I've always loved strong women, which is lucky for me because once you're over about twenty-five there is no other kind. Women blow my mind. The stuff that routinely gets done to them would make most men curl up and die, but women turn to steel and keep on coming. Any man who claims he's not into strong women is fooling himself mindless; he's into strong women who know how to pout prettily and put on baby voices, and who will end up keeping his balls in her makeup bags.
We had no one else to learn this from- none of our parents were shining examples of relationship success- so we learned this from each other: when someone you love needs you to, you can get a hold of your five-alarm temper, get a hold of the shapeless things that scare you senseless, act like an adult instead of the Cro-Magnon teenager you are, you can do a million things you never saw coming.
My father told me once that the most important thing every man should know is what he would die for.
Now death is uncool, old-fashioned. To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.
We think of mortality so little these days...I thought of the stern Victorian determination to keep death in mind, the uncompromising tombstones.Remember, pilgrim, as you pass by,As you are now so once was I:As I am so will you be...
To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.
People need a moral code, to help them make decisions. All this bio-yogurt virtue and financial self-righteousness are just filling the gap in the market. But the problem is that it's all backwards. It's not that you do the right thing and hope it pays off; the morally right thing is by definition the thing that gives the biggest payoff.
I don't do that kind of negativity. If you put your energy into thinking about how much the fall would hurt, you're already halfway down.
I had learned early to assume something dark and lethal hidden at the heart of anything I loved. When I couldn't find it, I responded, bewildered and wary, in the only way I knew how: by planting it there myself.
That kind of friendship doesn't just materialize at the end of the rainbow one morning in a soft-focus Hollywood haze. For it to last this long, and at such close quarters, some serious work had gone into it. Ask any ice-skater or ballet dancer or show jumper, anyone who lives by beautiful moving things: nothing takes as much work as effortlessness.
It always took my breath away,’ he said, ‘that the five of us could have found one another–against such odds, through all the layers of armored fortifications each of us had set up… Do you see now why I believe in miracles? I used to imagine time folding over, the shades of our future selves slipping back to the crucial moments to tap each of us on the shoulder and whisper: Look, there, look! That man, that woman: they’re for you; that’s your life, your future, fidgeting in that line, dripping on the carpet, shuffling in that doorway. Don’t miss it.
I'm not saying that owning a house makes life into some kind of blissful paradise, simply that it makes the difference between freedom and enslavement.
We were still at the age when girls are years older than guy, and the guys grow up by doing their best when the girls need them to.
Human beings, as I know better than most, can get used to anything. Over time, even the unthinkable gradually wears a little niche for itself in your mind and becomes just something that happened.
A bore or an uggo might manage not to get up anyone's nose, but if a girl's got brains and looks and personality, she's going to piss someone off, somewhere along the way.
Like, okay. Everyone in history thought they were the ones who finally knew everything. In their naissance, right, they were positive they knew exactly how the universe worked. Til the next set of guys came along and proved they were missing like a hundred important things. and then that set of guys were sure they had it all down, til another set came along and showed them parts they were missing. He glances at Julia, checking if she's laughing at him, which she isn't, and if she's listening, which she is, completely. So. he says, it's pretty unlikely, mathematically, that we are living in the one single era that has everything figured out. Which means there's a decent possibility that the reason we can't explain how ghosts and stuff could exist is because we haven't figured it out yet, not because they don't. And it is pretty arrogant of us to think it definitely has to be the other way around.
Throughout history--even a hundred years ago, even fifty--it was discontent that was considered the threat to society, the defiance of natural law, the danger that had to be exterminated at all costs. Now it's contentment
I loved him, you know,' she said. 'I would have loved him as hard as he'd let me, for the rest of my life.
…Obviously, I have always wished I could remember what happened in that wood. The very few people who know about the whole Knocknaree thing invariably suggest, sooner or later, that I should try hypnotic regression, but for some reason I find the idea distasteful. I’m deeply suspicious of anything with a whiff of the New Age about it—not because of the practices themselves, which as far as I can tell from a safe distance may well have a lot to them, but because of the people who get involved who always seem to be the kind who corner you at parties to explain how they discovered that they are survivors and deserve to be happy. I worry that I might come out of hypnosis with that sugar-high glaze of self-satisfied enlightenment, like a seventeen-year-old who’s just discovered Kerouak, and start proselytizing strangers in pubs…
We’ve become a nation of defaulters: we buy on credit, and when the bill comes in, we’re so deeply outraged that we refuse even to look at it.
The wave of pure outrage blindsided me. I shouldn't be here, I thought. This is utterly fucked up. I should have been sitting in a garden down the road, barefoot with a drink in my hand, swapping the day's work stories with Peter and Jamie. I had never thought about this before, and it almost knocked me over: all the things we should have had. We should have stayed up all night together studying and stressing out before exams, Peter and I should have argued over who got to bring Jamie to our first dance and slagged her about how she looked in her dress. We should have come weaving home together, singing and laughing and inconsiderate, after drunken college nights. We could have shared a flat, taken off Interrailing around Europe, gone arm-in-arm through dodgy fashion phases and low-rent gigs and high-drama love affairs. Two of us might have been married by now, given the other one a godchild. I had been robbed blind.
Interesting fact from the front lines: raw grief smells like ripped leaves and splintered branches, a jagged green shriek.
I watched her on the stand in that unfamiliar suit and thought of the soft hairs at the back of her neck, warm and smelling of the sun, and it seemed an impossible thing to me, it seemed the vastest and saddest miracle of my life: I touched her hair, once.
Plenty of people think the same thing. All of them are teenagers, mentally if not physically. Only teenagers think boring is bad. Adults, gown men and women who’ve been around the block a few times, know that boring is a gift straight from God.
How can I ever make you understand Cassie and me? I would have to take you there, walk you down every path of our secret shared geography. The truism says it’s against all odds for a straight man and woman to be real friends, platonic friends; we rolled thirteen, threw down five aces and ran away giggling. She was the summertime cousin out of storybooks, the one you taught to swim at some midge-humming lake and pestered with tadpoles down her swimsuit, with whom you practiced first kisses on a heather hillside and laughed about it years later over a clandestine joint in your granny’s cluttered attic. She painted my fingernails gold and dared me to leave them that way for work…We climbed out her window and down the fire escape and lay on the roof of the extension below, drinking improvised cocktails and singing Tom Waits and watching the stars spin dizzily around us.No.
If I had to get there without friends, I could do it. Had been doing it. I'd never met anyone who brought me somewhere I wanted to stay, looked at me and saw someone I wanted to be for good; anyone who was worth giving up the more I wanted down the line.
Everyone knows a wife and kids tie you down. What people miss sometimes is that mates, the proper kind, they do the same just as hard. Mates mean you've settled, made your bargain: this, wherever you are together, this is as far as you're going, ever. This is your stop; this is where you get off.
The Place would already have started the leisurely, enjoyable process of digesting her into just one more piece of local gore-lore, half ghost story and half morality play, half urban myth and half just the way life goes. It would eat her memory whole, the same way its ground had eaten her body.
If her mind had held even the smallest chance of a future, she would have had no reason to tell me anything at all, whether or not it could send her to prison. But this is what I know about people getting ready to walk off the edges of their own lives: they want someone to know how they got there. Maybe they want to know that when they dissolve into earth and water, that last fragment will be saved, held in some corner of someone's mind; or maybe all they want is is a chance to dump it pulsing and bloody into someone else's hands, so it won't weigh them down on the journey. They want to leave their stories behind. No one in all the world knows that better than I do.
For as long as I could remember, a part of me had been waiting for the day it would happen; with the cunning that comes to people whose minds have been stripped to one desire, she picked the only day we weren't waiting for.
But this is what I know about people getting ready to walk of the edge of their own lives: they want someone to know how they got there. Maybe they want to know that when they dissolve into earth and water, that last fragment will be saved, held in some corner of someone's mind; or maybe all they want is a chance to dump it pulsing and bloody into someone else's hands, so it won't weigh them down on the journey. They want to leave their stories behind. No one in all the world knows that better than I do.
These three children own the summer. They know the wood as surely as they know the micro landscapes of their own grazed knees; put them down blindfolded in any dell or clearing and they could find their way out without putting a foot wrong. This is their territory, and they rule it wild and lordly as young animals; they scramble through its trees and hide-and-seek in its hollows all the endless day long, and all night in their dreams.
About your easy heads my prayersI said with syllables of clay.What gift, I asked, shall I bring nowBefore I weep and walk away?Take, they replied, the oak and laurel.Take our fortune of tears and liveLike a spendthrift lover. All we askIs the one gift you cannot give.
That long sigh again, above us. This time I saw it, moving through the branches. Like the trees were listening; like they would've been sad about us, sad for us, only they'd heard it all so many thousand times before.
I’m the least fanciful guy around, but on nights when I wonder whether there was any point to my day, I think about this: the first thing we ever did, when we started turning into humans, was draw a line across the cave door and say: Wild stays out. What I do is what the first men did. They built walls to keep back the sea. They fought the wolves for the hearth fire.