Excerpt of Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
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First, the facts.
My name is Louis Charles Lynch. I am sixty years old, and for nearly forty of those years Ive been a devoted if not terribly exciting husband to the same lovely woman, as well as a doting father to Owen, our son, who is now himself a grown, married man. He and his wife are childless and likely, alas, to so remain. Earlier in my marriage it appeared as if wed be blessed with a daughter, but a car accident when my wife was in her fourth month caused her to miscarry. That was a long time ago, but Sarah still thinks about the child and so do I.
Perhaps whats most remarkable about my life is that Ive lived all of it in the same small town in upstate New York, a thing unheard of in this day and age. My wifes parents moved here when she was a little girl, so she has few memories before Thomaston, and her situation isnt much different from my own. Some people, upon learning how weve lived our lives, are unable to conceal their chagrin on our behalf, that our lives should be so limited, as if experience so geographically circumscribed could be neither rich nor satisfying. When I assure them that it has been both, their smiles suggest weve been blessed with self-deception by way of compensation for all weve missed. I remind such people that until fairly recently the vast majority of humans have been circumscribed in precisely this manner and that lives can also be constrained by a great many other things: want, illness, ignorance, loneliness and lack of faith, to name just a few. But its probably true my wife would have traveled more if shed married someone else, and my unwillingness to become the vagabond is just one of the ways Ive been, as I said, an unexciting if loyal and unwavering companion. Shes heard all of my arguments, philosophical and other, for staying put; in her mind they all amount to little more than my natural inclination, inertia rationalized. She may be right. That said, I dont think Sarah has been unhappy in our marriage. She loves me and our son and, I think, our life. She assured me of this not long ago when it appeared she might lose her own and, sick with worry, I asked if shed regretted the good simple life weve made together.
Though our pace, never breakneck, has slowed recently, I like to think that the real reason weve not seen more of the world is that Thomaston itself has always been both luxuriant and demanding. In addition to the corner store we inherited from my parents, we now own and operate two other convenience stores. My son wryly refers to these as the Lynch Empire, and while the demands of running them are not overwhelming, they are relentless and time-consuming. Each is like a pet that refuses to be housebroken and resents being left alone. In addition to these demands on my time, I also serve on a great many committees, so many, in fact, that late in life Ive acquired a nickname, Mr. Mayora tribute to my civic-mindedness that contains, Im well aware, an element of gentle derision. Sarah believes that people take advantage of my good nature, my willingness to listen carefully to everyone, even after its become clear they have nothing to say. She worries that I often return home late in the evening and then not in the best of humors, a natural result of the fact that the civic pie we divide grows smaller each year, even as our communitys needs continue dutifully to grow. Every year the arguments over how we spend our diminished and diminishing assets become less civil, less respectful, and my wife believes its high time for younger men to shoulder their fair share of the responsibility, not to mention the attendant abuse. In principle I heartily agree, though in practice I no sooner resign from one committee than Im persuaded to join another. And Sarahs no one to talk, serving as she has, until her recent illness, on far too many boards and development committees.
Excerpted from Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo Copyright © 2007 by Richard Russo. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.