As a boy I went on a strange vacation with a friend. His parents took us, I can’t remember why, it may have been his birthday, to a series of towns along the shore. But it was November, tourist season long over, the air was dry and little tornados of sand wobbled in the empty streets, the ageing five-and-tens were shuttered, the hotels were vast and clean-smelling and quiet. We swam in a pool on a night half-warm but electric-cool, starry with almost no light. The water was alive on my skin, black trees rushed nowhere in the wind. I couldn’t understand why I was there and not, for example, upstairs with my friend— my best friend if truth be told, though I am afraid of forgetting him entirely — eating pizza, drinking cherry soda, watching TV in the hotel room we had to ourselves. I don’t know where the parents went, why they left us alone in the kidney-shaped pool, how it could have been so dark. We separated, gliding, diving for a colourless deep that pained the ears, surfacing in the tyrannical now, a clear wilderness of sky, moments to be carried forward. An epiphany lay in its very distance, refusing to betray the calm.


is author of the novel Ivyland (OR Books 2012), which the Wall Street Journal described as 'J.G. Ballard zapped with a thousand volts of electricity'. He writes for Vanity Fair, Lapham's Quarterly and others from New York, where he lives with the screenwriter C.F. Lederer, his wife.