It's every day, this kind of work, and even if most people would consider it easy, it's not, it really isn't. You take the reels, you splice them together, and the countdown starts. He never even has time to cut out all the bullshit. It just - goes .
He was the love of my life, another woman says, but she's going in reverse, he thinks. She's more of a girl now than she ever was when she was breathing. Another one gets away. Sometimes he wishes he had time to edit the footage a little more carefully, figure out how to frame things in just the right way and then -
The woman is crying. He sighs, pulls out the tissue box, and the wheel continues to crank on its own, inertia taking on a life of its own. The laws of physics, those change here, too.
I'm sure this happens all the time, the girl says. She can't be a day over twenty at the moment, and she's only getting younger. I'm sorry.
He suppresses a shudder, takes back the tissue box. He wasn't the love of your life. You have nothing to regret.
(He lost track of it a long time ago. Of whether or not he's lying.)
His own death had been simple enough: a gas station, a car, and a cigarette dropped to the ground. He sees a lot of people now, all of them with their own stories. Just the other day, the man who came in had been murdered by his daughter, even if on earth they've just arrested his wife for it.
He had a name once, probably. Now he's just this: the editor. He collects the footage, cuts it together as best he can, and plays the reel for body after body.
Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they sit there, expressionless, unmoving, and after it's over they say that's it? Like they were expecting something more, something better.
It's your life, he says.
I just strung it together.
Here's something that should be obvious: a life lived cannot be undone. It can't be changed. No amount of filter shifts and dramatic light cues will alter it.
We shouldn't have broken up, someone says to him. In the grand scheme of things, did it really even matter?
It did. It does. It always will.
No, he replies.
(Here, now: he knows he's lying. The thought is nearly comforting.)
He loved someone once. She didn't know his name, and she couldn't remember her own. He was The Editor by then, and she was just another girl on the casting couch. The Girl. She couldn't have been a day over twenty when she died, and she was only getting younger.
You're dead, he wanted to say. I'm dead, too. We are as nameless as this place we inhabit. We are the same. Come to me and press your mouth against me and make sure I can feel the pressure.
Do you want to watch it again, he said.
I love you, he did not say.
A room, the fold-out chair, the unwashed floors and the paint peeling. He has lived in this room for too long. The Editor, the stream of bodies and bodies and bodies, the unbearable projector, the white wall, the planets, the stars.
I'm sorry, he told someone once. You deserved better than me.
Why did we break up? she said to him, and he didn't have an answer.
This room could be any number of things. A memorial, a museum, a sinking ship. Heaven, hell, purgatory. He doesn't know the answer, darling. You should be asking someone else.
Why are you asking me?
He just cuts the footage together.
You're dead, he wants to say. You and I are dead and we should kiss until our lips are numb.
Hold me until I can feel it again.
He plays the reel a second time.