Writers & Lovers
- Lily King
- My last highlight
- Number of highlights
These BU students, they’re too young to have ridden a banana bike. It’s strange, to not be the youngest kind of adult anymore. I’m thirty-one now, and my mother is dead. The
It’s high summer, and the river seems tired. Along its banks a frothy white scum pushes against the reeds.
I look into my eyes, but they aren’t really mine, not the eyes I used to have. They’re the eyes of someone very tired and very sad, and once I see them I feel even sadder and then I see that sadness, that compassion, for the sadness in my eyes, and I see the water rising in them.
She wraps an arm around me and pulls me in tight. ‘I know how you feel. You know I do. It’s good to get whacked open at least once, though,’ she says. ‘You can’t really love from inside a big thick shell.’
He doesn’t teach exactly, Muriel says. He has people read their work aloud, but he rarely speaks when they’re done. They’ve come to understand that if he likes what he’s hearing, his hands will move to his knees. And if he doesn’t, his arms remain crossed over his chest. And if he really loves it, his fingers will be laced together in his lap by the end.
When I get back to the library, Silas is gone, the women from the real world are gone, and Muriel’s in an argument about Cormac McCarthy with three men in moustaches.
We talk about a book called Troubles that I read and passed along to her. She loved it as much as I did, and we go through the scenes we liked best. It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving a book with someone.
A week after the book party, Muriel goes to her niece’s bat mitzvah and meets a guy. ‘I liked him,’ she says. ‘Christian.’ ‘Christian?’ ‘My dad said, “Leave it to Muriel to find a man named Christian at a bat mitzvah.”’ She’s a little giddy. The next day David, the old boyfriend, calls her. They say women have intuition, but men can smell a competitor across state lines. ‘He
Painters, I told myself, though I know nothing about painting, don’t start at one side of the canvas and work meticulously across to the other side. They create an underpainting, a base of shape, of light and dark. They find the composition slowly, layer after layer. This was only my first layer, I told myself as we turned the corner, the dog pulling toward something ahead, his nails loud on the sidewalk. It’s not
Two small boys at the new three-top are looking right at me. Children suffer the most at brunch. Their faces could be used for UNICEF posters.
Dinner was to be an herb pasta and salad. Jen brought in basil, rosemary, sage, red lettuce, and a bowlful of misshapen tomatoes from their greenhouse. Matt, Luke, and I were put to chopping, and the kitchen smelled like we were still outside. They were the kind of people who were only inside when they had to be. We ate on the back patio at a table that Matt had made from an old door. Luke sat beside me, but not close to me, on a long bench.
Oscar is studying me. He’s making decisions already. I can feel this. Between our call and today he talked himself out of me, and now he is coming back around. I squat there and think about how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them. Sometimes you mix the two up in a terrible tangle that’s hard to unravel.
‘Just so you know, I’m a bit scared of trees,’ he says. There are trees everywhere. It’s an arboretum. They all have small brass name tags nailed into them. We’re in the maple grove: Korean maple, fullmoon maple, painted maple. ‘Is this some kind of exposure therapy?’
We go into a shop she loves. The owner is tall like Muriel and all the clothes in there look good on tall women.
She points out the places where I have described a character’s emotion instead of the reaction to the emotion. ‘Don’t tell us the girl is sad. Tell us she can’t feel her fingers. Emotions are physical.’
You don’t realize how much effort you’ve put into covering things up until you try to dig them out.
Third date, I want to say, but I can’t with Silas. Our dates are not self-conscious like that. We don’t acknowledge that they’re happening or say what they mean. It all feels a bit haphazard and weightless, and to call attention to this might let out too much of the air. He’s
I always think of that Eliot poem, about the vision and the reality.’ ‘“Between the idea and the reality/Between the motion and the act/Falls the Shadow,”’ he says.
Usually a man in my life slows my work down, but it turns out two men give me fresh energy for the revision.
Behind the counter a stout woman is working around her breasts, which rest on the counter, in the way of everything she does.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen them. Three years, maybe. They look older, like something is gently tugging them to the floor. I wonder if my father knows how much hair is missing at the back of his head.
‘Why are they here?’ I want to call Caleb, but it’s long distance and I have too many tables. ‘What did he tell them?’ ‘Maybe he told them the truth. That you miss your mom. That you need some cash.’ I laugh. ‘They would never be here if he’d told them either of those things.’
The gynecologist has ordered a mammogram. He said my breasts were difficult to examine manually because they were fibrous. It makes me feel like a cereal. The technician is rough. She shoves and tugs my right boob into place on the glass plate and brings the other plate down with the touch of a button and just when it is as tight and squished as I can bear, she lowers it more. Sometimes she has to lift it back up a bit and cram my flesh in deeper. She should be a potter or a chef. Her hands are strong and certain. She reminds me of the line cooks stuffing potatoes.
He rinses and reassembles the salad spinner and hands it to me. It’s a solid expensive salad spinner. I push down on the big red button and the plastic basket inside revs and whizzes like a well-built engine. ‘Sorry,’ he says, taking it away from me. ‘I forgot you don’t know where it goes.’
‘Casey Kasem,’ he says, but kindly. We’ve always had an understanding. I’m not sure what we understand exactly. We’ve never spoken about anything but apps and entrées. But it’s there. At least for me.
The writing has that stark lucidity of someone trying to tell you the truest thing they know. The pages are small and I turn them one after the other and my insides burn in terrifying recognition.
Nearly every guy I’ve dated believed they should already be famous, believed that greatness was their destiny and they were already behind schedule. An early moment of intimacy often involved a confession of this sort: a childhood vision, teacher’s prophesy, a genius IQ. At first, with my boyfriend in college, I believed it, too. Later, I thought I was just choosing delusional men. Now I understand it’s how boys are raised to think, how they are lured into adulthood. I’ve met ambitious women, driven women, but no woman has ever told me that greatness was her destiny.
My body won’t stay seated so I walk around,
At Iris, a woman takes a bite of her BLT and sends it back. She says she doesn’t like the spicy mayonnaise. The kitchen makes another, with a milder aioli. I bring it out to her, and a few minutes later she asks me to bring some of the spicy mayonnaise back. ‘I thought I didn’t like it, but I did,’ she says.
And when I asked Mr. Tuck at the airport in Madrid why he hadn’t told someone about my father he said, I liked your dad but you know what happens to the messenger. I hate male cowardice and the way they always have each other’s backs. They have no control. They justify everything their dicks make them do. And they get away with it. Nearly every time. My father peered through a hole at girls, possibly at me, in our locker room. And when he got caught, he got a party and a cake.
‘Oh sweetie.’ He hugs me hard. ‘It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.’ It’s so much easier to cry when there are arms around you.
‘Well,’ he says, taking his keys out of his pocket. ‘Maybe I’ll make that deadline after all.’ He gives me one last peck. ‘Probably the youngest lips I’ll ever kiss again.’ I’ve forgotten what gets revealed right after you break up with someone. ‘I doubt that,’ I say. He chuckles hopefully and walks down the driveway to his car.
‘Go home. Tell Phil everything. See where it goes from there. Maybe you’ll still want to leave him. Maybe you’ll look at that gorgeous dining room table he made you and you’ll think, “Is there anything sexier than an ophthalmologist who can make me a seven-foot table?”’
I go to Victor Silva’s workshop. It’s full of the students who are not put off by a waxed mustache and a black cape.