Outside, she thought that there ought to be a word for it: the air temperature that was perfectly neither hot nor cold. One degree lower, and she might have felt a faint misgiving about not having brought a jacket. One degree higher, and a skim of sweat might have glistened at her hairline. But at this precise degree, she required neither wrap nor breeze. Were there a word for such a temperature, there would have to be a corollary for the particular ecstasy of greeting it - the heedlessness, the needlessness, the suspended lack of urgency, as if time could stop, or should. Usually temperature was a battle; only at this exact fulcrum was it an active delight.
But keeping secrets is a discipline. I never use to think of myself as a good liar, but after having had some practice I had adopted the prevaricator's credo that one doesn't so much fabricate a lie as marry it. A successful lie cannot be brought into this world and capriciously abandoned; like any committed relationship it must be maintained, and with far more devotion than the truth, which carries on being carelessly true without any help. By contrast, my lie needed me as much as I needed it, and so demanded the constancy of wedlock: Till death do us part.
There is one province in which, sooner or later, virtually everyone gets dealt a leading role--hero, heroine, or villain.. Unlike the slight implications of quotidian dilemmas that confront the average citizen in other areas of life.. The stakes in this realm could not be higher. For chances are that at some point along the line you will hold in your hands another person's heart. There is no greater responsibility on the planet. However you contend with this fragile organ, which pounds or seizes in accordance with your caprice, will take your full measure.
It must be this overarching commitment to what is really an abstraction, to one's children right or wrong, that can be even more fierce than the commitment to them as explicit, difficult people, and that can consequently keep you devoted to them when as individuals they disappoint. On my part it was this broad covenant with children-in-theory that I may have failed to make and to which I was unable to resort when Kevin finally tested my maternal ties to a perfect mathematical limit on. I didn't vote for parties, but for candidates. My opinions were as ecumenical as my larder, then still chock full of salsa verde from Mexico City, anchovies from Barcelona, lime leaves from Bangkok. I had no problem with abortion but abhorred capital punishment, which I suppose meant that I embraced the sanctity of life only in grown-ups. My environmental habits were capricious; I'd place a brick in our toilet tank, but after submitting to dozens of spit-in-the-air showers with derisory European water pressure, I would bask under a deluge of scalding water for half an hour. My closet wafter with Indian saris, Ghanaian wraparounds, and Vietnamese. My vocabulary was peppered with imports --. I so mixed and matched the planet that you sometimes worried I had no commitments to anything or anywhere, though you were wrong; my commitments were simply far-flung and obscenely specific. By the same token, I could not love child; I would have to love this one. I was connected to the world by a multitude of threads, you by a few sturdy guide ropes. It was the same with patriotism: You loved the of the United States so much more powerfully than the country itself, and it was thanks to your embrace of the American aspiration that you could overlook the fact that your fellow Yankee parents were lining up overnight outside FAO Schwartz with thermoses of chowder to buy a limited release of Nintendo. In the particular dwells the tawdry. In the conceptual dwells the grand, the transcendent, the everlasting. Earthly countries and single malignant little boys can go to hell; the idea of countries and the idea of sons triumph for eternity. Although neither of us ever went to church, I came to conclude that you were a naturally religious person.
I came to regard my body in a new light. For the first time I apprehended the little mounds on my chest as teats for the suckling of young, and their physical resemblance to udders on cows or the swinging distensions on lactating hounds was suddenly unavoidable. Funny how even women forget what breasts are for. The cleft between my legs transformed as well. It lost a certain outrageousness, an obscenity, or achieved an obscenity of a different sort. The flaps seemed to open not to a narrow, snug dead end, but to something yawning. The passageway itself became a route to somewhere else, a real place, and not merely to a darkness in my mind. The twist of flesh in front took on a devious aspect, its inclusion overtly ulterior, a tempter, a sweetener for doing the species' heavy lifting, like the lollipops I once got at the dentist.