2. pondicherry

Marie-Ange doesn’t watch movies. She says she has two reference points: Friday Night Lights and Sweet Home Alabama, and I tell her those are the two things I haven’t watched because you don’t listen to stories that you’ve already lived. After a bottle of wine–good wine, French wine, not Sula and its disappointing notes of not-home–we walk the beach, unsteady pebbles jutting teeth beneath our yet broken-in sandals. The sky quietly mews the thought of thunder, faint light streaking past the fishing boats coming in. Dim bells clang. Only heat lightning for now.

“Reminds me of Sweet Home Alabama,” she says, (something I will learn she’ll say a lot, but now I only know three weeks’ worth of her) “where they talk about lightning hitting sand, and how that turns it into glass, I’ve always wanted to see that—do you think we have roots or wings?”


“On Sweet Home Alabama, they say that people have roots or they have wings. Roots are people who stay in one place, wings are people always leaving.”

I consider this as Marie-Ange tries to take pictures of the storm with her cell phone, fumbling the flash, so when we view it there is nothing to see but miles of gray.

“Whatever. You try to take one. Anyway, I used to think I was wings, but I think now I’m more roots,” she muses, “But now I guess we’re here, so maybe we’re the in-between.”

I turn off the flash, aim the camera, and in a split-second chance catch a frame of the storm. Before we can check it, drops smudge the screen. She shrieks and grabs my arm to pull me back to the guesthouse before the rains come. The conversation falls between the rocks, and we race for shelter.

I think instead I’m the in-between: heat lightning, searching desperately to outstrip the storms, fingers spidering to grab hold of skies that aren’t mine.


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