On days like today, when I miss my mom, I try to imagine her in her life before the sea, even if that means I wasn’t born yet, because I know she was happier then. I try not to picture her in her red urchin form, though that is the only form I know her in. When I picture her human body, I see her skin tattoo-painted in the most beautiful Italian frescos, winged-humans and toga-wearing great thinkers and bosomy fruit trees and storm clouds covering every part of her…

Snakes are fingers, snipped off. Dangling from the car window, when a truck speeds past or with a whoosh, the window lazily slices shut. The fingers, snipped off, roll down the side of the road, curving past the tires, tumbling through the rocks and foliage.

It wasn’t the clamor of the birds, or the loneliness of the buildings, or even the guilt surrounding the stolen contents of the crates behind me. I had long since convinced myself to stop worrying about these things. It was something in the air—a heavy, sticky feeling. A sense of dread …

The evening service is already in full swing. People sway and sing to the band onstage. Father Francis rocks side to side to the increasingly upbeat music, like a boat in distress. His palms open to the fluorescent ceiling and his eyebrows knit together as he concentrates hard on communing with the creator. As the music hits fever pitch, he shouts, crescendoing, “OH JESUS CHRIST, OH GOD, OH JESUS!”

I was on my way to visit my grandmother in Pasuruan, a five-hour bus ride from my tiny hometown Caruban. Every school break, my mother and I spent a few days in the countryside. My father took us to the square, dropped us off at the gate, and reminded me, while my mother was busy buying snacks and water for the ride, to protect her and myself on the bus…

Whole Foods is the safest place on earth. What would the terrorists come for? The organic ice-cream? The dinky doughnuts, perhaps, were worth killing for. Imagine, a rainbow of kombucha and salad and bamboo leaf shampoo, with artisanal cheese for taste, shattering outwards, like the first sigh of relief after a breakup.