“Did I ever tell you about Cal?” I said. “I’m sure I did. This wouldn’t matter if I didn’t tell you about him. He changed me. I would have been a different kind of man. I don’t know what that means, but I wouldn’t be here. In this room, anyway. Or maybe I wouldn’t be here at all. And maybe you wouldn’t be here. I don’t know how it works, all these strings that move around and get tangled and affect other people’s strings. It’s complicated. And it’s really not. I don’t know. But I do know that Cal had a whole ball of knotted strings that moved mine around.
“You don’t need to hear about strings. Tubes and wires and monitors all around you. I’m sorry, I don’t know any other way to put it. The way we’re guided. Or misguided. I don’t even know if you can hear me. Yeah, you must. You must. You’re still here and I’m still here, and you’re listening. I know you are. There are strings and then there aren’t. Not good or bad, just the way they move. God, I’d love to take you by the hand. If you could squeeze my fingers, just a little, and tell me something. Just a word. Ask for a glass of water, tell me to stop yammering, you’re bored. Old man talking about strings, jeeze. All right, I’ll stop. I’ll tell you about Cal. I’m sure I have before, but it always comes out different because I think about it more every time. But it doesn’t come out different, it’s all the same, because I’m here. Talking to you.”
I took a deep breath and held it for awhile. It was always strange painful about Cal. It always hurt, that never changed.