Tori Amos, "Carbon". Just keep your eyes on her keep don't look away keep your eyes on her horizon


She felt bleached, white, transparent. She was a homeless ghost. Every passing day took her further and further away from what she had once been.

Nagira had a home to go to, but had taken to staying at his offices with her at night. He would either sleep on the couch in the reception area or he would wait until she had gone to sleep in the loft to go home. He teased her mercilessly about her morose clothing, her beatnik black attire; he said she slunk around the office like a shadow. Catching her wandering around in a pair of black Capri pants and a black turtleneck sweater, Nagira told her she looked a mod, some kind of trust-fund girl that would hang out around art galleries and drink martinis. He laughed about her curiously horn-rimmed glasses, and laughed even more when he'd discovered where they'd come from. He told her they made her look even more mod when coupled with her slimming-black outfits; made her look like a Countess when she coupled them with her concealing-black skirts. A long black pencil skirt was worn one night in conjunction with the glasses and Nagira told her she looked like more of a secretary than Hanamura. The pencil skirt was worn again one night, Robin's somehow exhausted hair pulled up into a bun. She looked like Audrey Hepburn. Robin had a Vespa? Was she sure she hadn't been in Roman Holiday?

New clothing for Robin continued to show up at the office. Nagira said it came from a woman he knew, a woman whose daughter went to art school and went vegan as a way to cope with the loss of her boyfriend. Wearing the former clothes of another person; Robin felt as if all the memories and experiences of the former owner were rubbing off onto her, diluting what little pure Robin there was left. It was like taking a picture and stealing someone's soul.

"It figures he'd buy those glasses and not just some regular old wire-rims," the lawyer had said, laughing around a cigarette and a bowl of instant ramen made with hot water pulled through the coffee brewer. "Oh you crazy, crazy beatnik kids and all your black."

All of these things within her personality, her appearance being commented upon was fragmenting her smaller and smaller, her notion of Robin growing further away as if she was looking at it from space. Tiny and tinier still, looking at herself through a magnifying glass and then a microscope; all the little tiny Robin-organisms skittling past each other on the slide filled Robin with wonder. The facets of her personality propelled themselves around with flagella, bumping into one another uselessly, trapped on a slide.

"Oh, don't mope around," Hanamura chastised, flopping a heavy manila envelope on her desk and leveling a critical business-makeup stare at Robin. "Change your clothes and take this to the address on the envelope. God, watching you pine away after the boss is making me physically ill. That man is going to kill himself trying to keep up with a girl as young as you."

Temptress Robin, another liquid personality added to the mixture. The original formula was pretty diluted by then. Bike messenger Robin, more liquid added. Babysitter Robin, the liquid was starting to spill over the top of the glass and onto the counter, and it was evaporating and taking parts of her with it that she would never get back.

Still no word from Amon. Lying in bed at night, Robin twisted in her sheets and fought the urge to scream and cry. He was not dead. If he was dead, she would have felt it; something in her would have died. He was hurt, this she knew. She'd heard the bullets plain as day from the well, heard his body hitting the floor above her.

She'd scratched the wall of the well searching for some secret seam that would let her out until her nails were ragged and worn, her fingertips raw and red.

She had very little to remember of him but she stretched it, her bleached and bored mind recalling details that she hadn't really noticed the first time around. Physically all she had left of him was a pair of glasses and a tiny scrap of paper, written in English—he knew her Japanese reading skills were still shaky. The print was rounder than she would have thought it to be, not at all like his Japanese—all sharp stabs and hard angles, the muscles in his forearm clenching and constricting when he wrote it.

The memories of the night she fled replayed over and over again, each time something new appearing to her as if it had just appeared—but it had been there all along and she hadn't noticed it until she reflected on it. Robin recalled the hurried flight from the main office, her feet turning her in the wrong direction in the hallway until Amon had grabbed her arm again, whirling her and dragging her along behind him for a step or two. The story of Kate, as they had gone down, down; so many key codes entered that she hadn't understood how he'd known them all.

The courtyard that housed the well; that was where the curtain had risen on the final act. Oh, Father, how she had wanted him to come with her. She tried; smashing into him with the force of it, trying to pull him. He'd put her down into the well, coming close enough for her to study the tones of grey in his eyes, for her to notice the small scar that ran above one of his eyebrows. His hand was calloused from holding a gun and spoke of work harder than the skin; catching slightly in her hair, rough against the skin of her face. He'd pushed her into the well. It had hurt but Robin had not cared.

Robin. The next time we meet—

His boots were the last thing she'd seen of him.

The next time they met he would not know who she was. She no longer knew herself.

Nights when she could not stand the torture of reliving her final moments with Amon over and over again she dressed and left the loft, going down to the office to wander uselessly or talk with Nagira, if he was there. He gave her beer from a mini-refrigerator, sighing about this endless cycle of crying over spilt Amon—he's gonna come back, kid, don't worry, told her to drink it all even if it tasted like torture to her. She'd pondered, daringly, sneaking back to the well at Raven's Flat and perhaps going back inside.

It was insane, she knew. But she wanted to find the parts of herself that had been lost to her, the lost parts that were too innumerable to count.

"You're a strange kid, you know that?" Nagira said in the darkness, slumped low into his couch. His hair was in disarray and his jacket was gone; shirt wrinkled and unbuttoned halfway, tie tossed to the wind. He spoke over his beer like it was a flashlight and there was a campfire between them.

Robin, in Hanamura's empty chair, looked at her own beer listlessly. "I am a stranger in a strange land."

"Strange her in a strange land, you mean," Nagira said with a chuckle.

Strange and getting stranger still.