Orlando wakes from a dead sleep at three in the morning, yanked into consciousness by the sudden vivid memory of the time they reached across the table to pour a glass of wine for the Comte de Saint Germain and farted so loudly that the entire dinner party fell silent for a second. They can hardly breathe for the mortification; it has been three and a half lifetimes since the incident, and two centuries since the last time anyone mentioned it, but the feeling is as fresh as ever it was.
It’s a long dark night until morning.
They take their coffee black and their eggs runny and try to shake off the mood, but each memory is replaced with another, equally discomfiting. An unwelcome declaration of love during the French revolution, too-loud laughter in the Berlin opera house during the mass protests of the 1840s, holding McKinley’s hand just a little too tightly and a little too long in that last reception line. None of it matters anymore, but all the old wounds have reopened, like a bout of emotional scurvy.
They live too quietly these days.
It’s always hard, in that uncomfortable period when they’re too young to live their old life, and too old to reemerge as their own child. Their last spouse—a wife, this time—is five years dead and gone, and their friends have nothing to talk about except their own aging, the senescing of body and mind uncompelling to someone untouched by the passage of time. Orlando is firm, fit, and supple, an eternal 32, with only multiple lifetimes of embarassments and inelegancies for company.