I recall a Mediterranean countryside over a decade ago. The long silhouette of a cypress tree extended its back against the wall of our redbrick house, vying until noon with the prickly stems of caper berry shrubs. After short, stormy nights, scattered pools formed crevasses in the grass. Light reflected off the water like slippery scales. I was sitting down on a white wicker chair, studiously wading through Lolita for the first time. I lay still in my washed-out red bathing suit, while my mother’s cousin (a versatile double of VN), palette in hand, eyes just slightly open, drew a watercolor of that morning. The drawing vanished several years later, but what remains today, let loose on the pages of my Lolita, are stains of suntan lotion and a maze of circles betraying the number of English words I did not know. Vexing as they were, those words, they shone on the page like clues planted by a sly illusionist who whispered in my ear that unfold his magic carpet he would, as soon as I lifted that dictionary slumped idly on the grass.

But the sun was moving up to meet the earth in the eyes, and when it reached its zenith, I dozed off under the growing heat… Lalita  Lili  Lilita  Lilola  Lilota Litola Lola Lolita Loll Lolla Lollapalooza Lollipop Lollop Lolly Lollylag Lollypop… In the semi-awareness of dreams in daylight, the li’s and la’s melded with the low hum of a wasp drowning in a glass, just as my own chair started tipping forward in slow motion. And off I slipped into… »