But loneliness, true loneliness, is impossible to accustom oneself to, and while I was still young I thought of my situation as somehow temporary, and did not stop hoping and imagining that I would meet someone and fall in love...Yes, there was a time before I closed myself off to others.
The misery of other people is only an abstraction [...] something that can be sympathized with only by drawing from one's own experiences. But as it stands, true empathy remains impossible. And so long as it is, people will continue to suffer the pressure of their seemingly singular existence.
All these years Litvinoff had imagined he was so much like his friend. He'd prided himself on what he considered their similarities. But the truth was that he was no more like the man fighting a fever in bed ten feet away than he was like the cat that had just slunk off: they were different species.
After she left everything fell apart. No Jew was safe. There were rumors of unfathomable things, and because we couldn't fathom them we failed to believe them, until we had no choice and it was too late.
He held my hand and told me a story about when he was six and threw a rock at a kid's head who was bullying his brother, and how after that no one had bothered either of them again. 'You have to stick up for yourself,' he told me. 'But it's bad to throw rocks,' I said. 'I know. You're smarter than me. You'll find something better than rocks.
Why is it that there was always a unit on history, math, science and god knows what other useless, totally forgettable information you taught those seventh graders year after year, but never any unit on death? No exercises, no workbooks, no final exams on the only subject that matters?
When people spoke to him, he heard less and less of what they were saying, and more and more of what they were not. He learned to decipher the meaning of certain silences, which is like solving a tough case without any clues, with only intuition.
I would have let him go one finger at a time, until, without his realizing, he'd be floating without me. And then I thought, perhaps that is what it means to be a [parent] - to teach your child to live without you.
There is a fallacy that the powerful emotion of youth mellows with time. Not true. One learns to control and suppress it. But it doesn't lessen. It simply hides and concentrates itself in more discreet places. When one accidentally stumbles into one of these abysses, the pain is spectacular.
At times I believed that the last page of my book and the last page of my life were one and the same, that when my book ended I'd end, a great wind would sweep through my rooms carrying the pages away, and when the air cleared of all those fluttering white sheets the room would be silent, the chair where I sat would be empty.
Tell me, was I the sort of person who took your elbow when cars passed on the street, touched your cheek while you talked, combed your wet hair, stopped by the side of the road in the country to point out certain constellations, standing behind you so that you had the advantage of leaning and looking up?
There are moments when a kind of clarity comes over you, and suddenly you can see through walls to another dimension that you'd forgotten or chosen to ignore in order to continue living with the various illusions that make life, particularily life with other people, possible.
Now we'd known each other for two years, the side of my calf was touching his shins, and his stomach was against my ribs. He said, "I don't think it's end of world to be my girlfriend." I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. It took seven languages to make me; it would be nice if I could have spoken just one.
I left the library. Crossing the street, I was hit head-on by a brutal loneliness. I felt dark and hollow. Abandoned, unnoticed, forgotten, I stood on the sidewalk, a nothing, a gatherer of dust. People hurried past me. and everyone who walked by was happier than I. I felt the old envy. I would have given anything to be one of them.
Daniel was twenty-three, a year younger than I was, and though he hadn't yet published a book of poems he seemed to have spent his time better, or more imaginatively, or maybe what could be said is that he felt a pressure to go places, meet people, and experience things that, whenever I have encountered it in someone, has always made me envious.