N O W H E R E
Written on June 12, 2020 (♌)
It did not much bother Rad at all that he was expected to share a bed with Ramza. The pay from the Zaland job hadn't been collected yet, the pay from the Goug job was apparently not forthcoming, and Gaff's bird had managed to eat into their emergency fund as she ate into everything else—although he felt bad for the poor girl that she should get the mites. Between the chemist's bill, drinks, basic supplies, a hot dinner, more drinks, and the consulting fees for their latest informant, Rad felt it a great privilege that any of them had beds at all.
Besides that, Ramza seemed a pleasant enough bedfellow. He was affable; he didn't snore; he was almost as thin as Rad himself. One bed was more than enough for both of them really, although he would never confess that point aloud lest Gaffgarion cut their rations further in the interests of economy.
The only problem there was—as far as Rad could reckon—was that Ramza was prone to being conversational, and while Rad didn't fault Ramza for it, it was hard to avoid a conversation if you were under covers and less than a hands-breadth away from a man. He feared he might be called to answer questions about his person or about their circumstances or about the world at large, and he didn't much relish the prospect. Being a man of few words was one of Rad's professional strengths, and he always felt it unfair should he be asked to break with the silences he cultivated.
In the moment though, he had nothing to fret him. He was full enough with ale and bread. The late summer was just beginning to cool, and the midland swallows had begun to leave for Warjilis; business would pick up once the days grew less lazy and people more disposed to killing one another. As he looked to Ramza, he thought—on the whole—these were very pleasant days to suffer a bit of want.
"I haven't seen much of Gallione before," Ramza said suddenly, his gaze fixed on the cracked plaster ceiling above them. "You don't think we'll keep heading east, do you?"
So it began.
Ramza turned to him in anticipation of a response, and Rad was lucky enough that all he had to do was shake his head. He wasn't certain as to the whys and wherefores of it all, but he knew that once Ramza had joined up, they had rather conspicuously stopped riding out as far as Igros. The question was easily answered.
"Have you ever seen much of Gallione?"
Rad paused, uncertain what qualified as "much of Gallione." He shook his head again, deciding it was better to err on the side of a negative. He never saw much of anywhere they went, and though he'd been in the region before, it was mostly to wait in halls and taprooms. Ramza frowned a little.
"Say, Rad," he said, "where is it you're from anyway?"
There it was. Rad tried to deflect.
"Can you give me a duchy, though? Are you from Lesalia?"
He shook his head.
Rad shook his head again. Emphatically.
Rad shook his head yet again.
"You can't come from nowhere, Rad."
Rad sat up a little and turned to Ramza rather sharply. He felt hot—a bit shaky too, as though he'd been made to stand suddenly after a glass or two and couldn't quite catch his balance.
"If I don't remember, that's as good as nowhere, right?" he said with an uncharacteristic firmness.
There was a pause. Rad continued.
"Well, I don't remember."
Ramza seemed surprised at his tone, as though he hadn’t quite thought through the potentialities of having him speak. He seemed a bit nervous as he too sat up, his straw colored hair close enough to tickle the skin of Rad's face.
"I'm sorry," he said softly.
Rad, feeling suddenly very self-conscious as to the difference in sensibilities between people with pasts and pedigrees and those without them, wondered if he oughtn't explain a bit more—if there was any use or utility in speculating about what memories he had: of wars and orphanings and however many years it was he had run underfoot amidst the Touten.
He thought better of it.
“It’s all right,” he replied after a moment. "What about you, where do you come from?"
The moon was barely peaking over the roof of the low city wall against which the inn was situated, and they hadn't a candle to see by. Still, Rad thought that he saw his companion's face redden a little in the gray twilight.
"Nowhere too, I guess."
Rad nodded, and for a brief moment both of them looked as if they would laugh.
Rad knew, of course, that Ramza's nowhere—unlike his—was a lie. Ramza had the uncalloused hands of somebody unused to working with them; he spoke with the accents of a person who'd been made to read his words out of a book once. It was clear that he had all his teeth when he smiled, and he was free enough with himself to smile often. It was not Rad's business, however, to call to accounting false claimants to his homeland, and so he let them both lapse into mutual quiet as they lay there in the drowsy August air.
Later that night, when Ramza flopped an arm about him and muttered out a strange name, Rad lay still and persisted in that silence. He reckoned that if they had both agreed to having no origin, whatever memory or dream Ramza impressed upon him could have no precedent.
He closed his eyes.
He considered how easy a name was to mangle or else to invent.
He determined then that there was no reason to assume the embrace in which he lay ensnared was meant for anybody—which was as good as to say it was his.