Last weekend, I went to the Harvard Coop and bought six books. Such sprees are a indulgence of having disposable income (a.k.a. no costly children to bring mirth to me now and comfort in my old age), and an especially decadent indulgence is buying books I've already read in the past--borrowed from a friend or the library--but now want to own. Two were like this: Don DeLillo's White Noise and Stephen McCauley's The Man of the House. The Man of the House I bought because there are three or so scenes in it that resonated with me and ever since have rattled about my head from time to time. Good fiction is like a good rack of ribs: it sticks with you, you know?
Anyway, in a combination tribute to McCauley and maudlin lament about aging, here's the last part of one of the scenes:
"Where's Marcus?" I asked.
"Don't know," she said. She turned quickly, flinging all her curls at once. "Don't know, don't care. Doesn't matter. He's stalled. And you know what happens to a helicopter when the engine stalls? Drops like a stone. Well, there you have it. Stalled. All this going on with Ben, just when he needs a father the most, and he still can't bring himself to sit down and talk with him. So what chance has he got with anything else in his whole stalled life? What chance is there that he's ever likely to make a committment to me? I'm not interested in losers, Clyde, and I never have been. Anyway," she said, "he's too old for me."
This was a complaint I had never heard from one of Marcus's girlfriends before, and as I watched her dash around the house, putting her things in her bag, I realized it was true. He was too old for her, too old for his dissertation, too old to become a father. He'd waited too long for his life to begin, and he'd passed the point at which he could jump-start it. That he'd wasted his brains, all the promise of his supposed intelligence, wasn't news; the real shock realizing he'd squandered his beauty as well.