Many children’s games depend on a physical handicap. Hopscotch, for ­example, requires a skillful player to hop from square to square on one leg while the other merely dangles in the air, as though amputated so long ago he had time to practice jumping without it.

Maybe I’m here on this continent simply to walk by myself for days, or years, as if no one there needed me, waited for me, asked about me, loved me, missed me, worried about me.

But hopscotch isn’t the right metaphor because in fact, while I’m here, I do need all those people I wake up without and go to sleep without. Distance doesn’t lessen the sense of guilt. Guilt, the word rings out inside me every time I remember that I’m from there. I’ve become more and more from there ever since I left. And guilt has been eating at me ever since I arrived, just yesterday, in this city perched over an ocean, to read some poems in some big theater, to drink good wine with first-rate writers who aren’t from there.

What does a person do who’s come here to read some poems about there to people not from there, a person eaten by guilt even as she stands, as I do, on the balcony of a five-star hotel, lighting a cigarette and screaming or muttering curses in hopes the police will haul her off to prison, in hopes that something will happen to stop her from throwing herself off the seventh floor—and then, when there’s a knock at the door, jumping under the bedcovers as though playing blindman’s bluff?