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day by day: a blog

August 31, 2007

a new man

marlboro_1947_1.jpg [illustration source: plan59] When his wife and their children leave for a weekend with the grandparents, what does the considerate, well-behaved "new man" get up to in the evenings?

Oh, he keeps working as best he can. Then, he catches up on the latest items of outrage on "talkingpointsmemo", fondly tidies his older son's room (the telescope, the chewing gum wrappers, the books), microwaves himself a chicken burrito (the only savoury food his younger son eats), that sort of thing. Absent-mindedly, he waters about half of the sun-scorched plants she wanted him to. As he does, he remembers all the chances he missed, the things he never said.

Perhaps, as dusk falls, he will pour himself a middling glass of Cabernet by Charles Shaw ("two-buck-Chuck" at Trader Joe™'s), the wine they like, and can afford, to drink together. Maybe, too, with the aim of keeping his spirits high ("I'll never give up, not like my own dad..."), he will try to fight his way back into "boxing" contention against the younger generation with a half-hour's woozy, private practice on the Wii™. After all, they can't use it while they're away, can they? It will be fun.

Then, to the orchestral accompaniment of a thousand crickets' wings stridulating their calling song in the trees, he will "turn in" or "retire", heading for an early night in the immovable, Art Nouveau-style "California King", made from black walnut. Tonight this bed is a blazing longship drifting across the fjord. As he lies there, England is dead, like his ideas.... He hears a voice, as plaintive as that of someone wailing from a dripping dungeon deep in the castle's foundations. From the darkness it bleats and gibbers over and over: "How much longer to go?"

At about 2.30am he knows he will wake in a sweat, convinced he is suffocating in a pillow made from his grief. Who is holding that pillow firmly over his face? He has no idea. And, when it happens, he is certain only that who or what he is mourning for will also escape him.

Posted by njenkins at August 31, 2007 04:56 AM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins