THE city so easy, after all, alive for me like some lover never truly left behind, never truly known: the perfumes, the hidden places, the exquisite fears and sweet temptations of the night.

FEELING at once easier with my parents’ friends. Being able to relax a little more with the men, their talk crazy with conquest, of women, of new diets, of the long lines for gas. And the wives — those mothers, those jailers, those prisoners of appetite — how dumb they seem, how beautiful.

ELYSE says to remember there’s probably someone who loves everyone on this train.

HERE, friendliness is deviant. I learn not to smile at strangers, because it makes them uncomfortable and suspicious.

WHY am I so much less afraid this time? Less to lose? Each moment becomes more precious, more supremely unimportant. Less to prove? What does it matter, here on the edge, what they think of me? Everywhere I look I see, truly, only my own desires — and the less I want, the less threatening does it all seem. Their faces are music to me now: rivers rushing to one sea: one history: one name. Elyse says, imagine if everyone in the world chanted OM at once, but it is the OM I come more and more to hear — in the marketplace, in my silent room — and no one need talk of God for me to see him before me: the old Jew, a corruption of flesh and bone, muttering as crazily as me; the young black woman, her eyes eager knives slicing the air; the living sky; the kingdom, broken and holy.

LOVE is not lost, for love is not possessed. Do not confuse the beloved with love itself. The beloved is an ever-changing fantasy. Love is the eternal reality.

EITHER you’re a cosmic joke, or the universe is laughing at you.

YOU keep explaining your reasons for doing something, you start believing them yourself — which makes your acts understandable and, immediately, unimportant.

THE less romantically (possessively) I see her the more she becomes like everyone and, ironically, the more I love her — which is to say expect nothing of her, accept everything about her. The more I allow her, in my mind, to be just another woman — rather than the woman of my dreams — the more special she becomes, the more able I am, with her, to fulfill dreams I’d never imagined.

I’VE been waiting for this day all my life.