I walked out of the bungalow and thought about everything I’d tried to do in my life but failed. Why did I dwell so much on my failures and not my successes? I’d traveled across five continents, taught linguistics and cartography to poor children in underdeveloped regions, helped build aqueducts and courthouses and temples, written liner notes for developing rock bands. But all I could focus on were my failures. Why had I never learned to speak any of the dialects of the Serpentine Jungle? Why had I never written any plays about the lost gods of the southern desert? Why had I never gone back to the Castle of the Jaguar to retrieve my scarlet cloak? I’d paid a fortune for that cloak, and it was very comfortable!
I looked at the tattoo of the cobra on my forearm. I could barely remember getting that tattoo, but it seemed to signify so much: my misspent youth, my time in the Archivist’s Academy, my years wandering through the Labyrinth of the Alabaster Queen. I wondered about my old friend and roommate, Xul the Painter. Had he ever reunited with his lost love, Caroline? Had he unlocked the mystical secrets of the jade box given to him by the old Trotskyite that lived downstairs from us? And what about his brother, Jorge? Was he still toiling away as a minor functionary in the Department of Conflagrations?
I wanted to go back, to return to my home, to make amends and correct my past mistakes. But the paths back were all closed to me. I could never return to what was. My only road lay ahead of me.
I sat on the front steps of my bungalow, my face in my hands, and I sighed heavily.