Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

December 3, 2006

I got tired, I told him.     Not worn out, but worn through.     Like one of those wives who wakes up one morning and says I can’t bake anymore bread.
You never baked bread, he wrote, and we were still joking.
Then it’s like I woke up and baked bread, I said, and we were joking even then.     I wondered will there come a time when we won’t be joking?     And what would it look like?      And how would that feel?     When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder.      Everything moved me.     A dog following a stranger.     That made me feel so much.     A calendar that showed the wrong month.     I could have cried over it.     I did.     Where the smoke from a chimney ended.    How an overturned bottled rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less.
Every day I felt less.
Is that growing old?     Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
He hid his face in the covers of his day book, as if the covers were his hands.     He cried.     For whom was he crying?
For Anna?
For his parents?
For me?
For himself?
I pulled the book from him.     It was wet with tears running down the pages, as if the book itself were crying.     He hid his face in his hands.     Let me see you cry, I told him.
I do not want to hurt you, he said by shaking his head left to right.
It hurts me when you do not want to hurt me, I told him.     Let me see you cry.
He lowered his hands.     On one cheek it said YES backward.     On one cheek it said NO backward.     He was still looking down.     Now the tears did not run down his cheeks, but fell from his eyes to the ground.     Let me see you cry, I said.     I did not feel that he owed it to me.     And I did not feel that I owed it to him.     We owed it to each other, which is something different.
He raised his head and looked at me.
I am not angry with you, I told him.
You must be.
I am the one who broke the rule.
But I am the one who made the rule you couldn’t live with.

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