I thought you were writing a history of Thomaston, she said.
Thomastons in it, but so am I.
How about me? she said, taking my hand again.
Not yet. Im still just a baby. Youre still downstate. Out of sight, out of mind.
You could lie. You could say I lived next door. That way wed always be together. Playful again, now.
Ill think about it, I said. But the people who actually lived next door are the problem. Id have to evict them.
I wouldnt want you to do that.
It is tempting to lie, though, I admitted.
About what? She yawned, and I knew shed be asleep and snoring peacefully in another minute or two.
Promise me you wont let it become an obsession.
Its true. Im prone to obsession. It wont be, I promised her.
But Im not the only reason my wife is on guard against obsession. Her father, who taught English at the high school, spent his summers writing a novel that by the end had swollen to more than a thousand single-spaced pages and still with no end in sight. I myself am drawn to shorter narratives. Of late, obituaries. It troubles my wife that I read them with my morning coffee, going directly to that section of the newspaper, but turning sixty does that, does it not? Death isnt an obsession, just a reality. Last month I read of the deathin yet another car accidentof a man whose life had been intertwined with mine since we were boys. I slipped it into the envelope that contained my wifes letter, the one that announced our forthcoming travels, to our old friend Bobby, who will remember him well. Obituaries, I believe, are really less about death than the odd shapes life takes, the patterns that death allows us to see. At sixty, these patterns are important.
Im thinking fifty pages should do it. A hundred, tops. And Ive already got a title: The Dullest Story Ever Told.
When she had no response to this, I glanced over and saw that her breathing had become regular, that her eyes were closed, lids fluttering.
Its possible, of course, that Bobby might prefer not to see us, his oldest friends. Not everyone, Sarah reminds me, values the past as I do. Dwells on it, she no doubt means. Loves it. Is troubled by it. Alludes to it in conversation without appropriate transition. Had I finished my university degree, as my mother desperately wanted me to, it would have been in history, and that might have afforded me ample justification for this inclination to gaze backward. But Bobbyhaving fled our town, state and nation at eighteenmay have little desire to stroll down memory lane. After living all over Europe, he might well have all but forgotten those he fled. I can joke about mine being the dullest story ever told, but to a man like Bobby it probably isnt so very far from the truth. I could go back over my correspondence with him, though I think I know what Id find in itpolite acknowledgment of whatever Ive sent him, news that someone wed both known as boys has married, or divorced, or been arrested, or diagnosed, or died. But little beyond acknowledgment. His responses to my newsy letters will contain no requests for further information, no Do you ever hear from so-and-so anymore? Still, Im confident Bobby would be happy to see us, that my wife and I havent become inconsequential to him.
Why not admit it? Of late, he has been much on my mind.
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.
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