The evenings grew longer; kitchen windows stayed open after dinner and peepers could be heard in the marsh. Isabelle, stepping out to sweep her porch steps, felt absolutely certain that some wonderful change was arriving in her life. The strength of this belief was puzzling; what she was feeling, she decided, was really the presence of God.
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But what Tyler longed for was to have The Feeling arrive; when every flicker of light that touched the dipping branches of a weeping willow, every breath of breeze that bent the grass towards the row of apple trees, every shower of yellow ginko leaves dropping to the ground with such direct and tender sweetness, would fill the minister with profound and irreducible knowledge that God was right there.
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Jim. If you have any other outside events, don't confess them. That's my advice, okay?''What am I going to do, Bob? I have no family.''You have family, ' Bob said. 'You have a wife who hates you. Kids who are furious with you. A brother and sister who make you insane. And a nephew who used to be kind of a drip but apparently is not so much of a drip now. That's called family.'Jim fell asleep, his head leaning forward almost to his chest
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But she no longer felt sadness about it, the pressure of sorrow that had overtaken her at the table, the longing for all the Burgess kids, and the sense of the irreplaceable familiarity of her old life-that had passed the way the cramping of a stomach muscle passes, and the absence of its pain was glorious.
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What young people didn't know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't choose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered. And so, if this man next to her now was not a man she would have chosen before this time, what did it matter: He most likely wouldn't have chosen her either. But here they were, and Olive pictured two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union-what pieces life took out of you. Her eyes were closed, and throughout her tired self swept waves of gratitude-and regret. She pictured the sunny room, the sun-washed wall, the bayberry outside. It baffled her, the world. She did not want to leave it yet.
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By the time they were pulling into the parking lot of the A&P, the mood was fading, the moment gone. Amy could feel it go. Perhaps it was nothing more than the two doughnuts expanding in her stomach full of milk, but Amy felt a heaviness begin, a familiar turning of some inward tide. As they drove over the bridge the sun seemed to move from a cheerful daytime yellow to an early-evening gold; painful how the gold light hit the riverbanks, rich and sorrowful, drawing from Amy some longing, a craving for joy.
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By the time they were pulling into the parking lot of the AandP, the mood was fading, the moment gone. Amy could feel it go. Perhaps it was nothing more than the two doughnuts expanding in her stomach full of milk, but Amy felt a heaviness begin, a familiar turning of some inward tide. As they drove over the bridge the sun seemed to move from a cheerful daytime yellow to an early-evening gold; painful how the gold light hit the riverbanks, rich and sorrowful, drawing from Amy some longing, a craving for joy.
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Inside the music like this, she understood many things. She understood that Simon was a disappointed man if he needed, at this age, to tell her he had pitied her for years. She understood that as he drove his car back down the coast toward Boston, toward his wife with whom he had raised three children, that something in him would be satisfied to have witnessed her the way he had tonight, and she understood that this form of comfort was true for many people, as it made Malcolm feel better to call Walter Dalton a pathetic fairy, but it was thin milk, this form of nourishment; it could not change that you had wanted to be a concert pianist and ended up a real estate lawyer, that you had married a woman and stayed married to her for thirty years, when she did not ever find you lovely in bed.
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And then as the little plane climbed higher and Olive saw spread out below them fields of bright and tender green in this morning sun, farther out the coastline, the ocean shiny and almost flat, tiny white wakes behind a few lobster boats-then Olive felt something she had not expected to feel again: a sudden surging greediness for life. She leaned forward, peering out the window: sweet pale clouds, the sky as blue as your hat, the new green of the fields, the broad expanse of water-seen from up here it all appeared wondrous, amazing. She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed.
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Olive's private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts." Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee's, let's say, or the waitress at Dunkin' Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really.
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But what could you do? Only keep going. People kept going; they had been doing it for thousands of years. You took the kindness offered, letting it seep as far in as it could go, and the remaining dark crevices you carried around with you, knowing that over time they might change into something almost bearable.
Back and forth she went each morning by the river, spring arriving once again; foolish, foolish spring, breaking open its tiny buds, and what she couldn't stand was how""for many years, really""she had been made happy by such a thing. She had not thought she would ever become immune to the beauty of the physical world, but there you were. The river sparkled with the sun that rose, enough that she needed her sunglasses.
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And yet, standing behind her son, waiting for the traffic light change, she remembered how in the midst of it all there had been a time when she'd felt a loneliness so deep that once, not so many years ago, having a cavity filled, the dentist's gentle turning of her chin with his soft fingers had felt to her like a tender kindness of almost excruciating depth, and she had swallowed with a groan of longing, tears springing to her eyes.
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He would not let her go. Even though, staring into her open eyes in the swirling salt-filled water, with sun flashing though each wave, he thought he would like this moment to be forever: the dark-haired woman on shore calling for their safety, the girl who had once jumped rope like a queen, now holding him with a fierceness that matched the power of the ocean""oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on.
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There were days - she could remember this - when Henry would hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. But she had that memory now, of something healthy and pure.
I'm so deeply interested in what it feels like to be other people that I get to operate under the illusion when I'm writing fiction that I'm not really revealing that much about myself. But, of course, I am, and I know that I am. And yet there's this sort of membrane that I get to work behind as I write my fiction, and I love it.