Despite loving her, the man collects a string of infidelities. The woman stays with him and when they’re old (and more white than grey), she gets Alzheimer’s and becomes attached to another patient who is later taken away from the nursing home. When his wife’s condition starts to deteriorate without her new confidante, the man presumably cheats on her with the patient’s flirtatious wife so that she will send her husband back to the nursing home.
At its barest and boniest, it’s not exactly a story that a twenty-something identifies with on a personal level and yet, something about it left me so charged as I read the final lines, as if each line were independently and simultaneously humming just under my skin, leaving me feeling all tingly and alive.
After letting the energy particles settle, it became clear that, in this case at least, it was not so much the story itself, but the candid account of the couple and their imperfection, a topic I’ve lately been circling around, that affected me.
It’s not unusual for me to have this sort of reaction to a piece of writing, but it struck me on this particular occasion as strange that any story so seemingly unrelated and relevant to a reader’s own life can elicit such a visceral reaction.
How miraculous that an author, who doesn’t know me from Adam, can write something that has nothing to do with me, but that still makes me feel utterly known.
You don’t decide what you want out of a story before you read it, but sometimes it still manages to be so deeply satisfying that it’s as if you’ve discovered a new part of yourself.
When so often we seem to not even know ourselves, it makes me wonder how we know each other at all – not that it happens, but how it works; what it is that kindles that chemistry between certain people and makes them feel connected and alive.
Title from ee cummings
Photo from Ilana Kahn (The New Yorker)