• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 07


Sheltering in place has been hard on me, even in a city like Los Angeles, with its lush mixed foliage, impossible to control, and its almost painfully lucid wide western skies. It casts me back to childhood years of fear and yearning, when my sister and I were homeschooled after her first brain surgery when she was six. I remember the loss of her streaked hair, always partly tangled, was also a suspension of everything: our ability to play outside, or play together at all, how we imagined the future, how we saw ourselves.

I suffered from depression for so long it came as a shock when it lifted; that happened when I started to travel and felt—in spite of missed trains and missing hostels and thefts and endless cultural humiliations—bolstered by the world.

There was the world of languages. There was the world of men. There was the world of treasures, like the griffin from the Palace of King Darius I the Great, moved to the Louvre, a creature who emerges from faded blue and yellow bricks, dashes of light across its face from the windows looking out onto the Rue de Rivoli. A lion’s head and forelegs, the ears and body of a bull, two curved horns pointing in opposite directions. The hind legs of an eagle; massive, graceful wings. Feathers and their shadows. Curled tendrils of hair along its chest, and the culminating swirl of its slender tail.

There was the world of water, the urban world, the world of food: fragrant dill and fragile apples. Ginger root like a good witch’s gnarled hand. Freshly hunted mushrooms, pert or rubbery. There was the action of flicking my fingers over the ridges of flesh under their caps as I walked home from the market, the reaction of the shivers I always got.

What worlds there will be when this is over I don’t know. Like the child in the portrait, who also sits in Los Angeles now, I have taken to wearing amulets around my neck.