We lived in a half-built villa by the sea. It was terrifically gaudy, and the most breathtaking place any of us had ever lived. The two long walls of the rectangular main room rose only to knee height and from there became screen-less windows, which could be closed by winding down shutters. We left them open day and night. To the west we could see the vast cobalt blue of the Indian Ocean all the way to the heat-white horizon, and to the east, Reunion Island rising in boxy pastel-colored buildings and palms to its foggy volcanoes and peaks.