It is. After forty-two years of marriage, shes leaving him. At least thats how David puts ithow he will put it, no doubt, when they tell the girls. And its true in a way: she was the one who finally decided she couldnt go on like this. A week ago she asked him for a trial separation. She hates that term. As if shes standing in front of a judge and lawyers, a jury of her peers. When she made her announcement, David said he wanted to give it another shot, but theyve been giving it shot after shot for a year now and she has no more left in her. There are days when they dont talk at all. She has reminded him of the statistics, what happens to a marriage when you lose a child. Eighty percent, shes heard, maybe even ninety. Why should this surprise people? Already its 50 percent when nothing obvious has gone wrong. But David doesnt want to hear statistics, and, truth be told, neither does she.
Another copy of the program lies forlornly on the porch. Theyre everywhere, it seems, strewn randomly about the house. She picks one up from the steps. Leos photograph is across the cover, his curls corkscrewing out just like Davids, and beneath the photo are the words APRIL 10, 1972JULY 4, 2004. At the bottom of the page is a poem by William Butler Yeats.
When she told David of her plans, he wanted to call the girls immediately. He wanted to call Thisbe too. It seemed only fair, he said; Thisbe and Calder would be flying in from California. But she refused to let him call. She wanted to tell everyone in person, and to wait until after the memorial was over. But the real reasonshe has only half admitted this, even to herselfis that she fears if David told the girls no one would come. It would serve them right, David says; she half suspects he wants to cancel himself. How can they have the memorial, David wants to know, when this is happening? But she disagrees. David thinks, How can they do this? and she thinks, How can they not?
Now, in the kitchen, she finds him on his hands and knees, taking a box cutter to four large packing boxes. He makes a single sharp motion down the center of each box. His back is to her; he looks as if hes searching for contraband. Do you need help? she asks, but he doesnt answer her.
The boxes are open now, gutted of their contents; a single Styrofoam peanut has flown out of the packing and skittered like a bug across the floor.
The Williams Sonoma kosher special?
He doesnt respond.
Whats the damage? A couple thousand dollars? More?
David glances at the receipt, which is perched on the butcher-block table at the center of the room, lying in a bed of Styrofoam. More or less.
Oh, well, she says. We can afford it.
You said you thought it was money well spent.
The contents of the boxes (plates and bowls, cutlery, serving dishes, pans and pots, a few extras that David insisted on, including a set of bowls for the children with famous sports figures on themtheyre sports fiends, the grandchildren) have been purchased so that Noelle, Amram, and their four boys can eat in their house. Noelle wont eat off nonkosher dishes, even if those dishes belong to her parents. Especially, Marilyn sometimes thinks, if those dishes belong to her parents. Noelle and Amram live in Jerusalem and they visit at most once a year, so the dishes wont get much use. Its one of the many reasons Marilyn has been loath to buy them. But David has been lobbying for them for years; he thinks of them as a peace offering.
A plate for me, a plate for you? Shes doing her best to make light of this.
He doesnt respond.
Excerpted from The World Without You by Joshua Henkin. Copyright © 2012 by Joshua Henkin. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, 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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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