Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Readings: A Failure of Love

I am well underway with my reading of a second novel by Mary Robison, One D.O.A., One on the Way. While this one may never be able to replace the first one in my reader’s heart, it is an excellent read. I love the way that Robison structures her fiction as a series of short, numbered sections. I share with you below two such sections, which hit me very hard, narrated in the voice of the novel’s protagonist:


I had a different husband in the late ‘90s. Charlie. He was a professor of neuroscience, from a harbor town in northeast Ireland. We were fine being married. For over two years, we were fine. Then one day his mother was thrown from a train that collided with another train on its way to Connolly Station. So, Charlie went home to take care of his mom, and we would talk on the phone every few days. I thought he’d say something, eventually, about returning to the states. He never did, though. His mother was pretty much broken to bits. A widow. And Charlie had a much younger sister. We stopped calling back and forth so often, he and I. Until it became once or twice a month, once a month, every two or three months that we’d talk. Then I dragged myself through divorcing him. It was sad.


I should have offered to join Charlie in Ireland, and offered to help him take care of his mom. Helped with his sister. He must have waited for me to do that. While all I could think of was, When’s he going to wrap up and come home?
xxxxxxThere that is. Written right on me. Never, ever to be scratched out.

It seemed to me upon reading these two brief sections that they accurately describe the key mechanism of the failure of relationships—how love dies. While most of us may not commit transgressions against our partners quite as grand in scale as the one described here, still it is the accretion of many little instances of the same type of self-centered neglect which finally adds up to the destruction of what we have: that which we should be treasuring and nurturing, but allow to weaken and finally die through our inertia and neglect.

Robison’s writings are full of such valuable (and accusatory) insights. Highly recommended.