The incident made her remember the story she had heard about the girl who was raised in a room with no horizontal lines. She couldn't recall whether the story was true or simply a thought experiment, but the room, as she remembered it, was decorated with a series of black verticle stripes on the walls, and the floor and ceiling were curved to give the illusion that the verticle stripes were continuous. On the child's first birthday, the story went, she was taken out of the room. She had learned how to recognize verticle forms, but not horizontal ones, so that if she was situated on a table, say, or a platform, she would crawl right off the edge, but she would never run into the corner of a wall or the leg of a chair. Her condition lasted for about a month before her visual sense finally corrected itself.
Occasionally, in the stillness of a taxi or an airplane, she would catalog the pleasures she had lost. Cigarettes. Chewing gum. Strong mint toothpaste. Any food with hard edges or sharp corners that could pierce or abrade the inside of her mouth: potato chips, croutons, crunchy peanut butter. Any food that was more than infinitesimally, protozoically, spicy or tangy or salty or acidic: pesto or Worcestershire sauce, wasabi or anchovies, tomato juice or movie-theater popcorn. Certain pamphlets and magazines whose paper carried a caustic wafting chemical scent she could taste as she turned the pages. Perfume. Incense. Library books. Long hours of easy conversation. The ability to lick an envelope without worrying that the glue had irritated her mouth. The knowledge that if she heard a song she liked, she could sing along to it in all her dreadful jubilant tunelessness. The faith that if she bit her tongue, she would soon feel better rather than worse.