I had come from a family of ironists. I was the only three-leaf clover in it. The rest of them were off on some exploration, either to find or to lose themselves. They would travel. To Madagascar. To South Korea. To Denmark. To California. To Alberta. To the Galapagos. To Lhasa. To Nova Scotia. To the Yucatan. It was all some sort of clover-pulling, a worldwide hunt for something a little different, a little vain, a little less known. It was some sort of pretend game of Marco Polo that I never bought into. So I was never the same. I was, as they said, “born without shoes,” which meant that I did not go, I did not travel, I was not fit to travel or go anywhere because, as the idiom goes, I had no leather shoes upon my feet to protect them and to be able to do so. So I stayed at home and was considered by my immediate kind unworldly and provincial. I had been the kind of person who marked time by an ax. By this I had meant only that I followed the natural course of the seasons. There were seasons to chop wood. There were seasons to chop down a tree. There were seasons to lay the blade into a stump. There were seasons to lay it in the corner of the shed. That’s what I meant. The way it worked—irony—was to pretend either in person or in letter that you were just a bit dumber or a bit more stupid than you were in actual life; or, if nobody around could guess it, then just you yourself in your inner, personal life would do it. Only you would know. And most of the time that’s how they were. Once, after a minor operation, when I went to visit my own father in the hospital, he lay with his hands clasped together around a rose in the middle of his chest with his eyes closed in his bed. Then opened them and spoke to me. Like that. I had always been the “I can go on, I must go on” type; they were the “I can’t go on, I’ll go on type.” I was as dumb or as smart as my thumbprint on a Coke bottle. My breath was the fog blown on a bathroom mirror. My very first metaphor was seeing my own image of myself looking back up at me in a clear lake. My last inhalation in life will be the word Allah, and the last exhalation in life will be the word Love.