If I were to tell you that not even a decade ago I was still a child, walking home from my high school on a December day of my freshman year, would you believe it? To look at me now is to see the face of one battered by both time and space, by the evils that lie within and without these hideous concepts.
But eight years ago, I was still a child, alone on the sidewalk, in a hooded jacket—a necessity with my skin condition—invisible to the world, or practically at least. Of course, anyone with a basic knowledge of probability knows that “practically” is not the same as “mathematically”; that cool December day, someone did see me. That is another story. Thus, it suffices to say that I would not know I had been seen until about a week later, as I was too distracted at the time by the tattered old book I saw on the ground. It was a pea-green hardcover copy of Ficciones de Jorge Luis Borges, who is easily my favorite author now, though I had barely heard of him before that day. Be that as it may I recognized the name because my freshman English teacher had suggested I read some of his stories. I reached down to pick up the book. The moment my hand touched it, the cover turned jet-black; I dropped it in shock, but it failed to regress to its original state. I’m still not sure what compelled me to pick it back up, but when I did the cover changed further. It glowed with a dim and intriguing luster, and the cover was soft and warm to the touch; it felt as if feathers were moving along my fingers, as if I were holding an injured bird writhing in agony. I concealed the book in a pocket inside my jacket and hurried for home.
I burst in the door at almost a run and gave my parents a quick “hello” as I blitzed by them and up the stairs to my room. I put the book in a drawer of my desk and made sure it was locked in there. I went downstairs and re-greeted my parents, still breathing a bit heavily. They asked the obvious question, “Why the Hell were you in such a hurry?” to which I replied that my bladder had been about to burst. They believed me. I was shocked; they never believe my lies, and this one was obvious, as there is another bathroom on the ground floor much closer to the front door. It was as if they had just been tricked into gullibility or perhaps apathy, I will never be sure which. Either way, they dismissed me to go back to my room and worked on one of my computers until dinner. When I had eaten my fill, I decided it was time to open the book.
I walked into my room and went immediately for the drawer. It was already open. At this point I had seen enough that this no longer bothered me. I picked up the book, shivered as the feather feeling rustled across my fingers, and opened the front cover. The book was in the original Spanish. Growing up in a Latino community you learn to know the look and feel of the Spanish language, but growing up in a Japanese family therein, you do not learn to truly speak it. After all, I only know enough Japanese to understand the random commands that my parents forget to translate before yelling at me; language is not among my most pressing priorities. In any case, I was quite disappointed that the book was not translated, but I decided to read through it anyway and see what I could make of it. I started reading the first story—I understood every word. Imagery, metaphor, Argentinean idioms, obscure literary and historical allusion—the myriad of idea and thought that Borges put into these stories proceeded into my mind and swirled around dazzlingly. I eventually came to “Funes: El Memorioso.” It stopped being “just another Borges story” the very moment I read the title, and the name of the title character glowed bright red-orange and vanished from the page. As it did, my head was struck with an intense burst of pain, powerful enough that it almost knocked me out of my chair (or even out cold, perhaps). As I put a finger to where the name had been, I noticed that finger had turned ghostly pale. In fact, as my eyes traveled to my hand, up my arm, ripping my shirt off and examining my entire body, there was not a spot on me that remained the familiar yellow-tan of my heritage. I proceeded to the bathroom mirror to confirm this, and discovered more. Not only was my face white as the rest of my skin, but deep, dark circles had also appeared underneath my eyes, which themselves had turned from a light brown to silver. The only features of mine that remained the same were my hair and the actual physical shape of my body. I looked closely at my hair, the more visible constant in this change, and concentrated all my energy on it, hoping that this one unchanged part would spread its normalcy back to the rest of me. I was shocked to see it appear to do so. I looked back across my skin—it had returned to its normal color. The dark circles under my eyes had vanished, and I was about to assume I had imagined the entire situation when I looked back to where those circles had been to see that in the eyes above shone the same silver as before. I stared into my own eyes, concentrating now not on what I wanted to see but whatever was real. Both images stared back at me simultaneously. This was a sight like none I had ever seen, even in my dreams. Utterly floored, I half-stumbled back to my room and into my desk chair. My eyes went to the book; perhaps it contained the answer to this inscrutable change. I began to read again. Every time my eyes crossed the word “Funes” in the text, it shone and disappeared, just as the title had, but this time without the headache. As I reached the end of the story, I realized that it had become rather late, nearly 1 AM, and shut the book to go to bed. The cover had returned to its original pea-green hue. I put it down, backed up, and touched it again, but nothing happened. The book was completely normal. I opened it back to “Funes,” and all the instances of his name had reappeared, as had my inability to read Spanish. After trying to reason through this for about five minutes, being reminded it was somehow real every time I looked down at my hands, I noticed how tired I was from this whole ordeal. I was barely able to walk over to my bed before sleep came; what dreams, or rather Dreaming, may come did not give me pause.