“It's a way of living with tragedy, I guess, to claim after it happens that you saw it coming, as if somehow you had already made the necessary adjustments beforehand.”
“Mourning can be very selfish. When someone you love has died, you tend to recall best those few moments and incidents that helped clarify your sense, not of the person who has died, but of your own self.”
“I’ve got nothing against outsiders, per se, you understand. It’s just that you have to love a town before you can live in it right, and you have to live in it before you can love it right. Otherwise, you’re a parasite of sorts.”
“Our obsession with each other was like the isolation that comes with great pain; it was like extreme sadness. Without our children we might have never discovered our differences, which is what has made our abiding love for each other possible.”
“[...] I could no longer believe even in life. Which meant that I had come to be the reverse, the opposite of a Christian. For me, now, the only reality is death.”
“It's a landscape that controls you, sits you down and says, Shut up, pal, I'm in charge here.”
“For instance, a man generally doesn't even know how small a woman is until he holds an article of her clothing up in front of him, one of her nightgowns, say, and sees how small and flimsy it is and how like a child's and unlike his own, and how thick and heavy his hands seem.”
“I kept driving straight on toward what we called home and could not say aloud the words that were thrashing me, as if somehow by remaining silent I could keep the terrible thing from having occurred.”
“But twins are like that. They behave in ways, especially regarding each other, that can seem very strange to someone who is not a twin himself. They have a morality that is different from ours-at least when they are young they do-because, unlike other children, they are not inclined to imitate adults until much later. To children who are twins, even when they are not identical, the other twin is both more or less real than everyone else in the family, and they deal with each other the way that we deal with ourselves alone. Which means that it's like twins are permanently stoned. I don't think that's an exaggeration.”
“Photographs of them alive and smiling would have made me cry and fall down and beat the earth with my fists; their actual dead faces only sealed me off from myself.”
“Later, I learned that people thought I was being courageous. Not so. There were selfish reasons for my behavior. I shoved everyone away and kept more or less to myself, silent, stone-faced, although continuing nonetheless to help the other men, as we received one child after another from the divers and wrapped them in blankets and dispatched them in stretchers up the steep slope to the road and the waiting ambulances, as if by doing that I could somehow prolong this part of the nightmare and postpone waking up to what I knew would be the inescapable and endless reality of it. No one spoke. Somehow, at the bottom, I did not want this awful work to end. That's not courage.”
“The only way I could go on living was to believe I was not living.”
“From then on, we were simply different people. Not new people; different.”
“Angry? Yes, I'm angry: I'd be a lousy lawyer if I weren't.”
“Because it's anger that drives us and delivers us. It's not any kind of love either-love for the underdog or the victim, or whatever you want to call them. Some litigators like to claim that. The losers.”
“Listen, identify withe the victims and you become one yourself. Victims make lousy litigators.”
“A dog-it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw. It was snowing pretty hard by then, and you can see things in the snow that aren't there, or aren't exactly there, so that by God when you do see something, you react anyhow, erring on the distaff side, if you get my drift. That's my training as a driver, but it's also my temperament as a mother of two grown sons and wife to an invalid, and that way when I'm wrong at least I'm wrong on the side of the angels.”
“I'm the kind of person who always follows the manual. No shortcuts.”
“Fixing motives is like fixing blame-the further away from the act you get, the harder it is to single out one thing as having caused it.”
“Obviously, you can't control everything, but you are obliged to take care of the few things you can. I'm an optimist, basically, who acts like a pessimist. On principle. Just in case.”
“Abbott says, 'Biggest...difference...between...people...is...quality...of...attention.' And since a person's quality of attention is one of the few things about her that a human can control, then she better damn well do it, say I. Put that together with the Golden Rule in a nutshell, and you've got my philosophy of life. Abbott's too. And you don't need religion for that.”
“But I understood Bear Otto's desire to become a noble man, a man like Billy Ansel, and I respected that, naturally. I just wished the boy had more ways of imagining the thing than by becoming a good soldier. But that's boys, I guess.”
“For the rest of my life I will remember that red-brown blur, like a stain of dried blood, standing against the road with a thin screen of blown snow suspended between it and me, the full weight of the vehicle and the thirty-four children in it bearing down on me like a wall of water. And I will remember the formal clarity of my mind, beyond thinking or choosing now, for I had made my choice, as I wrenched the steering wheel to the right and slapped my foot against the brake pedal, and I wasn't the driver anymore, so I hunched my shoulders and ducked my head, as if the bus were a huge wave about to break over me. There was Bear Otto, and the Lamston kids, and the Walkers, the Hamiltons, and the Prescotts, and the teenaged boys and girls from Bartlett Hill, and Risa and Wendell Walker's sad little boy, Sean, and sweet Nichole Burnell, and all the kids from the valley, and the children from Wilmot Flats, and Billy Ansel's twins, Jessica and Mason-the children of my town-their wide eyed faces and fragile bodies swirling and tumbling in a tangled mess as the bus went over and the sky tipped and veered away and the ground lurched brutally forward.”
“Just to show you how far I was from predicting the accident or suspecting that it could occur-even though, except for Dolores Driscoll, who drove the bus, I was surely the person in town closest to the event, the only eyewitness, you might say-at the moment it occurred I was thinking of fucking Risa Walker.”
“The way we deal with death depends on how it's imagined for us beforehand, by our parents and the people who surround them, and what happens to us early on.[...] Instead, we believe the lie, that death, unlike taxes, can be postponed indefinitely, and we spend our lives defending that belief. Some people are very good at it, and they become our nation's heroes. Some, like me, see the lie early for what it is, fake it for a while and grow bitter, and then go beyond bitterness to...to what? To this, I suppose. Cowardice. Adulthood.”
“She was like a stranger to me then, a stranger whose life had just been made utterly meaningless. I know this because I felt the same way. Meaning had gone wholly and and in one clot right out of my life too, and as result I'm sure I was like a stranger to her as well. Our individual pain was so great that that we could not recognize any other.”
“I can't help it, and I'm not sorry for it; I'm even a little proud. People think I'm cold and unfeeling, but that's a price I've always been willing to pay. The truth is that I'm beyond help; most people are; and it only angers me to see my sisters or my friends here in town wasting their time. To forestall or cover my anger, I jump in front of them, and suddenly I myself have turned into the person come to provide comfort, reassurance, help, whatever it is they originally desired to provide me with. I take their occasion and make it my own.”
“Before you lose your children, you can talk about it-as a possibility, I mean [...] But when the thing that you only imagined actually happens, you quickly discover that you can barely speak of it. Your story is jumbled and mumbled, out of sync and unfocused. At least that's how it has been for me.”
“I want to hold you hard to me and kiss you, and never let you go. I want to take you to my bed and use you like a whore, 'til I forget that I exist. And I want to put my head in your lap and weep like a child."
The mouth turned up at one corner, and a blue eye opened slitwise.
"Unfortunately," he said, "I can't do any but the last of those without fainting or being sick again.”
“He soon felt that the fulfillment of his desires gave him only one grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. This fulfillment showed him the eternal error men make in imagining that their happiness depends on the realization of their desires.”
“Then I discovered that being related is no guarantee of love!”
“...the routine of life goes on, whatever happens, we do the same things, go through the little performance of eating, sleeping, washing. No crisis can break through the crust of habit.”
“Because," explained Mary Rommely simply, "the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”
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