The tulips along the border are redder than ever, opening, no longer wine cups but chalices; thrusting themselves up, to what end? They are, after all, empty. When they are old they turn themselves inside out, then explode slowly, the petals thrown out like shards.
He isn’t supposed to speak to me. Of course some of them will try, said Aunt Lydia. All flesh is weak. All flesh is grass, I corrected her in my head. They can’t help it, she said, God made them that way but He did not make you that way. He made you different. It’s up to you to set the boundaries. Later you will be thanked.
We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.
The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives.
We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
We stole extra paper packets of sugar for her, from the cafeteria at mealtimes, smuggled them to her, at night, handing them from bed to bed. Probably she didn’t need the sugar but it was the only thing we could find to steal. To give.
The body is so easily damaged, so easily disposed of, water and chemicals is all it is, hardly more to it than a jellyfish, drying on sand.
Does he know I’m here, alive, that I’m thinking about him? I have to believe so. In reduced circumstances you have to believe all kinds of things. I believe in thought transference now, vibrations in the ether, that sort of junk. I never used to.
After these dreams I do awake, and I know I’m really awake because there is the wreath, on the ceiling, and my curtains hanging like drowned white hair. I feel drugged. I consider this: maybe they’re drugging me. Maybe the life I think I’m living is a paranoid delusion.
Not a hope. I know where I am, and who, and what day it is. These are the tests, and I am sane. Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.
As for you, she’d say to me, you’re just a backlash. Flash in the pan. History will absolve me. But she wouldn’t say things like that until after the third drink.
But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.
He wanted me to play Scrabble with him, and kiss him as if I meant it.
This is one of the most bizarre things that’s happened to me, ever.
Context is all.
He was not a monster, to her. Probably he had some endearing trait: he whistled, offkey, in the shower, he had a yen for truffles, he called his dog Liebchen and made it sit up for little pieces of raw steak. How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.
It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.
She would say this a little regretfully, as though I hadn’t turned out entirely as she’d expected. No mother is ever, completely, a child’s idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well.
That’s one of the things they do. They force you to kill, within yourself.
The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you’ve been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil.
It was like being in an elevator cut loose at the top. Falling, falling, and not knowing when you will hit.
A glimpse, a pale shimmer on the air; a glow, aurora, dance of electrons, then a face again, faces.
Maybe I don’t really want to know what’s going on. Maybe I’d rather not know. Maybe I couldn’t bear to know. The Fall was a fall from innocence to knowledge.
Moira told me once that it used to be where the undergraduates ate, in the earlier days of the university. If a woman went in there, they’d throw buns at her, she said.
Why? I said. Moira became, over the years, increasingly versed in such anecdotes. I didn’t much like it, this grudge-holding against the past.
Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better?
Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.
But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.
Perhaps he’s reached that state of intoxication which power is said to inspire, the state in which you believe you are indispensable and can therefore do anything, absolutely anything you feel like, anything at all.