26 September 2009

“I feel great,” I said, trying to decide how I did feel. I felt sorry to have driven Emily to leave me, not because I thought that I could have done otherwise, but because she’d tried very hard for many years to avoid an outcome to which she was, in a way that would always remain beyond my understanding, morally opposed. Her own parents had married in 1939 and they were married still, in a manner that approximated happiness, and I knew she regarded divorce as the first refuge of the week in character and the last of the hopelessly incompetent. I felt as you feel when you’ve forced an honest person to lie for you, or a thrifty person to blow his paycheck on one of your worthless tips. I also felt that I loved Emily, but in the fragmentary, half-narrative way you love people when you’re stoned. I closed my eyes and I thought of the lash of her skirt snapping around her as she danced one evening in a bar on the South Side to a jukebox that was playing “Barefootin’,” of the downy slope of her neck and the declivity in her nightgown as she bent to wash her face in the bathroom sink, of a tuna salad sandwich she’d handed me one windy afternoon as we sat on a picnic table in Lucia, California, and looked out for the passage of whales, and I felt that I loved Emily insofar as I loved all of these things – beyond reason, and with a longing that made me want to hang my head—but it was a love that felt an awful lot like nostalgia. I hung my head.

— Grady, in Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon

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