CHAPTER 17

LEFT from the main road (ignoring a notice saying: BEYOND THIS POINT OUT OF BOUNDS TO ALLIED FORCES) meant cutting himself off from the forceful grip of lights and traffic, and entering dark groves of palm-trees. The narrow lane was indented with cart-ruts, and trees rising on either side overlapped it with shadows. He felt a criminal every time he parted from the traffic, committed to some irrevocable step, though in fact he was only going to see Mimi. Walking, he pictured her framed beyond the darkness, behind the fireflies that now and again glittered in pairs and seemed to put out their lamps when he went too close.

Black night was a good camouflage until danger had passed and you could light up again, proving that fireflies knew a thing or two. He pictured her, the collar of a blue kimono dominating the bones of her round face, sitting maybe at her rattan table to make up before he came. Or perhaps, wearing her pyjama dress, she stared vacantly into the mirror, a mirage of green or yellow, at a

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