The suitors aren’t ready for the noises in the walls, the reptiles issuing from crevices in numbers not previously seen unless you count the time when the climate had shifted slightly and the day lengthened by an average of twelve minutes so that there was time enough for breeding and time enough for the reports to get filed. A rare combination indeed, but when you factor in the questionable advice and the people stacked up like off-brand china on either side of the boulevard, you get one of those impossible to predict and impossible to replicate moments that put me in the mood, nine times out of ten, for an aperitif. That remind me my middle name is the one most apt to cause me difficulty, even mortal danger, when we return to the town on the mountain and find that some others in the vicinity have co-opted it and have tarnished it ruthlessly over the two or three decades since we left. Now there are scores to settle and the possibility, however remote, that I will never again see the banks of my beloved Ganges, will never again be able to wind surf on the Mediterranean among what you first assume to be boulders but which begin to look suspiciously like sea turtles or even mermen as your speed increases and your imagination does everything it can to keep up, to keep from being rendered obsolete by the more urgent requirements of the body. Like digestion. And that thing that happens just before digestion, but just after the visible world has turned into a two-dimensional replica of itself. Maybe chemistry is to blame for this disturbing phenomenon and maybe there is not enough blame to go around because whoever is in the business of manufacturing blame hasn’t realized yet the enormity of the task at hand. The headwinds to be conquered and the mountain peaks and the cardboard boxes in which you conceal your liquor as if you were an eighty-six year old man and you have forgotten how to determine what a loved one’s facial expressions mean. Oh, you have some inkling because of your training as an artist, the hours spent rendering still lifes in charcoal and pencil lead, the pieces of fruit gone rotten at the edges and drawing gnats, the underside of bridges where the rivets seem as big as your hand. But all of that barely adds up to a complete geometrical figure. A rhombus, say. Or its numerical equivalent such as that which (when it is applied liberally to precious metals, to gold and amethysts) makes certain people of your acquaintance completely independent of the vicissitudes of the heavens overhead. That convinces them they can journey out into the heart of the open sea on little more than a raft and expect to survive that journey, expect to wash ashore three months later looking very little the worse for wear. Sporting a beard, maybe, at worst. Licking obsessively at the corner of their lips where the flesh has not so much worn away or disintegrated as it has transformed itself into something less pliable than it used to be, something less likely to let itself get pushed around by the salt and the sun and its heat.