فصل 11

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فصل 11

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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FINCH

The night of the day my life changed

My mother stares at me over her plate. Decca, as usual, is eating like a small, ravenous horse, and for once I’m doing my share of shoveling it in.

Mom says, “Decca, tell me what you learned today.”

Before she can answer, I say, “Actually, I’d like to go first.”

Dec stops eating long enough to gape at me, her mouth full of partially chewed casserole. Mom smiles nervously and holds on to her glass and plate, as if I might get up and start throwing things.

“Of course, Theodore. Tell me what you learned.”

“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.”

Mom waits politely, and when I don’t say anything else, she starts nodding. “This is great. That’s really good, Theodore. Isn’t that interesting, Decca?”

As we clear the plates, my mother looks as dazed and disconcerted as she always does, only more so because she doesn’t have the first clue what to do with my sisters and me.

Since I feel happy about my day and also bad for her because my father not only broke her heart, he pretty much shat all over her pride and self-worth, I tell her, “Mum, why don’t you let me do the dishes tonight? You should put your feet up.” When my dad left us this last and final time, my mom earned her Realtor’s license, but because the housing market is less than booming, she part-times at a bookstore. She is always tired.

Her face crumples, and for one awful moment I’m afraid she’s going to cry, but then she kisses me on the cheek and says, “Thank you,” in such a world-weary way that I almost want to cry myself, except that I’m feeling much too good for that.

Then she says, “Did you just call me ‘Mum’?”

I’m putting on my shoes at the very moment the sky opens up and it starts to pour. By the looks of it we’re talking cold, blinding sleet, so instead of going out for a run, I take a bath. I strip, climb in, water splashing onto the floor, leaving little pools that shake like beached fish. The whole operation doesn’t work well at first because I am twice as long as the bathtub, but the tub is full of water and I’ve come this far, and I have to see it through. My feet rest halfway up the tile of the wall as I go under, eyes open, staring up at the showerhead and the black curtain and plastic liner and the ceiling, and then I close my eyes and pretend I’m in a lake.

Water is peaceful. I am at rest. In the water, I am safe and pulled in where I can’t get out. Everything slows down—the noise and the racing of my thoughts. I wonder if I could sleep like this, here on the bottom of the bathtub, if I wanted to sleep, which I don’t. I let my mind drift. I hear words forming as if I’m sitting at the computer already.

In March of 1941, after three serious breakdowns, Virginia Woolf wrote a note to her husband and walked to a nearby river. She shoved heavy stones into her pocket and dove into the water. “Dearest,” the note began, “I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times.… So I am doing what seems the best thing to do.”

How long has it been? Four minutes? Five? Longer? My lungs are starting to burn. Stay calm, I tell myself. Stay relaxed. The worst thing you can do is panic.

Six minutes? Seven? The longest I’ve held my breath is six and a half minutes. The world record is twenty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds, and this belongs to a German competitive breath holder. He says it’s all about control and endurance, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that his lung capacity is 20 percent larger than the average person’s. I wonder if there’s something to this competitive breath holding, if there’s really a living to be made at it.

“You have been in every way all that anyone could be.… If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.”

I open my eyes and sit straight up, gasping, filling my lungs. I’m happy no one’s here to see me, because I’m sputtering and splashing and coughing up water. There’s no rush of having survived, only emptiness, and lungs that need air, and wet hair sticking to my face.

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