It is curious that in the retelling of a dangerous situation the explanation is often made to include a premonition of the disaster. Whereas, in truth, most accidents strike like a viper of lightening from an apparently clear blue sky. It is as though human beings like to pump up the importance of a near escape or even a catastrophe by placing the hand of destiny at the helm of calamity. The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete; the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further or box better. Hoppie’s dictum to me: ‘ First with the head and then with heart’ was more than simply mixing brains with guts. It meant thinking well beyond the powers of normal concentration and then daring your courage to follow your thoughts. That tendency exists in all sports: parents always think their own expertise increases automatically as their child gets better at something. As if the reverse weren’t actually the case. The worst thing is that he thinks he’s the hero of this story, and he’s never, ever going to find out that he’s actually the bad guy. What happened to us? It was a question that interested her. Most people seemed to believe that they were experts of their own life story. They had a set of memories that they strung like beads, and this necklace told a sensible tale. But she suspected that most of these stories would fall apart under strict examination—that, in fact, we were only peeping through a keyhole of our lives, and the majority of the truth, the reality of what happened to us, was hidden. Memories were no more solid than dreams. My dad didn’t know this, of course. He doled out money for “books” and “expenses” without even blinking an eye—I guess he’d gotten some money from my mom’s insurance—and honestly the majority of our conversations involved him opening up his wallet and handing me some cash. Sometimes he would pop up and attempt an amateurish performance of a dad—he would go off on some digression about how constellations aren’t real, or how kale is really good for you, or how he wished we would have gone camping more when I was little. Did I want to go camping? Or he would lay some wisdom on me, Sufi wisdom, he said, which seemed completely random and impenetrable. Then he’d roam off, trailing his wisps of positivity through the house. Mostly we avoided each other successfully. It never occurred to him that she might have been exaggerating, that the grief she felt over losing her mother had distorted her vision, that she had pushed away her stepmother without giving her a chance, turning her into an enemy for no other reason than the fact that she was not her mother and never would be, that her overworked father was doing the best he could for his enraged and obstinate daughter, that there was, as there always is, another side to the story. Adolescence feeds on drama, it is most happy when living in extremis, and Ferguson was no less vulnerable to the lure of high emotion and extravagant unreason than any other boy his age, which meant that the appeal of a girl like Anne-Marie was fueled precisely by her unhappiness, and the greater storms she engulfed him in, the more intensely he wanted her. 'Look,' said Esther, ' I don't know how to explain this, I know quite well that Claudio knows he hasn't seen a werewolf or spoken to a witch, but that so great is his power of — well, of what? of self-hallucination that he can persuade himself that he might have done? No, not even that. He knows he hasn't. But —' and Esther glanced at Liz in anxiety, in embarrassment, for never in all their years of close friendship had she ever made such a confession ' — the thing is, when I'm with Claudio, I find myself believing these things myself. It's as though I know I'd better believe them. that, when I'm with him, it's safer to believe them. Does that make any kind of sense at all? Irie, looking strangely like the crowd on top of the wall in her everyday garb of CND badges, graffiti-covered trousers, and beaded hair, shook her head in saddened disbelief. She was that age. Whatever she said burst like genius into centuries of silence. Whatever she touched was the first stroke of its kind. Whatever she believed was not formed by faith but carved from certainty. Whatever she thought was the first time such a thought had ever been thunk. A cruel counterthought mocked No, you’re just afraid of what you might discover. Corinne tried one of the heavy doors, cautiously—it opened. Her heart was beating painfully. She stepped inside the dim-lit vestibule and a sweet-rancid odor made her nostrils pinch. Incense. An undercurrent of mildew. That unmistakable smell of so-aged-it-can’t-really-be-cleaned-any-longer linoleum tile. As if rehearsing a way in which to speak of this adventure, a way of most artfully recounting it to make her listeners laugh, Corinne thought Why, you know right away it isn’t one of our churches, it’s one of theirs! Was she invincible? She wondered if she was guided by some higher power. Was her mission, avoiding Carl, leaving civilization, a holy one? There was no other answer. Everything is always comparative in another country. Crooks are crookeder, grass is greener, heights are higher, words are wordier, pleasures are more pleasurable, death is deader, life is livelier, dogs are doggier, fortune is more fortunate, vaults more vaulted, distance is further, water more watery, blue is bluer, grey is greyer, fame more famous, continuance more continuing, consumers more consumed, reality more real, fantasy more fantastic, adjustments more adjusted, fires more fiery, chaos more chaotic... I mean to say... If I could believe (as convention tells us) that character is destiny and the past prologue et cetera, I might begin the story of what happened to Elena McMahon during the summer of 1984 at some earlier point. To his surprise, Brian did not reject this theory. He didn’t necessarily believe it but he didn’t dismiss it either. He believed it provisionally here in this room located below street level in a framehouse on a weekday afternoon in Cliffside park, New Jersey. It was lyrically true as it emerged from Marvin Lundy’s mouth and reached Brian’s middle ear, unprovably true, remotely and inadmissably true but not completely unhistorical, not without some nuance of authentic inner narrative. It’s the special skill of the adolescent to imagine the end of the world as an adjunct to his own discontent.
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