Founded in such&such century, long a trading center and then a rising merchant class and the first confederation, civil war and occupation by foreign powers, burned and rebuilt, burned again, rebuilt, moving from monarchy to a representative assembly, then after a coup briefly governed by a central committee, long a stronghold of realism, then in this or that year took on romantic qualities, in reaction a new austerity led to an experimental richness and ultimately an aleatory quality, a new lightness and ironic realism.

"Can you imagine how boring it is," the interpreter poured himself another brandy and offered the container to the client, who declined, pressing his fingers against his temples and rubbing them.

"At least you have a history, things go back centuries here."

"Not so fast, my friend," the guide said, "You Americans can no longer take refuge in your historical adolescence. The fortress of West Point is as much a castle as anything along the Rhine and goes back centuries. The university at Virginia and Harvard College themselves now also partake of the centuries."

The language inevitably running off the rails at some point, not quite vernacular, despite his facility. With the brandy his accent likewise coming back. There was no escaping history.

In the face of an intimacy which rises like waves of heat off the river under rain, the world seems given to us alone, liquid and insistent and constant.