To Think

   The basic engine of consciousness – that there’s a you and a not-you, and the you can tell the difference. Well, can tell a difference. That the you can find a difference between itself and the not-itself. That’s the basic engine. Or maybe created by the basic engine. One or the other.
   Two men go charging by outside, back down the way I came. An engine rattles along somewhere out there and comes to rest nearby. A skinny man, looking out down the way the runners went, comes to stand in the doorway. A round woman follows him up and shoves him through making him stumble. He turns to walk and he halts when he sees me, and gets shoved again for blocking the path. Behind this pair comes a man left pig-eyed by the bulk he carries. He wheezes in bringing the stink of baijiu with him.
   Baijiu. Turpentine to the gods. A powerful drink of celebrated odour and storied custom, these days used as a test of courage and allegiance. The scent no longer bothers me. Only the people.
   They set up at a table closer to the fire.
   A girl in a neon coat passes by the front door and the skinny man barks out a name.