It’s sunset; the light dims across the trees and shrouds them; and in the pits of the streets a woman walks to and fro, cellphone in one hand, dogleash in the other. The dog moving aimlessly, a large dignified creature with pointy nose and a broom tail; the path of the streets traceable from my third-story window by the aisle of white trees that follows the path of what they call a boulevard. But last night when I made fun of small towns, I was rewarded by jokes about how in American towns, at 11 at night, everyone is doing square dancing. Ishmael added further jokes about how French people are afraid of America, because of having seen Easy Rider. At dinner yesterday, people said, “Our ethnographer is leaving soon.” I said, “Yes, I’m leaving in three weeks: my advisors in Chicago tell me that I have to write my thesis sooner or later, and I’m out of field funding.” Marie retorts: “You have your reasons. If you want to leave because you want to be near your mama, that’s OK too.” I don’t say anything, and a professor leans over and asks, “It doesn’t bother you that she’s teasing you?”
Now, down in the street, a large orange ball of a globular streetlight is illuminating the bark of trees and the tarnished asphalt, and the clouds turn lavender and spread out in tendrils against the dying orange and yellow of the daylight, and the twigs and spoons and nuts of the spring are dark detail against the sky, and the light reflects off the skylights, and down in the street a couple is walking and suddenly the girl begins to run and soon disappears around the corner of the winding streets, and a bicycle goes by roaming, and a scooter is parked beside a flashing PHARMACIE sign. The roofs are red but turning grey and the buildings are white but increasingly stained with the artificial colors of nighttime illumination, and up, if you look up, the stubs of the leaves are still and the hills roll down calmly towards the valley. A man walks by with his hands in his pockets and his beard wrapped around his chin, and his sweatshirt wrapped around his arms and around his body, and here in my hotel room it is wretchedly silent.