You can’t spend a few days there and skip town. Which is probably just as well, though it almost seems possible to fumble around in a bleached-out dream, looking her up, calling from an old pay phone, knocking on her door in the middle of the night like the police, rousing her for an emergency decades away. And you hear her fiddle with the lock on the other side, ease the door open a crack, the light like Pompeii before the blanket of ash. A familiar face — so much younger! — peers out, befuddled, amused with sleep: “What the hell? Hey, come in, come in. I had no idea you were . . .” So you sit there having tea in the cramped, jovial kitchen at 3 A.M., incapable of delivering the news you have of what will finally happen to her, a mother’s child, still calm and hopeful. (The jaundiced, bloated flesh, the saffron skull and pleading eyes.) You’re tired, very tired, having carried the Devil’s Bible of this knowledge across rippling black oceans and earthquaked roads, through the Dopplerian clanging at the edge of train stations, and soon you must go back into the night, having left behind only a look, an expression that will haunt her for the rest of her life, a telegram that says urgent, but not why.