In the way that short term memory underpins childhood, distraction tactics promote torture. The girl you live with resembles a time lapse film in with the sun is always rising. “Or setting,” you never can tell. The ocean is her area of expertise. She can name just about everything found in the intertidal zone. She constantly tramps down to the beach at low tide to catalogue and classify. When she comes back she always seems refreshed, invigorated. Though her commentary reflects something more conflicted. “Census data represents something darker.” You are surrounded by people claiming to represent your interests. These proxies all have one thing in common: you’ve never heard of them. The first proxy looks like your ex-girlfriend and emerges from the silty ooze of an estuarine environment. She calls the mangroves her home and says, “As children we were reluctant to part with our teeth.” She points out where the umbilical cord comes in. The second proxy ceases to function during daylight hours. Their expertise is in industrial generator equipment, but he also describes how an umbrella works and shows you how far your fingers can bend back without breaking. His brethren are topical and spread their ideologies in seed, fertilizer and mulch. He says, “The wind is your only friend.” The third proxy isn’t a proxy at all but someone who claims to be a cheap facsimile of your former self. When they lift up their shirt you see the bones from their ribcage poking through the skin. Blood, mucous and other slightly viscous liquids have dried and hardened in uniform, parallel lines running up and down their torso. Statistics, you’ve heard, are based on the organization of data. Skin, you believe, is a single organ, continually re-inventing itself. The girl you live with agrees. She says, “Despite de facto immunity we all end up like clothes hung on the line.” She points you towards you a reflective surface, in the hopes that you’ll finally wrestle with your demons. You look in the mirror to find starlings have nested in your cheekbones. Your eyebrows are little more than ink smears, competing at the boundary of your memory. You’ve wrestled nothing, but you turn off the light and return to the living room. It’s dark. You say, “Remember when we were strangers?” The girl you live with is nothing more than a cipher—a trick of the light—a swarm of paper wasps. She wanders through the garden in thick athletic socks. “There are starlings nesting out here too.” Sometimes, when you are out in public, she takes your hand and places it somewhere inappropriate. In other words, the area between the tide marks. She says, “I don’t remember when we were strangers, but I do recall when we used to be as gentle as we were generous.” The house is overcrowded with objects she has brought back from the beach. There is no place to put them. Outside, the air is moist and the earth damp. Slugs, spiders and other surprisingly large insects invade your house under the cover of darkness. You say, “I suppose these are proxies too, primarily because whenever we look for them, they have disappeared.” You’ve given each of them names and placed identifying placards on the wall so they have a place to call home.