'And then all of a sudden it's like he suddenly wasn't there.'
'At this point she'd bring up how I seemed suddenly distant. I would explain in response that I had gotten, suddenly, over champagne, an idea for a truly central piece on the application of state variable techniques to the analysis of small-signal linear control systems. A piece that could have formed the crux of my whole senior year's thesis, the project that had occupied and defined me for months.'
'He went to his Dad's office at the University and I didn't see him for two days.'
'She claims that's when she began to feel differently about things. No doubt this new Statistics person comforted her while I spent two sleepless, Coke-and-pizza fueled days on a piece that ended up empty and unfeasible. I went to her for comfort and found her almost hostile. Her eyes were dark and she was silent and trying with every fiber to look Unhappy. She practically had her forearm to her forehead. It was distressed-maiden/wronged-woman scenario."
'She regarded the things that were important to me as her enemy, not realising that they were, in fact, the "me" she seemed so jealously to covet.'
just a cool idea (different priorities - inspiration for MC and his wife)
[...] he didn't want this to be just another seduction. He wanted her to be the way out of the wasteland of seduction he'd been living in.
[...] Andreas was overwhelmed by the contrast between love and lust. Love turned out to be soul-crippling, stomach-turning, weirdly clasutrophobic; a sense of endlessness bottled up inside him, endless weight, endless potential, with only the small outlet of a shivering pale girl in a bad rain jacket to escape through. Touching her was the farthest thing from his mind. The impulse was to throw himself at her feet.
We returned to New York determined to make our own Sicilian-style spaghetti with fried eggplant and tomatoes, a dish so delicious that we wanted to eat it twice a week. Which we did, for several months. And here was the thing: I didn't get sick of it slowly. I got sick of it suddenly, radically, and permanently while eating a plateful whose first bites I'd enjoyed as much as ever. I set down my fork and said we needed a break from fried eggplant and tomatoes. The dish was perfect and delicious and not to blame. I'd made it poison to me by eating too much of it. And so we took a monthlong break from it, but Anabel still loved it, and one very warm evening in June I came home and smelled her cooking it.
My stomach heaved.
"We overdid it," I said from the kitchen doorway. "I can't sand it anymore."
Symbolism was never lost on Anabel. "I'm not spaghetti with eggplant, Tom."
[...] And so begins what I see as his slow fade from me. We talk less and less, and since we both grew up in houses schooled to letting people vaporize into their own internal deserts with alacrity, we each let the other get smaller.
the beginning of the end, after she announces her pregnancy
[...] I have frequently tried to get my husband to listen to the National, but before this, it had never stuck. His only comment last summer, when I put all their albums on shuffle on Spotify and played it in the car was, “Is that guy going to apologize again?”
But last week, he texted me that he couldn’t stop listening to “Day I Die” on repeat, compared the band to the Cure, and then went face-down in the band’s back catalogue, texting me a running commentary of exclamation and discovery and new love that I remember from seven years and two albums ago. Then, I was just barely 26 years old when High Violet came out, and I had just gotten out of a very bad relationship. On the other side of that breakup, the world felt saturated with oxygen, like an abundant holiday table when you haven’t eaten all day, everything for grabbing. I was so profoundly, disgustingly grateful for the world, for each next day, for each new thing. I listened to “Bloodbuzz Ohio” for the first time, and I wanted to put myself inside its majestic, wallowing, self-mocking sound, the floor-dragging baritone of the lead singer whose voice sounded like a car driving with the brake on and the unreasonably optimistic backbeat pulling it forward all the same.
i remember reading this when i was still with toby and, guiltily, wanting to get to that point so badly
Something about the National has always felt like an escape, which is at face value an odd thing to say about a band whose subject is mainly sadness and anxiety. It’s both easy to and fun to make jokes about this band being the saddest band, the saddest dads, a band full of sad dads who really love being sad. All of these jokes are accurate: The National is a band whose form and content is sadness. But the reason this band’s music seemed to act as an opening of a pressure valve on my own sadness and anxiety and that of my friend is that it’s about sadness rather than grief. Their music is the difference between the two, the luxury of sadness versus the hard edges of grief.
Sadness spreads like a stain, sadness feels bodied and over-sensitized and ringing, like the first time you got high when you were a teenager, when you lay down on the carpet and nothing had ever been better or more important than the carpet. Sadness often acts as a temporary escape from grief. There are lots and lots of things worse in human reality than a broken heart or an unfaithful lover, and all of them are absent in the National’s music. That’s so much of what’s wonderful in it. Its sadness is a reckless, obliterative escape from the larger griefs of the world, focusing in on the overwhelming, petty, selfish concerns of the privileged heart. This music is enjoyable, squishy, and opulent in all its bad-hearted moping. Nothing in this music howls; everything oozes, everything has another drink and swoons into bed, sad and horny.
Marshall and I found a bench on the sidewalk, old and abandoned. We brought it home, where I sprayed it with Simple Green until it was almost white, then tied two blue-patterned cushions to it.Seven years of marriage and our home is coming together in bits and pieces like the bench, or the curtains I sewed even though I can’t really sew. At the same time, it is all falling apart, in monstrous, heavy clumps. An avalanche. A tidal wave. I don’t know how much is left to rebuild.
Before Marshall fled the house tonight, before I began pacing, before I drank the wine, we sat on the porch. He stared at me, waiting for signs of life. I sat hunched on the new bench, staring at the floorboards. It had been days since we’d spoken to one another, except for me saying, “I’m having trouble being in this house with you,” and “I can’t talk. You won’t like what I have to say.” So we stayed silent instead.
But tonight he sat on the rocking chair next to the bench. The breeze that blew between us was warm. And I thought about how it couldn’t have been a more perfect summer night if it weren’t for this rot between us. He stared at me until I had to look at him.
There is no right or easy or good way to say that maybe you don’t want to be married. So I spit out tiny fragments of sentences followed by quiet sobs and shallow breaths that rattled in my chest. I talked about being a better parent when I’m alone, about disappointment, about resentments that have been coming and going then jolting me so hard that I know, at least in that moment, I’ve given up.
When the kids are sleeping, we sit and stare at each other again, this time from different chairs in the living room. I say that deep down, I think it makes sense to separate, but I don’t want to because it’s too horrible. I say I won’t let myself be unhappy for years upon years either. If something, or everything doesn’t change, I have to end it and we have to find a way to go on living. I make him promise that he won’t fall apart completely, that he will be there for the kids. He puts his head in his hands and nods. “I know, I know,” he says.
“Maybe we can go back to therapy?” I suggest, and he likes this idea. I say that I’m not sure it will help because I’ve already told him everything I know. I’ve already cried and begged for a marriage that works and for fleeting moments, when I’ve unloaded all I can, it does. But then he forgets to call again. And I’m slamming the oven door, putting his cold dinner back in, and taking the kids up to bed alone. I’m screaming into the phone when his voicemail picks up, but never leaving a message. He looks at his phone instead of looking at my face, a tiny act that is not meant to cut me. But it does. And then, without my even noticing, everything falls back into its misplaced place. It always reverts, and part of me knows it will keep reverting until it’s so ingrained that all I can remember about my life is how to be someone’s angry wife.
It was like those moments in your most intimate relationships when you look over and are startled to remember: that other person is not you and is not yours to define. He or she suddenly seems to be some alien whom, inexplicably, you have decided to trust. Even as the two of you lie wrapped in each other's arms, you know that he or she can exist without you, and does just that now and again, in moments, and sometimes over longer stretches of time: sheds you. Yet you continue on, together. And that, too, I think, is an imperative of love.