‘We all do shit like this, stuff that’s no good for you. You do it and then there’s no feeling positive about it afterwards.’

-Junot Diaz

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And then the Yuletide season, Brandt my friend Brandt — Christmas — Christmas morning — What is the essence of Christmas morning but the childish co-eval of venereal interface, for a child? — A present, Brandt — Something you have not earned and which formerly was out of your possession is now in your po-ssession — Can you sit there and try to say there is no symbolic rela-tion between unwrapping a Christmas present and undressing a young lady?

Brandt bobbed and mopped, uncertain whether to laugh.

How I feel about the inescapable

In every way that counted I was dead. Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the lips and face and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smiled and kept moving. If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door, I would have done. But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.

‘A la contraire. I let it ride around inside all day if I have to. I make an iron rule: nothing escapes my bottom during play. Not a toot or a whistle. If I play hunched over I play hunched over. I take the discomfort in the name of dignified caution, and when it’s especially bad I look up at sky between points and I say to the sky Thank You Sir may I have another. Thank You Sir may I have another.’

You see, when you’re middle class, you have to live with the fact that history will ignore you. You have to live with the fact that history can never champion your causes and that history will never feel sorry for you. It is the price that is paid for day-to-day comfort and silence. And because of this price, all happinesses are sterile; all sadnesses go unpitied.

This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing. On Chesil Beach, he could have called out to Florence, he could have gone after her. He did not know, or would not have cared to know, that as she ran away from him, certain in her distress that she was about to lose him, she had never loved him more, or more hopelessly, and that the sound of his voice would have been a deliverance, and she would have turned back. Instead, he stood in a cold and righteous silence in the summer’s dusk, watching her hurry along the shore, the sound of her difficult progress lost to the breathing of small waves, until she was a blurred, receding point against the immense straight road of shingle gleaming in the pallid night.