While I know you’re supposed to start a story with: “It all happened when…” I’m not going to. If it “all happened” because of a certain inciting incident, then the story would be over in the first sentence, an anecdote’s-worth of narrative experiences tumbling down upon me, the protagonist, like so many half-bricks. And there I would lie, crushed and helpless beneath compressed time and space: the opening joke at a convention of theoretical physicists. So no, to say that it all happened—everything up until the end of when I choose to finish the story—with one moment is patently false. What happened was this:
GOV M NT NIES JUDG REP T
ERN T DEN U GE’S R OR
Then I rubbed my eyes the way tired children supposedly do, shook the paper and tried again.
GOVERNMENT DENIES JUDGE’S REPORT
That was better. Still, thin stripes remained across my vision. I say remained, but really they had only appeared a few hours before. I had woken up seeing the world through cheap primary school paper. Feint-ruled lines were everywhere I looked. Visions of my scraggy Grade 7 writing came to me then, polygraphing its way through the alphabet. It moved across the lines in my vision before disappearing somewhere beyond where I could see it.
The rest of the morning was much the same. At breakfast, words and numbers from my side of my wheat bran packet began to crawl away. RDIs and nutritional percentages, usually happily housed in a table of dietary information, began to swing seraphically into the sugar bowl. I imagined them as little missionaries, descending on those happy carbohydrates, ridding them of their tasty sucrose.
Needless to say, I couldn’t have my coffee at home, which led me—via a bracing walk—to this café, this newspaper, these disappearing headline letters. This headline, flickering like candlelight. This, of course, was just the start.