Marie-Helene Bertino · 272 pages
Rating: (5.4K votes)
“We carry our ancestors in our names and sometimes we carry our ancestors through the sliding doors of emergency rooms and either way they are heavy, man, either way we can't escape.”
“You can’t say you know a city unless you know three ways to everywhere.”
“Good morning, the city says. Fuck you.”
“That’s a drummer’s love story. If you want a prettier one, you’ll be waiting forever. If you could separate your body into four distinct rhythms, you’d be cracked too”
“If you are anything other than humbled in the presence of love, you are not in the presence of love.”
“In the jaundiced light of a streetlamp, Sarina realizes why people have children: to see the face of the one they love at the ages they’ve missed...”
“What am I supposed to do," she says. "Wait?" She wants him to say, Yes, wait. I will be home as soon as I run this one errand. Ben perceives disgust in her tone. Why would anyone wait for him? A boy who didn't know how to be a prom date, a man who knows what he needs, but too late.
He releases her arm. His voice is professional with sorrow. "You certainly couldn't do that." He means because she is precious. Sarina hears that she is snotty and unkind. He means because he is not that lucky; she hears: he is bored.
No one says "I want you to wait," and no one says "I'll wait.”
“If there were a race among all artists to the human heart, my money would be on music to win. It knows a shortcut.”
“I'm a minor character in my own life.”
“Saying good-bye to Ben is Sarina's least favorite activity. So sad the number of times she's had to do it. Ball games, recitals, the homes of friends, rented shore houses, through car windows after dropping off some forgotten camera to Annie. Goodbye. See you later. Nice seeing you. She has mastered it: A dismissive peck on the cheek. A hug like an afterthought. Telling herself, Do not watch him walk away. Watching him walk away. Watching him drive away. Watching him descend the stairs to the subway. How many times have they said goodbye to each other? Already tonight, twice.
He interrupts her before she can get the second goodbye out.
"How would you feel," he says, "about missing your train?"
Once at the beach, Sarina watched a crane bathing in a gully at dusk. It used its wings to funnel the water over its back, then shook out the excess in a firework of droplets. After several minutes it took off, arcing out over the fretless sea. That felt like this.”
“But Madeline loves her father and how can you be scared of someone you love?”
“Her father is fastened to his room, with his records and his drugs and his quiet. She crawls under her covers. It is her fault for triggering one of his spells. Normally she can tightrope through his moods. At least it had been brief. Most girls do not have to deal with a father like hers. They would be afraid of the way she lives, lawless in a roachy apartment. They would be scared of his fits. Madeleine would be scared too, she thinks, falling asleep. If she had only experienced finished basements and dads who acted like dads. But Madeleine loves her father, and how can you be scared of someone you love?”
“Gus doesn’t belong in this world. He was born with a Hollywood chin, a butter touch, and an ear that can hear rhythms tapped out from Neptune. In another life he would have been drumming in Johnny Carson’s band, drinking water out of a mug. But in this one he has a disease and he can’t say no to shysters like Charlie, who uses his wife and kid to cheat on Gus’s lousy, glowing heart.”
“It is dark, dark seven A.M. on Christmas Eve Eve.”
“Madeleine stares through the window into the courtyard. On most days she feels something staring back: a God or a mother-shaped benevolent force. Today, nothing reciprocates. The streamers on the chained bicycles lift in the indifferent breeze. She is alone in old stockings she's repaired twice but still run. Life will be nothing but errands and gray nights.”
“She is officiating the marriage of two bottles of ketchup; overturning one and balancing it on the mouth of the other so it can empty its shit. The”
“The way that woman walked, like she was paying the sidewalk a favor.”
“Madeleine has never had a caramel apple and she wants to taste one more than she wants God's love.”
“The trash bags are gone, the bar wiped clean. The lights have been hung; they line the stage and loop around the Snakehead, making the old axe glow. Stalled in the doorway, Lorca experiences a stomachache he can only call Christmas.”
“The heavy thud of the front door closing. He leaves the phone on the desk. The hallway is dark and long and empty. "Louisa?" His voice echoes against the walls as if he is asking himself her name.”
“Music fills the space between them. Mark wants to take the pill that keeps him awake, but not in front of his daughter. Instead, he flirts. "There's a lot of trouble with a brown-eyed handsome man. In your travels have you found this to be true?"
This is Madeleine's favorite game. His role is to ask silly questions and hers is to answer as if he is serious, neither one acknowledging the other conversation that goes on wordlessly around them, in which some other, better version of themselves say: Isn't it nice to be father and daughter?”
“The purpose of these children seems to be to congratulate the Pennypacks and to offer them a stray glove or scarf if one of the Pennypacks forgets theirs. These children are for parts. If she were interested in minions Madeleine would be a bully, but she doesn't like weak people hanging around.”
“Thinking about him requires so little effort that she can do it while performing mindless activities. Soaping the dishes, replaiting Clare Kelley's hair, drying the dishes. The part of her brain that plays his ongoing reel is unconnected to the neurons and synapses that control things like conscious thought and logic. Ben turning to her at a party. Ben turning to her. Ben turning. What human being deserves to be the nucleus of such high esteem? Certainly not Benjamin, middle name Hal, last name Allen. Five-nine in boots. Who has a car that doesn't start on cold mornings, an unfinished screenplay, a law degree he doesn't use, a romantic's tendency to save movie stubs, and a mannered, unsmiling wife.”
“Yet her experience had consisted less in a series of pure disappointments than in a series of substitutions. Continually it had happened that what she had desired had not been granted her, and that what had been granted her she had not desired. So she viewed with an approach to equanimity the now cancelled days when Donald had been her undeclared lover, and wondered what unwished-for thing Heaven might send her in place of him.”
“Young mudlarks searching the river quag for scrap had been known to step into some discoloured patch of mud and start speaking long-dead languages, or find locusts in their hair, or fade slowly to translucency and disappear.”
“Notre grande erreur est d'essayer d'obtenir de chacun en particulier les vertus qu'il n'a pas, et de négliger de cultiver celles qu'il possède.”
“A man kills the thing he loves, and he must die a little himself.”
“She was so young that love was still a game to her. . . . She was being neither fair nor clever, but Babette was only nineteen years old.”
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