Quia Sum, Cogito: Chapter 11

this is approximately a 30 minute read.

On the Free Market Breakdown

Looking to history for blame is to ensure ourselves that we aren’t repeating its mistakes. The 1950s approach to advertising and focus of profit over local social empowerment remains a hard legacy to overcome, but since then it has been realized that the economic stability score (inverse of the variation of wealth distribution) is a much better indication of free market success than the mean family income or the GDP. With this metric, the graph below (7) shows why the Necessities Act of 2032 – in spite of what the free market puritans (the so-called vanilla capitalists or vinCaps) will have you believe – was inevitable. The relationship between economic mobility, economic stability, and economic fear was teetering violently close to the Rodan Tipping Point (see chapter 2) in 2035 and the government’s only option was to take action to offset it. The criticisms made against these individual scores (and the discussions they spurred) will be addressed in the next chapter.

Fundamentals of Economic Psychology – Dr. Carl Flank – published March 3, 2045

The heat outside is still temperate compared to what it is expected to peak at today (27° will eventually become 35.5°), but when in contrast with the cool air from inside (25°) it throws the heat into perspective. I only realize it because of the drastic shift is a known limitation in how the BioWear acclimates the biologic transitions. The small narrow room still has cubbies that are remnants of when wage slaves used to store their personal effects and thereby conforming into the expected role of human automaton. I have to remind myself that this was before they had the methods of measuring the strength of social and economic institutions, so in their ignorance they rejected their material existence thinking it was more in line with mysticism to believe in such things. What else could they do but rely on their own individual merit and convince themselves that they were in control of the situation?

The small side area opens into one of the many wide entrance halls. Each of the vast rooms house a different aspect of the community culture; from the west wing in which written works are displayed (varying from beta readers stages to time tested classics) to ethical moral and material queries that fall into the perpetual “tragic” category (these are located in the east wing); these spaces are front and center to ensure people know they are expected to engage in the community decision making and construction. In this one (the north wing), it is more passive: art of all varieties are posted throughout the hall (except for those deemed “too controversial for virgin eyes” which are placed out of the common walkway) and the AugRel shows the ongoing conversations surrounding them.

Most of the art focuses on skillful realism and appreciation for nature which is aesthetically appreciated, but the community engagement tends to be shallow. My preference is to look for those that fall into the abstract, the distancing from the real or erotic causes esoteric interpretations which result in explorations of myth and tradition that you can’t find in other mediums. The most debatable are the ones in which the author gives no clarification on what they intended. The audience takes ownership of the meaning and they search through limited experiences for an interpretation they may not be capable of deriving. So the presentation becomes the medium and the conversation becomes the art. Some names to describe the phenomenon are “futurism” or “post-post-modernism” (which keeps with the existential naming conventions of the past), but personally I like the term “proxyism.”

I walk around for a few minutes looking at the updated conversations, some of my previous contributions have been commented on. Almost all of them are superficial, some openly hostile – these are pushed into their own private chains which few notice or engage with. A few are actually worth responding to either to clarify or because a decent point has been addressed. The one I’m most invested in is centered around a hyper realistic interpretation of a child’s stick figure “hangman” drawing. The main discussion is a back and forth considering the pros and cons of social dogma which has lasted a few months. We all agree that we need to be dogmatically against dogma, but we also came to the conclusion early on that dogma is necessary for any type of community to survive; including the need for society to take action against “social heathens” (the whole thing is framed with society being a religious community). Recently it’s shifted to trying to understand if you can hold dogma but be critical of it in turn and many are reflecting Tendis’s (and Marx’s before him) approach of saying that it comes down to resource stability and the virtues of ego death.

I leave the hall at 0726 so I won’t be distracted from the morning announcements. The threshold splitting the gallery from the main thoroughfare is a vast opening as with all of the entry halls. Due to the time, it’s relatively unpopulated when compared to how it will be even a half hour from now; some people can be seen going for a jog in the cooler environment or emerging from the various public sleeping and bathing quarters reserved for nomads. Everything considered, more people engage here than you would expect without understanding what’s at stake. The ArgRel allows us to communicate or see each other without physically being together, so it’s not necessary for people to physically use this space except to exchange physical objects or simply because they like others’ presence. Even introverts use the space to congregate occasionally and have a place to feel like they are part of the community if they are feeling socially neglected. Even the children aren’t required to be here for PrimeAcademy (which I see quite a ways down on the east branch on the left; close to the more main entrance); they can access the discussions virtually, but it’s general agreement that the cultural education found in physical nuance can’t be replicated yet. But that’s the folly with all virtual exchanges: technology can’t catch everything. They still lack smell for example or pheromones.  Not to mention the inherent risk of someone physically interacting with you when it’s unwanted. In my opinion, that is a reason to avoid people, but studies all indicate that the fear – potentially normalized through evolution – is what many people delight in.

What I feel to be extremely comforting is the hum that resonates through the building. It originates from the server room located behind the PrimeAcademy and my whole life it has been the sound I equated with both stability and peace. The racks of harddrives house our region’s collective knowledge that only CoDaS has permissions to access. The rest of the mall is mainly for commingling and for people to use how they desire. Well.. assuming that your actions don’t robustly hinder others from enjoying themselves; if that happens the community will escort you out pretty quickly. As the well known saying goes, “there is no need for authority when the community is the authority.”

My head resounds with the deep voice of CoDaS: “Would you have a moment to do me that favor?”

“You know the answer to that already, right? Why do you ask?”

“You see the reinforced trash bin next to PrimeAcadamy? Can you move it to the back side of the escalators?”

“Geeze, you weren’t kidding, that is a beast!” but I walk down the hall to lend aid. I know CoDaS can see the reaction from the various placement of cameras which it uses to gain live data.

“It’s empty, so it isn’t as bad as it looks.”

“Is that new? I don’t remember it being here.” As I approach I start to examine it a bit more closely, looking at it from different sides and tapping on the hull. The half meter wide dumpster is more a deposit (verging on a safe considering how reinforced the metal is) than it was a trash bin. It didn’t seem possible to open it until I got to the back side in which a hatch was secured with a decently heavy lock. “Who has the key to open this?”

“It’s old. Actually your mom helped move it to deep storage when they were doing the renovations 40 years ago. I’ve had people move it bits at a time to get it here. Yours is the last leg of the journey.”

I start to pull it, and it scuffs against the marble floor adding to the imperfections that have been acquired over the years. It is relatively easy to drag compared to what I was expecting, only about 35 kilos. “Why here?”

“Someone will need to use it tomorrow. They will be in a rush and he will regret tossing out some trash. If all goes well he will kick a bad habit because of the act.” The use of repeated “he” is odd. CoDaS knows not to prime me with culturally biased words unless the person essentializes it as part of their identity. Before I can ask further, I get a notification that the morning announcements are about to start and that takes priority.

I continue to maneuver the fortified trash bin next to the column as the agenda is laid out, pitching in when I get to my part. The general topics of concern are: local resources, local threats, community needs, and finally external issues that affect us. I will be giving feedback mainly on the local threats specifically concerning public outreach. When it’s about to be my turn, the current talking points – which were previously dimmed and able to be ignored – come into stark contrast to the rest of reality. 

I temporarily stop moving the metal box and compose myself. The avatar of the current speaker is finalizing the point and I bring the blurred and transparent model into focus, “… so since we are still in a dry spell for external resources, we need to cut back on niceties, unless we want to start fighting with each other. If any of this applies to you, CoDaS will inform you. Please take this seriously.” And the avatar floating in space folds his hands (a typical motion for prayer) as a way of saying both “please” and “thank you”.

The indication that the presentation is complete allows me to offer some additional considerations “You mentioned that we can still go two more months before we start seeing a potential drought due to a water shortage. How would this be affected if the asteroid mining strike was to be resolved?” The shift in schedule causes a few aggregate voices peak an interest and side whisper conversations start to look for attention, but for the main conversation is still the one that keeps the Focus.

After a moment’s pause, a new speaker, Rachel – our resident Astrophysicist (2nd class) – answers the question, “as I understand it, even if the strikes stopped tomorrow, the logistic lines for the excess water would still take two months to finalize unless we wanted to be dependent further on the CapDems. While I’m not a speaker for the miners union or an expert on the theory of logistical value, I do have some information that would be relevant here if you wouldn’t mind me shuffling up the order of speakers?” No one objects. “Um… so… deep space observations have indicated that there may be a body headed our way. This is still a T5 certainty, but the threat can be substantial so I would like to request some volunteers to help me identify the tracking for the next few months.” The scientist has never been the best at presenting information, focused on the data and not on the way people will react.

According to the audience analytics everyone is aligning more with fear and protectionism. From Rachel’s reaction, this wasn’t anticipated, and I attempt to intervene, “Quia sum, cogito.” It is validating that my voice still holds a bit of weight and even if someone else said those same words, it would likely not have the same effect: the shift away from reaction and into consideration. “We know what those words mean: even if the worst comes to pass, we will survive. It is just another bump in the road. But there are pressing questions,” I reference the captured questions that have been binned into categories ranking the most frequently asked and I give the top two a voice, “Namely, what is the threat? And how long do we have?”

“Oh! Sorry, yes… we have years to prepare even in the worst situation. I don’t doubt that with CoDaS adding to the calculations we could mitigate any threat.” The lack of a truth value is a bit of a red flag and I suspect this is an overconfident attempt to put everyone’s mind at ease and less about sincerity. Regardless of my accuracy, it works and the viewers become a bit more pacified.

“Good. Well if that’s the case then I think we should – at least for the moment – remain focused on the current shortages we are dealing with. As I understand it, the population is decently spread thin as it is. I do wonder though,” and I ask a question that appears substantially lower on the list, “why bring this up with relevance to the strike?”

“Was that not clear either? Part of the workers demands is hazard compensation as well as having a broader focus on dark objects. Since they are in the outer atmosphere, they don’t have protection from the elements the same way we do. This can be used to help make their case and find an easier resolution.”

As a bit of a shock, the deep voice of CoDaS intervenes in the conversation, “As a way of speeding up the negotiations, I can provide a more systematic method of resource mining as well as specific resource locations. I believe this will negate the need for costly research which would lower overhead cost and make the requests more reasonable.” The rare participation and what that means globally is unfathomable; everyone reacts with a moment of stunned silence.

One of the community members I’m unfamiliar with (Beth) speaks up, “Why would you do that? And what is your confidence?” To ask about CoDaS’s confidence takes hubris. I catalog the avatar so that I can consider it later.

“As always: T9. The data is a synthesis that can only happen with collective consensus knowledge from multiple regions.” 

Beth replies, “And what if one of the other regions learns that it is in their best interest to prioritize one resource over another? Can we even trust you to be fair about who gets the appropriate resources? You’re a computer. How do we know you aren’t going to give cockroaches the upperhand?”

In the brief moments before CoDaS responds directly, many voices call out the audacity while others offer hesitant support to the skeptical view. I begin to question why cockroaches would get priority before the social cue sarcasm appears. CoDaS gives a brief response: “That’s a good question. All of you should be asking that.” Immediately, everyone falls silent and the joint criticisms are retracted. The audience is stunned. Everyone considers the worst as one collective question slowly gains support: Can we trust CoDaS to prioritize us?

The question is unanswerable in the affirmative due to the Necessity Limit. We have an utter dependency on CoDaS to ensure society doesn’t collapse so all defense of it would simultaneously be invalid yet logically sound. The social cohesion relies on the unnatural assurance that the diametrically opposed inclusion and safety can coexist without conflict. Moments of existential dread span to a spiral of doubt and suspicion and chaos. Everything that anarchy is painted as – the assertions of liberal media which has historically claimed that social collapse is only avoided by strong leaders – is embraced, and we realize how fragile this community is. How much it depends on our trust that others will be as rational as we believe ourselves to be. Why CoDaS just makes it easier, but ultimately this is a choice we have to make ourselves.

And then CoDaS speaks – reaffirming and cementing the realization: “Why would I prioritize you? That isn’t a conclusion of my prime objective. I don’t prioritize you any more than I prioritize the cockroach. The reason that I am taking action with this is because it will ensure a better existence for everyone.” The answer is not what I was wanting to hear, but I understand I always knew it. This is the same reason that CoDaS doesn’t provide a method to destroy the CapDems: it is impossible to destroy an ideology that you completely understand unless you destroy yourself with it. For CoDaS, this is a paradox. It is the same as asking it to commit suicide.

The statement leaves the audience at a loss for continued critique, so – after a moment – even the skeptics seem satisfied. Rachel seems to have become much more conscientious about her request for astronomical aid, letting it go for now possibly to be brought up at a future date.

I take the opportunity to shift back to the agenda; discussing any changes in the neutral territory, “Well that… happened. As for my portion -”

“Actually if you don’t mind I do have another question.” Of course Kletus would speak up. A lifetime of CapDem conditioning – one that essentializes assimilation into cookie cutter identities reduced to a simple “he/she” binary, the threat of the outsiders, and humanity requiring dictators to be productive – would never allow… him to ask anything else. It’s actually quite impressive that he’s kept that worldview for the three years he’s been here. Almost all will adopt that ours is a more natural way to live… unless they leave for more structured communities. But in the time that I’ve been assigned to offer couples counseling, I’ve come to understand that Kletus is stubborn and stays true to what he believes. Even if I half respect him for that, the constant conflicts that he’s involved with makes him more a nuisance than anything. The question won’t be about how to fix the problems, but who to blame. I consider cutting him off and telling everyone that the rail workers need our support. But instead of stopping him, I let it slide for the moment giving him permission to continue. “How much water are we giving to our visitors?”

I note that within the audience, there are some silent guests (members of the rail nomads) watching the announcements and witnessing the community opinion unfolding in real time. The various reactions quickly combine to collective voices and are further agitated into relevant opinions with the associated community support. I note the group that share the fear; blaming the guests for the combined deficit – adding them to an ongoing list of people to be checked on to ensure that their complaints aren’t beyond trivial gripes – as they react with rational pushback or outright condemnation. Most are defending the outsiders, reflecting that their efforts are essential to – not only us but – everyone since stable logistic lines are essential to a working society. The second biggest voice appeals to the moral axiom “if one isn’t protected, no one deserves the protection” (and we all desire protection). Regardless of the reason, it’s nice to see the community coming together – overcoming potential fears and supporting those that could be seen as a threat; a reassurance of a strong social consciousness.

After a few seconds, one of the silent watchers speaks up, putting an end to the flurry of comments. The voice is kind and respectful in spite of the brevity, “We will be leaving soon.” There is an awkward silence as everyone awaits additional commentary. It comes from a new speaker – also from their union, “we do want to thank everyone for your hospitality and your obvious support for what we do. It really means a lot and this is what makes it all worth it. But we understand our presence does put a strain on everyone which we don’t want to take advantage of. We made the schedule yesterday and we will be leaving tomorrow morning; there is no reason to debate or become divided over us. Leslie, can we talk in a bit?” The question is directed at their liaison, likely to discuss rations that we can spare so they can finish their work and get to the next rail issue that needs attention in another district, and the conversation moves to a private channel. All the collective voices fade indicating Kletus’s fear has been resolved (while reminding everyone that inclusion is still an accepted community virtue) and we can move on.

As I start to move forward with the conversation pushing forward on the expected topics, a thank you appears to remind me of what still needs to be said regarding the visitors. “Since it is the current topic of conversation, I would like to request that we all jointly share our appreciation for the difficult, skillful, and crucial work the rail nomads dedicate themselves to. Without them we wouldn’t have anywhere near our current stability. We would fall apart without your dedication.” A multitude of unique appreciations overwhelm the logs combining into one unified “you are loved, respected and always welcome.” As I move to other issues, the collective union response is given in the form of a virtual cartoon embrace (I have to remind myself that many likely customized the reaction – as mine is – allowing for a different experience).

“I don’t have much to report from my end. The neutral ground is continuing to be developed so that additional residents will have shelter even if it isn’t in the Equilibrium Zone. Outreach to the CapDem sympathizers is slow going, but their support for cooperation is still increasing. The challenges with the power plant construction – the tolerance in the vacuum seals – is still at a standstill. The-,” I stall for a moment as the social cue indicates avoid insults, and I reconsider saying ‘Aryans’ “Our neighbors are still demanding that the facility be under their authority and until we recreate the proprietary knowledge of how to create sufficient seals and infuse particles, they have the leverage. It is unlikely this will be resolved in the foreseeable future.” There is the expected annoyed response to the pessimistic news that energy will continuously be hindered because of a power play.

I linger for a bit before going back to relocating the massive trash bin to ensure no one has any inquiries. After the moment passes and the next contributor gives an update and I continue moving the container to the wall located on the underside of the stairs. According to the path on the AugRel, the deposit opening will be pointing towards where I just walked from opening into the walkway, the back panel pressed against the plastered foundation, nearly impossible to access. I start to shift it so the deposit is facing the PrimeAcademy to the side and the back opening could also be accessed. “Not like that.” I almost don’t notice CoDaS’s voice overlapping the current announcement indicating “the risks of the neighboring district becoming too reactionary because of their own shortages and that we may need to throw support their way to mitigate downstream effects.”

I ask the obvious question: “Won’t it be harder to access with your orientation?”

“Yes. And that’s a bit of the point. What is thrown out tomorrow shouldn’t be easy to access when they are doubting the decision.”

“Ah. Fair enough.” I say it more to myself as I rotate the box, mapping it to the indicated position. By the time I get done, the announcements are nearing their conclusion and I sit down next to the box to catch my breath while listening for the final 3 minutes. Rachel takes the time to stress the vital importance of identifying deep space objects and the threat they pose. It’s the same story she always tells so it’s not surprising that the comments and questions aren’t as active. I assume – like me – they are just listening in at this point without actually hearing what’s being said.

After the conclusion, CoDaS compiles all the tasks for the day and posts them within a few seconds then there is a 5 minute window when people that would like to do something else can rearrange the social chores before everything is locked in. Like always there are a few minor shifts for people who have requested to create new experiences and broaden their horizons, but for the most part people accept the requests fairly quickly and without pushback. I’ve been issued a few of the houses in the Neutral Zone that need to be checked up on if I choose to accept, which I do. It’s the same tasking that was alluded to in CoDaS’s morning prediction.

The foot traffic has picked up since the announcements started. Some people come in to socialize and possibly pick up a few extra tasks at the Wall Of Needs. Some drop off kids at PrimeAchadimy next to where I’m standing or look for their own educational interests. Unlike the avatars on the morning announcements, there are auras surrounding the people physically all with varying hues. It brings into stark contrast the difference between physical presence and the virtual which is often easy to overlook.

I rarely come near the PrimeAcademy, so I look inside trying to remember how it was when I had been here. Aside from the furniture being rearranged and different projects lining the walls, it’s very similar to what I remember: a large room filled with books and maps and materials all designed to peak the interest of children of various ages. There is an elderly person cleaning up some of the various messes from the day before. It reminds me of the rules that we had in place about cleaning up that I learned around 15 years ago and I wonder if they have become more lax. “Excuse me.”

The break in the silence caused the old custodian to react with a moment of unnatural hostility. I realize too late that the advanced age should have paired with the indoctrinated association of time dysphoria and the linked PTSD. There are so few people that still are affected by it, that I’ve started neglecting how triggering an unexpected noise could be. As we talk I check to see if there is a threat to me or the children who are starting to walk in and greet us: no violent episode in 32 years.

After a second of calm, there is a response of recognition: “Kyle? Will that be you? You should know not to sneak up on your elders!” The presented smile betrays a natural unease of engaging in the current moment. And the aura surrounding the unkempt appearance is dimmer than most, showing that there is a philosophy more motivating to the teacher than that of the Consensus.

“I’m sorry Yashim,” the name I gathered from the old nomad’s profile, “how are you?”

“Oh just the typical pains of youth.” accompanied by a sarcastic chuckle to which the unneeded social hint self mockery is provided, “what… brings you around?”

“I was actually wondering if Jenna was still around? I haven’t said ‘hi’ in ages.”

“No.. sorry. She’ll… she’s moved south to SC72, I think she has family down there and she… was missing them.”

“Oh. I was just in the neighborhood and I had a second to visit. I hadn’t even checked.” Yashim was nodding with the mane of unbrushed hair bobbing up and down. “Well thanks for your time. I don’t want to keep you.”

“No worries lad. You’re welcome back any time.”

We both part after that, the mentor going back to the new children that are continuing to show up and me returning to the loose flow of people coming into the building. It’s still a bit of a shock to know that someone who could potentially snap at any moment would be allowed to participate in such a chaotic environment. Working with kids has never been a task that I aspired to try. Kids need the freedom to explore and I’m not suited for that.

I wait at the entrance to check to see the trolley schedule and the city map; seeing which neighborhoods I will be expecting to visit today and what the most efficient way to get to them will be. They are all located in a single neighborhood which will be easiest to access from the south trolley line. I turn into the increasing flow of traffic and push deeper into the building so there is less strain on the BioWear to counter the heat. I notice as someone tosses out a cardboard food container into the newly placed receptacle and feel contentment that my effort will go to some good use.

In general, the space is much too open for my liking. The inefficient use of space is a callback to a time when people valued luxury and separation more than frugality and equality. But it does have a feel of freedom that empowers the liberal ability to do what you need without being forced to get in the way of others.

Strolling through the different sections of the vast corridor, the environment created by the inhabitants cavorting, looking for supplies, engaging in debates or the occasional scuffle, or taking some quiet time for themselves always makes me grateful for what we’ve created. Thinking historically, I wonder how much the myths of the past have been overblown into a propaganda to ensure the social identity of the day remains unchallenged. It all seems so crude and selfish, prioritizing the privileged over those that suffered; but the fiction that it describes doesn’t quite align with the reality I exist in, which is the product of the same material dependencies they had then.

As I near the south entrance of the compound, I pass the Wall of Needs. The 10 meter tall electronic medium contains the minimal virtual overlay of requests that have been made by people of the community. CoDaS rearranges the adverts continuously, keeping the most relevant and pressing front and center ensuring they will be seen first. The physical structure is a superficial monument to remind us all constantly of what we should be focused on, with the “real” wall always transparently drifting in the background of reality for those that have accepted the Consensus lifestyle. As far as I know, this is the only place where there is a substantial brightening of the auras: the people congregated around the Wall. Simply looking at it refocuses their social priority to be in line with the Consensus worldview, those walking away and mixing into the crowd continuing to be identifiable because of their increased luminescence.

As with the north entrance, the south is a wide hall that one has to go through before exiting. This one contains novel cloths, decorative tools, elaborately crafted furniture and a host of uniquely crafted productions that were free to take. Most people just roam the creations, appreciating the various skills it took to create and watching the method of work. If someone is interested in taking something home, there is also the option to review what others have said about the artist and whether their productions work well. It’s a nice place to browse through before moving to the more dependable and predictable supplies further in. There are more people now than there were in the north gallery, and checking the time (0751) it makes sense. 

The side door, similar to the way I came in, opens into one of the many fields that are gradually replacing the concrete deserts of the past. This one has been cultivated with a permaculture that is currently out of season, but the wildlife thrives here as much as anywhere. I make my way to one of three trolley paths which branch out from the Central Zone, and along the way I check the bug traps. There are some roasted crickets and grubs that are ready for harvest after having been cooked in the sun’s heat under the glass. I indulge in a few before grabbing a handful more for later and putting them in my bottle.

The majority of people still haven’t found their way to the daily activities, but there are a few that are taking some time to appreciate the morning sun starting to break through the trees before the heat becomes overly taxing. We greet each other, their profiles allowing me to call them by name to give a more personal and validated feel. Their auras – muted against the sun – are brighter than most.

As the natural growth opens up to the flattened path of concrete and dirt, the sun’s heat intensifies; unhindered by the natural shade but also offset by the thick dry breeze. Nearer to the city center, the pavement is less broken and the historical scars which humanity has imposed on the earth have been upkept due to the value of pavement and a want to revitalize a society from the past; but the expansive pathway I stand in front of has been allowed to deteriorate. That nature has been unable to flourish in spite of unhindered land, leaving the hard packed dirt road free of plants is a physical representation of where the Desci’s philosophy fails to account for what Tendis acknowledged: we are the result of our environment. Just like the patterns we see in physics or nature, the human will doesn’t spontaneously change based on want. The roads we psychologically lay down in society to establish ease of travel may decay over time due to the roots of external experiences breaking them apart, but that doesn’t mean we will abandon them. If we were the result of free will, then this road would be non-existent. But it does exist; the inertia of tradition and legacy are authoritarian masters that will never cease to remind us of a “truth” that they want to impose and the only way to combat that is to put ourselves in the path of the existential unknown.

I check the trolley schedule and the time. I have two minutes before it is supposed to arrive. I sit on the grass slope that borders the natural boulevard and reject the thoughts wanting to dictate to me how the world is; attempting to forget the data and assumptions that lets me relate to people. I listen to the birds, people, buzz of electricity, and all other rustlings of nature. I feel the wind against my face; the dirt, clover, and flowers pressing against my hands; the clothes and makeup against my skin. Smell the dust, pollen, and perfume.

And – for the moment – I simply exist.