*record scratch*

It is the threat of miscarriage that brought me up short here but the line that preceded it, echoing most of what I studied happily and all of what I loved most in books: Wild, Malafrena, Tigana, All the Light We Cannot See.

This, though, was maybe the greatest and heaviest gift of adulthood, that I recognize here too: that having been surrounded by, having read so much and I guess written a fair amount about people who could unanchor, for whom boundaries would in fact dissolve in the most trying of circumstances, to find that I wasn’t one of them, for good or ill: that my feet would remain on the earth and if the torrent of my sorrow or fury tugged someone else along with it, it would eventually be me standing grimly in the rapids, against the current, waiting to catch them and drag them back to shore. How many moments of my despair turn into me then having to become practical, to remind whoever is there agreeing that actually, no, it isn’t the end of the fucking world, drink some water and sleep and it will be better?

It’s fantastically selfish to even for a moment lament that solidity, I know, and I’m not trying to do that here. But this is the last book in the series and my resentment of Lenu’s writerly narcissism has waxed and waned and waxed again, and right after this passage it spiked because she, too, congratulates herself on remaining stable, anchored, when the “friend” she had foolishly competed with her whole damn life turns out to be clinging to her like flotsam in a flood. It’s shitty.

But it’s also what I saw in my mother, when her friends washed up against her, adrift in their own lives, and it’s a gift to be that person for a little while. Even if it’s a gift that I know will be taken away, as hers was.


summerset : what you can and cannot say


The latest expansion to the Elder Scrolls Online is out: Summerset. It takes you to the formerly forbidden land of the High Elves — who, as their name implies, have sticks inserted a great distance up their asses vis-a-vis their own significance in the world. The font of all culture, the height of all elegance, the shimmering paragons of refinement, etc. etc. The kind of tropes you expect from High Elves in any story anywhere.


This expansion plunges us far deeper into the immigration issues sowed by Queen Ayrenn’s edict demanding the high elves open up their vaunted isle to all races — an act which, encountered during the plot for the vanilla game, came all too swiftly and with too little questioning to carry much weight. “Only in a fantasy world,”  you think, in vanilla ESO, “does this happen with only a few racist malcontents that the player themselves gets to destroy and thus pave the way for peace, prosperity, and good will toward men, mer, khajit, argonians, etc.”


Summerset is blowing me away by the amount they’re willing to look at this. I know, I know, as everyone from David Gaider to Evan Narcisse has said, it’s not the job of any fictional medium to endlessly re-hash real-world issues, to reproduce the same cultural failures that exist in our world. That to make the effort can disenfranchise players in multiple ways — from simply failing to provide an enjoyable alternative world (“Do same-sex relationships have to be frowned on in every fantasy world?”), to using injustice as some kind of petty gold star for realism. So I know that the very idea of Summerset dealing with racial and particularly immigration tensions is not going to sit well with everyone.

But at least they’re opening up their damn mouths about it.

Instead of wringing their corporate hands about internet libertarian (see: fuck that they’re goddamn racists) lynch mobs, they’re actually portraying stories beyond the tired old twin “up from his bootstraps in this land of plenty” or “this evil foreigner is an evil evil terrorist” tales. In addition to actual quest lines that pursue these themes, Summerset introduces randomly-spawned NPC encounters, some of which can be interacted with and some of which are simply for observing. In one, a high elf official is fining an Argonian for simply standing there. She protests, saying she just got off the boat and has no local coinage with which to pay, and the guard insists that she pay up the fine for loitering (which you as the player can offer to pay for her). In another, a guard demands a khajit merchant pay a fine for unloading his boxes. The guard insists that foreign cargo intended for commercial use must be taxed. “I don’t see any high elf merchants here paying you,” the khajit points out. The scene ends.

In a quest line involving favors upon favors upon favors to grease the wheels of bureacracy, a high elf magistrate wants to collect “cultural souvenirs” from various newcomers (the term the game dispenses at will to describe all the non-elves in Summerset; I’d be curious to know if they toyed with the idea of developing a specific elven term, like gaijin, and then dispensed with it for simplicity’s sake or for fear of some moron like me overanalyzing its use) and the player can choose to engage each person about the desired item…or to steal them:


The collection of these items for this odious high elf is weird in and of itself, but the choice to steal them or not does force the player to pick a side of sorts in the immigration conflict. The non-stealing interactions for each of the three items each harness an interaction: either the chance to pay one’s way into possession of the item, persuade the holder to part with it, or…to intimidate them into giving it up:


This does not feel great. It is not intended to feel great. It makes me wonder if these branches were put here in order to continue to utilize the intimidation and persuasion perks available as part of the Fighter’s Guild and Mage’s Guild skill trees, respectively (I assume, to keep the skills relevant, there is pressure to make sure there are x amount of quests that use those skills, in every update or expansion), or if the intent was to make you consider how being forced to be an asshole to immigrants who did nothing wrong makes you feel. Stealing the items, while morally problematic, never forces you to confront them head-on. This does. It’s not giving you a high road option; it’s forcing you to do something bad and feel the consequences of your actions through conversation with your victim.

Of course, Summerset isn’t all about heady, all-too-relevant immigration topics. There is plenty of lighthearted stuff:


They managed, too, to touch on trans people for as far as I can recall is their first time:


I’m not going to spoil that particular quest, but suffice it to say that in a game where same-sex relationships among NPCs is very commonly displayed, discussed, and written into quests, it’s nice to see them finally include trans people in a more nuanced way than the “Why’d you come to space? / BECAUSE I’M TRANS HI” way of Andromeda.*

The overall tone of the quests and the interactions, though, tends toward one of struggling with racial tensions, and that, in today’s balls-less climate of video games developers too concerned about money to risk offending bigots, seems worthy. Of the series, and of players. Because more can be asked of us.

And should be.


*I’m sorry; I’m not on the Andromeda hate bandwagon and never was, but that was an awfully-fumbled attempt at appearing inclusive.

anxieties of the underslept

1.) my dnd group hates me

2.) my plants are dying? if not yet then soon

3.) I was supposed to do something I forgot to write down and now I’m too tired to remember it

4.) when I was honestly and outwardly shocked that the group didn’t know a thing they were all fine saying was really racist and fucked up, I used academic language to correct them and I think it made them listen less and not care as a result

5.) am I an over-educated boorish type?

6.) who gives a fuck they were racist and they think calling stuff out as racist is a joke so I tried to explain it

7.) I am bad at explaining things in a way that people will be willing to absorb

8.) my shit’s lost in the mail

9.) no seriously they joked about dragging in the only black person on our floor to ask her what she thought and it’s not her job to serve as some kind of fucked up racism pH test; she’s just trying to live her life

10.) the plants again

11.) this isn’t over-educated it’s common decency for godsake

12.) am I over-emphasizing my fury at this though to cover for the fact that I’m not a good player, which doesn’t bother me much but which I guess bothers them a lot?

13.) the post office didn’t even respond

14.) is someone going to tell me to stick to games that do the calculations for you like that photography prof told me to stick to phone photography, because they’re just that tired of prodding me to do things?

15.) but I don’t even want to play my character the way they want me to

16.) am I really losing sleep over frustrating a couple of casual racists

17.) they’re my only friends here

18.) my plaaaaaaants

19.) I don’t know if the guy who shrouds himself in increasingly niche pop cultural references and outrages therein is doing it to hide a resurgent depression or because he really is pulling on the blinders, and we’re not good enough friends anymore for me to find out

20.) he probably has closer friends to take care of him anyway

21.) but what if he doesn’t

22.) I should be sleeping

23.) I probably would be if I had gotten to work out but I had to skip it to finish an article

24.) that’s a dumb excuse; I should have found time elsewhere

25.) the dog sounds like she has apnea

26.) can dogs get apnea?

27.) I don’t give a damn about the mechanics and never have; I’m here for the story and I think I’m the only one

28.) who cares they’re casual racists

29.) should I really even note “casual,” is that supposed to make it better somehow

30.) I TRIED to explain it to them

31.) I failed

an acceptable distance

It me.

Traditionally, I have little love for isometric roleplaying games. I liked them well enough in the 90s, sure, because that was the best angle we could get. I certainly preferred them to side-scrollers, with their claustrophobically limiting 2D prisons. When I started playing video games, the isometric perch, at a 45 degree angle in the air over the character, was a few years yet from evolving into a standard, but you could see it coming. A child, I called them “see yourself games.” As opposed to those where you could not. I preferred them.

But over time, what I wanted from games changed, and so did the distance I desired to have from them. I grew to hate the isometric perch, floating so far away from details I wanted to see: the graffiti scrawled on mages’ desks; the contents of various bowls in a kitchen. From the isometric distance, everything was limited to a blur of pixels, and detail depended upon someone having bothered to code in a description triggered by your click. Perhaps, coddled first by text adventure games and then by MUDs — where such details would most definitely have been added — I was spoiled.

There is too, though, the fact that I’m less desirous of seeing myself in games now, in third person. I’m less interested in having to see the necessary disconnect between the character and myself, maybe: whereas before, I delighted in the appearance of a new cloak or sword on my character in accordance with my having added it to my inventory, now all I wanted to do was meld into the game, without the prop of the character between me and the environment. When people gather to discuss this or that game and the talk turns to mechanics I want to dig a hole in the ground. I don’t care about mechanics, I want to snap. Just give me a world I can vanish into, and don’t bother me there. I’ll jump through whatever hoops you want me to vis-a-vis how the character or combat is controlled. I don’t care. Just let me in, and let me shut the door behind me.

I had little interest, then, in Pillars of Eternity, when it came out in 2015. People tried to get me hyped; I took one look at the isometric angle and said no. Not gonna happen. Not when I can fade into Skyrim, or at least drag the camera down over my character’s shoulder in Dragon Age or, you know, most other modern games. Games that wouldn’t force you to keep that damning distance between you and the action. Diablo, Darkstone, even remasters of old point-and-click adventures: I had tried them already, and found them lacking.

But I bothered to pick up the first Pillars last week because its sequel just came out. And the sequel boasts free DLC that places the members of Vox Machina, whose Critical Role voice actors already voice tons of characters in both Pillars games, in as recruitable characters for your party. And I mean. I’m not made of stone.

And it turns out I love this game.

I love the immense amount of writing that sits within it, waiting to be discovered — or not. As with the Elder Scrolls games, you can read all the in-game books — or you can not. (I always do.) As with the early Sims games, you can read the lengthy, often tongue-in-cheek stories behind every item’s description — or you can not. (I always did.) The very fact that reading all that text was optional makes it more valuable to me — maybe how books I chose to read automatically had more value to me than those I was forced to read. It’s juvenile, I know. It’s artificially limiting. But I hate being led by a flagrantly obvious carrot on a flagrantly obvious stick. Unless we are talking romanceable NPCs, which is another question entirely. Having the choice to do all this reading of details, of stories-within-stories, will always invite me to read them. Forcing it all to be read as part of some ham-handed fact-finding mission will curdle my tongue. I have never liked mystery novels or hidden object games, and don’t like have to engage with a warped version of either.

In Pillars, though, I do care about the written details behind these characters. Yes, these characters I can barely see — and I have no doubt that the portraits (themselves visual callbacks to older games, older ways of looking for identity in a sea of pixels) of major characters that appear next to their text when they speak go a long way toward warming me to them. Even frozen into stillness, they still give you more of the character than the sprite. (This is probably a deficiency in me, peculiar to the specific time I came into games, and the nature of the games I played first, but there it is.)

Yes, McCree. Yes indeed.

There’s the plot, too — which, like the characters, is not crap. “This must be upsetting for a lot of people,” I murmured to my husband, who played a little of the game when it came out, but not much.

“How so?”

“Well, anyone who’s lost a baby, or had it dragged lifeless out of them, or had it show up breathing but a vegetable. It kind of touches on all of that with zero subtlety. Look.”


I know people to whom all of these situations apply, and when this is the backdrop to your story, it demands attention:

Holy shit.*

I get that it’s dark, but…I appreciate this particular darkness. Like how I appreciate an adult losing their shit over their lost mother, as appeared to happen during Critical Role two weeks ago (however briefly). It’s…affirming, surrounded by those who have either not experienced hardship or who who have dealt with it but seem unphased by it (the curious emotional immaturity of the vast majority of Californians I’ve met here has at its root, I assume, as least as much wealth and luck as it does climactic or societal ease)…affirming that in this soft, beautiful land of soft, beautiful people, who seem unable to be stirred to extremes of anything, to see someone break down is just a relief. Ah yes, the thought is. So you still believe in some kinds of precipitation out here.

This sounds irrelevant to Pillars of Eternity, but it’s not. All day I listen to people talk about games, but about the parts of games that are entirely interchangeable for me. Economies of this or that, balance, meta, I don’t care about any of it. I never have; if I have appeared to it’s only to look polite. And it’s frustrating, to be neck-deep in something you should love, only to find everyone most caught up in the minutiae that does not move you. Or for them to be so, so close to doing something meaningful, only to veer sideways into frippery or a cheesy joke instead. Oh just have the balls to be earnestly dark, I want to tell them. Just bring people to their knees and don’t apologize for it.

This is so not the time and place, but this dovetails so well into my loathing of labels…

Pillars does that. The character of the Grieving Mother, for example. At first I glowered, thinking how debilitatingly shallow of them, to define a woman and sure, a mother, by what she lost. The losses she continues to feel, magnified throughout compounded losses of those who follow in her wake. But then it became clear that even proffered with other names, other options if she could not remember hers (and she can’t), this is the name she chooses to go by. She claims it. And probably that is more helpful, and empowering in a way, than if her sorrow were swept under the rug after one or two paragraphs. “Sorry for your loss lady, now let’s call you Pam, shall we? Because The Grieving Mother is just such a downer, amirite?”

Well, yes, she is. (Speculative spoilers: she’s probably also some sort of amnesiac maternal goddess, temporarily dissociated from powers and her identity as a result of The Legacy, and my hope is that like Meridia in ESO she’ll burst out of her sad shell in a blaze of blinding light and roast everyone who caused harm, before the end. But that’s just hope and speculation; I haven’t finished the game.) But that’s the point. There are plenty of rogues with hearts of gold out there — every story ever has its obnoxiously charming rascal. I’m looking at you, Mat Cauthon. But rarer are the stories to show women wracked with grief — and not as flavorful background noise (think banshees) but as actual party members, who sometimes speak past or around their grief with insight or shrewdness, without having to erase the sorrow that shapes them. Or having it vanish after a single sidequest and a couple lines of follow-up conversation. The Grieving Mother is barely even seen by other characters. Her sadness makes her invisible to them. She doesn’t know why you see her, and you don’t, either. But you — I — want to. I want to know what makes a sad woman worth seeing. What they’re saying it is burning in there, waiting to burst forth and blind everyone.

With characters like this, both heavily written and yes, heavily voiced (having grown so coddled by the gift that is modern voice acting in games — even going back as far as Inherit the Earth, whose then-rare voices entranced me as a kid — returning to older or cheaper games that lack it is disappointing), I can stomach the isometric distance. I still have no desire to float up there at 45 degrees, so damned distant from everything and everyone…but with so much accessible to me through words, it’s an acceptable distance. One I am willing to put up with, even if I can’t disappear into it.

And if you haven’t had your fill of feelings, there are always the in-game memorials to people real and fictional, granted to Kickstarter backers of the first game. While many are silly, trite, or make no sense, every tablet has at least one line that will kick you in the guts.

*Also, holy shit that puberty is the dealbreaker for animal souls shoved into human bodies (?!), but…that’s a whole post in itself.

“striking lavender orbs”

Okay, hold up.

My DnD group encouraged me to familiarize myself with the lore of the Forgotten Realms, since we’re running our campaign in Faerun. I always saw the books on the shelves, growing up, but I confess I’d only read one of them — Dragons of Autumn Twilight — and that only as part of a calculated wooing initiative. But my character, as a multiclassing bard, ought to know, I was told, something about Drizzt Do’Urden. So I picked up the first of his backstory trilogy.

Only to encounter, from the self-proclaimed god of DnD lore, no less, terrible writing, laughably sexist fantasy norms, and this in a world where women who write consistently better fiction are derided as sex-crazed whore posting lewd fanfic on the internet, whereas auteurs like R.A. Salvatore get to pen gems like this:


Let’s review:

1.) “striking lavender orbs”

2.) Drow are evil because they’re dark (…) but also, hurr hurr, because their society is matriarchal and women who don’t like men or who fuck who they want are evil, duh. But of course they have to assert their matriarchal power with whips that end in snake heads because Penises Ueber Alles amiright?

3.) “striking lavender orbs”

4.) Obviously sexually free women are estrogen-crazed harlots capable of finding infants attractive (?!?!?!?!) or of forecasting the development of said attraction in the future. Because you know. Harlots.

5.) Striking. Lavender. Orbs.

There is a certain amount of sexism in my DnD group anyway, I know. Half of them are ex-military. I expect that from them, even if I’m disappointed by it. I pick my battles. And it’s true that my own childhood favorites wouldn’t hold up too well under a modern gaze, either — I’m looking at you, Wheel of Time, which I end up miserably defending more often than I like to note. But still.

Striking lavender orbs?!

 I care little for the desultory dismissal by most of the internet of women who are out there writing well. I know how most of the internet works. But it’s the desultory dismissal by men I know, supposedly progressive, who have daughters, who act like they are somehow paving the way, with their own behavior, to make the world a better place for said daughters when they come of age into it, that bug me. These same people hold male writers like this up as shimmering beacons of fantasy writing achievement, while simultaneously shitting on women writing more and better, for free.

That nettles me to no end.

You want to be some judgey douchebag on the internet, fine. Join the club. But don’t strut around pretending you care about women, about your precious daughters, when you promote dross like this as the best fantasy has to offer, and dismiss “those internet sexpots” as just that.

Because I mean. We are completely capable of smashing your orbs until they are well and truly lavender, my dudes. And most of you wouldn’t particularly enjoy the experience.

a dented bowl


So I went on and got the next Neapolitan novel even though I complained loudly through the first one. Not because of any real deficiency in it, but more because of the way people talk about these books. As though the kind of relationship they portray is, through its realness, somehow something to be celebrated.

It ain’t.

And I kept wondering why it nettled me so; to hear people I respected sing the praises, not just of the books, but specifically of the relationship central to the story. That is what makes a growl rise in the back of my throat. On the one hand, I suppose, hooray: people are finally celebrating and recognizing prose that treats the female childhood experience in the the way the male childhood experience has been eulogized for as long as there have been novels.

On the other hand: that’s a pretty fucking low bar.

And again, this friendship isn’t healthy. Even if it is real. Even if it is relatable. It’s not anything anyone should gravitate toward and say “ah HA! me too!” You don’t want to be a me too on this one folks. This is like the relationship between the narrator and Phineas in A Separate Peace. That constant, anxiety-ridden comparison. It’s awful. It may be relatable but it’s awful. Consider this passage (spoilers for book one):

“For her whole life she would sacrifice to him every quality of her own, and he wouldn’t even be aware of the sacrifice, he would be surrounded by the wealth of feeling, intelligence, imagination that were hers, without knowing what to do with them, he would ruin them. I, I thought, am not capable of loving anyone like that, not even Nino, all I know is how to get along with books. And for a fraction of a second I saw myself identical to a dented bowl in which my sister Elisa used to feed a stray cat, until he disappeared, and the bowl stood empty, gathering dust on the landing. At that point, with a sharp sense of anguish, I felt sure that I had ventured too far. I must go back, I said to myself, I should be like Carmela, Ada, Gigliola, Lila herself. Accept the neighborhood, expel pride, punish presumption, stop humiliating the people who love me. ”

As I said, this is relatable, without a doubt. Everyone whose friend was the pretty one, the complimented one, the one who started fucking first — you know how this feels. But…that grim familiarity doesn’t make it a thing worth celebrating.

For a long time, the full length of the first book, I worried that what I was balking at here was the ugly mirror the text presented me with. But that would be terribly, laughably simple, and anyway it’s not as though I go around pretending to be a saint, or to have been one, ever. I freely dispense the anecdote about how my best friend’s boyfriend suggested his dog fuck me, since no one else would. I dispense that anecdote so people understand how hideous some kinds of female friendship can be, and how desperate we are to hang onto it, still, when that’s all we have.

But I have the self-respect now to realize what a total waste of time preserving that friendship was, and I look at Lenu’s obsession with Lina and want to scream at her. Move on, cut her off, let her fuck up her life on her own terms and stop competing with her for godsake. Do what I couldn’t, for crying out loud. Live your life somewhere else and don’t let it get bogged down by this constant, unnecessary comparison. This competition.

There is also some frustration with the datedness of the sexual repression: the pre-marital bathing scene, for example. In 2018 you can just admit to yourself that you’re attracted to her, okay? Just do it and let it go. You don’t need to label it; you don’t need to wave a flag, or have a crisis; just out and out admit to yourself that hey, it’s not just her acumen and wit that demands your attention; her body demands it too. And poof, there goes the need for all these circuitous explanations, to yourself and to us. It is so much easier, in prose and in life, to just own up to your attraction to someone, rather than to wax poetic on all the reasons it’s just their mind/writing/joie de vivre whatever that moves you, rather than the whole, ah, package. It’s just so much easier to be honest with yourself.

But I get it, this was 1950s Italy. Fine. Writing about 1950s Italy in the 2000s though…just let it go. Especially having begun as, and striven to continue as, Anonymous. Just let it go. As a teenager I used to return again and again to a line of Alice Munro in The Beggar Maid, speaking of a girl’s fixation on her female teacher: “sexual attraction that had no idea what to do with itself.” Aha, I thought, foolishly. This is what I feel, this is who I am! When in fact, all that is is an elaborate falsehood designed to make oneself compatible with what one feels is expected of one. A terrible waste of time. Even if you never look at another woman like that again; even if no one else moves you like that; even if you have no interest in joining any movement, ever: it is so much more beneficial to you, the observer, to acknowledge that you are moved by all of a person, rather than having to twist your way through these elaborate hoops to explain yourself, to yourself. You’ve got better shit to do. See what you are and carry on, girl. Stumbling around with your hands over your eyes, you’re going to get hurt.

Anyway, I’m continuing on in this series, despite annoyance with the women who sing praises of the friendship depicted therein (this is not what healthy friendship looks like, hello!) and outright disgust for the men who do the same. (“Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are” is quite possibly the most inaccurate and inane pull-quote on any book cover I own, John Freeman, you patronizing prick.) I hate to think that I’m continuing in the vain hope that Lenu moves beyond her obsessive competition and comes to find value in her awkward, bookish self, beyond that which Lina ascribes to her — but I suppose that’s a possibility. There’s still that marked difference between us, though: every girl I realized I hung my heart on like that, who exhibited an obsessive and desperate need to be deemed better than, I broke from, resolutely. This despite the disparaging observations of those close to me who find themselves unable to tear themselves away from any relationship, damaging or otherwise. You cannot spend your life like this:

“I liked to discover connections like that, especially if they concerned Lila. I traced lines between moments and events distant from one another, I established convergences and divergences. In that period it became a daily exercise: the better off I had been in Ischia, the worst off Lila had been in the desolation of the neighborhood; the more I had suffered upon leaving the island, the happier she had become. It was as if, because of an evil spell, the joy or sorrow of one required the sorrow or joy of the other; even our physical aspect, it seemed to me, shared in that swing.”

No. No no no no no. You have got to do better for yourself. If you find this depiction of a friendship relatable, fine, own that — but then, don’t go on and on about how great it was. If you can relate to it then you know it sucks. So hard. For everyone. And what bothers me about what people say about this series is that they skip over that. “Yay truth!” they proclaim, without acknowledging that the truths they resonate with are hideous and awful and indicative of a gross and violent need for change. It can’t be nostalgia — I refuse to believe that of anyone whom I’ve yet seen or read praising these books. It can’t. You can’t think so little of yourself that constantly being the lower tier of a competing pair of adolescents holds any kind of attraction for you. You can’t think that kind of daily competition feels good, surely. You can’t think so little of yourself, now.

I hope, for everyone’s sake, that these books whose friendship they keep praising reach a point, in the characters’ thirties or forties maybe, where they realize they’ve been digging their own graves with this pointless rivalry. Where they set about burying said rivalry. But given the opening to the first book, this may never happen. That lurking comparison may persist throughout their lives — and that is such a sorrow, to me. Both of them have so much more worth doing, and being, than each other’s rivals. This isn’t friendship. Not as it ought to feel. If someone drains you so much, avoid them. If you have to lie to yourself to explain away your obsession with someone, stop lying. You’ve only got so much time to go around. Why waste it on constantly measuring yourself against someone who is supposed to be your companion, your confidante, your sister in arms? (And if you realize you want her to be more than your sister in arms…go find someone who is willing to be more. Do it.)

If there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women; if we all cultivate friendships like this…then we’re all doomed. Because we’ve all been there, and we ought to grow enough to realize that it’s not a place we should ever long for again.