Sinking lower in the club’s hot tub and today a birthday marks his face one notch less recognizable when anyway, meeting someone these days means who you say you are matters both less and more. Who cares, really? Get older and it becomes easier to say who you are not. No king of industry, that myth abandoned before anyone finished saying Constantinople, but who even says Constantinople anymore, such flourish abandoned in his particular past as a history major, an epoch in which windmilling toward the future seemed to matter, toting around the flag of belief that what happened before could actually help you later. Now just a service-minded bumbler close to retirement going around to enlighten the masses and so what if certain efforts fizzled? Could happen to anyone.
We bought Detroit because even after buying ourselves new houses and cars, $253 million in lottery winnings left the four of us with a ton of leftover cash. Why specifically? One of our daughters found the ad on Craigslist: One city for sale or rent—slightly used; a fixer-upper; free from most city noise; lots of pretty, healthy trees and grass. The asking price wasn’t ridiculous.The mayor took personal checks. We wanted to be the first people who’d ever bought a city. Sure, important people sometimes got keys to them, but that’s not the same thing.
“Tell me what you want, Aaron,” Walter had periodically insisted, the words no longer an invitation but a way of chiding Aaron, suggesting that he wanted too much—or worse, that he had no idea what he wanted. In the beginning of their lives together, when they were two discrete people, Walter’s motives felt easy to read.
: Tell me who you are, he seemed to be saying. Tell me what you want from this life. Only later had Aaron understood that his real motive in asking was to discover how he might serve as benefactor to Aaron’s wishes and ambitions and, in doing so, bind Aaron to him.
He brought her stories, long and intricate narratives that he laid at her feet like a dog with a bone. She would have preferred love, or at least more of his wild, open-hearted sex, but that was complicated; after all, she lived in another time zone now, and the divorce, far beyond messy, had left him in debt. For weeks, he’d camped out in his friend’s van—demoralizing for a middle-aged man. He had an apartment on the third floor in what she knew was a rough neighborhood, backing up against the desert. He had a son also, and that’s where his energy needed to go. Stories were what he could manage for her.
The morning of the announcement, Bo Htet Aung finished his story. He wrote The End at the bottom of the page, shut the notebook, and slipped it into the briefcase he took to work each day. Then he set about ironing a white shirt and blue longyi with more than his usual precision. He wished he could wear his old major’s uniform, with its crisp olive lines and the peaked cap that added two inches to his height. But it was not that kind of day, that kind of announcement. Instead he pulled his traditional taikpon jacket on over his shirt and left it unbuttoned. His fingers shook too much.
By PAOLA PERONI
Last year, Antonio Greco committed suicide after attempting to kill his wife with a hammer. The doctors refused to speculate on the prognosis of his wife, hospitalized in critical condition. When we heard the news, I said I was only surprised Antonio had waited so long to try to kill Maria.
The closer they get to Wickersfield, the slower she wants to go. She’ll stay in the car and never get out, they can just keep driving, taking detour after detour until they are lost completely. With the roads torn up like this, Allison will not be to blame. We tried, she’ll say from a B&B somewhere in Canada, but it was just impossible to get there. Arrival means smiling, means forgetting all she has seen, and she isn’t yet ready to do that. She watches the once lovely scenery unscroll outside the passenger-side window: trees that look like they’ve been dipped in milk chocolate, cornfields trampled by dinosaurs. Sometimes half the road itself is missing, snapped off like a cracker and tossed aside, lying in the mud with the guardrail. The road narrows down to one lane marked off by orange cones and Jersey barriers, and cars have to negotiate with each other, managing a degree of civility Allison didn’t think possible without uniformed intervention. They pass through woods and meadows, farmhouses off in the distance, now miles from the interstate that brought them here. The flood has drained from the roads and fields and forests, no body of water glowers off in the distance, but clearly a big river has ripped its way through here, sweeping up boulders and gravel alike, tossing them behind like loose change. What must the cows have thought, when the water rose, when everything they knew was washed away?