Relative Paucity

My cousin comes to visit me during her mandatory vacation this season. I pick her up from the local train station after her overnight train ride through the vast expanses of prairies and forests between where we grew up and where I live now. Carrying her luggage, I walk beside her at a pace that matches hers, one noticeably slower than those of the passersby on this bustling urban street; her strides are unhurried by the fatigue of travel and the flow of life where she’s come from, this gait fitting for the cool air and warm sun about us.

“Wow, it’s really spacious here,” she says as we enter my apartment.

“Yeah, you’ll even have your own bedroom while you’re here,” I tell her, leading the way down the short hallway to the music/guest room.

“Fantastic! I thought I’d be sleeping on a sofa,” she says as we enter the room. “Nice, there’s a zonkoriaphone too,” she observes, pointing to the instrument sitting on its stand. “I can practice.”

“Yeah, I had to have mine shipped over. They cost a modest fortune here,” I tell her placing her luggage by the door, then suggest, “So, shall we eat something?”

“Sure. I slept through the breakfast service on the train.”

“Okay, I’ll get something ready.”

I head to the kitchen to prepare a simple brunch, and she goes into the artroom to freshen up.

As I’m slicing bread, she asks from down the hallway, “Why is the poetry pressure so low in this place?”

Before I can answer, she walks into the kitchen and says, “I barely get a trickle when I open the tap.”

She’s of course exaggerating, but I know how she feels.

“Oh, that’s because there’s a limited amount that’s publicly accessible,” I explain, wrapping up the rest of the bread. “So the public utilities here operate with an infrastructure that has a capacity smaller than what you’re used to. You can buy some bottled varieties, like the kind that cleanse your mind or nourish your psyche. But there’s really no way to get the amount you can at home.”

She leans against a vacant patch of the tile wall and asks, “Doesn’t that bother you?”

“It used to, but I’ve gotten used to it,” I tell her as I start washing blueberries.

“Used to it? How?” she blurts. “Having this little poetry when back home there are fountains spewing this stuff in every plaza, that’s like washing with a damp rag when you’re used to taking baths!” she cries out excitedly. “Bubble baths!”

Finishing with the blueberries, I answer, “Yeah, I know. Well, I also collect some and make my own. I should have mentioned that there’s some stored in the buckets in the back of the artroom.”

Her eyes widen, and she inquires incredulously, “You distill poetry from the air, gather it from the surroundings and all that?”

“Yeah, basically.” I nod, drying my hands with the small towel I keep on the countertop.

“Doesn’t that span vast tracts of time?”

“It can. It depends. Whatever time it takes I’ve become willing to spend.”

“And you can get enough that way?”

“Well, I think my conception of enough has changed since coming here, but yes, I feel like I have what I need.”

She nods, considering this.

“Maybe I can help you do that while I’m here,” she then suggests suddenly. Her words surprise me and maybe even herself.

“I should probably learn too,” she adds after a moment. “I mean, I may have to live some place like this before long.”

I look at her and prompted by what she’s said, realize she’s older than I’ve allowed myself to think.

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