men

I don't want him to read my slowness as fear, as weakness, as me not being old enough to look at death like a man should, so I grip and yank. I like to think I know what death is. I like to think it's something I could look at straight. When Pop tell me he need my help and I see that black knife slid into the belt of his pants, I follow Pop out the house, try to keep my back straight, my shoulders even as a hanger; that's how Pop walks. I try to look like this is normal and boring so Pop will think I've earned these thirteen years, so Pop will know I'm ready to pull what needs to be pulled, separate innards from muscle, organs from cavities. I want Pop to know I can get bloody. Today's my birthday. “But Auntie,” begs Neena, raising her voice, because this is what she really wants to argue about, the largest sticking point between the two of them, Alsana’s arranged marriage. “How can you bear to live with somebody you don’t know from Adam?” In response, an infuriating wink: Alsana always likes to appear jovial at the very moment her interlocutor becomes hot under the collar. “Because, Miss Smarty-pants, it is by far the easiest option. It was exactly because Eve did not know Adam from Adam that they got on so A-OK. Let me explain. Yes, I was married to Samad Iqbal the same evening of the very day I met him. Yes, I didn’t know him from Adam. But I liked him well enough. We met in the breakfast room on a steaming Delhi day and he fanned me with The Times. I thought he had a good face, a sweet voice, and his backside was high and well-formed for a man of his age. Very good. Now, every time I learn something more about him, I like him less. So you see, we were better off the way we were. At the traffic lights he flipped a ten-pence coin and smiled when the result seemed to agree that Fate was pulling him toward another life. Like a dog on a leash round a corner. Generally, women can’t do this, but men retain the ancient ability to leave a family and a past. They just unhook themselves, like removing a fake beard, and skulk discreetly back into society, changed men. Unrecognizable. In this manner, a new Archie is about to emerge. We have caught him on the hop. For he is in a past-tense, future-perfect kind of mood. He is in a maybe this, maybe that kind of mood. When he approaches a forked road, he slows down, checks his undistinguished face in the rearview mirror, and quite indiscriminately chooses a route he’s never taken before, a residential street leading to a place called Queen’s Park. Go straight past Go!, Archie-boy, he tells himself; collect two hundred, and don’t for Gawd’s sake look back. “It’s just that he loses control sometimes. As soon as he gets the business established again, and gets back to work, you know how he loves to work, he’ll be fine. The drinking is only temporary—it’s like medicine for him, like he has a terrible headache and needs to anesthetize himself, you can sympathize with that, Judd, can’t you? We might be the same way in his place. He’s a good, decent man who only wants to provide for his family. He’s told me how sorry he is, and he’d tell you except—well, you know how he is, how men are. He loves you no matter what he says or does, you know that don’t you? So Corinne was a new mother: slightly touched by new-mother craziness. She hoped to dignify herself by commenting sagely to the doctor (always, you want to impress them: men of authority) about “the sucking reflex”—“the bonding instinct”—and similar clinical-anthropological phenomena. She wanted to impress this man she hardly knew, she’d been a college student after all, even if she was only at Fredonia State, and she’d dropped out between her junior and senior years to get married. His thoughts and the thoughts of others were constantly on what he would achieve, on what he would become, in a pleasantly anticipated future, while the present lay just at hand, all the riches of the world ignored and untouched. It was scarcely Michael's fault. I could see that his clever childhood had been a grooming, an anticipation, for the future use of his many talents, and he had fallen into the habit of tomorrow which in a man of thirty-three shows a rosy promise beginning to wither and arouses pity rather than admiration. Grace, in this family setting, was the tolerated outsider whose slightest false move would change her to the enemy; the seeds of enmity had been planted with her arrival as Michael's unofficial wife but the rain- and sun-making forces necessary for their growth had been imprisoned within the seasonless weatherless world of the parents' love for or indulgence of their son. "Eight thirty," Josie said, because she knew it was probably true. "Thanks," the man said, but in a way that implied he was a paying guest and she was some kind of bike-path clock keeper—that she worked on the path and was in charge of time. She thought of the bicycle man in her town, the one responsible for the maiming, the furious and florid sense of themselves these men felt. I am wearing these clothes and have gone fast. Move from my path. Fix my teeth. Tell me the time. Child support was never discussed or contemplated. For six months he wasn't seen at all. But when he reappeared, he acted like he'd been there all the while. "Are you sure about this school they're in?" he'd asked last fall, the last time he'd visited. "Are they being fully challenged?" He’s a little old man we’re two little old men something wrong here ‘How,’ Jones asked Martin, ‘are things with your father?’ Martin shrugged and told him.
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