"Almost" Part 28: Book 2, Part 18


Manage episode 277337066 series 2808292
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Chapter 70

A child can go down, into the depths of parental numbness. It doesn’t matter how old the child is, or the parent. The umbilical is sometimes a lifeline, thrown to the future, with which a mother can hope to haul herself up the well of her own dying. And children can so rarely tear themselves from around that well. A parent present, but absent, can be the bottomless quicksand of an entire lifetime.

Tom thought about his mother’s revelation long and hard. It consumed him. Invaded him. He thought about it before going to sleep. He dreamt about it. It greeted him on awakening, during the instant evolution of abandoning sleep. I am a carbon-based life form. I am human. I am Tom. I am not my father’s son.

He briefly considered writing to Gunther, but got stuck on the salutation. Dear… And it really should be something they talked about face-to-face.

It became more and more important, because in the weeks after the Rhineland crisis, Ruth seemed to go down even further. Something was gnawing at the root of her soul, and Tom knew that it wouldn’t be long until that root would give way, and she would fall further, into the numb, floating center of the earth.

The lengths of his responsibilities gnawed at him as well. Tom began to truly hate Quentin. It was not a resentful hatred. It was not just reactive. He hated both Quentin and Reginald, because they provoked suffering and then stood by with slight smiles as it writhed at their feet. They weakened people with scorn and indifference, then turned them over with their toes to mock their weakness. It’s like knocking someone down, then calling them lazy for lying around

He felt some frustration with his mother as well, but much, much less. It is always harder to pin responsibility on the feminine. Ruth was not free; not politically, not economically, not socially. She had been forced to make a choice – by society, biology, it didn’t matter which – in the full blindness of youth, when her future was almost completely unconscious, and so inevitable.

Tom wept on waking one morning, thinking of his mother’s potential, and felt that he had come as close as he ever had to the root of her depression. She is a wonderful political wife. She is very intelligent. She is moral, quite moral, in her own way. She chose her husband for all the shallow, impractical reasons of youth. She was passionate – imagine her having an affair, then covering it up, then being so full of anger that she denounced her lover at every step. The will to keep such secrets..! For they were kept, and magnificently too! To have Gunther in our house, during the war… My God – I wonder if they made love that rainy day, when Reginald refused to put the destroyer away, when Gunther locked him awayShe had a headache, and he ordered her back to bed. And Quentin let it all happen. Quentin had no idea – unless, of course, Quentin did have an idea, but felt that it assuaged something. Took responsibility away from him. To make her happy. And, of course, Quentin has secrets of his own. You can almost smell his secrets; they waft from his pores like spices left damp and underground

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