1.

After reflecting on the past decades, I still believe the story to follow to be the beginning of my life. I was just over twenty-one years old, and madly in love with my first. I was his second. That is how we work. After being in love once in your hometown, you move to another zone and are the first to your second. You teach them love as you were taught. The first two relationships, then, are always doomed to end. In our culture, one loses love twice before making a life partner. Your third, that is who you live with forever. We were going into our last six months of my first, and his second. You learn about this tradition when your first love leaves you, as someone left them. Abrupt, necessary, and blunt. Both parties move to other zones, and the process continues. At eighteen we meet our first. At twenty-two, we lose them and gain our second. At twenty-six, we move on to hopefully find our third, our last. Jack was nearly twenty six. I didn’t know anything about any of this yet.

“Chaos. That is all they give us to go on.”

“What do you mean?” She passes him the bottle. There is a pause he ends with a sigh.

The two young people are sitting near the edge of Lake Mead, sharing a bottle of whisky. The young man works at the distillery, a sour-oak smell sticks to his hair and clothing. The young girl has grown to love this smell more than any other smell. It is her love.  Light from the meeting hall across the water taps yellow-orange birds in a wet, black sky mirror.

“Chaos” he repeats, “Chaos is all that is offered. I think about it all the time. I mean everyone thinks about ‘before’, right?” he lights a cigarette. The following words hang with the smoke in between the breezes: “When was that?”

“How do you mean before?” She has known him for more than three years, and they have lived together for most of that. She has never heard him talk like this before.  His voice is deeper than usual. He is using his breath to emote in between words.  This is a performance that cannot be faked. Something was about to happen.

“Chaos.  Yes, random happenstance, emotion, violence, accidental overpopulation, abuses of drugs, power, weapons, and technology, even pornography. You have heard about all of this by now, for sure. Everyone talks about it. It is the national pastime. That was before, right?” While talking he removed his shoes, and is now knee-deep in the water with a cigarette burning in his grin. She thinks about his silhouette, his face lit faintly orange as he pulls.  “And you know what? I love those bars that have all the old music. Those feelings are felt just twice in our lives. That is what I have to tell you tonight. But we will get into that later, yeah?” He speaks quickly now, in bursts “Anyway, I will take you to one of those bars soon. I know I haven’t before, but I want to now. It will be an incredible experience, everytime,” he drags slowly on the cigarette, “for the rest of your life.  I don’t know where to start”

“What are you talking about?” She has a feeling of weight and swallows nothing, but does it often. Shaking this, she smiles, “What are you trying to tell me?”

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