Happy Event.doc - HAPPY EVENT Nadine Gordimer There were so...

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HAPPY EVENT Nadine Gordimer There were so many things in life you couldn't ever imagine yourself doing, Ella Plaistow told herself. Once or twice she had said it aloud, too, to Allan. But mostly it grew, forced its way up out of the silences that fell upon her like a restraining hand during those first few days after she had come home from the nursing home. It seemed to burst through her mouth in a sudden irresistible germination, the way a creeper shoots and uncurls into leaf and stem in one of those films which telescope plant growth into the space of a few terrifying vital seconds. Silence followed it again. In her mind, if she had spoken inwardly, to herself; in the room, if she had spoken aloud. The silence that covers the endless inward activity of shuffling for a foothold, making out of a hundred-and-one past justifications and pressures the accommodations of a new position for oneself. It was true, of course. You start off as a child, pretending to think the blonde doll prettier than the brunette, so that your loved sister may fall into the trap of choosing the one you don't want for yourself. You go on by one day finding your own tongue glibly acquiescing to a discussion of your best friend's temperament with someone whom you know to be her disliked enemy. And before you know where you are, you have gone through all the sidlings and inveiglings of taking somebody's work for less than it is worth, throwing someone into an agony of jealousy for the sake of a moment's vanity, pretending not to see an old lover lest he should not seem impressive enough in the eyes of the new one. It is impossible to imagine yourself doing any of these; but once done . . . Like ants teeming to repair a broken anthill, like white corpuscles rushing to a wound, all the forces that protect oneself from oneself have already begun their quick, sure, furtive, uneasy juggling for a new stance, a rearrangement for comfort into which amorphous life seems to have edged you. "It's your body that objects," said Allan. "Remember that. That's all. There's some sort of physical protest that's got nothing to do with you at all, really. You must expect it. It'll pass off in a week or so." And of course he was quite right. She certainly didn't have any regrets. They had two children, a girl and a boy (the wrong way round, as they said—the girl was the elder—but it's dangerous to have everything too much the way you want it!) who were just old enough to be left with their grandmother. Allan's new partner was thoroughly reliable, the bond on the house was almost paid off; at last there was nothing to stop Allan and Ella: they had booked to go to Europe, in the spring of next year. So to have allowed themselves to be stopped by this—! To be, instead, this time next year, caught up in chemists' bills and napkins and wakeful nights all over again!

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