Alice Munro

Open Secrets

Carried Away

He could no more describe the feeling he got from her than you can describe a smell. It's like the scorch of electricity. It's like burnt kernels of wheat. No, it's like a bitter orange. I give up. 40

"Love never dies."

She felt impatient to the point of taking offense. This is what all the speechmaking turns you into, she thought, a person who can say things like that. Love dies all the time, or at any rate it becomes distracted, overlaid--it might as well be dead. 48

The Albanian Virgin

People open shops in order to sell things, they hope to become busy so that they will have to enlarge the shop, then to sell more things, and grow rich, and eventually not have to come into the shop at all. Isn't that true? But there are other people who open a shop with the hope of being sheltered there, among such things as they most value--the yarn or the teacups or the books--and with the idea only of making a comfortable assertion? They will become part of the block, a part of the street, part of everybody's map of the town, and eventually of everybody's memories. They will sit and drink coffee in the middle of the morning, they will get out the familiar bits of tinsel at Christmas, they will wash the windows in spring before spreading out the new stock. Shops, to these people, are what a cabin in the woods might be to somebody else--a refuge and a justification. 107

The change in the apartment building seemed to have some message for me. It was about vanishing. I knew that Charlotte and Gjurdhi had not actually vanished--they were somewhere, living or dead. But for me they had vanished. And because of this fact--not really because of any loss of them--I was tipped into dismay more menacing than any of the little eddies of regret that had caught me in the past year. I had lost my bearings. I had to get back to the store so my clerk could go home, but I felt as if I could easily walk another way, just any way at all. My connection was in danger--that was all. Sometimes our connection is frayed, it is in danger, it seems almost lost. Views and streets deny knowledge of us, the air grows thin. Wouldn't we rather have a destiny to submit to, then, something that claims us, anything, instead of such flimsy choices, arbitrary days? 127

The Jack Randa Hotel

Words most wished for can change. Something can happen to them, while you are waiting. Love--need--forgive. Love--need--forever. The sound of such words can become a din, a battering, a sound of hammers in the street. And all you can do is run away, so as not to honor them out of habit. 189

Spaceships Have Landed

People close to the bottom, like Eunie Morgan, or right at the top, like Billy Doud, showed a similar carelessness, a blunted understanding. 239

You cannot let your parents anywhere near your real humiliations. 251


This was a letter Bea Doud never sent and in fact never finished. In her big, neglected house in Carstairs, she had entered a period of musing and drinking, of what looked to everybody else like a slow decline, but to her seemed, after all, sadly pleasurable, like a convalescence. 264

But she still felt the first signal of a love affair like the warmth of the sun on her skin, like music though a doorway, or the moment, as she had often said, when the black-and-white television commercial bursts into color. She did not think that her time was being wasted. She did not think it had been wasted. 265

She didn't want any more of his geniality, his good intentions, his puzzling and striving. All the things that had appealed to her about him were more or less dust and ashes. Now that she had seen him with Ladner. 268

She looked back on this moment as their real beginning. They both seemed uneasy and subdued, not reluctant so much as troubled, even sorry for each other. 274

Too much happiness


She should have understood, and at that moment, even if he himself was nowhere close to knowing. He was falling in love.

Falling. That suggests some time span, a slipping under. But you can think of it as a speeding up, a moment or a second when you fall. Now Jon is not in love with Edie. Tick. Now he is. No way this could be seen as probable or possible, unless you think of a blow between the eyes, a sudden calamity. The stroke of fate that leaves a man a cripple, the wicked joke that turns clear eyes into blind stones. 39–41

Love. She was glad of it. It almost seemed as if there must be some random and of course unfair thrift in the emotional housekeeping of the world, if the great happiness—however temporary, however flimsy—of one person could come out of the great unhappiness of another. 61

wenlock edge

The college library was a high beautiful space, designed and built and paid for by people who believed that those who sat at the long tables before open books—even those who were hungover, sleepy, resentful, and uncomprehending—should have space above them, panels of dark gleaming wood around them, high windows bordered with Latin admonitions, through which to look at the sky. For a few years before they went into schoolteaching or business or began to rear children, they should have that. And now it was my turn and I should have it too.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

I was writing a good essay. I would probably get an A. I would go on writing essays and getting A's because that was what I could do. The people who awarded scholarships, who built universities and libraries, would continue to dribble out money so that I could do it.

But that was not what mattered. That was not going to keep you from damage. 91–92


Gradually she learned to use her eyes and apply new knowledge, till she could stand in an empty suburban street and realize that far beneath her shoes was a crater filled with rubble never to be seen, that never had been seen, because there were no eyes to see it at its creation or throughout the long history of its being made and filled and hidden and lost. Alex did such things the honor of knowing about them, the very best he could, and she admired him for that, although she knew enough not to say so. 106

free radicals

She thought carefully, every morning when she first took her seat, of the places where Rich was not. He was not in the smaller bathroom where his shaving things still were, and the prescription pills for various troublesome but not serious ailments that he refused to throw out. Nor was he in the bedroom which she had just tidied and left. Not in the larger bathroom which he had entered only to take tub baths. Or in the kitchen that had become mostly his domain in the last year. He was of course not out on the half-scraped deck, ready to peer jokingly in the window—through which she might, in earlier days, have pretended to be starting a striptease.

Or in the study. That was where of all places his absence had to be most firmly established. At first she had found it necessary to go to the door and open it and stand there, surveying the piles of paper, moribund computer, spilling files, books lying open or facedown as well as crowded on the shelves. Now she could manage just by picturing things.

One of these days she would have to enter. She thought of it as invading. She would have to invade her husband's dead mind. 122

child's play

Every year, when you're a child, you become a different person. Generally it's in the fall, when you reenter school, take your place in a higher grade, leave behind the muddle and lethargy of the summer vacation. That's when you register the change most sharply. Afterwards you are not sure of the month or year but the changes go on, just the same. For a long while the past drops away from you easily and it would seem automatically, properly. Its scenes don't vanish so much as become irrelevant. And then there's a switchback, what's been all over and done with sprouting up fresh, wanting attention, even wanting you to do something about it, though it's plain there is not on this earth a thing to be done. 190

Was I not tempted, during all this palaver? Not once? You'd think that I might break open, be wise to break open, glimpsing that vast though tricky forgiveness. But no. It's not for me. What's done is done. Flocks of angels, tears of blood notwithstanding. 221

Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage

floating bridge

She felt herself connected at present with the way people felt when they had to write certain things down--she was connected by her feelings of anger, of petty outrage (perhaps it was petty?), and her excitement at what she was doing to Neal, to pay him back. But the life she was carrying herself into might not give her anybody to be angry at, or anybody who owed her anything, anybody who could possibly be rewarded or punished or truly affected by what she might do. Her feelings might become of no importance to anybody but herself, and yet they would be bulging up inside her, squeezing her heart and breath. 56

But she knew now that there comes a time when ugly and beautiful serve pretty much the same purpose, when anything you look at is just a peg to hang the unruly sensations of your body on, and the bits and pieces of your mind. 59

Family furnishings

Or she may have been wary of the special atmosphere of a household where there is a sick person who will go on getting sicker and never get better. Which was the case with my mother, whose symptoms joined together, and turned a corner, and instead of a worry and inconvenience became her whole destiny. 98

He admired opera and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, but he had no time for tragedy--for the squalor of tragedy--in ordinary life. 111

When I had walked for over an hour, I saw a drugstore that was open. I went in and had a cup of coffee. The coffee was reheated, black and bitter--its taste was medicinal, exactly what I needed. I was already feeling relieved, and how I began to feel happy. Such happiness, to be alone. To see the hot late-afternoon light on the sidewalk outside, the branches of a tree just out in leaf, throwing their skimpy shadows. To hear from the back of the shop the sounds of the ball game that the man who had served me was listening to on the radio. I did not think of the story I would make about Alfrida--not of that in particular--but of the work I wanted to do, which seemed more like grabbing something out of the air than constructing stories. The cries of the crowd came to me like big heartbeats, full of sorrows. Lovely formal-sounding waves, with their distant, almost inhuman assent and lamentation.

This was what I wanted, this was what I thought I had to pay attention to, this is how I wanted my life to be. 119


Her memory of Ed Shore's kiss outside the kitchen door did, however, become a treasure. When Ed sang the tenor solos in the Choral Society's performance of the Messiah every Christmas, that moment would return to her. "Comfort Ye My People" pierced her throat with starry needles. As if everything about her was recognized then, and honored and set alight. 149

They were a pair of people with no middle ground, nothing between polite formalities and an engulfing intimacy. What had been between them, all these years, had been kept in balance because of their two marriages. Their marriages were the real content of their lives--her marriage to Lewis, the sometimes harsh and bewildering, indispensible content of her life. This other thing depended on those marriages, for its sweetness, its consoling promise. It was not likely to be something that could hold up on its own, even if they were both free. Yet it was not nothing. The danger was in trying it, and seeing it fall apart and then thinking that it had been nothing. 152

She got the box open and put her hand into the cooling ashes and tossed or dropped them--with other tiny recalcitrant bits of the body--among those roadside plants. Doing this was like wading and then throwing yourself into the lake for the first icy swim, in June. A sickening shock at first, then amazement that you were still moving, lifted up on a stream of steely devotion--calm above the surface of your life, surviving, though the pain of the cold continued to wash into your body. 155


In my feelings for Mike the localized demon was transformed into a diffuse excitement and tenderness spread everywhere under the skin, a pleasure of the eyes and ears and a tingling contentment, in the presence of the other person. I woke up every morning hungry for the sight of him, for the sound of the well driller's truck as it came bumping and rattling down the lane. I worshipped, without any show of it, the back of his neck and the shape of his head, the frown of his eyebrows, his long, bare toes and his dirty elbows, his loud and confident voice, his smell. I accepted readily, even devoutly, the roles that did not have to be explained or worked out between us--that I would aid and admire him, he would direct and stand ready to protect me. 165

I must have known that Mike would be leaving. Just as I knew that Ranger was old and that he would soon die. Future absence I accepted--it was just that I had no idea, till Mike disappeared, of what absence could be like. How all my own territory would be altered, as if a landslide had gone through it and skimmed off all meaning except loss of Mike. I could never again look at the white stone in the gangway without thinking of him, and so I got a feeling of aversion towards it. I had that feeling also about the limb of the maple tree, and when my father cut it off because it was too near the house, I had it about the scar that was left. 167

Now we had both moved away from Vancouver. But Sunny had moved with her husband and her children and her furniture, in the normal way and for the usual reason--her husband had got another job. And I had moved for the newfangled reason that was approved of mightily but fleetingly and only in some special circles--leaving husband and house and all the things acquired during the marriage (except of course the children, who were to be parceled about) in the hope of making a life that could be lived without hypocrisy or deprivation or shame. 168

The bear came over the mountain

...but some glaze remained, a haunted rigidity--as if people were content to become memories of themselves, final photographs. 298

Also--she said--there ought to be one place you thought about and knew about and maybe longed for--but never did get to see. 301

She stared at him for a moment, as if waves of wind had come beating into her face. Into her face, into her head, pulling everything to rags. 323

The love of a good woman

the love of a good woman

In the next block they had to pass the Duke of Cumberland, but Cece had no worries. If his father had not come home at dinnertime, it meant he would be there for hours yet. But the word "Cumberland" always fell across his mind heavily. From the days when he hadn't even known what it meant, he got a sense of sorrowful plummeting. A weight hitting dark water, far down. 26

When she first saw him in this house, she thought that he had not changed much. He had been a tall, solid, round-faced boy, and he was a tall, heavy, round-faced man. He had worn his hair cut so short, always, that it didn't make much difference that there was less of it now and that it had turned from light brown to gray-brown. A permanent sunburn had taken the place of his blushes. And whatever troubled him and showed in his face might have been just the same old trouble—the problem of occupying space in the world and having a name people could call you by, being somebody they thought they could know. 48

Edict of Nantes. The very uselessness, the exotic nature, of the things on those books and in those students' heads, in her own head then and Rupert's, made Enid feel a tenderness and wonder. It wasn't that they had meant to be something that they hadn't become. Nothing like that. Rupert couldn't have imagined anything but farming this farm. It was a good farm, and he was an only son. And she herself had ended up doing exactly what she must have wanted to do. You couldn't say that they had chosen the wrong lives or chosen against their will or not understood their choices. Just that they had not understood how time would pass and leave them not more but maybe a little less than what they used to be. 48

For everybody, though, the same thing. Evil grabs us when we are sleeping; pain and disintegration lie in wait. Animal horrors, all worse than you can imagine beforehand. The comforts of bed and the cows breath, the pattern of the stars at night—all that can get turned on its head in an instant. And here she was, here was Enid, working her life away pretending it wasn't so. 53

the children stay

The thoughts that came to her, of Jeffrey, were not really thoughts at all—they were more like alterations in her body. This could happen when she was sitting on the beach (trying to stay in the half shade of a bush and so preserve her pallor, as Jeffrey had ordered) or when she was wringing out diapers or when she and Brian were visiting his parents. In the middle of Monopoly games, Scrabble games, card games. She went right on talking, listening, working, keeping track of the children, while some memory of her secret life disturbed her like a radiant explosion. Then a warm weight settled, reassurance filling up all her hollows. But it didn't last, this comfort leaked away, and she was like a miser whose windfall has vanished and who is convinced such luck can never strike again. Longing buckled her up and drove her to the discipline of counting days. Sometimes she even cut the days into factions to figure out more exactly how much time had gone. 201

my mother's dream

What is it about an infant's crying that makes it so powerful, able to break down the order you depend on, inside and outside of yourself? It is reproachful rather than supplicating—it comes out of a rage that can't be dealt with, a birthright rage free of love and pity, ready to crush your brains inside your skull. 322



Taiga, she thought. She did not know whether that was the right word for what she was looking at. She might have had, at some level, the idea of herself as a young woman in a Russian novel, going out into an unfamiliar, terrifying, and exhilarating landscape where the wolves would howl at night and where she would meet her fate. She did not care that this fate---in a Russian novel---would likely turn out to be dreary, or tragic, or both.

Personal fate was not the point, anyway. What drew her in---enchanted her, actually---was the very indifference, the repetition, the carelessness and contempt for harmony, to be found on the scrambled surface of the Precambrian shield. 55

That is what happens. You put it away for a little while, and now and again you look in the closet for something else and you remember, and you think, soon. Then it becomes something that is just there, in the closet, and other things get crowded in front of it and on top of it and finally you don't think about it at all.

The thing that was your bright treasure. You don't think about it. A loss you could not contemplate at one time, and now it becomes something you can barely remember. This is what happens.

And even if it's not put away, even if you make your living from it, every day? Juliet thinks of the older teachers at the school, how little most of them care for whatever it is that they teach. Take Juanita, who chose Spanish because it goes with her Christian name (she is Irish) and who wants to speak it well, to use it in her travels. You cannot say that Spanish is her treasure.

Few people, very few, have a treasure, and if you do you must hang on to it. You must not let yourself be waylaid, and have it taken from you. 84

Juliet hears the door of the truck close, she hears him speaking to the dog, and dread comes over her. She wants to hide somewhere (she says later, I should have crawled under the table, but of course she does not think of doing anything so ridiculous). It's like the moment at school before the winner of the prize is announced. Only worse, because she has no reasonable hope. And because there will never be another chance so momentous in her life.

When the door opens she cannot look up. On her knees the fingers of both hands are interwoven, clenched together. "You're here," he says. He is laughing in triumph and admiration, as if at a most spectacular piece of impudence and daring. When he opens his arms it's as if a wind has blown into the room and made her look up.

Six months ago she did not know this man existed. Six months ago, the man who died under the train was still alive, and perhaps picking out the clothes for his trip. "You're here."

She can tell by his voice that he is claiming her. She stands up, quite numb, and sees that he is older, heavier more impetuous than she has remembered. He advances on her and she feels herself ransacked from top to bottom, flooded with relief, assaulted by happiness. How astonishing this is. How close to dismay. 85


Sara and Juliet, making fudge and threading ribbons through the eyelet trim on their petticoats, the two of them intertwined. And then abruptly, Juliet hadn't wanted any more of it, she had wanted instead to talk to Sam late at night in the kitchen, to ask him about black holes, the Ice Age, God. She hated the way Sara undermined their talk with wide-eyed ingenuous questions, the way Sara always tried somehow to bring the subject back to herself. That was why the talks had to be late at night and there had to be the understanding neither she nor Sam every spoke about. Wait till we're rid of Sara. Just for the time being, of course. There was a reminder going along with that. Be nice to Sara. She risked her life to have you, that's worth remembering. 101

Juliet had thought she might talk to Sam about the thesis she was planning to return to---though at present that was just a dream. Such subjects used to come up naturally between them. Not with Sara. Sara would say, "Now, you must tell me what you're doing in your studies," and Juliet would sum things up, and Sara might ask how she kept all those Greek names straight. But Sam had known what she was talking about. At college she had mentioned how her father had explained to her what thamaturgy meant, when she ran across the word at the age of twelve or thirteen. She was asked if her father was a scholar.

"Sure," she said. "He teachers Grade Six."

Now she had a feeling that he would subtly try to undermine her. Or maybe not so subtly. He might use the word airy-fairy. Or claim to have forgotten things she could not believe he had forgotten.

But maybe he had. Rooms in his mind closed up, the windows blackened---what was in there judged by him to be too useless, to discreditable, to meet the light of day. 114-115


Her contentions were that he did not love her, had never loved her, had mocked her, with Christa, behind her back. He had made her a laughingstock in front of people like Ailo (who has always hated her). That he had treated her with contempt, that he regarded the love she felt (or had felt) for him with contempt, he had lived a lie with her. Sex meant nothing to him, or at any rate it did not mean what it meant (had meant) to her, he would have it off with whoever was handy.

Only the last of these contentions had the least germ of truth in it, and in her quieter states she knew that. But even that little truth was enough to pull everything down around her. It shouldn't do that, but it did. And Eric was not able---in all honesty he was not able---to see why that should be so. He was not surprised that she should object, make a fuss, even weep (though a woman like Christa would never have done that), but that she should really be damaged, that she should consider herself bereft of all that had sustained her---and for something that had happened twelve years ago---this he could not understand.

Sometimes he believed that she was shamming, making the most of it, and at other times he was full of real grief, that he had made her suffer. Their grief aroused them, and they made love magnificently. And each time he thought that would be the end of it, their miseries were over. Each time he was mistaken.

In bed, Juliet laughed and told him about Pepys and Mrs. Pepys, inflamed with passion under similar circumstances. (Since more or less giving up on her classical studies, she was reading widely, and nowadays everything she read seemed to have to do with adultery.) Never so often and never so hot, Pepys had said, though he recorded as well that his wife had also thought of murdering him in his sleep. Juliet laughed about this, but half an hour later, when he came to say good-bye before going out in the boat to check his prawn traps, she showed a stony face and gave him a kiss of resignation, as if he'd been going out to meet a woman out in the middle of the bay and under a rainy sky. 139-140

On a day before that, a day in February, Juliet stood in the shelter at the campus bus stop when her afternoon's work was over. The day's rain had stopped, there was a band of clear sky in the west, red where the sun had gone down, out over the Strait of Georgia. This sign of the lengthening days, the promise of the change of season, had an effect on her that was unexpected and crushing.

She realized that Eric was dead.

As if all this time, while she was in Vancouver, he had been waiting somewhere, waiting to see if she would resume her life with him. As if being with him was an option that had stayed open. Her life since she came here had still been lived against a backdrop of Eric, without her ever quite understanding that Eric did not exist. Nothing of him existed.

The memory of him in the daily and ordinary world was in retreat.

So this is grief. She feels as if a sack of cement has been poured into her and quickly hardened. She can barely move. Getting onto the bus, getting off the bus, walking half a block to her building (why is she still living here?), is like climbing a cliff. And now she must hide this from Penelope.

At the supper table she began to shake, but could not loosen her fingers to drop the knife and fork. Penelope came around the table and pried her hands open. She said, "It's Dad, isn't it?"

Juliet afterwards told a few people—such as Christa—that these seemed the most utterly absolving, the most tender words, that anybody had ever said to her. 147


His hands didn't feel drunk, and his eyes didn't look it. Neither did he look like the jolly uncle he had impersonated when he talked to the children, or the purveyor of reassuring patter he had chosen to be with Grace. He had a high pale forehead, a crest of tight curly gray-black hair, bright gray eyes, a wide thin-lipped mouth that seemed to curl in on some vigorous impatience, or appetite, or pain. 180

How strange that she'd thought of marrying Maury. A kind of treachery it would be. A treachery to herself. But not a treachery to be riding with Neil, because he knew some of the same things she did. And she knew more and more, all the time, about him. 190

Describing this passage, this change in her life, later on, Grace might say---she did say---that it was as if a gate had clanged shut behind her. But at the time there was no clang---acquiescence simply rippled through her, the rights of those left behind were smoothly cancelled.

Her memory of this day remained clear and detailed, though there was a variation in the parts of it she dwelt on.

And even in some of those details she must have been wrong.

Grace and Neil did not talk, of course. As she remembers it, you would have had to scream to be heard. And what she remembers is, to tell the truth, hardly distinguishable from her idea, her fantasies at that time, of what sex should be like. The fortuitous meeting, the muted but powerful signals, the nearly silent flight in which she herself would figure more or less as a captive. An airy surrender, flesh nothing now but a stream of desire. 183

"That's true," he said. "That's about what I'd say. Well, then you'd try to tell me why I was wrong."

"No," said Grace. "No. I wouldn't."

When she'd said that, she felt cold. She had thought she was serious, but now she saw that she'd been trying to impress him with these answers, trying to show herself as worldly as he was, and in the middle of that she had come on this rock-bottom truth. This lack of hope---genuine, reasonable, and everlasting.

She'd thought it was touch. Mouths, tongues, skin, bodies, banging bone on bone. Inflammation. Passion. But that wasn't what had been meant for them at all. That was child's play, compared to how she knew him, how far she'd seen into him, now.

What she had seen was final. As if she was at the edge of a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. Looking out at such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was.

It wasn't the drinking that was responsible. The same thing was waiting, no matter what, and all the time. Drinking, needing to drink---that was just some sort of distraction, like everything else. 193

She asked if he was awake enough to drive now.

"Wide-awake. Bright as a dollar."

He told her to slip her foot out of its sandal, and he felt and pressed it here and there before saying, "Nice. No heat. No swelling. Your arm hurt? Maybe it won't." He walked her to the door, and thanked her for her company. She was still amazed to be safely back. She hardly realized it was time to say good-bye.

As a matter of fact she does not know to this day if those words were spoken, or if he only caught her, wound his arms around her, held her so tightly, with such continual, changing pressures that it seemed more than two arms were needed, that she was surrounded by him, his body strong and light, demanding and renouncing all at once, as if he was telling her she was wrong to give up on him, everything was possible, but then again that she was not wrong, he meant to stamp himself on her and go. 195.


The thing about life, Harry had told Lauren, was to live in the world with interest. To keep your eyes open and see the possibilities---see the humanity---in everybody you met. To be aware. If he had anything at all to teacher it was that. Be aware.


One of the nurses she worked with had said to her, "I'd never have the nerve to do that all on my own," and that had made Robin realize how different she herself must be from most people. She never felt more at ease than at these times, surrounded by strangers. After the play she would walk downtown, along the river, and find some inexpensive place to eat---usually a sandwich, as she sat on a stool at the counter. And at twenty to eight she would catch the train home. That was all. Yet those few hours filled her with an assurance that the life she was going back to, which seemed so makeshift and unsatisfactory, was only temporary and could easily be put up with. And there was a radiance behind it, behind that life, behind everything, expressed by the sunlight seen through the train windows. The sunlight and long shadows on the summer fields, like the remains of the play in her head. 239

This talk felt more and more like an agreed-upon subterfuge, like a conventional screen for what was becoming more and more inevitable all the time, more necessary, between them. But in the light of the railway depot, whatever was promising, or mysterious, was immediately removed. 251

Now it will happen, she thought. And it was nothing. Now nothing will happen. Good-bye. Thank you. I'll send the money. No hurry. Thank you. It was no trouble. Thank you just the same. Good-bye. 251

They were at the end of the platform, and he said, "Watch here," then, "All right?" as they stepped down on the gravel. "All right," Said Robin with a lurch in her voice, either because of the uncertain surface of the gravel or because by now he had taken hold of her at the shoulders, then was moving his hands down her bare arms.

"It is important that we have met," he said. "I think so. Do you think so?"

She said, "Yes."

"Yes. Yes."

He slid his hands under her arms to hold her closer, around the waist, and they kissed again and again.

The conversation of kisses. Subtle, engrossing, fearless, transforming. When they stopped they were both trembling, and it was with an effort that he got his voice under control, tried to speak matter-of-factly. 253

She had something now to carry around with her all the time. She was aware of a shine on herself, on her body, on her voice, and all her doings. It made her walk differently and smile for no reason and treat the patients with uncommon tenderness. It was her pleasure to dwell on one thing at a time and she could do that while she went about her duties, while she ate supper with Joanne. The bare wall of the room, with the rectangles of streaked light reflected on it through the slatted blinds. The rough paper of the magazines, with their old-fashioned sketched illustrations, instead of photographs. The thick crockery bowl, with a yellow band around it, in which he served the Stroganoff. The chocolate color of Juno's muzzle, and her lean strong legs. then the cooling air in the streets, and the fragrance from the municipal flower beds and the streetlamps by the river, around which a whole civilization of tiny bugs darted and circled.

The sinking in her chest, then the closing down, when he came back with her ticket. But after that the walk, the measured steps, the descent from the platform to the gravel. Through the thin soles of her shoes she had felt pain from the sharp pebbles.

Nothing faded for her, however repetitive this program might be. Her memories, and the embroidery on her memories, just kept wearing a deeper groove. 255

And here she was, weeping. She had managed to hold it back along the street, but on the path by the river, she was weeping. The same black swan swimming alone, the same families of ducklings and their quacking parents, the sun on the water. It was better not to try to escape, better not to ignore this blow. If you did that for a moment, you had to put up with its hitting you again, a great crippling whack in the chest. 261




Robin wants to set this piece of paper in front of someone, some authority.

This is ridiculous. This I do not accept.



Tessa gave Ollie an unexpected smile. It was not a smile of complicity or apology or the usual coquetry. It might have been a smile of welcome, but without any explicit invitation. It was just the offering of some warmth, some easy spirit in her. And at the same time there was a movement of her wide shoulders, a peaceable settling there, as if the smile was spreading through her whole self. 292–293

Ollie. Alive. Ollie. 315

All the time he was telling her this, Nancy had an unhappy feeling. it was not disbelief---in spite of the one major discrepancy. It was more a feeling of increasing puzzlement, then of disappointment. He was talking the way some other men talked. (For instance, a man she had spent some time with on the cruise ship---where she had not been so consistently standoffish, so unsociable, as she had led Ollie to believe.) Plenty of men never had a word to say about their lives, beyond when and where. But there were others, more up-to-date, who gave these casual-sounding yet practiced speeches in which it was said that life was indeed a bumpy road, but misfortunes had pointed the way to better things, lessons were learned, and without a doubt joy came in the morning.

She did not object to other men talking this way--she could usually think about something else--but when Ollie did it, leaning across the rickety little table and across the wooden platter of alarming pieces of fish, a sadness spread through her.

He was not the same. He was truly not the same. 320

So Nancy had missed Ollie a lot without ever figuring out just what it was that she missed. Something troublesome burning in him like a low-grade fever, something she couldn't get the better of. The things that had got on her nerves during that short time she had known him turned out to be just the things, in retrospect, that shone. 320

The sense of being reprieved lights all the air. So clear, so powerful, that Nancy feels the known future wither under its attack, skitter away like dirty old leaves. 335

Friend of my youth

five points

He must feel the same thing she does--the slow but irresistible rise of a new excitement, the need to say, and hear, dire things. What a sharp, releasing pleasure there is in the first blow, and what a dazzling temptation ahead--destruction. You don't stop to think why you want that destruction. You just do. 43