A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor Page 2

“Fine, let’s plant something,” I said, smiling just a little. And she smiled back and hugged me and we went into the garden. She found a clay-colored plastic pot, about a foot across, and I dumped a bunch of potting soil into it. Then we went into the kitchen and cut up a couple Yukon Gold potatoes, making sure each piece had an eye. Then, together, like when I was five, we stuffed them down into the soil.

“Mama, do you know how messed up I am?” I asked, fingers covered in dirt.

“Honey,” she said, her big, worried eyes seeing all the way in, “you’re just as messed up as you should be.”

I hadn’t cried in a few weeks at that point, which made this one bigger.

April knows I’m private, and I like to think that’s why you know so little about me, and not that she just couldn’t be bothered. It’s probably a little of both. But, look, there’s a lot of talk in the last book about how together and successful and smart and solid I am. That’s bullshit. We’re all pretending, and April maybe wanted to be extra nice about me because of how she completely ditched me the moment something shiny caught her attention. But before the Dream, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing with my life. I was letting my girlfriend sleep in the living room because she was too fragile to admit we lived together. I went in to a job that a bunch of my coworkers thought I only got because I was Black. And I knew that no matter how hard I worked, I would never make anything like the amount of money that was already in my bank account because I had chosen (much to my dad’s chagrin) to get a degree in design instead of an MBA.

I had not been totally open with April, or really anyone, about my financial situation, on account of the deep, burning shame.

Like, I’m supposed to own it for everyone who doesn’t have it. I’m supposed to show that Black people can be rich, and that you’re racist for thinking we can’t be. But also, I’m supposed to rage at the system that made me rich. Like, can a girl get a break?

Whatever, the thing I was trying to say here is that I didn’t have to work, which made working at jobs I didn’t love a little bit empty. Obviously, this is a profoundly unrelatable frustration, but we all only have our own lives to live inside of.

The Dream was bigger than me, and it was a real contribution I was making. Every time I solved a sequence, that had nothing to do with my money. On the Som, I was respected entirely because of my contributions. No one knew anything about me. They didn’t know I was rich, they didn’t know I was Black, they didn’t know I was April May’s ex-girlfriend. I was just ThePurrletarian. My friends there only knew my words and my actions. It’s the same reason I did a web comic about leftist cats in college. It was a way to feel respected outside of my identities.

So there was one hole left in the wake of the Dream, and then there was the other even bigger hole left by April. I spent a lot of time filling those holes with being angry while looking at the internet, but I also filled them on the Som, where I found posts like these:


Yesterday twenty dolphins were found in the Delaware River, well into the fresh water. They’re north of the outage points described in this thread [OUTAGE-POINTS-NJ-DE-PA]. The dolphins showed up outside of Trenton, NJ. They then spent several days just north of Trenton before dying. Some folks were able to rescue some of them. This is the second pod that ended up this far north in the river in two weeks and it’s basically unheard of. Also very nearby the break-in at Rider University, see thread [RIDER-U-LAB-BREAK-IN].

So, of course, I clicked to see the thread about the lab break-in, which quickly led me to this post:


This is the fourth since April disappeared—see threads. This one was way crazier. Not like the little ones at Rider University [RIDER-U-LAB-BREAK-IN] and the hospitals in Philly [NAZARETH-HOSPITAL-BREAK-IN] [MERCY-HOSPITAL-BREAK-IN]. No one’s linking it to those, but Johns Hopkins (yes, that Johns Hopkins) in Baltimore was broken into. They’re saying it was an animal rights thing because a bunch of monkeys escaped. The article also says a couple of unrelated pieces of equipment also disappeared. Johns Hopkins is huge, it has 24-hour security. PETA has been after them for decades, they know how to not have this happen, but it happened. Something is going on with these lab break-ins, so I’m starting an omni-thread specifically to add information and specifics re: any break-in of a laboratory, hospital, or university [LAB-BREAK-INS-OMNI].

My first thought upon seeing this was that it seemed like a reach. People got robbed, animal rights activists freed monkeys, that was the world. But also, it was a little weird. Like, why would animal rights people steal monkeys and lab equipment? Were they financing their monkey stealing? I was not well versed in how monkey stealing worked.

But what I realized was that the Som was the place I was most comfortable in the world now that the Dream was gone … now that April was gone. A lot of the names were the same, and the culture of investigation and sleuthing was the same. But best of all, these people didn’t think everything had gone back to normal. Not a single one of them believed that April had died in that building, and I badly needed to see people say that.

Losing the Dream, for a lot of people, was like losing a drug. Even after every sequence had been solved (except the 767), I would go to sleep and solve sequences all night. Real dreams seemed so chaotic and unstructured. I loved the Dream, and then it just got ripped out of my head. There were even services that promised to be able to bring back some amount of the Dream with electrical pulses aimed at your brain. There were threads about it on the Som a lot, but it always seemed like the people who said they got it back were either trying to sell the service or maybe just had a really good dream about the Dream.

But this had the feel of a Dream sequence to me. The first robbery was in Trenton, New Jersey, then two in Philly. Then Johns Hopkins. That made it seem like they were moving south down the coast.

The labs were all pretty close to each other. The Johns Hopkins robbery was the farthest from the break-ins at hospitals in Philadelphia. And then there were a few weird cell phone outages outside of Philly. And then, a couple weeks after that, the lab break-ins had stopped, but a bunch of dolphins swam up the Delaware and died outside Trenton, New Jersey.

“I have to keep looking, Mom,” I told her.

“What if you don’t find her?” she asked.

“Then I’ll keep looking. She’s not dead.”

She looked down at the soil, and the little pocket of rage in my heart started to leak into the rest of me. Everyone wanted me to give up, even her.

“Just take care of your potatoes,” she said.


“Take them with you.” She gestured to the pot. “Take care of them. Just to have something that needs you.” She lightly touched my face and said, “Like I do.”

My mom and I made dinner together that night, and before I even brought up Trenton, while I was putting the pasta on the table and sitting down, my dad hit me with “So, you know they’re treating people who have Dream addiction now, there’s a long piece on it in The New Yorker.”

“Mmm?” my mom said, loading that tiny noise with far more nuance than should be possible. It said, “I know what you’re doing, and so does Maya, and please don’t do it.”

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