, you got something for her?”
Mini, “Always honey, today she needs a cheese and vegetable omelet, with some wheat toast, I’m gonna make it extra good, plenny of vegetables. What you want today honey?”
“You have some of your special egg salad?”
Mini, “What kina toast? Fries or coleslaw, or both?”
“Wheat, fries, dab of coleslaw.”
Mini, “Comin’ up.”
Chuck, “Hey girls, what you got goin today? You breakin’ hearts all ova the neighborhood again?”
“Just Janah, she’s got a troop of boys following her around the park now. I’m going to have to break more than hearts soon.”
Chuck, “You let me know, I make sure they don’t come around no more. Who are these guys, you know them from around here?”
“No, they showed up last week, came over and started in, just guy bs, you know. Now, they show every time we go there. They just don’t accept we got nothing for them. If they come tomorrow, I’m going to lay out some rules.”
Chuck, “What time you go to the park?”
“Nine thirty or so. They generally come around ten, maybe a little later. It’s a pain to have to leave the park on somebody else’s schedule. They’re just too annoying.”
Chuck goes to the pass through, “Mini, Daphne says some guys been bothering them in the park.”
Mini, “Not no more they ain’t.”
Chuck turns, “See girls, no more problems.”
Mini passes over the plates, loaded from end to end with the biggest omelet Janah has ever seen and a stack of buttered wheat toast. I have a Diet Coke with my sandwich, Janah green tea. I do justice to the sandwich, Janah eats the whole omelet and all the toast.
“Girl, I have no idea what you do with the food. Mini loves it. He’s still trying to figure out how to fill you up.”
I pay the bill while Janah turns to a customer next to her at the counter. He nods, Janah smiles at him. He feels enveloped, his shoulders drop, his wall collapses. He is a small man, slim, Janah guesses he’s fifty. He is balding, circle of neatly cut going to grey hair around his head, dressed in a clean dark blue suit, not new, still, well kept. She notices his nails, clipped to the end of his fingers, not manicured, neat, clean. He has a folded New York Times on the counter that remains unread.
He sits quietly, it seems as if time stops, then, “My name is William, William Smith. Is that plain enough do you think? Bill Smith? Just a plain guy with a plain name.”
Janah studies his face. He hadn’t laughed a lot. His mouth turned down, as she had observed on many men his age. The smile muscles under worked, the frown muscles overworked, gravity did the rest. His eyes are intelligent, a little sad.
Janah cocks her head very slightly, “Maybe we put too much stock in names, build an image around them. Besides, there’s nothing wrong in being plain. Is it important to be special?”
Bill Smith thinks for a moment, “Doesn’t everyone want to feel special, to feel they’ve made their mark, an impression?”
Janah, “It seems so, yes. What are the consequences of wanting to be special?”
Bill, “Consequences? You make it sound like a problem.”
Janah, “Isn’t it?”
His lunch arrives, ham and cheese sandwich, chips, a big slice of crispy dill pickle. Chuck refills his glass of tea and walks off. He’d seen Janah have these conversations before. He wouldn’t interrupt with small talk.
Bill Smith eats a chip, takes a sip of tea, “I am the invisible man. I’m married, have two kids. I’ve never been a factor in their lives, or at work. When I got married, it was my wife that pressed for it. I went along, I thought that’s what people did. I don’t mean to say I was dragged into it or anything. We got along with the usual bits of romance, then the drab everyday set in. The children came and it was a distraction for a while. There were moments of joy, then school, the ups and downs of adolescence.”
Janah, “And how are your children now?”
Bill picks up his sandwich, takes a bite, thinks it over, “The boy was never a problem, pretty good student, played sports, is almost finished with college. The girl has broken our hearts. She’s been busted for drugs, then got a minimum wage job after managing a GED. She’s not around much. Lots of piercings, the whole black eyeliner leather thing. She shaved her whole head once to protest something or other. When she comes around, she mopes and complains about the world.”
Janah, “Perhaps it helps her feel special.”
Bill Smith puts down his sandwich. He stares ahead at nothing, turns to Janah, “And that’s the problem isn’t it? You tried to tell me, I didn’t see it. I regret not being special, which puts me in one kind of box; her efforts to be special puts her in another. I think I should be different, she thinks she is, neither of us is happy.”
Janah, “We live in the future to escape the past, or project the past onto the future. When we are always in the past or the future, there’s never time for right now.”
Bill Smith smiles, his eyes are moist but the grin wins out, “And right now, I’m very much enjoying a conversation with someone I don’t even know, and looking at a beautifully made sandwich, crispy chips and lovely chunk of pickle. And you are telling me very politely that every moment is special if I will simply quit thinking it, or I, should be some other way.”
Janah slides off the stool, “It’s been a pleasure talking with you Bill Smith. My name is Janah, this is my friend Daphne.”
“Sorry to pull her away, we have to be home soon. Maybe we’ll see you here again. We’re kind of hooked on Mini’s cooking.”
Bill, “I’ve never stopped in before. I will again though. Thank you Janah, and very nice to meet you Daphne.”
As we hit the front door, I hear Bill telling Chuck, “I’d like some of that cheesecake please. I haven’t enjoyed dessert in years, something else that’s going to change.”

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