Puce streaks in the air where puce golf shirts struck a stream of shuffling gesticulations through the sunken soup of the hotel lobby’s sunkenmost dry grotto. The Burger King franchisees stumble out of a ballroom flank, every tenth in a paper crown, the crazy guy, every tenth person self-diagnosed convention rabble-rouser, microcosmic emcee, burghermeister, king for a slightly long weekend. What a long dry weekend. Little sun and no blue sky wend from inaccessible vestigial hallways on high floors above the lobby. When seen from high above the carpet at the bottom of the hotel looks like a perfect lake surface in a colander of a rainstorm with centers whose concentric rings obliterate each other in unresolved geometries. Up and down all afternoon. From the railing I saw skulls exploding like grape tomatoes one at a time between my molars as they soared billowing like kites forty stories to the long unseen concrete beneath peeled back carpet body first becomes ooze inside and then the head snaps down and the skull and its secrets poof instantly and finally as dust from a shut book scatters. I touch my temple. My skull never feels as though it stops exerting pressure outward to stiffen itself into this tireless shape of bone. Secrets. Thousands inhaled around me all of them mostly disappeared and black on black. I mostly could not even remember my own. When I checked into the conference yesterday they didn’t have a badge and lanyard for me. But for my lack of embroidered Burger King golf shirt I could have been a franchisee eager to learn about the next great stacked burger sandwich permutation rather than a thinker here to think with others, think aloud, think about thoughts, and generally advance thought. I am the off-night keynote speaker at the conference. It is Thursday late in the day. I look forward with hesitant anticipation to my address tomorrow night. The full contingent of the conference will still not have arrived yet or those that were just arriving from late afternoon flights would mill outside the breakout rooms or the ballroom reconnecting and insinuating, a distracted gregarious taking hold of eyes looking for eyes like rail yard switches that would linger just through my introduction as they filter in with “Well I guess we should check this out.” I didn’t blame them for their ambivalence and ignorance. There was a complex system, impossible to describe, but tacitly regarded by each of us I’m sure to keep them from knowing who I was. Only fortuitously, and almost like a daydream, had some of my unpublished writings passed above the noses of some of the correct folks and having made small rounds in their splendor and reach, they were able to secure me possibly a fissure in the cloak through which to whisper. Whether the garment opened wide to me I wasn’t concerned. I was quite certain that I wasn’t for the world. Yet I carried seeds. Seeds don’t take long to plant. Without a lanyard however I stood in the lobby through those opening breakout sessions smelling coffee and oranges from appointed hospitality tables. The afternoon smoldered into evening and the dim settled like torchlight rising. The carpet was worn to white strands of smoke between the small meeting rooms. This first night was a throwaway. I took the pulse of the building. Over the hours the lobby alternately throbbed and released, less like a heart than some fibrous capillary sponge fed by many weak hearts. Groups began to coagulate around flotsam eddies of furniture three people abreast battling for small command. The franchisees had shed their golf shirts for blouses, men and women, and blurred somewhat into the conference goers whose evening attire was slightly more cosmopolitan, but only the lanyards, and the odd paper crown here and there gave folks their plumage. A group of women in turtlenecks strutted four abreast with designer glasses followed by two men in black grinning like devils. As much as I loathed them I fixated on the splendor of their impending reverence. I stood nearby to several different conversations without success and decided to attract wayward folks looking for an ‘in’ or a fresh start by sitting at a table outside the coffeeshop on the second floor of the lobby where I proved my materiality by ordering an espresso. I’d like to say that no one can quite exist in such a transitory fashion, not fully, not outside the arteriole of their aspirations. I found that no matter how open I set my posture and how pleasant my smile projected me to be, without a lanyard, without a history, without a contingent, without a coterie, I would remain as awkwardly and visibly invisible as a piece of dry food on a stranger’s cheek. I thought at least the lost, others like me, lacking a voice that rendered their own voices aloud would throw in with someone so obviously kindred. As I resolved to gravitate to the outer tier of a furniture cluster the last man in the entire hotel still wearing his puce golf shirt approached me, a crown folded into the ‘waist’ of his jeans bowing outward and sagging under the moist duress of his apron, fixed his eyes on mine quickly darting to the empty seat across the table from me and then back. I pulled the pole of the small bistro table between my knees until the edge of it jammed into my ribs so that there was something not of me becoming part of me to separate me from him. He beamed for some time. I could see straight through his eyes and teeth. Then a high pitched and a guttural voice at once together “Do you…” was lost as I strained to maintain the physical composure of a man listening to another man, thinking with him, thinking aloud, talking about thoughts, making him real for himself but not hearing a single word he was saying. As he drew being from my acknowledgment of him I was conscious only of his physical erosion in my own cognition. Only the tongue, growing larger, growing covered with linty swirls over buds like conflagratory boils waved beyond the outlined shades of his teeth and up through his false head to flop behind his eyes. I fled with him still beaming and, catching my face in the window of the coffeeshop, me inexplicably beaming but without a word retained and quickly nothing but the dust surface of his tongue and in hallways upstairs that braced the emptiness of the voided tower only my footfalls on carpet and my hand on the ribbed wall covering all the way up to the top floor, the voices dwindling to murmurs and to a fog of sound turning into late night. From the top floor I looked down and was overcome with a feeling of tumbling in place about my waist as though standing in a wheel. I fell back against the wall. The hotel was silent like the contents of an opaque bottle from either inside or out. I took a glass elevator down to the lobby floor. At a bar on the second level opposite the elevators a group of eight miraculously silent men stood around one woman in a leather jacket who was seated and who I could hear breathing in a way that sounded like a voice. All watched a football highlights program projected on a large blank wall. Music for piano and voice could be heard as if playing far down a street followed on sterile breeze by autumn Ginkgo leaves. I pushed open a door to one of the ballrooms. It was partitioned by enormous folding panels into smaller meeting areas filled with rows of chairs separated by long tables. All of the lights were on. Small man-size doors were varyingly open or closed in the enormous partition. The closed doors disappeared into the partitions save just their black outlines. It wasn’t possible to see the entire room at once and although each cell of the room was empty I felt that someone was moving from cell to cell ahead of me. The hum of the air conditioning buoyed the silence out of my head and into the room itself as thought I were a series of photographs. I didn’t sleep that night. The next afternoon I returned to the registration counter where the same young lady attended. I’d really like to have a badge. I’m sorry, I told you yesterday that I don’t have one preprinted for you. But I’m a speaker today, its been known for months I’m sure, how am I supposed to be admitted to my own talk? Well I’m sure that has all been arranged and you can just go in with the person who you have coordinated with. Do you at least have a blank one that you can write on? Yes, that’s no problem, here. Can you write on it so it is more official? I guess, here, give it to me. Write: John Trefry, Omaha, Nebraska, Speaker. Oh, OK Mr. Trefy, I’m sorry, here. Do you have a lanyard? No, just a sleeve, we ran out of lanyards this morning at main registration. What am I supposed to do with it then? Well you really only need it to get into the breakout sessions, the main addresses are open. I spun around and tried to put it in my breast pocket just enough that my last name and the word Speaker stuck out then took five steps and it fell to the carpet. I slid it in my pants pocket and headed for my fifth trip to the coffeeshop since what I assumed was dawn, when the sleep in my skull contrasted again with cold light absently silvering my breath. The only people that doffed their airs to me were the women in the coffeeshop who I tipped graciously with each coffee as I drank my way towards a seizure in my circulatory system. Each time I heard them shrieking across the lobby through the stilted, mouthed chatter, I pictured myself stuffing a five in the jar so the shriek was mine. I stayed close to the bar where the news was now being shown on the large projection wall so that I could watch the time. My address was at seven. Boiled in the drift of continuous news coverage I didn’t think about the contents of my address but only of the accolades, the sea change in the tone of the conference goers, and possibly of news reports covering the conference discussing my emergence. No. Certainly. The doors of the entire span of the main ballroom were propped open by like a church before a wedding. The carpet of the lobby stopped at the doors and dust buffed terrazzo filled the ballroom with enormous area rugs quilted together under the rows of chairs all facing one direction. I thought to ask one of the ushers that people should remove their shoes. The room filled slowly at first. Only certain types of people go into empty rooms. It wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to loiter eagerly before my address. I went in when the drone of voices outside dwindled and what I could hear warbled through the throats of the many doors. Between the doors the terrazzo sparkled from quartz pieces with the chandeliers’ lights and all their crystal echoes. I followed a runner carpet to the front row. The row was mostly empty. I sat close to the stair that led up to the dais and the chandeliers dimmed. Two men talked quietly at the side of the dais not smiling. The shorter of the two took the stage and lowered the lectern. Thank you all so much for being here, we have had a wonderful series of discussions so far today and I know everyone is especially looking forward to tomorrow to really dig into the matters that have brought us all here, and I would like to really spark the tone of the weekend by welcoming out first speaker, I know you are all intrigued and curious to hear him unearth his work for you, he has proven to be one of the most dynamic thinkers in a field known for its kaleidoscopic range, his reach from meteorology to war strategy, from cyclopean masonry in druid architecture to the proper tying of a cravat have left those of us fortunate enough to engage with him feeling that the world we encounter every day is fresh, relevant, and beautiful, and I am very pleased to welcome and open you to, and as he spoke my name, just after, in the silence, I heard the sound of the stars in the dawn sky, through the earth, beneath my feet where the Indian Ocean hung over a gauzy room in an adrift sailboat. A crack, or pop, followed by a stench like burning hair followed as I stepped onto the dais. A young man had shot himself in the throat in the front row. In the brown dim people begin to scramble. The young man expired before the light switches were found, before the screaming, long before the impotent throng glassily froze in panic. I stood on the stage behind the black, enormous lectern with wings and arms and antennae. I could see the man over a huddle from above like a bird mechanically looking down from the nest to a fallen chick. My eyes went pale. Two holes, one on either side of the young man’s throat bled in the gentle unhurried passage of water over a weir. The room was clearing quickly. The man who had made the introduction pushed me out a door stage right into a concrete-block passage and left me there. Instead of sleeping that night I sat in an armchair near the bar watching the news and listening to the story grow and turn like a dry cough among the Burger Kings. Silence invades the dark lecture hall, he came of age during a period when, across Europe, E.coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration, a well near a Sri Lankan Navy camp, a growing disillusionment with an over-materialistic society led to a new appreciation, the F.D.A. has approved the drug to stanch bleeding only in hemophiliacs, the final three months of his wife’s struggle with multiple sclerosis, three bodies and four weapons, including one 303 rifle, at the same time, technology is increasingly a tool that is customer-friendly, a jeering crowd taunted a suicidal teenager, one double barrel gun and two spring rifles, his life fell apart because of the attention it created and the anticlimactic return to everyday life, the 31-inch tall horse, Anniversary, was exposed to the amoeba, naegleria fowleri, and suffered from flu-like symptoms, Sandra Meninno stabbed her children before stabbing herself, her vacillations about wanting to end her life and his own desire, a winch that was lifting the bus off him snapped, his chest was covered with blood, I have $135,000 in credit card debt, and two weeks behind, causing the bus to crush her a second time, he also hit himself repeatedly with a nail-studded paddle, Flellis explains that he accidentally killed “Dr. Gröss” while operating on him the prior week, all while our physical bodies lie safely in bed, they said they shot him in the chest, and then he shot himself in the throat, currently Fallingwater gets more than 120,000 cicadas annually, similar to the lights sighted over Stephenville, Texas, recently, $1,700 a month for three cars, a few years after the film was made, as he rummaged through a trash bin and was then killed after he showed his buttocks to his attackers, Patterson received a written letter from a man in Thailand who assured him a sasquatch was being held in a Buddhist monastery, then disappeared in columns of light, who believed he bore the biblical mark of the beast used a circular saw to cut off one hand, inflatable tubes are used which are then enlarged to stretch the inner walls of the urethral sphincter, was barricaded in a motel room at Knights Inn on Hickory Grade Road, two mortgages at $685,000, was diverted and landed in Lyon about 35 minutes ago, then he cooked it in the microwave, the event has also been described as a rebellion, rather than a riot in a power station in another suburb, Clichy-sous-Bois, like El Lissitzky, Officer Corin Ostberg came in through the back door, behind the stage, in the misty dawn with teeth chattering, a voice, another US soldier who died yesterday by being shot by a weapon that discharged while being cleaned, Ford said he saw someone floating in the water, the Russian constructivist, the earth is going to cross the central part of a dust trail that was left behind by a comet when it crossed the sun in 1466 AD, this entailed euthanizing people suffering from Windigo psychosis, silently watching as the intricate design of millions of grains of colored sand was swept up and then poured into a nearby creek. I felt dawn in my teeth. On the third floor an open air bridge connected the hotel with a series of other hotels. From the middle of the bridge the long axis of a road spooled out empty until it veered in front of a skyscraper slightly darker than the white sky. A bumbling, tumbling unstoppable cloud of smoke tooth yellow silently sank the tower, erased the street and took my sight like smoke blown in my face.