I try to smile when I meet someone new. I believe that it’s good form.
In the past week, I, Robert, have met seven new people. Mary, Alice, Sarah, Nick, Ryan, Mark, Rob. This means I have smiled at least seven times. Each smile was genuine. I am happy to meet new people. For the first few weeks, they are usually exciting.
My wife’s name is Sarah. We have been married for 12 years. She is from Los Angeles and is a ball of energy. She works in retail, and is frequently complimented for her fashion. She lives for those compliments.
I have worked in construction for 15 years. (Here’s a story for you: Sarah and I met when I was renovating her home. She brought me and the boys lemonade everyday, and eventually started inviting just me to stay for dinner. We went on many dates and did not have sex until we are married in 1997. I am strong in my Christian faith.) I love my job, and frequently work unpaid overtime. I have had to go to the hospital four times for job related injuries; each time made me feel like a fallen angel, a laborer for the divine, a convict being nailed to my cross. My work is Holy because I want it to be. I breathe Holiness into existence.
For the first few years, my marriage was exciting. Then it got hard. I poured myself into being a good husband, determined to be nothing like my father. All in all, I’d say me efforts paid dividends. My wife and I have never separated, though on two distinct occasions we came pretty close. People look to us as examples. I enjoy breakfast twice a week with two young fathers who cling to my every word. It is a humbling ritual.
I worked hard in school and had many friends. At graduation, I was nominated Collegiate of the Year, and accepted it with a speech that had everyone in tears. I took pictures with each of my teachers afterwards, and have stayed in touch with all of them (except Dr. Margaret, who is dead. [I spoke at her funeral, and made everyone cry again]). I was scouted out by a large pharmaceutical company right after college, offered a six figure salary. I declined; we didn’t share the same moral vision.
Yesterday, I was hit by a car. I died.
1Despite our pleas, Robert has refused to finish the recording of his memoirs. He was not hit by a car and is not dead; he is just a philosopher. We are told that in a conversation he had with his agent, he said, “Who cares about my life? Why should they? There’s more to be said in what’s left unsaid. The number one thing I want people to learn from me is that life is short and we need to hold it loosely. I can’t just say that. I need to show it. If those damn publishers don’t like it, they don’t have to publish. I don’t care how frustrated the reader is. That’s the problem with readers; they read for redemption. They want happy endings, a digestible Whole. But that’s not how life works. It is complicated, and frustrating, and rarely makes sense (unless you’re a fundamentalist, but then you’re just an ass). If the reader gets annoyed with my ending, then I’ve accomplished my goal. If I get piles of hate mail, I will frame every one. Tell them that!” His agent told us that, and we decided to publish. We at Farrar, Straus and Giroux hope you understand what Robert is trying to do here, and that you are not too frustrated. (Ed.’s Note)