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Renee gets fired for saying record stores are dead, which is okay, since she was working illegally. She takes her last check to the specialty print shop and blows a year’s negatives up to poster size. She gets some scissors.

She borrows her roommate’s Kodak and sends shots of the collage to galleries. Some of them want it. She picks the one with a capitalized name and it sells, shortly, to some nonprofit CEO.

It’s enough money for now; she moves out. Staring at the taupe walls of her new apartment, she realizes she can’t remember any of the original photographs.


Jet lag. Let’s jag.

Renee wakes on touchdown in Vancouver, her ticket the spoils of Tokyo high-stakes tiddlywinks: her fingers haven’t forgotten all their magic. She realizes, without much feeling, that she has now been literally around the world.

She changes her last three thousand yen for loonies and takes the bus downtown. She gets a job at a record store on the strength of her smile and the cut of her jeans. She crashes with an LJ friend; she looks for a sublet on Craigslist.

Vancouver looks like New York, and it takes her a while to realize why.


Grenadine and Coke.

Love the Sound.

Renee shakes her head. “I know it had the big underground single, but it’s inconsistent. The skits alone–”

Love the Sound,” Haru insists. “Last album before the money and the fake Phil Spector shit, wall-of-sound compressed layered six hundred trumpets–”

“All but two of which were MIDI.”


Renee grins. “Someday an indie fan is going to choose quality over authenticity, and a million voices will cry out and be silenced.”

“Whatever,” says Haru, “want nexts on the dartboard?”

“I’m a darts nihilist.”

“So no?”

“So,” she stands, “I’m going to annihilate you.”


Renee wakes up in December and understands that she’s the best guitarist in Mendocino County and, very possibly, the world. So, with little left to do on that front, she sells her ’67 Epiphone to a bug-eyed clerk and moves to Paris.

Paris is full of people who moved to Paris, so she moves to Salzburg.

In Salzburg she buys a camera and sells landscapes for cash; she crashes on a couch with four grad students she met in a castle. She wakes up in June and finds that she’s almost happy.

She sells her camera and moves to Kyoto.


Crushingly, Renee finds herself writing fanfic. Or not exactly. Just stories about people who happen to be real, doing things they really didn’t. She changes names, swaps genders, sets them to music and mumbles the words at open mic: no good. She knows it’s derivative work.

She stops showing them to anybody and keeps them in a locked file drawer labelled “Insurance, Loans.” She cross-references themes against dates written and begins to understand, finally, why she’s doing it. At any distance from reality, these people have reserved parking in her brain; they are her canon, her conscience. Her personal hagiography.


Caleb breaks it off; Chyler, despite everything, ticks days off the statute of limitations. On the thirty-second he dozes on her couch, and she brings him hot chocolate with cayenne pepper in it, and together, they hesitate.

And Renee? First she can’t sleep. Then she sleeps all the time. She goes off spaghetti for a while–goes off eating, really, but gets over it. She gets better with her guitar. She finds love less piercing and friends less tart.

Like anything glued well, she’ll never break along quite the same lines again; but it’s her story, now, that’s worth following.


Chyler meets Renee and she’s exactly as great as Caleb said: sweet and clever, humble and funny, not beautiful enough to hate, but, well. Prettier.

Caleb looks a little bug-eyed the first time the three of them all bump together, but he aplombs it and from then on they’re a tricycle. Renee practices Spanish guitar while Caleb cheats from Chyler’s notes. Caleb cooks them spaghetti in the filthy dorm kitchen. They get each other by.

Caleb left the book in Chyler’s mailbox, their first day back: it’s called Anthropology. She reads it in an hour, and she doesn’t tell Renee.


Chyler wonders whether this is what’s called butterflies, but she doesn’t feel anything in her stomach; it’s her arms and shoulders, which feel tense and oddly bouncy, like springs being twanged. Her hands want to tangle in fabric.

She realizes suddenly that it’s been way too long since she said anything. Say something! Don’t be boring, don’t waste this! She tries to think of jokes. She wants to be clever, smooth, are her legs shaved? When was the last time she–crap!

Caleb’s really enjoying the evening, walking with a new and interesting person. He’ll have to introduce her to Renee.