"Don't you just love Mary Oliver?" he asked.
"Don't fuck with me today," she said. "I'm on the rag."
"It's just that I saw Deepak was quoting her in his newsletter. Something about the soft animal of your body."
"Mine feels like roadkill. Mary Oliver can eat me."
"There you go again," he said, "being all negative. Why not paint your toenails or something. That usually cheers you up."
"Not a bad idea," she said. "Toss me that bottle. Yeah, there on the dresser."
He picked it up and read the label. "Midnight Valkyrie?"
"A girl can dream."
Sitting on the disheveled bed, she opened the bottle of polish and applied herself.
Done with the first foot, she asked, "Know what Rilke called angels?"
"Can't say as I do," he said. "But you're going to tell me I bet."
"Fast tödliche Vögel der Seele," she said, then blew on her toes.
"Ah yes, from the second Duino Elegy, isn't it? Those 'almost deadly birds of the soul' -- guy was a pisser, I'll give him that. No wonder the chicks all dig him."
"You're an odd mix of pedant and punk," she said.
"Why, thank you," he said. "Sometimes you can be so sweet." He looked at her, marveling as usual. "But why Rilke? What's got into you now?"
"I was thinking we should drop by Ascona. It's in Switzerland, down near the Italian Alps."
"When was Rilke there?" he asked.
"Not sure if he ever was," she said, "but he seems somehow related to that general crowd of aging Weimar Wandervogel."
"More birds," he said.
"Of a feather."
"Or more deadly angels."
"Yeah," she said. "Or that."
They breakfasted on melon and skewers of roasted lamb.
"Damn, this stuff is good," she said, licking her fingers. "What's for lunch?"
"You know," he mused, "I can never be in Alexandria without thinking of Cavafy."
"You've never been to Alexandria," she said. "Ca... who?"
"Durrell dropped references to him all the time in the Quartet."
"So who is he?"
"Some poet. Wrote in Greek, I think."
"Like you read Greek."
"That's just the thing," he said, "I don't. So whenever I never come here, I wonder what it was he wrote about. Durrell made it out like if you didn't already know, you were intellectually -- and quite possibly spiritually -- fucked."
"I sort of like being spiritually fucked," she said, batting her eyes. "Here's to Cavafy, then." She raised her glass and downed the champagne. "And I love being drunk in the morning."
Just outside the awning they were dining under, a camel spooked and went tear-assing down the street. In its wake came lumbering a gigantic lorry, all painted up in lurid colors. On the side, in huge letters it said: BLOOD SWEATING HIPPOPOTAMUS.
"See what I mean?" she said.
Back in their room, she was preparing a chillum with the hash they'd bought in the market, rolling and crumbling it just so.
"You make such a ritual of it," he said.
"Victor Turner," she said. "Colin Wilson."
"Liminality," he said. "Murder. Space vampires. Das Glasperlenspiel."
She laughed, then lit the thing. The flame shot up a foot. She offered it to him, then took a huge toke herself.
Sunlight was streaming through the curtains, falling on the little table, the things, bits of stuff from their pockets.
Suddenly it all seemed almost real.