of mine. A book I wrote, a memoir that I gave him when we first started dating, sits
unopened on his shelf. I try not to be hurt. Why should he read my book after all?
He says, when I inquire, that he is not a literary man and worries that I will not respect his thoughts. But I am not a lawyer and I don’t worry that I should be. Is he insecure or just telling me an approximate truth, an untruth? I tell him he has expressed no interest in who I am. “Maybe,” he says. But still he asks me nothing.
When he packs to leave I am not sorry. I welcome back my solitude. Either I am not ready to place my hand in a different hand or this man has circled his wagons against the irritations of another soul, at least my soul. I will not see him again. He is decent and good and intelligent. He is calm and self-contained. He e-mails me, “Perhaps we could be friends?” I don’t answer the e-mail. He is a stranger and will remain so.
It occurs to me that I could write anything about him I like. He will not read it.
Sometimes at the end of the day I would read aloud to
H. the page or two I had written a few hours earlier. He would sit on our black leather couch with his vodka in his hand and nod when he was ready for me to begin. He was mostly appreciative and always encouraging, except when he fell asleep. This happened often enough in the last years that I stopped reading to him. He rose before six and was gone by seven thirty a.m. He walked the twenty blocks to his office. He carried with him the book he was reading. I knew his mind was full of his own thoughts and mine must have served like the lullaby wheels of a train, round and round, clank and churn, clank and churn. H. had earned the right to fall asleep as I read. Also I might
have been boring (all writers fear that they are boring, a violation of the first of the writer’s ten commandments). I was not afraid that H. would leave me because I was boring him.
This is the first summer since we bought the house that I have not wanted to walk along the water’s edge, watching the ocean come and go, watching the gulls circling for bait fish, watching the trawlers out at the edge of the horizon. For reasons I do not understand I am uninterested in the beach. I am unable to sit in a chair under an umbrella peacefully. I do not admire the little children who run about. I do not want to hear anyone else’s radio. I get cold with the sharp wind. I get bitten by black f lies. Also I do not want to be alone on the beach, not even when the fog comes in and the terns scurry on their pin legs, in and out of the tidal froth. It’s too much for me, this ocean. I never go. Day after day I plan to go but I don’t. As if I had signed a pledge, do not enjoy, do not let the sun near the muscles of your back, do not wet your feet. Ridiculous. Perhaps I act this way because the house is going to be sold. Widow that I am, its upkeep will undo me. Widow that I am, I have no desire to travel the highways to reach the house. Widow that I am, I do not want to put my hands in the rocky dirt of my garden. I don’t want to replace a burned-out lightbulb. I don’t like this house without H.
But that said, it is also true that here we had Thanksgiving dinners, a Passover or two, with most all the children gathered. Here we played poker with boyfriends of my daughters who seemed permanent but weren’t. Here we talked about politics with a young husband who disappointed and disappeared. Here another daughter brought
her new husband whom we had not yet met. On this table, with this stove, and this refrigerator marred by specks of rust on the door, common to houses so close to the sea, we made meal after meal. We cooked together, all of us. A daughter announced her pregnancy here. Another was married nearby. Friends filled the house, fish was smoked and grilled. Bikes were pulled out of the shed and stuffed back in among unused boogie boards and mildewed beach chairs, grandchildren slept in