tapes

by rantywoman

One afternoon I went out on the river in a bad state. I was tired and worried about the surgery, and I had spent an hour the evening before immersed in a toxic pastime: Googling old boyfriends and pondering the road not taken. Thanks to the new world of knowing too much about anyone you ever met, this was hardly a revelatory activity, but that night I stumbled upon new data about two different men I had loved.

The first was a recent wedding announcement, the other an acknowledgment to a spouse in a book published years earlier. Both instances suggested the kind of wife I had never been and probably never could have been: both painted tableaux, at least in my mind, of flawless dinner parties and social hobnobbing and renovated barns in Greenwich or the like. I was lying on the couch in the living room when I read these tidbits, wearing gym shorts with my hair in a ponytail. Shiloh and Tula were lounging nearby; I was having leftover chicken and watching reruns of Nurse Jackie. Here was the life I created, and whatever it was, it was not a flawless dinner party waiting to happen.

The next day, while I was rowing, I let my mind run free. This was an old and treacherous internal tape: I had forgotten to marry and have kids; I often preferred canine company to human; I would die sad and alone. Such was my recitation of despair, pulled out time to time like an ill-shaped sweater you can’t bring yourself to give away.

— Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions, p. 43

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