Chatting At A Picnic Table


She had been more interested in his son than his art. And he had been more interested in her art than in her son. It was hard for him to imagine that she even had one, a son, and one that was a bit younger than his own. “How’s your son?” she would ask when the met. “He’s great,” he would say. After some more of this chit-chat like that about her son and his son, they would talk about art, his art; for, in this situation her art was already established as art, and his art was just becoming or just about to become established as that. And she leaned over his work on the picnic table they were seated at and talked about it. While she did so, while she was leaning in, getting closer and closer to the paper lying on the wooden picnic table, he found it harder to imagine that she had a son, and even stranger that she and her husband had named their child, when translated into English, what means the word “God” from “Isten” in Hungarian, which was his name: Isten. That was strange. But it wasn’t just that.

It wasn’t just the large difference in age between them, and their both having very young children—toddlers—and the added oddity that it was the much older woman in this case who had the very young son rather than a man with a fifty-year old’s paunch and a two year old after having had a first run at family life that totally burned out starting over again. It wasn’t that, however likely and usual such imaginings go. It was that she was so much farther ahead in her art than he was when, in the distance of time measured forward from the ages of the births of their small children as a zero point, they were about the same. So, from that perspective he was so much behind her, perhaps even hopelessly. “I really like this piece,” she said at the end of their conversation. “It’s got a narrator who seems to be quite sure of himself almost to the point where as the reader I almost feel he can’t be trusted anymore, if that makes any sense. And I always like that very much about your work.” Straightening her back, she put her own notebooks in a canvas bag, looked him briefly but directly in the eye with hers, and, after touching the wooden pin holding the back of her hair in position, got up from the picnic table to pick up her son somewhere else by 3.

At The Other End Of Love

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.