Our universe was very small and that’s the way we liked it. You could walk around the whole thing in a day even while stopping at the Café de Nuit for an espresso and a brief chat about the meaning of life with René, the coffee czar. One couldn’t stay too long because the tables by the window were always full of shepherds who were taking a break from herding sheep into the void. They never showered and stunk up the place as they got happily drunk on pastis. Next door was Luigi’s Pizza Parlour, but you could rarely find him there because he had to do his own deliveries. He left a pepperoni and mushroom pizza on the counter and if you wanted a slice you could put a couple of dollars in the jar. It was the best pizza around.
René also ran the bakery, so most days you could see people riding their bicycles up and down our tiny street with a baguette in their baskets. Sundays everyone would sit out on their front stoops, almost elbow to elbow because our houses were so close together, and René would pass a fresh pot of his best Guatemalan coffee up and down the street. No one could say we weren’t social. We didn’t need telephones because everyone was within shouting distance.
It was hard to get any exercise because our street was so small; some walked around and around the universe until they got dizzy, others chose not to and sat around and got fat.
At night it was quiet. No dogs barked and none of us ventured far because no moon ever rose and the stars still had not turned on. The sun hadn’t formed yet either, so it was dark all the time. We struck matches to find our way about.
Now and then we’d catch messengers of light that brought news from other universes: a star that blew itself up and left its planets behind, wandering in the dark; laws of physics that could never be broken; dark energy that stretched the fabric of space-time to its limits.
Once at the Café de Nuit, René said that he’d heard that on some distant planet, for the first time, a rainbow had been seen. It sounded pretty and I wished for a sun and rain so that I could see one too. Around the espresso bar, everyone marvelled at the news, though things like that made us feel a little poorer, knowing that our universe was so small. But it was our universe and we loved it anyway.
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