Over the years, Cory Pinto has begun coming up with an idea for a new kind of video game. He plays a lot of video games now, and this hobby combined with the development and shifts in his feelings of grief allows an idea to take root. Cory, preoccupied with the finality of death and the inability to find or recover a lost loved one, has come to realize that sometimes, against all odds, there is a flash of those one has lost in the world around them—like in the smile or laugh of a stranger. Cory, after all this time, is still unable to accept that Alby is not somewhere out in the world, and Cory can’t help feeling that he could find his brother again “if only [he] knew where to look.” This becomes the premise of his game idea.
The idea of being kept in the world comes into play again in Cory Pinto’s narrative. Just as Faith Frank relies on her mentees to keep her relevant, Cory is doing everything he can to keep his brother’s memory alive and “in the world.” He is still shocked, after all these years, by the finality of death, and though he is powerless to reverse Alby’s loss, he has begun to think that there are other things he can do to keep his brother “in the world” in one way or another.
Cory has been able to move on from Alby’s death in many ways—he has a stable job in Northampton at a computer store, where he helps customers every day to retrieve their lost data and bring their broken machines back to life. Through the store and his fellow employees, Cory becomes involved in the online gaming community. When he visits his friends’ Northampton apartments, he often finds himself missing Greer, though he admits that now, after so many years apart, he would not know how to get through to her. Their lives have diverged too much—she is a successful New Yorker, and he lives with his mother.
Cory’s life has regained a sense of normalcy, which he thought, at the time of Alby’s death, would be impossible for both him and his mother. As Cory has made new connections, however, he misses the old ones more and more—particularly Greer, for whom he still has feelings for, though now he fears that they have become much too distant to ever reconnect. Whereas Greer once felt Cory held all the power in their relationship, Cory now fears that Greer has it firmly in her possession.
Cory finds himself calibrating his attempts at a social life against his responsibilities at home. He has not dated anyone in a while—the last woman he was with was one of his and Greer’s old classmates, Kristin Vells. When Kristin and Cory began seeing one another, Cory realized that the constructions that had kept them apart in grade school didn’t matter—he had been in the highest reading group, but the distinction hadn’t mattered and hadn’t protected him from anything. Cory and Kristin slept together almost every night for a month, until one night, while Cory and Kristin were lying naked in Cory’s room, Benedita opened the door and announced that she was constipated and needed medicine. Kristin, disgusted by the intimacy of the moment, left soon after, and she and Cory became “unspoken enemies.”
Cory has explored power dynamics on his own over the years through his role as a housecleaner and a caretaker, as well as through his relationship with Kristin Vells. Cory and Greer once looked down on Kristin in grade school, but years later, Cory and Kristin are both stuck in their hometowns, and this erases the imbalance of power that once existed between them. Though the fling is short lived, Cory has learned something from it. Ultimately, Cory’s fling with Kristin has cemented his allegiance to his family (specifically his mother) and his own values.
Now, Cory spends much of his time teaching himself computer repair and game design as a means of staying productive. During the day, he works at the store or cleans houses, and at night, he cooks for his mother, plays video games, and sits in Alby’s bedroom with Slowy. One day, one of Cory’s friends from the store asks him if he has an idea for a game—Cory’s friend has met a potential investor who wants to hear some ideas about “games as art pieces.” Cory’s friend invites him to the meeting, which is in two days, and though Cory protests that he’s not ready, his friend urges him to get something together by then.
Cory at last has an opportunity to do something big, and though he is nervous about it, there is perhaps some part of him that realizes how meaningless these grabs at power and attention have become in the face of what he has gone through all these years in the wake of his brother’s loss.
At the meeting, Cory’s friend pitches the investor a game set in 1692 Salem. The investor doesn’t like the idea and asks Cory to share his. Cory reluctantly reveals his idea for a quest-based game whose aim is “to find the person you love who’s died.” The game, Cory says, will be very difficult, and only a certain percentage of players will ever be able to achieve their goal. He wants to call the game SoulFinder and sees it as a means for the bereaved to, on a small scale at least, meet their goal of encountering a lost loved one once more. Cory then reveals the personal inspiration behind the game, and the investor, who is familiar with grief and loss himself, loves it.
In the wake of his brother’s death, Cory experienced a near-total loss of power and agency. He was pulled back into the orbit of his parents’ home out of a sense of duty, and in that way, he lost more than just his brother—he lost a chunk of his life and a vision for his future. However, with the introduction of SoulFinder, it seems that the event that stripped Cory of so much power and happiness now stands to turn into something that is positive and empowering for him and other people.
The investor notes that Cory’s idea has an immersive-theater quality and invites him to come to New York to see a production that might give him even more inspiration. Cory remembers Greer’s invitation and wonders if she would let him stay on her sofa bed. Cory is excited about the investor’s interest but reminds himself that an investor does not necessarily mean success—though he has come to realize that conventional success does not matter to him.
In this passage, Cory acknowledges the ways in which his life and goals have been recalibrated by loss. Personal relationships are what matter most to him now. Success, power, and wealth—things he once dreamed of—now have little bearing on his life.
One morning, as Cory is about to head out to clean houses, Benedita meets him in the kitchen, dressed and ready to go. She asks if she can come along—she wants to help. Cory tries not to act too surprised and brings his mother along with him to the house. As they clean, they compare tips and methods, and Cory is grateful to see his mother distracted from her grief, even for a little while.
As Cory’s journey toward healing has progressed, his mother’s has largely been stalled. In this passage, however, Benedita gets back on her feet for the first time in a long time. Cory once looked down on her profession as a housecleaner but has come to see the dignity in it.
After that day, Cory’s mother wants to come along with him more often, and he realizes that she is finally beginning to heal. Cory never rushes her or pressures her, but as the weeks go by, they become a team, and cleaning houses together becomes a ritual. One day, his mother’s social worker sits Cory and Benedita down together and reveals that Benedita wants more independence. Benedita tells Cory that she wants to go live with her sister—Sab’s mother. Cory knows that Sab has straightened himself out over the years, too, and Cory thinks it might be a good environment for his mother after all. Benedita suggests they sell their house, and Cory realizes that the ground is shifting around him—things are changing, and he will have to readjust all over again.
It is clear that Cory has benefited from female mentorship. His mother has inadvertently taught him a lot over the years, and the perceived imbalance of power between them seems to have finally fallen away. However, in this passage, the scales tip once again, and suddenly it is Cory who finds himself feeling lonely, powerless, and uncertain about his own future. This points back to when Greer asked Cory if he planned to stay with his mother in the “long run." At the time, Cory was unwilling plan beyond his present circumstances, but now he must.
Cory goes back to see his mother’s social worker to process what Cory has been going through, and as they talk, he realizes how deeply he misses Greer. He has lost her, too, but in a more “ordinary” way than he has lost Alby. Cory realizes that while he can still find Greer physically, she might be a different person, and she might not love him anymore.
Cory is still in love with Greer, but he fears that things between them have shifted so dramatically, that they will never get back to where they once were. He considers how the power dynamics between them might have been altered, and whether they will be able to be restored to a more even keel.