The Person We Want

Juan Martinez

Easy, you know, does it, son. We move from being to nonbeing with a shrug, and wait at this vestibule, this airport lounge, until granted admittance. You'll find no newspapers, no books, no TVs tuned to 24-hour news, no ghostly voice intoning the name of a stranger. You'll find no smoking section, although smoking is allowed. You are to sit at this chair and forget what needs forgetting: whatever you learned from print will be erased. Every memorized passage will turn to a blur. Every character you loved will vanish, although we are close enough to heaven for exceptions to be made, so some of these made-up people might insinuate themselves into your recollections. You might have gone to camp with a Dolores Haze, or remember that, while staying at a hotel, you ran across Ada and Van Veen and Marina, or Luzhin or Quilty or Hugh Parson, or you puzzled through a thickly-accented lecture by a professor Kinbote, who invited you to ping pong (you refused), or a professor Pnin, who always called you by the wrong name. You once had tea with Vivian Darkbloom. Or not. You'll likely forget them. I forget. The rules vary.

What matters has little to do with these remarkable phantoms. What remains, at any rate, inflexible is that you cannot move forward until every fingerprint has resurfaced on your skin. These impressions will be peacock-green and iridescent: we'll begin with the palms of the doctor who delivered you. Other prints will follow. The mortician who squeezed your hands for reasons unknown even to him. Your sister's foot upon your chest. Your brother's thumbprint on your cheek. Your mother's shoulder against yours. The paws of every pet. And those of every stranger. And those of every friend.

Every whorl and every pattern will be disclosed. This much is certain: You cannot go on, you cannot leave the lounge or even move from this chair, until you are bright green. You cannot move until you are bright green and glowing. So think. Recollect. Easy does it. Good luck.