The purplish rays of sunlight have just barely made it over the windowsill when the ringing phone cuts into your nondescript dreams. Your room looks like a still frame from a black-and-white movie with only the tiniest fragrant trace of last night's escapade continuing to linger in the air. You are so tired, beyond tired.

The usual thoughts run through your mind as you pull yourself heavily from bed. Who would be stupid enough to call you so early in the morning? Is it something as mundane as the wrong number? Is everyone ok? You feel ready for anything and nothing as you pick up the receiver and press it hard against your cheek, bullying the arm that is still mostly unwilling to work.

"Hello?" you mumble groggily into the receiver.

"Anna, this is John!" your brother nearly screams into your ear.

"What do you want?" emphasis on "want", though you could have put it on "you" to just as much effect since you and your brother hardly ever speak anymore, haven't since…

"Anna…oh god, Anna. Mom is…mom had…Anna, our mother is dead."

"Fuck you," you growl, slamming down the phone. You crawl back into bed, trying to resume the exact position you were in before the importunate phone call. You close your eyes, trying to recall his image to your mind. But the sunlight is bright now and shining through your eyelids and somehow or another, you have to face the day. You yank open your top drawer, grabbing the first pair of panties you find. Those striped ones you bought with the gift certificate Mom got you at Victoria's Secret. Mom…what strange dreams you've been having lately.

In a few minutes, you have maybe half of what you need stuffed into your school bag. You keep forgetting what you are doing as soon as you begin it, or maybe…were your sunglasses on the dresser after all? No, they're tucked away in the bag where they should be. It's your keys that are missing. There they are, hiding under the neck of the whiskey bottle. Mom was the one who introduced you to the drink, in the proud Irish tradition of…books! Books! You're about to go to class without books. You laugh out loud at yourself. You throw every book that is on the desk into the bag because you know it is hopeless that you could actually remember what day it is, therefore which classes you have today. What a logical mind! It's no wonder you're studying to be a professional philosopher, useless profession that it is. That's what everyone said. Everyone but Mom. John said it was a waste…John is a waste. What does he want? Emphasis on "he" because he has been no one to you for years now, especially not since…What an odd dream. You step out the door, forgetting to lock it behind you.


"And so, we turn to our friends in the psychoanalytic field for a little enlightenment on this particular point. Uh…let's see, Mr. Peck, would you perhaps care to expand, seeing as you are our resident psychology major?"

"I don't know, it's been a few years since my misspent undergraduate days," he answers. Emphasis "he". He is him. He is he. Your personal alpha and omega and phi beta kappa. What would he say if he knew the…remarkable thing you did to yourself last night while fantasizing about him? On the psychological level, he'd be sure to understand, but how would he react before he had time to rationalize it all? You can smell his intelligence from across the room, the real animal odor that the geniuses give off so they can be detected without ever having to brag.

"Give it a shot," the professor encourages him. "for the first time in my life, I've run out of things to say about the philosophy of ethics."

"It's called the Todestrieb, translated into English as the 'death drive'. I don't really remember much beyond the fact that it stands out as a facet of human behavior that is readily apparent but which seems to fly in the face of the idea that we always do what's pleasurable. It's possible that the pleasure principle is not the only thing that governs decisions. It's also possible that we as a species have a unique ability to transform pain into a form of pleasure. I think they saw a lot of this in action in cases where there was a high degree of trauma caused by abuse or…"

"Excuse me, I'm terribly sorry to interrupt," a meek woman pokes her head into the classroom door she has just opened. You recognize the department secretary. To your surprise, she looks right at you, smiling benignly, if maybe also a little nervously. "Anna, would you mind coming to the office for a moment? Actually, why don't you bring your things with you?"

You feel like the kid who gets to leave school early. A little shiver of excitement runs down your spine as you gather up your things and coyly say, "thanks for the analysis, Sigmund" to the object of your desire as you leave the room. You had rehearsed the line while stuffing books into your bag and you think it went rather well…what does she want? No emphasis anywhere because you don't particularly care or even want to know. You want to freeze this moment, not-knowing and him, not-knowing and him. He is…suddenly, you're in the small department office.

"Anna, I have just received a call from health services. They need you to go right away to the infirmary."


"I don't know, hon, but it sounds important." She smiles blandly yet urgently at you. You shrug your shoulders.


Stepping through the infirmary doors, you realize with a touch of surprise that you remember absolutely nothing about your walk across the quad. You were just there, weren't you? You feel a gentle dragging, like the pressure from a cat's paws on a ball of yarn.

"Anna, are you Anna O'Hagerty?" a pretty young nurse asks you, seeming to materialize out of thin air.

"Yeah, that's me."

"Would you come with me, please?"

She's too young to be a nurse. Shouldn't she be a student, like you? The whole place looks cartoony as you follow her up a flight of stairs to what you already know is the psych wing. She's simple, with simple language, a simple smile. She exists in only two dimensions, as do you at the moment.

"Dr. Fay," you smile blandly as the nurse opens the door to an office where you have been before. For a few months, Dr. Fay has been treating you for depression and "unspecified other disorders", without much success. You have prided yourself on being a difficult patient, and attend therapy sessions more to feed your sense of the absurd than to get any real assistance. Dr. Fay is bland. It is out of character for her to call you without you calling her first. It doesn't match. The world pops back into three dimensions and you sit down, instinctively. You hear the door shut behind you.

"Anna," says Dr. Fay.

Yes, that is your name.

"Anna, I got a call from your brother John this morning. He was very worried. He said he had spoken briefly with you earlier, but that you had been disconnected."

"That's one way of putting it."

"Anna, I'm afraid this is something that you must know. Your mother, Mary, was in a very serious car accident last night, and lost her life. Oh Anna, I am so sorry."

Dr. Fay looks pale and confused.

"My mother is dead?"

"Yes, Anna. Your family has arranged for you to travel back home. You leave tomorrow morning. The philosophy department has been notified and you have been granted leave. Anna, I scarcely know what to say. I would just encourage you to stay here on the ward overnight so that you can have help nearby, should you need it."

You barely hear the latter part of her sentence, because you are overcome with a sudden, indomitable exhaustion. However, you are alert enough to recognize the acute irrelevance of the choice you have just been offered.