: : : JAKOB AND THOMAS STAND IN the underpass, at the base of a concrete slope. Interstate 90/94 hangs above their heads, surging with trafficflow, and the oceanic hiss of tires on pavement drifts down to Thomas' microphone. A metal seam, which buckles together two segments of highway, produces a sequence of two rapid thunks every time a vehicle passes over it. Front tires, back tires. Thunk-thunk!
Jakob feels slightly anxious. He keeps one eye on the small catacomb that exists where the concrete slope meets the interstate's underside. There's a homeless guy up there, sitting on a mattress, watching them.
Maybe Jakob shouldn't have even come out today. He feels like he belongs with Freya right now, after this thing with her dad. His death. His suicide. That's fucked up, Jakob thinks.
Freya's off in Texas right now. The funeral should be today. Maybe he should have gone with her. She asked him to, two days ago, when she was making the arrangements. I'm dreading it, she'd said. I haven't seen anybody from that side of the family in years. I think most of them see me as that bitch's daughter. I just want to know that someone there is going to be on my side.
He couldn't go. He couldn't justify the expense of the plane tickets. Not while he's unemployed. It would have used up the last of his saved student loan money, and he needs that money to carry him to September. He could have charged the tickets to his credit card, he guesses, but he's not carrying any debt on his cards right now, amazingly enough, and he's made a promise to himself to try to keep it that way. Surely someone else would be on her side: Isn't your mom going? he'd asked.
No, Freya said. She fucking hates my dad. They haven't spoken in, like, over ten years.
Hmm, he'd said. Look, I want to go
Maybe I could
No. No. Just forget it.
She left yesterday. She called him from her uncle's, in Dallas, just to let him know that she'd arrived safely. The conversation was terse, and she sounded miserable, and he wished that he could have gone. He was still wishing that this morning: he'd been wandering around his apartment in his bathrobe, unsettled, unable to engage with his work, and he felt grateful that Thomas had called, offering distractions.
They talked about Freya's dad, only briefly, when they first met up: Thomas asked something innocuous: so how are you? and Jakob had answered honestly, spilling the news and his feelings of guilt about not going. Thomas hadn't had much to say, but he's thinking about it now, as he listens to the passage of traffic overhead. It's weirdhe's known Freya ever since Tympanum opened, three years now, but he's never known her well, she's just the nice woman who works at the record shop, the one who knows his tastes, the one who he can talk to about what's come in that week. It's weird for him to be granted this glimpse of her existence outside of the shop; weird for him to remember that she exists as a human being in the world, with her own set of obligations and entanglements and tragedies.
This knowledgethat someone else has her own lifeis applicable, of course, to everyone. Thomas imagines the drivers of the cars above, and, as he listens to their tires thunk across the metal seam, he tries to imagine a life for each of them, he tries to envision each person's array of memories and impulses, and he expands from there, trying to envision all the arrays massed on this highway, at this moment. But his mind can not conceive so much existence. The sheer scope. The magnitude.
: : :
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