Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 36

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berkeley fiction review

issue 36

Cover art by Brea Weinreb Everything was Indigo Š Copyright 2016 Berkeley Fiction Review Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) or the University of California, Berkeley, English Department. These stories are works of fiction and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASUC or the University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley Fiction Review is an ASUC-sponsored, undergraduate-run non-profit publication. For advertising inquiries, submissions, general inquiries, contact us via: Twitter: @BerkeleyFiction Tumblr: BerkeleyFictionReview Book design by Sean Dennison Printed by PrintPapa Santa Clara, CA 95050 ISSN 1087-7053



Published by the University of California, Berkeley

MANAGING EDITORS Lauren Cooper Hannah Harrington Ben Rowen

ASSISTANT EDITORS Alagia Cirolia Sean Dennison Sophia Zepeda

Evan Bauer Michelle Lee Georgia PeppĂŠ Clare Suffern

Maris Dyer Brittany Foley Moira Peckham Sarah Beydoun


STAFF Krystal Abbassi Gohar Abrahamyan Diana Advani Luis Alba Joshua Albano Jihoon An Julia Apffel Sarah Barnett Leon Barros Caeli Benson Reyna Benson Brittni Bertolet Edward Booth Marley Castillo Christy Chandra Margaret Chen Emily Conway Halia De Weese Mimi Diamond Aaron Dinwiddie Niki Dukellis Olivia Fang

Summer Farah Amanda Mosler Nicolette Munoz Regan Farnsworth Nika Nabifar Vivienne Finche Michelle Ni Stephanie Flores Jacqueline Nichols Matilda Fritz Lucas Pan Geraldine Garcia Delia Peterson Sydney Gunther Nico Picciuto Emily Hoang Morgan Robertson James Jiang Edward Santos Tohma Judge Jordan Schaer Caroline Koktvedgaard Edie Sussman Athlein Lapid Jonah Thedorff Jenna Lee Caroline Torres Isiah Lerma Charlotte Tuxworth-Holden James Lewis Leah Tyus Tammy Lieu Anthony Vavra Legeng Liu Kristin Wilson Gabrielle Luu Alyssa White Noel Martinez Kristen Wilson Arami Matevosvan Diane Won Rosina Miranda Ashley Wong Eric Zhang Jenna Mohl

FOREWORD Dear Reader,

We are proud to present Issue 36 of the Berkeley Fiction Review, UC Berkeley’s oldest prose journal. Since 1981, we have strived to publish fresh voices, and now we are focused on presenting these voices to wider audiences. If you discovered us in a Bay Area bookstore, stumbled across our blog online, participated in one of our creative writing workshops, or are reading this on our new Digital Archive, then we have accomplished our goal. In this year’s journal, you will enter a Millennial’s head through her exhaustive search for identity in social media, and partake in a young woman’s struggle with her mixed heritage. You will find traditionally constructed narratives with poignant revelations, deconstructed forms with humorous twists, coming-of-age stories dripping with nostalgia, and coming-of-death stories exuding nihilism. There are tales in the magical realism genre, and those in the un-magical realism one — the dichotomies go on. We are also excited to introduce the first ever section of the journal dedicated to the work of the BFR staff. We are constantly amazed by the talent around us, from the authors and artists who create the journal’s content, to our hard-working editors, without whom the journal would not exist. We thank them all. Get reading. – Lauren Cooper Hannah Harrington Ben Rowen

CONTENTS FICTION Dismantling Modern Residential Architecture JONATHAN PLOMBON 11

The Adult Girl AILEEN O’DOWD 32 Sudden Fiction, First Place: 40 A Glass Half (Full) ATHENA SCOTT Now Starting Phase 4! ERIC SCOT TRYON 45 Carnival of Big Nights DENISE EMANUEL CLEMEN 65 Sudden Fiction, Second Place: 74 Green Onions S.C. LEWIS The Unborn Child MAKAMBO TSHIONYI 79 Something Like Glass KENNY KELLY 97 Sudden Fiction, Third Place: 117 DIY Novel JD MADER The Profile Pic of Dorian Gray THOMAS KEARNES 121 On Neural Pathways Less Traveled GRIFFIN MORI-TORNHEIM 132


Olly Gets Down to the Velvet Underground SEAN DENNISON 144 One Good Thing A.J. HOWELL 177 If You Really Wish to Know LEAH TYUS 207

CONTENTS ARTWORK Truck and Blue Sky BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO 10 The Birth of Sin (Blake) BREA WEINREB 31 Bread and Honey Series (No. 12) KARI SIMONSEN 39 Oh fair Nature. Where for art thou? ANDREW ABBOTT 44 Oh Henry II ELIZABETH ASHCROFT 64 L’Homme-Oiseau (El Makhfi) IVAN DE MONBRISON 73 Chazan LAUREN COOPER 78 In Venice ROGER LEEGE 96 The Fall FABIHA FAIROOZ 176 Bright Morning BRAD GOTTSCHALK 206

Notes on Contributors 224

Sudden Fiction Contest, Honorable Mention: Cherry DYLAN GALLAGHER Be sure to submit next year!

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Truck and Blue Sky


Brian Michael Barbeito


Dismantling Modern Residential Architecture Inside the Patriarchal Family Structure: A Proper, Expedited Disposal Technique of a Broken Home and Its Contents, for Fathers Who Have Somewhere Better to Be and Couldn’t Give a Damn, Anyway Jonathan Plombon

1. I Added the Unwelcomed Mat at No Extra Charge.


here once was a customer who commissioned a wall to be constructed entirely of closed doors. He wanted each door to attract an occasional visitor for him to ignore. “I’m tired of letting people in. I want to leave people out,” he told me. “The only thing I want left open are my ears, just so I can hear them knock. And I want to hear them knock just so it can prepare me for when I hear them walk away. And I want to hear them walk away just so I know that they know that I don’t care enough about them to answer.” He pulled out his wallet and counted the bills with his eyes, while he stalled momentarily in providing the background information

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needed for me to fulfill his desired purchase. Then he stopped, shook his head, took all the cash out, mumbled something about “not needing it now,” and continued his story. “I got married,” he said. “My wife left an impression on me. The delivery man left a bed. Then the delivery man took my wife. And my wife took my bed. Now all that’s left is the impression. A bad one at that. Of a happy man. One that I have to go on with every day.” His explanation seemed fine and certainly wasn’t anything to be concerned about. On account of which, I moved on to the psychological evaluation of the examination process.

“Would you like a glass of water?” I asked.

“Yes, please,” he answered.

“How’d you like it?”

“Half empty,” he said, hesitating briefly, “or completely empty, if you got it.”

He passed.

2. I Thought of Him as a Renaissance Man. My Mom Thought of Him as a Renaissance Pig. It was my father who first inspired me to get into the business of building walls. He was a demolitions expert. Those within the industry knew him as a specialist because he didn’t destroy just any type of building. He destroyed homes. And he didn’t specialize in just any type of home. He specialized in destroying our home.



My father achieved this by bringing in a series of experts, all of whom were female, to help oversee the demolition. They went by their professional title of “Home-wreckers,” although my father often referred to them as his “personal affairs.” My father, who was committed to his craft, didn’t just bring in one home-wrecker, but nine over a five-year time, to ensure that our home was thoroughly ruined. These women specialized in deteriorating trust, the adhesive that keeps a home, and its contents such as a family, together. Once the trust has been violated, as it had for us, cracks appear in both the foundations of homes and families. And once this occurred to my family, it created an opportunity for my father to utilize his skills from his other professions: architecture and construction. He didn’t plan on rebuilding the home, an intent he made clear when he said that he wished we would just “go away.” Although, it would have been impossible, anyhow, because there just wasn’t enough trust left in the home to do so.

He only wanted to build walls.

And the first wall he ever built was around my mother.

3. Something about Her Told Me, as Soon as I Saw Her, That I’d Have to Sweep Again. As I swept the floor, a woman walked into the store dragging a flower pot, topped with soil, on her left foot. She had the general makeup of a human being, such as the customary two hands and two legs (and a pot, of course), but she also carried with her other limbs, or rather tiny branches, that poked out of the patches on her flaking gray

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skin. To fit the overall look, petals and leaves hung loosely where her eyelids should have been, and they chipped off whenever she blinked. I thought I had seen her before. Like in a baby’s nursery or on the floor of a bar. “That must be difficult to sweep with only one arm,” she said, staring at my missing limb. “It’s even harder to swim, but I still manage to keep my head above water,” I said. “Watch your step around the rug. There’s glass on the floor.”

“I wouldn’t feel it anyway. I don’t feel much anymore.”

“Yes, but the glass will. It’s been stepped on enough.”

“I’ll do my best,” she said, ignoring my advice. “I’d like a wall. One that will make it impossible for anyone to get to me.”

“I assure you that all of our walls are impenetrable.”

“Not just from others trying to get in,” she said when a branch — one that had previously only stretched her skin — sliced through her shoulder. “I also want to be assured that I can never leave my wall.” She tilted her head down, watching as a leaf fell out of her hair, then began to cough.

“Would you like a glass of water?” I asked.

4. “Fences Might Not Make Good Neighbors, but Fences Make a Better Husband than the One I Got,” My Mother Would Say.



While my father built the initial wall around my mother, mainly so he didn’t, as he put it, “have to listen to her complaining all the damn time,” it was my mother who expanded the procedure into what it is today. First, a short explanation of the construction of a wall. It’s essentially a reverse home, where, unlike a home that is built on trust, a wall is made of distrust. Distrust continues to grow from a cracked foundation, or a “broken home,” well after it’s been destroyed. That distrust then gathers around a person until it grows into a wall. And that wall then cuts people off from other relationships and the outside world. Building walls is a relatively inexpensive process since people bring in their own distrust. I just mold it into a shape. I don’t even have to worry about the size, since distrust, my mother always taught, never stops growing.

Growing not only in terms of size, but on people as well.

5. Other Acceptable Answers to the Psychological Evaluation.

“What?” the plant woman asked.

“Would you like a glass of water?”

“Sure, but it might as well be empty,” she answered. “I just use

my tears to water me now. They never stop.”

She passed.

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6. The Leading Gift That Year for 12-Year-Olds Was a Game Boy.

My mother asked me what I wanted for my twelfth birthday.

“I want a wall, just like yours,” I said. “One so large and so thick that I can’t hear anything through it.” “What makes you think that I can’t hear through mine?” she asked.

“Because you never come when I’m calling for you.”

“It’s not that I can’t hear it,” she said. “It’s just that I don’t want to hear it.” At that age, noises were becoming an increasingly frustrating annoyance, since they diverted my attention away from my passion of building. I spent most of my days huddled in a corner, endlessly adding one block to another, finishing doll house after doll house, hoping that the next one would be a home. But I knew that none of them would be a home, because you couldn’t live in any of them.

“Just like our house,” my mother said, looking at one.

I didn’t want to just build houses. I wanted to build other forms of architecture. However, the usual commotion of everyday life, such as my father calling me a baby or saying that I’d never do anything as well as he does, was making it difficult to do. My father, demonstrating the versatility of his destructive expertise, revealed that he could not only destroy our home, but my confidence, as well.

His tools were his words. They could put cracks in anything.



7. My Father Could Have Been Santa Claus. I Didn’t Believe in Him, Either. I got my wall on my twelfth birthday. My mother told me that it was an easy gift to get because there was more than enough distrust in the house to make several walls. I thought it would block out the sounds such as screaming, dishes breaking, and my father telling someone over the phone how much he wished he could live with her instead of us. I thought it would, but it didn’t. Turns out that I could still hear it through the cracks in my confidence.

8. She Could Have Been an Apple, Too, but She Was Out of Season. I saw, in the pot on the plant woman’s foot, stems that had no flowers and no petals. They looked to have been clipped, or more accurately, picked.

“There doesn’t seem to be much growing on you,” I said.

“You noticed?” the plant woman asked.

I nodded.

“Nothing much grows on me anymore. I’m pretty tired of everything. I wasn’t always like this. I was a normal child. But I was picked a lot. I was picked to be my father’s favorite. I was picked to be the perfect girlfriend. I had no say in any of it. My life was predetermined. It’s like I had no control.” Her pot was rusted and cracked. However, the light from a hanging bulb would sometimes reflect against it, and the pot would

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shine as if it were the last drink in the house. “I danced around the thought of it. I got pretty good at it. I could have joined The New York City Ballet — had they wanted me. It worked out. Somewhat. I took a job that utilized these abilities: the abilities to be picked and to dance. I became a dancer, an exotic dancer. And when you’re a dancer, the customers have their pick. They can pick whomever they want. The owner said that he never saw anyone better suited to be picked than me.”

Tears, or perhaps just dew, dripped down her cheek.

“And they picked me. Like always. And when I didn’t like to think about it, I just danced around the thought of it — after I got done dancing for them.”

9. My Mother’s Second Choice Was a Game Boy. My mother would stare out of a window. During those times, she’d ramble about leaving her wall. “If there’s one thing that I wish I could get for my birthday, it’s Away,” my mom said. “Away is special, because once it’s yours, it’s yours for good. Do you know what’s even better than getting Away? Getting Far Away.” 10. Other Forms of the Evaluation Process as Practiced by Popular Cultures. “Life is just a presentation of qualifications,” the plant woman said. “It’s just been me trying to be good enough for someone else.



Everyone wants to know it all before they pick you. You don’t have to take off your clothes to expose yourself. My boyfriend wanted to know my first kiss. My father wanted to know the first boy I was with. Everyone evaluated me. They all picked me. They picked me until all I had left were stems.”

She laughed.

“I’m just a flower now. Something that could easily be picked,” she said. “Something that’s meant to be picked. I still have that dancer in me, but I’m much less agile than I used to be. I break more than I bend now.”

Her pot cracked again.

“See?” she said. “I don’t want to expose myself anymore. I don’t want to be picked. I want to save what’s left.”

I looked at her stems.

“But there’s nothing left on you that can be picked,” I said.

“I hide what little there is left of me.”


“I hide those in my public outbursts and the times when I cry about everything I’m going through,” she said. “Nobody wants to see that. They never look there.”

11. She Didn’t Even Have to Fill Out an Application. My mother got an at-home job. And even though I couldn’t tell what exactly it entailed, I could still hear her working away at it

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behind her wall, removed from my eyesight and pretty much everyone else’s. Although, the only other person who would have seen her was my father, and he never looked at her — nor even looked like he cared about her — to notice what she was doing, anyway. I made a list of things I hoped she would be working on. The list included:

1.) Her family.

2.) Her marriage.

3.) Her relationship with her son.

Mostly, though, I hoped she would be a mom, since she had all the qualifications of a mom and I could have used one around the house. With all the noise, though, I knew that she was making something, so I made another list, this time of things I hoped she was making:

1.) Herself a better person.

2.) Her feel better.

3.) Me feel better.

4.) A future for us.

My father included two of his own ideas:

5.) Herself useful.




By this time, my father had switched jobs from demolitions expert to part-time absentee parent so he was, to be expected, absent, and missed out on many things. Those included my First Communion, teaching me to ride a bike, and, as noted above, finishing his second idea. He was a natural at this job and received rave reviews from his personal affairs for his impeccable ability to not do anything of any importance in my life. After a few days, the noise died down, and I peered behind my mom’s wall to witness the unveiling of her job and the result of all her hard work. For the first time in many years, she had made something out of herself

Something important. Something she could be proud of.

She had made herself a drink.

And by that, I mean she turned herself into a glass of wine.

12. Negotiations. “Would you consider something else?” I asked the plant woman.

“Other than a wall?” she asked.


“Like what?”

“A bridge.”


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13. My Mother Sat Distantly Besides Me. At first, I didn’t know why my mom turned herself into a glass of wine. But when I looked closer at her, I noticed that she became a broken glass of wine. That’s when I realized why she became what she had become: because she had to turn into something that could crack. And also because my mom wanted to know that there would always be a drink in the house. That, though, was a problem since she also made herself into an empty glass of wine. My mother was a complex person. She would both hug and suffocate. She would both focus on and obsess over. She would both cook dinner and burn it until it was inedible. She was just that type of person. But she was another type of person.

A glass completely empty type of person.

“I’ve always felt empty,” she said. “It’s no surprise that I actually am now.”

14. Negotiations: Part 2.

“Why a bridge?” the plant woman asked.

“Bridges connect people,” I answered.

“Connect people to what?”

“Each other.”

“And why would you think that I would want to connect with anyone?”



15. My Immediate Response to the Negotiations. “It takes trust to make a bridge. And I think there’s enough trust between us to make one. I feel it,” I said. “There’s something here.”

“I just met you,” she said.

“I know, but I feel like I really want to protect you. Like I just feel a connection with you. You remind me of someone I used to know,” I said. “Trust me. A bridge will help you. Bridges connect people. They’ll help you connect where you weren’t able to before. Plus, I’ll throw in a bonus. Along with the bridge, I’ll get you something else. I’ll get you Away.”

16. Sometimes in Business, a Bait-and-Switch Is Not Only Morally Acceptable but the Only Morally Acceptable Option Available. My mother asked for a stronger wall, one that could keep my father’s words away, but I wanted to build for my mother not just something that would allow her to just keep his words at bay, but something that would permit her to rise above them, as well. A wall, I surmised, only gave her temporary security from attacks. A wall never gave her any place to go. It isolated her, held her captive. But, I thought, a ladder would lift her up, especially off the floor she often found herself on. She was just empty. You could see right through her. Yes, my mother cracked, and that crack only grew larger by the day, but when the sunlight flowed through a nearby window, flashing a ray through

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one of her wall’s holes, I could still see it hit my mother, and she would shine like she had years before.

17. Babies and Ladders Don’t Come with Instruction Manuals. In order to build a ladder, I decided that it would have to be composed of materials that would help in holding a person up. My mother often used a bar to hold herself up, as well as any nearby stools. Those became my first items. My third material turned out to be crutches, a pretty standard standing tool, and that led to my realization that crutches could be made of various other objects. My mother, for instance, often used men as a crutch, and because she often leaned on one, I applied a man’s shoulders to the ladder. I wanted my mom to use me as a crutch, as someone who would hold her up when she was let down. She never clung to my arm, but I detached mine anyway, tying it together with crutches, bars, stools, and a strange man’s shoulders. I wanted her to know she could depend on me whenever she felt like she was losing her balance and didn’t have control.

18. She Was Never That Sharp with My Father.

“Where’s your wall?” the plant woman asked.

“You’re standing in it. This store is my wall. I never leave.”

“You never leave?”

“I don’t do anything else,” I said. “I work here all day. I never leave. My life is my store. My life is my wall. This store is my wall.”




“You let people in all the time. Your wall doesn’t keep anyone

“No, but it keeps me in. I made it so I can’t leave.”

“Why do you want to stay in?”

“I don’t. I just can’t leave. I can’t leave my mother.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“Under the rug,” I said. “She’s the one I didn’t want you stepping on before.”

19. Neither of Us Ever Were. My father could make anything feel small when he talked down to it, so he spoke, at great length, to my mother’s ladder. And the words that couldn’t get to her before could now reach her easily. It didn’t help that a ladder requires a woman to stand on her own, which my mother had difficulty doing. She could, at best, slouch.

Which meant that his words didn’t have to travel far, anyway.

I blamed myself. My mother once told me something that I should have and could have used.

“You make it stronger,” she once said while fixing herself a

drink. “You just have to make it stronger.”

“How do you know it’s strong enough?” I asked.

“It’s never strong enough,” she said while pouring the rest of the bottle into the glass. “It’s just never strong enough.”


Berkeley Fiction Review

20. Like Mother, Like Son. While developing a blueprint for the bridge, a comment the plant woman made stuck with me. “The world has never been anything other than cold to me,” she said just before she passed out while looking outside a window. I needed a solid surface, one made out of a material so plentiful that it could cover enough ground for her to reach out to everyone and to touch anyone it came into contact with — something that she probably was never able to accomplish before. As the plant woman slept, I pulled her head out of the window, and as she cried, each tear crystallized in the air. As I had thought, the world was so cold to her that the tears immediately froze. From that, the bridge built itself, creating a clear, sparkling ivory road in the air that stretched out farther than I could see. I had all the material I could ever want. She never stopped crying. However, the bridge wasn’t complete. She needed something, or someone, to hold onto while walking across the bridge. I wanted her to hold on to me. I stepped on my one remaining arm and pulled my upper body up, ripping the limb from the socket, leaving it on the bridge. It became the banister.

She awoke hours later, blinking to adjust her eyesight while

pieces of her flaked to the floor, and then glared out of the window.

“How far does it go on for?” she asked.

“I don’t know. There’s only so much I can see,” I said, standing next to her.



“What can you see?” she asked.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to describe what I’ve never seen before.” “Well, maybe I should ask what I really want to know,” she said. “Out of everything you can see, can you see it getting better from here?” 21. When My Father Went Full-Time. My mom was shattered, all over the floor, when my father told her the news. After all the words that had eaten away at her, these were the ones that were strong enough to completely chew away at the ladder: “I’m leaving for good.”

“And I never can,” my mother replied.

My mom fell off the ladder. Although my father had talked down to it so much that it wasn’t a large fall, the ladder still let her down. All the way down to the floor.

She was in pieces.

“Well, I can’t just leave her there,” my father said. “I’ll sweep her under the rug before I leave.”

22. Interrogation.

“Well, what do you see?” the plant woman asked.

“A crack,” I answered.


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“A crack?”

“Yeah, a crack in the bridge,” I said. “I wouldn’t trust it.”

“I thought you said that you made it strong enough.”

“It’s never strong enough,” I said.

23. More Interrogation.

“Please tell me one thing,” the plant woman said.


“Why did you pick me for the bridge?”

“I once knew someone who was falling apart, like you. It hurts me. It cuts me up.”

“On the inside?”

“No,” I said. “Mostly on my feet.”

I raised my left leg, revealing the shards of glass poking out of the bottom of my foot.

24. End of Interrogation. “Now that I know why you picked me for the bridge, can I ask you another question?”


“Why’d you pick me? After everything I told you, why pick me at all?”



I heard the ice crack further. It sounded like a glass of wine breaking.

25. Just When I Thought You Couldn’t Fall Any Further, You Didn’t.

“Can you still build me a wall?” the plant woman asked.


“Why not?”

“I have no more arms.”

“And you don’t trust the bridge?”

“No. It’ll break.”

The ice cracked further, shaking the house and reverberating through her. It caused not only her leaves, but also her head, to shake back and forth in response to my last comment. She stood up as straight as she could, raised her drooping maple-nut eyes, and then dragged herself to the window and crawled outside. I ran to her, watching as she limped down the tear bridge until she reached the crack, never once reaching for my arm besides her. At that moment, like she had done countless time before, she danced, with her branches swaying in the air as if they were hands waving goodbye. She danced around and around until she danced not only completely around the crack but around the thought of it too, and the thought of the thought that she would fall through it. And by the time she stopped dancing, and thought about it, she had passed it, and me, by.

“Goodbye, Mom,” I said.

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As she disintegrated from my vision, the sun flashed on her and she shined brightly in the reflection of her own solid-silver tears. She shined. Not like before. Not like a glass. Not like anything I ever saw.

She just shined.

26. The Service Here Is Great. They Really Make You Feel like You’re Part of a Family. There once was a man who commissioned himself to make a wall with an unlocked door that he could never open because he had no hands to turn the knob. He’d often ask himself if he wanted a glass of water. And he’d respond that he’d rather have a glass of wine. He wouldn’t mind if it was empty or not. He’d just want to hold it one last time. “It might take a little while,” he’d respond. “After all, you have no hands to get the drink.” “That’s fine. I have no hands to hold it, either” he’d say. “I’ll just wait forever.”

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