And then I realize that his emotions aren't really adult at all. They're too unguarded, too undiluted. I the words of Ruby Latham past, they are too authentic. If he were forty, and this woman he loves had left him, he would never sit in her yard and sob. He would say she'd always been a bitch, never been much. Or he would get drunk and try to turn another woman into her in a bar and then in bed. Or he would work too many hours, or play too much golf, or find some other way to swallow whatever he was feeling, preferring a rock in his gullet to his heart on his sleeve, preferring anger to grief, resentment to bereavement. Anything but this, this undisguised despair.
...The sun crests over the edge of the pumping station on the hill, turning its bricks from brown to red the way it does to Ruby's hair, and I realize I am afraid to move. He will have a life in which this one seems merely like the sort of dream that is vivid at the moment of waking and has vanished by the time you've had your coffee. To us the kitchen seems to so ordinary, so little to have, but I have seen in his eyes, and in rachel's too, the glitter of yearning, and felt sad that the best we could offer was a kind of borrowing. Kiernan had believed he could turn the borrowing into ownership.
When your children are away for the summer, public expectations are twofold. Other mothers assume you will feel incomplete or liberated, depending on their own situations. I feel neither. I fee that my children need to be gone this summer, Ruby to grow, Max to heal, Alex - well, because the other two will be away.
It's only once he is gone that I emerge and follow his hug with one tighter, longer, from which my daughter divests herself slowly, with a smile, as though she were taking off a heavy coat on a hot day.
Ruby is using her make-nice voice with me, and I don't like it. It's as though she has outgrown the need to oppose me, which I fear is only a few beats away from outgrowing me entirely. Sometimes I feel as though the entire point of a woman's life is to fall in love with people who will leave her. The only variation I can see is the ones who fight the love, and the ones who fight the leaving. It's too late for me to be the first, and I'm trying not to be the second.
I wondered if she was immersing herself in notions that made her feel small before she took the next step of actually making herself smaller.
I think she used the movies as a plausible excuse to weep in a way that would have seemed indulgent to her otherwise. But she still somehow believed she needed to hitch her grief to someone else's tragedy.
I have no excuse for my own tears. In the way of women my age, I increasingly count my blessings aloud, as though if other people ackowledge them they'll be enough: three wonderful children, a long and happy marriage, good home, pleasurable work. And if below the surface I sense that one child is poised to flee and another is miserable, that my husband and I trade public pleasantries and private minutiae, that my work depends on the labor of men who think I'm cheating them - none of that is to be dwelled on. Besides, none of that has anything to do with my tears. If I were pressed, I would have to say that they are the symptom of some great loneliness, as free-floating and untethered to everyday life as a tornado is to the usual weather. It whirls through, ripping and tearing, and then I'm in the parking lot of the supermarket, wiping my eyes, replacing my sunglasses, buying fish and greens for that night's dinner. If anyone asks how things are, i say what we all say: fine, good, great, terrific, wonderful.
I can imagine myself reading that about someone else and disbelieving it. That's what people do: They imagine themselves in your place, and they know that they would be different, better. They scare themselves a little with borrowed tragedy, and then they retreat to the safety of their own safe place, or what they think is their own safe place.
My ghost daughter talks of butterflies, her legs graceful beneath thrift-store dresses. My ghost son slouches past me, his hair untidy. My ghost husband lies with me at night, so that half of the bed is still made each morning, the pillows still plumbed. Did I arrive at this half-life because three times I was unfaithful, which for a mother is not simply betryal of a man but of a family and a vocation? Did I trade my ordinary, average, perfect life for hasty couplings on a cement floor?
I expected to miss my work more, but I don't. It was the kind of job you have because you have children, that gives you room for supermarket shopping, soccer games and after-school pickups, and gives you something to tell people at parties. I love to make things grow, to deadhead the foxglove and watch it improbably have a second flowering, to dig up a big bristly clump of old day lilies in the fall and break it up into five or six smaller plants and then have each of them burst into bloom the following summer. But I realize now that I don't really care for landscaping plans, terrace beds, drystone pathways, pergolas - all the things people want to make their gardens into what magazines now call "outdoor rooms." My idea of an outdoor room is a screened porch with a picnic table.