Nadav Spiegelman

The Dutch House

Ann Patchett
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I had been about to pour us each a glass of wine but in light of the direction our conversation was going, I opted to pour one just for myself.
Making a mistake is not giving the floorboards enough time to settle before you seal them. Abandoning your children to go help the poor of India means you’re a narcissist who wants the adoration of strangers. I look at Kevin and May and I think, who would do that to them? What kind of person leaves their kids?” I felt like I’d been holding those words in my mouth since the moment I walked into the waiting room of the coronary care unit and saw our mother there. “Men!” Maeve said, nearly shouting. “Men leave their children all the time and the world celebrates them for it. The Buddha left and Odysseus left and no one gave a shit about their sons. They set out on their noble journeys to do whatever the hell they wanted to do and thousands of years later we’re still singing about it. Our mother left and she came back and we’re fine. We didn’t like it but we survived it.
His grief was a river as deep and as wide as my own. I knew that I should have gone to him later, I should have tried to comfort him, but there was no comfort in me.
The linden trees kept us from seeing anything except the linden trees.
Sandy and Jocelyn did their part as always, keeping me fed and telling me when I was not allowed to go outside without a hat.
No one could have blamed her, but I blamed her all the same.
I was nervous about seeing a movie with subtitles but it turned out that nobody really said anything.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that.” What I meant to say was, You are my sister, my only relation. Do not put your face in the fucking fire.
The tension in the room shifted and then we were all very aware of how we were sitting and what we were doing with our hands.
New York represented her shame about things that were in no way her fault, or at least that’s what I was thinking.
I looked at the page while she rifled through her bag, pulling out a slim volume of poetry by Adrienne Rich called Necessities of Life. I wondered if she was reading it for a class or if she was just one of those girls who read poetry on trains. I didn’t ask, and so we sat in companionable silence
Celeste had been a friend of the Martins’ daughter, a detail I’d either forgotten or had never known.
Celeste had been so adept at making me her job that I hadn’t seen her doing it. It wasn’t until after she left that I realized she’d stayed those Sunday nights because Sunday was when she washed the sheets and did the rest of the laundry, made the bed, then got back in it.
The dining room was intolerable in the very best of times.
She stopped there, a sudden flush of panic rising up her neck. This was a woman whose biology betrayed her at every turn. Emotions stormed across her face with a flag.
“You’re picking the woman you like the best from a group of women you don’t like,” Maeve said. “Your control group is fundamentally flawed.”
She was good at having babies, she liked to say. She was going to play to her strength.
“She was happy,” my mother said, her voice as quiet as a page turned.
The dinner was a huge production, with kids stashed in the den to eat off card tables like a collection of understudies who dreamed of one day breaking into the dining room.