It was a strange and delicious emotion, an intense dreaming and anguish…I became humanized and lifted out of my youthful savagery….But the fates were unkind and we were not allowed to marry.
[Arthur Guinness] was still brewing both ale and the dark stout that had become quite the fashion. In his history with the brew that he would be associated with for generations to come, he is confirmation that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. He was not the first or the best or the only brewer to produce dark porter at this time. But he was, perhaps, the most consistent, the most willing to ride the currents of his age, and he was blessed with good timing. If history favors the bold over the most gifted, then Arthur is certainly encouragement to those who are willing to be the former in recognition that they are incapable of being the latter.
The condition of sublime indifference is a logical development of the egocentric life. I lived out the social problem by dying: the real problem is not one of getting on with one’s neighbor or of contributing to the development of one’s country, but of discovering one’s destiny, of making a life in accord with the deep-centered rhythm of the cosmos. To be able to use the word cosmos boldly, to use the world soul, to deal in things “spiritual” – and to shun definitions, alibis, proofs, duties. Paradise is everywhere and every road, if one continues along it far enough, leads to it. One can only go forward by going backward and then sideways and then up and then down. There is no progress: there is perpetual movement, displacement, which is circular, endless. Every man has his own destiny: the only imperative is to follow it, to accept it, no matter where it lead him. [my emphasis]
I wish you a story with a happy ending, and the wisdom to look for it.
In the last few minutes, it had become hard to suppress thoughts about the unreliability of luck. I will not be the one it happens to - this is what we must believe to make our way in the world each day. Someone else. Not me. But every once in a while it is you, or someone close enough that it might as well be you. People to whom a terrible thing has never happened trust fate, the notion that what’s meant to be will be; the rest of us know better.
We both were smiling; every reference one of us made the other would get, every remark was a joke or compliment, and I suddenly though, Flirting.
Then – I couldn’t help it – I said, “Why did you go steady with Dena?”
“Because I was eleven years old.” He still was smiling. “I didn’t know better.”
“But you kept going steady with her. For four years!”
“Were you jealous?”
“I thought it was” – I paused – “odd.”
“When Dena was my girlfriend,” he said, “it meant I got to spend time around with you.”
Was he teasing? “If that’s true, it’s not very nice to Dena,” I said.
“Alice!” He seemed both amused and genuinely concerned that he’d displeased me.
I looked at the ground. What was I trying to express, anyway? The important thing I’d been planning all week to say when Andrew and I were alone – it was eluding me.
“What about this?” he said. “What if I try to be nicer from now on?”
Looking up, I said, “I’ll try to be nicer, too.”
He laughed. “You’ve always been nice.” There was a pause, and then he asked, “Is that a heart?” He reached forward and lifted the silver pendant on my necklace, holding it lightly, the tips of his fingers grazing the hollow of my clavicle.
“My grandmother gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday,” I said.
“It’s pretty.” He set the pendant back against my neck. “I should probably go to practice so I don’t get yelled at. If I don’t see you tomorrow after the game, you’ll be at Fred’s on Saturday, right?”
I nodded. “Will it be more a party where people come on time or later?”
“I’ll leave my house about seven-thirty. You should come then, too.” Andrew was unusually direct, especially for a boy in high school; I think it came from an understated confidence. When I got to college, the guys and girls seemed to play such games, the girl waiting a certain number of days to return a phone call, or the guy calling only after the girl didn’t talk to him at a party or he saw her out with someone else. But maybe, unlike those boys and girls in college, Andrew genuinely liked me. Then I think no, maybe he didn’t. Maybe, because of what occurred later, I invented for us a great love; I have been granted the terrible privilege of deciding what would have happened with no one left to contradict me. And maybe I am absolutely wrong.
After we said goodbye, I turned around, watching for a second as he walked toward the bleachers beyond which were the track and the football field: his light brown hair, his moderately broad shoulders further broadened by shoulder pads, his tan golden-haired calves emerging from those pants that stopped well before his ankles. When you are a high school girl, there is nothing more miraculous than a high school boy.
And despite my concern that I am manipulating the past, whenever I doubt that Andrew had feelings for me and that those feelings would have grown over time, that we had finally reached an age when something real could unfold between us, I think back to him examining my necklace, holding the pendant and asking what it was. That was obviously just an excuse to touch me. After all, everyone knows what a heart is.
During the years Dena and Andrew had been together, I’d often marveled at both the swiftness and randomness of their coupling. Ostensibly, he’d had no interest in Dena, and hours later, he’d become hers. It seemed to be a lesson in something, but I wasn’t sure what – an argument for aggression, perhaps, for the bold pursuit of what you wanted? Or proof of most people’s susceptibility to persuasion? Or just confirmation of their essential fickleness? After I’d read Andrew’s note, was I supposed to have immediately marched up to him and staked my claim? Had my faith in our pleasantly murky future been naive, had I been passive or a dupe? These questions were of endless interest to me for several years; I thought of them at night after I’d said my prayers and before I fell asleep. And then, once high school started, I became distracted.
If a mandarinate ruled America, the recruiting committee on September 11 would have had to find someone like Cheney. “I don’t want to get too poetic about this, but it’s almost as if his whole life had been a preparation for this moment in history,” said Jack Kemp, who used to be a future vice president himself. Scooter Libby quoted that line, too, giving credit to Winston Churchill. Cheney professed no knowledge of fate. He had some acquaintance, though, with force and counterforce. Al Qaeda having struck on his watch, Cheney made clear by word and deed that he would take a leading role in the nation’s reply. So, too, did Libby and Addington. The three of them simply knew what had to be done, a considerable advantage in the debate that would soon follow.
He was especially struck by a GI lying on his bunk, silent, who looked “like somebody rescued from the ledge of a skyscraper.” He read the chart and was astonished to learn that the soldier had been shot in the neck. The bullet had entered on the left, missed the nerves, cartoid artery, and jugular vein, drilled a neat hole in the spinal column without touching the spinal cord, and exited. The man needed no surgery; his chief symptom was a sore neck.