Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Those previous versions of herself were so distant now that remembering them was almost like remembering other people, acquaintances, young woman who she'd known a long time ago, and she felt such compassion for them. "I regret nothing," she told her reflection in the ladies' room mirror, and believed it." That day, she attended a series of meetings, and in the late afternoon another car delivered her to a hotel. She still had an hour or two to kill until it was time to see Arthur again."

- Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

"I met someone who was the right kind of wife. Her husband played trumpet in a ska outfit whose contrabass player sometimes improvised to Stephen's minimal drive-by or whatever it was called this week. When I met her she had a kid on her shoulders and a baby on the ground by here feet, and she was talking gaily about Indian with a vendor of Indian junk at the flea market. The vendor was impressed, and I, too, was impressed. She was young the way an actual person is young. Not like weary, defeated Stephen and me. She confirmed my suppositions about her sterling qualities as a wife by inviting me for coffee and serving a cake she had baked herself using yest. I never did understand yeast.

Like me, she had moved to Berlin to be with her husband. The key difference was the kids. I envied her with a pang. An educated woman with little kids (I didn't imagine her having acquired them by any other means than hot sex) is a model of the feminist, as well as feminine virtue. Even her struggle to get strangers to take the kids off her hands was a feminist cause. Her work, bringing up the model citizens of tomorrow, is something society feels it out to value and is constantly proposing as potentially eligible for pension benefits, unlike my work, which neither involved actual labor nor was anything but an end in itself, on good days, and otherwise not even that.

The next time we had coffee, she said she had been a Slavic languages major at an international program in Krakow and abandoned her studies when the first baby came. That was about nine months after Hermann's band played Krakow. She barely remembered him, but she looked him up online. She hadn't planned to drop out, but it was absolutely impossible to be an adequate mother and have a life, she said. She didn't resent her children. She said they were every bit as interesting as verbs."

- Nell Zink, the wall creeper

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