Bread rises. This is something you know.
This is how to make bread: You fold the thick batter, over and over again. Each time, you put a little cheese on top of the dough. When the cheese begins to melt, it exudes a fragrance: tangy and sharp. The scent is a knife cutting through air. This air surrounds you. Savor it. You do not know where this air ends and the bread begins.
In the tropical heat, there is no need for ovens. Lay the dough on a flat rock, the hottest you can find. It must be mid-day. The sun must be cruel.
You stand back. And wait. And watch.
The leaving happens in stages. First you board the airplane. In the enclosed cylinder of the airplane cabin, the air is clear, odorless. Soon, you feel nothing. Then: a shiver? A tremor passes over you, the tendrils of your hair lift slightly. A new kind of awareness, whisper-light, overwhelms you.
After a few moments, your breath becomes even and slow. You sit in your seat and read a magazine.
Your destination is California. Specifically, San Francisco. Oh, how you love that Eagles song. You entertain fantasies of being rich or, if not rich, at least happy. You imagine the way sunlight slants through a large house with plate glass windows facing the bay! It is wondrous, this light.
You walk along the wharf. Fresh oysters slide down your throat.
You will never again know heat like the heat that bakes bread on flat rocks.
You will be like a mollusk. Or a crab. Nay, a sea lion! You will bay mournfully up at the passing clouds. Your whiskers will look sad.
You are still young. The California air is dry, like the rasping scales of a snake. It rakes against your skin.
How easy it is for your face to grow red, if you present it at a certain angle to the sun. Your long, black hair, affixed to the top of your head and held in place with combs, is a burden. You want to cut it. Cut it entirely off.
Now you are a reddish brown thing in the California heat. Does this interest you? You never knew your skin is capable of producing such hues, such strange, mottled variations on the color brown.
The secret is in you.
Now you know what heat is: An itch.
The next time you visit your native country, you find the air almost unbearably oppressive.
Your family looks at you, in amazement and shame. Strange multi-colored thing, can you really be the girl who left here all those years ago?
You are a crab, a mollusk. A sea lion. You, with the too-easily bruised skin, and the reddish brown glow that covers you like a carapace.
It is only when you see the bread rising by itself on the flat stones that you remember.
How to taste. Your smile -- how does one contain such immense secrets?