She had had a family once. And they were still alive, they were still living. Presuming nothing offhand and terrible had happened. She had had a magazine subscription once. And it got canceled or just ran out. And then it got canceled. But the waterfalls of Niagara, the ash of Pompeii, and the tidal wave that washed over the coastline of Southeast Asia are not the same. Not with the lives of people and what people make. Things get washed over and destroyed; so many people continue to live on. And her children, well, they got on. Somewhere and somehow. And besides, the father of who had been her children, he’d get to have somebody to give his money to now. Soon enough, the three children would get that. And that was a good thing for him. Getting to decide where his loot went, besides it all going to the government and several charities people use to avoid that. And, too, avoiding ever having to split his fortune between her and them. She was done with all that. That wasn’t her thing. Beth had just woken up one day and said to her husband, while he was still sleeping, out loud, “Hank, I’ve have eaten my way to the other side of love, and all that’s left is the husk.” And she went. Didn’t sign any official papers declaring this, or declaring that. Just like that.
“Family” was not so different from “bank account,” or “hurricane lamp,” or “spinning wheel.” They were all things, and just as good as any of them. And Beth knew that for most of her life they had given, it seemed, purpose and meaning and value to that life. And of all things, the hardest had been family. It went practically without question. Family, she understood, looking over the old body of her husband asleep in matching plaid flannel pajama tops and bottoms like a kid, was the hub of a gigantic steel wheel that turned over, rolled over, climbed over, mounted and crushed everything in the name of itself. You could love, murder, avenge, justify, promote, deny, explain everything in its name. And it did. It was going to. And it had. She had had a boyfriend once. She had had a pet canary. And they are gone now. Whooshed to another time, a time that one does not, and longer belongs to. In fact, you can put anything in the pluperfect, the past perfect, and things disappear just like that in language. In the language she used, things had just disappeared one day just like that.