“Living alone,' November whispered, 'is a skill, like running long distance or programming old computers. You have to know parameters, protocols. You have to learn them so well that they become like a language: to have music always so that the silence doesn't overwhelm you, to perform your work exquisitely well so that your time is filled. You have to allow yourself to open up until you are the exact size of the place you live, no more or else you get restless. No less, or else you drown. There are rules; there are ways of being and not being.”
“To touch a person...to sleep with a person...is to become a pioneer," she whispered then, "a frontiersman at the edge of their private world, the strange, incomprehensible world of their interior, filled with customs you could never imitate, a language which sounds like your own but is really totally foreign, knowable only to them.”
“...For grace may only be found briefly, and always in the midst of madness.”
“It is harder, usually, to find a person who wants to walk the streets of me, to taste the teas of my country, to... immigrate, you could say.”
“... relationships required such vigilance, such attention. You had to hold them together by force of will, and other people took up so much space, demanded so much time. It was exhausting.”
“She did not want to read this book from start to finish, or rather, she thought perhaps it did not want her to. Instead she practiced the art of bibliomancy, trusting the book to show her what it wanted her to know.”
“Most of them... most of us never figure it out. Bad dream, they think, or good one. Funny rash, never really goes away, but Doc says it's fine, nothing to worry about. Why dwell on it? But some people, they just can't let it go... Some people drink themselves out of school trying to find it again, trolling through bars where the shadows are so greasy they leave trails on the walls, just to find a way in, a way through. Some people forget too that you're supposed to stop sleeping, you're supposed to have a life in the sun.”
“If he closed his eyes he could dwell in the circuit of air that had once held her, he could hold his breath and be inside her again, within the close and burning borders of her- she stood here, washed her hair in this sink, wrote upon this wall, ate roasted chicken at this table. There was no place he could enter where she had not also been, her echoes hanging in the air like pages hung to dry. No place that did not suppurate in her absence, which was not ringed with the light of her old selves, like film burned with a cigarette.”
“Things that are unsightly: birthmarks, infidelity, strangers in one's kitchen. Too much sunlight. Stitches. Missing teeth. Overlong guests.”
“But love is love, and love is compulsion. I must, and I do.”
“The keeping of lists was for November an exercise kin to repeating of a rosary. She considered it neither obsessive nor compulsive, but a ritual, an essential ordering of the world into tall, thin jars containing perfect nouns. Enough nouns connected one to the other create a verb, and verbs had created everything, had skittered across the face of the void like pebbles across a frozen pond. She had not created a verb herself, but the cherry-wood cabinet in the hall contained book after book, jar after jar, vessel upon vessel, all brown as branches, and she had faith.”
“She was ... unhappy. It was part of her, you could not separate her from it. She was sad the way a horse is strong or a bird flies.”
“He quirked an eyebrow briefly, slightly, in such a way that no one afterwards might be able to safely accuse him of having done it. Sei knew the look. Names are meaningless, plosives and breath, but those who liked the slope of her waist often made much of hers, which denoted purity, clarity—as though it had any more in the way of depth than others. They wondered, all of them, if she really was pure, as pure as her name announced her to be, all white banners and hymeneal grace.”
“Six express tracks and twelve locals pass through Palimpsest. The six Greater Lines are: Stylus, Sgraffito, Decretal, Foolscap, Bookhand, and Missal. Collectively, in the prayers of those gathered prostrate in the brass turnstiles of its hidden, voluptuous shrines, these are referred to as the Marginalia Line. They do not run on time: rather, the commuters of Palimpsest have learned their habits, the times of day and night when they prefer to eat and drink, their mating seasons, their gathering places. In days of old, great safaris were held to catch the great trains in their inexorable passage from place to place, and women grappled with them with hooks and tridents in order to arrive punctually at a desk in the depth, of the city.
As if to impress a distracted parent on their birthday, the folk of Palimpsest built great edifices where the trains liked to congregate to drink oil from the earth and exchange gossip. They laid black track along the carriages’ migratory patterns. Trains are creatures of routine, though they are also peevish and curmudgeonly. Thus the transit system of Palimpsest was raised up around the huffing behemoths that traversed its heart, and the trains have not yet expressed displeasure.
To ride them is still an exercise in hunterly passion and exactitude, for they are unpredictable, and must be observed for many weeks before patterns can be discerned. The sport of commuting is attempted by only the bravest and the wildest of Palimpsest. Many have achieved such a level of aptitude that they are able to catch a train more mornings than they do not.
The wise arrive early with a neat coil of hooked rope at their waist, so that if a train is in a very great hurry, they may catch it still, and ride behind on the pauper’s terrace with the rest of those who were not favored, or fast enough, or precise in their calculations. Woe betide them in the infrequent mating seasons! No train may be asked to make its regular stops when she is in heat! A man was once caught on board when an express caught the scent of a local. The poor banker was released to a platform only eight months later, when the two white leviathans had relinquished each other with regret and tears.”
“These are the folk who may pass into the kingdom of heaven: the grief-stricken, lovers, scholars of a certain obsessive disposition. Brute beasts. Women who have become as men and men who have become as women. Writers of books with long titles. Only those knights who have failed to touch the Grail. Industrious women. You, and I, and a boy named Oleg, and a girl with blue hair.”
“Every morning she pulled a delicate cup from its brass hook and filled it, hoping that it would be dark and deep and secret as a forest, and each morning it cooled too fast, had too much milk, stained the cup, made her nervous.”
“...she had saved herself for this, stored her love within her so that this book, which could not possibly have been written for any purpose but to crawl inside her and dwell there like a holy thing, so that this book would not be ashamed of her profligacy.”
“The Etymologiae says that bees are virtuous because they are much loved by all, and sought after with great longing by everyone, because their honey tastes as sweet in the mouths of paupers as in the mouths of kings. Do you think that's logical? That a creature can be virtuous just because it is loved and sought after, that the act of being loved, of being sought after, even if it is passive, is equal to an act of martyrdom or great piety, which is active? That it can confer grace to a whole species?”
“Are you the only human in the world then? And all of the rest of us monsters?”
“Your love is a terrible thing," November says. "It sits heavy. It stings. It cuts."
She shrugs. "I am Casimira."
"I don't know if I can bear it."
"I would not have chosen you if you could not. You will get stronger. You will grow calluses.”
“It calmed him to collect the things he knew and did not speak of.”
“She often felt that she chased the ideal cup of coffee in her mind from table to table, the rich, thick, creamy coffee, spicy, bittersweet, that betrayed no hint of thinness or chemical flavoring, nothing less than total, fathomless devotion to the state of being itself. Every morning she pulled a delicate cup from its brass hook and filled it, hoping that it would be dark and deep and secret as a forest, and each morning it cooled too fast, had too much milk, stained the cup, made her nervous.”
“They have to be born, you know," the Third Rail says. "They don't come from nowhere! When a child sits in her chair with a clean suzuri and her long brush, she believes she is writing, but she is simply calling to these poor lambs, calling them to attend her, to pass through her. We can hardy keep up with the demand; the pollination season is intense. And yet, they learn fewer and fewer kanji as the years go by, and more and more English, more katakana, more foreign things. The graveyard is on another train, where turtles set incense on the stones of words no one learns in your world anymore, words passed out of reach of any mouth. It is important work we do. We hope you agree, of course, but we are willing to admit it foolish if you call it so.”
“You need me,” said Xiaohui breathlessly, pulling November over her, sliding hands under her belt to claw and knead. “You need me.”
“Don’t you mean ‘I need you’?” whispered November in the girl’s ear.
“No,” she sighed, arching her back, tipping her chin up, making herself easy to kiss, easy to fall into, easy to devour. “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
“There are no tigers for us, just a city, waiting, and it loves us, in whatever ways a city can love.”
“Things that begin and end in grief: marriage, harvest, childbirth. Journeys away from home. Journeys toward home. Surgeries. Love. Weeping.”
“Do you know what a thirteen-year-old girl can do when she is alone and frightened and believes she is right?”
“Things that cannot long be kept secret: death in the family, the loss of a ring, corruption of the spirit, boredom, illicit love. Sickness. Addiction. Pregnancy.”
“She stared into her coffee, sitting in a thin blue dress that tangled in her calves. She often felt that she chased the ideal cup of coffee in her mind from table to table, the rich, thick, creamy coffee, spicy, bittersweet, that betrayed no hint of thinness or chemical flavoring, nothing less than total, fathomless devotion to the state of being itself. Every morning she pulled a delicate cup from its brass hook and filled it, hoping that it would be dark and deep and secret as a forest, and each morning it cooled too fast, had too much milk, stained the cup, made her nervous.”
“He didn't even know how to talk about it. He had practiced not talking about the things he knew until no man could be called his equal.”
“I don't believe your theory that "readers never notice that sort of thing." I'm sure I should.”
“What looks like garbage from one angle might be art from another. Maybe it did take a crisis to get to know yourself; maybe you needed to get whacked hard by life before you understood what you wanted out of it.”
“Once he had me panting for breath he broke the kiss and burried his head in the curve of my neck. "I fucking love you." I giggled. That was a very cage response.”
“I believe the names we choose on our own can be powerful, and they can embody a new identity for us. When”
“He was their father, her husband, and the reason they all died a brutal, untimely death. And some days i wonder why I insist on keeping myself alive.”
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