REAL-TIME VIDEO OF DEAD PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HAVE COFFEE WITH: A NOVELLA
(SERIALIZED AND BROKEN UP INTO SECTIONS FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE, AS DENOTED BELOW)
THIS IS PART TWO.
PART ONE APPEARED IN DIAGRAM 4.6; PART THREE WILL APPEAR IN DIAGRAM 5.2.
The Living:   
A New Manifesto:    
Like the first two times, it is a comfort to move around the house, to go into the yard, to see a real horizon. But we are less exuberant about it. Our morning after is overcast, so humid the air smells like hot pennies.
Wellbutrin takes his kite out and comes back inside.
Perhaps it is odd that we don't say much about the broadcast, but we never do. The more I think about the events of the last few months, the less unusual they seem.
I am curious about what I said, but no more so than I am about what Tito and Wellbutrin did when, at midnight, I left them alone. In either case, it is more tempting to imagine than it is to analyze.
Tito and Wellbutrin seem as un-reflexive as I am. Perhaps it is the humidity. Or we are getting used to this. Either way, we have been staying inside. When they ask, I tell them boyfriends, and, together, we explore the place.
When we leave the house, Lawrence, Kansas is real.
There is space to navigate. It is possible to get lost. There is no refresh button, no back arrow. There is only a square of major roads — Iowa, 23rd Avenue, Massachusetts, Highway 59.
We are walking on Massachusetts, a pedestrian-friendly main street, a half-mile from the house. It is a busy place, one shop after another. There are specialty stores, plus-sized leather goods, out-of-print comic books. It is crowded. A man feeds coins into a pop machine. A woman walks her dog. She is in a sweater, the same color as my dress. Her makeup is perfect, her hair done for the day. Everyone on the street has dressed for the sun, impatient for it to return — girls in brighter dresses than mine, boys in ripe T-shirts.
Every arm I can see is dark and freckled.
"Ken Hackney," I say, just to say something. "I was sixteen, he was nineteen. He taught finger puppetry to children. His laugh was always a surprise."
The others don't say anything.
We do not shop or gaze. We do not trade pleasantries with people who say hello. Even Tito —with all of his talk of taking the average person from "mule to unmule" — even Tito does his best to ignore strangers.
"This place," says Tito. "is a colonized place."
"Just shops," Wellbutin says. "Just America."
"This is why our revolution needs carnies and hucksters," Tito says. "If it comes from without, more like an invasion, no one would know what do with their holograms, their refrigerator magnets. This street is why revolution must work like e.coli, why it must be ingested, internalized."
"A lot of it is locally owned," I say. "They picket Starbucks here."
"And they are content with that," Tito says. "That's a concession, not a revolution. No skin is shed. The consumer still suckles the tit."
He does not end with a flourish but with a sputter, as if he was simply too confused to continue. We are at a busy corner that moves with the rhythms of a morning crowd. Watches are checked against a public clock, cell phones are used, shoes are double-knotted.
Somehow, among the fully living, it is easier to remember my parents. Though I've been thinking about them all week, it hasn't been the same. In our dead houses, memory has been like my tenth grade drivers' ed. textbook — no matter how hard I try to read, I end up skimming.
In our basements and closets, with the distractions of the box and whatever magic it is capable of, I have only been able to recall facts: what I had for lunch that day, the color of the hospital room, how the place smelled, how cold I was.
It was a year after we had moved to California.
Looking back, I know that they were starting to like the city. My father had found a good place to walk the dog. He had started taking me on Saturdays before I was due at a shoot. I probably hadn't understood that he had ever been unhappy, but I remember how good it felt when he let the dog off the leash. He chased it, while I chased both of them.
My mother had it easier because she liked her job. She was an accountant for a food bank. I remember how much less tired she seemed when she got home from work, how many times she told me to find a career that felt good, how many times she asked if I was okay doing horror movies, if I was happy putting on makeup and pretending to be dead.
[ Next ]