When I was in grad school, I wrote an essay on the art of avoiding sentimentality while still retaining power in emotional scenes. One of the stories I discussed was by Andre Dubus, from his collection, Dancing After Hours. I’m excerpting a few paragraphs from the story in this post because they have to do with this mysterious thing called time. And also because I no longer know how to measure my hours, my weeks, my days. Because I have fallen into a particular kind of melancholy, and when this type of mood overtakes me, the only thing that makes sense to me is Andre Dubus.
From “A Love Song” by Andre Dubus:
“These words in the kitchen, these smoked cigarettes and swallowed brandy, were two hours of her life. What began as the scent of perfume on wool, then frightened and sorrowful ratiocination that led her beyond his infidelity, into the breadth and depth of the river that was their sixteen years of love–its falls and rushing white water and most of all its long and curving and gentle deep flow that never looked or even felt as dangerous as she now knew it truly was–ended with not even two hours of truth in the kitchen, for truth took most of the two hours to appear in the yellow-white light, and the gray cirrus clouds of blown and rising and drifting smoke, or perhaps took most of the two hours to achieve. Then it was there, unshadowed, in its final illuminance.
“Two hours, she figured with pen and paper and numbers, sitting at one in the morning in the kitchen, weeks later, adding and multiplying and dividing, smoking and drinking not brandy but tea: one hundred and twenty minutes that were six ten-thousandths of one percent of her life from the day of her birth until her husband turned his pale and anguished face and walked out the door, into the summer night.
“She never again perceived time as she had before.”