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An endless walk up the Jersey shoreline. The water surprisingly warm after storm season, and the beach covered with smooth stones of different sizes and shapes. They all look shiny when you pluck them from wet sand and rinse them in a wave. In a few minutes, the shine dries into a dull porous surface. That final wave sucks the life force, and there’s nothing you can do to get the shimmer back.

You hold on to them anyway, the stones. Make use of two large shells, and carry as many back as two shells can hold. Leave them in a pile on a wooden table, except for one. Take one for yourself. It’s oval and pure white with the look of a thousand crystal bubbles frozen together. Pockets of air. Gasps. This one has something to it, something that can ease your mind. Slip it in a front pocket and forget about it.

Until you leave the comfort of a family visit and return to the city. Touch the stone as the skyline comes into view, crowning the Badlands. Through the tunnel you avoid your reflection in the window even though it feels to be staring right at you. Off the train, make a bee line for the subway. It’s hot and crowded and spinning as always.

A man on the floor catches your eyes. He’s in a filthy jacket, eyes diverted from everything. Looking at something that’s not there. He looks like someone you know. A lot. You stop. He looks up, holds out his cup, doesn’t recognize you back.

Without deciding to do it you drop your stone in his cup – that still-shiny magical feel better stone. He notices the extra weight, displeased it doesn’t sound like change. You step back.

“What the Fun is this?” Only he didn’t say ‘Fun’. He did throw something across the way.

It shoots through the always-moving passersby. Somehow, through the cacophony of noise, you hear it hit the wall. The man watches you weave through the suits to retrieve his trash. You can’t help but glance back as you slip it into your pocket again. Part of you likes the confusion in his face. He thinks you may be insane, or maybe that rock was worth something. That part of you wants to return the stone to his cup just to see what he’ll do.

The other part of you can see yourself through his eyes, and knows it’s time to go. If everything happens for a reason, than maybe this did. Or maybe you’re just taking too long to read The Crying of Lot 49.