There is something about the act of studying an unclothed body, as an artist does, that allows a person to appreciate it as pure form, regardless of the kinds of traits traditionally regarded as imperfections. In a figure drawing class, an obese woman's folds of flesh take on a kind of beauty. You can look at a man's shrunken chest or legs or buttocks with tenderness. Age is not ugly, just poignant.
You just want to give up, he said when he was able to speak. Only you keep going. You still have to get up in the morning and pour the cereal in the bowls. You keep on breathing, whether you want to or not. Nobody's around to tell you how it's supposed to work. The usual rules just don't apply anymore. He was still talking, but she wasn't even sure if it was to her. When it started, he said, I thought nothing could be worse than those first days. And it wasn't only us, but everyone else you'd see, wandering around like they'd landed on a whole different planet. Instead of just dealing with your own heart getting ripped into pieces, wherever you looked you knew there were other people dealing with the same thing. You couldn't even be alone with it. Like you're out in the ocean and the undertow catches you and you start yelling for help, but then you look around, and all around you in the water for as far as you can see, there's all these other people flailing too. He sat there for a moment, shaking his head. You keep getting up in the morning and knowing this will continue maybe ten thousand more mornings. You wish you were the one who died. How much better would that be?