Excerpt of I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
(Page 5 of 6)
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Philip begins by speaking to her about Nathalie Sarraute.
He claims to know a member of her family who is distantly
related to him by marriage.
At the time, she does not believe him.
A line, she thinks.
She hears the phone ring downstairs. As a precaution, she has
turned it off in the bedroom - why, she wonders? So as not to
wake him? She reaches for the receiver but the phone abruptly
stops midring. Just as well. She will wait until morning. In the
morning she will make telephone calls, she will write e-mails,
make arrangements; the death certificate, the funeral home, the
church service - whatever needs to be done. Tonight - tonight,
she wants nothing.
She wants to be alone.
Alone with Philip.
* * *
She is not religious.
She does not believe in an afterlife, in the transmigration
of souls, in reincarnation, in any of it.
But he does.
I don't believe in reincarnation and that other stuff and I
don't go to church but I do believe in a God, he tells her.
Where were they then?
Walking hand in hand along the quays at night, they stop
a moment to look across at Nôtre-Dame.
Mathematicians, I thought, weren't supposed to believe
in God, she says.
Mathematicians don't necessarily rule out the idea of God,
Philip answers. And, for some, the idea of God may be more
abstract than the conventional God of Christianity.
At her feet, the river runs black and fast, and she shivers a
little inside her leather bomber jacket.
Like Pascal, Philip continues, I believe it is safer to believe
that God exists than to believe He does not exist. Heads God
exists and I win and go to heaven, Philip motions with his arm
as if tossing a coin up in the air, tails God does not exist and I
It's a bet, she says, frowning. Your belief is based on the
wrong reasons and not on genuine faith.
Not at all, Philip answers, my belief is based on the fact
that reason is useless for determining whether there is a God.
Otherwise, the bet would be off.
Then, leaning down, he kisses her.
* * *
His eyes shut, Philip lies on his back. His head rests on the pillow
and she has pulled the red-and-white diamond- patterned quilt up
to cover him. He could be sleeping. The room is tidy and familiar,
dominated by the carved mahogany four-poster. Opposite it,
two chairs, her beige cashmere sweater hanging on the back of
one; in between the chairs stands a maple bureau whose top is
covered with a row of family photos in silver frames - Louise as
a baby, Louise, age nine or ten, as the Black Swan in her school
production of Swan Lake, Louise holding her dog, Mix, Louise
dressed in a cap and gown, Louise and Philip sailing, Louise,
Philip, and Nina horseback riding at a dude ranch in Montana,
Louise and Nina skiing in Utah. Also on top of the bureau is a
lacquer box where she keeps some of her jewelry. Her valuable
jewelry - a diamond pin in the shape of a flower, a three-strand
pearl necklace, a ruby signet ring - is inside the combination
safe in the hall closet. Closing her eyes, she tries to remember
the combination: three turns to the left to 17, two turns to the
right to 4, and one turn to the left to 11 or is it the other way
around? In any case she can never get the safe open; Philip has
to. And, next to the lacquer jewelry box, the blue-and-green clay
bowl Louise made for them in third grade in which, each evening,
Philip places his loose change. The closet doors are shut
and only the bathroom door is ajar.
When is a door not a door? When it is a...
Perhaps she should put on her nightgown and lie down
next to him and in the morning, when he wakes up he will reach
for her the way he does. He will hike up her nightgown. Take
it off, he will say. He likes to make love in the morning. Sleepy,
she takes longer to respond.
Excerpted from I Married You for Happiness
by Lily Tuck. Copyright © 2011 by Lily Tuck.
Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Monthly Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.