Saturday, February 4, 2012

On "Drive-By" by Robin Messing (3436 words) ****

Halfway into Robin Messing's exploration of a marriage that has settled into a peaceful kindness, we learn that Herbert just wants to be left alone. He loves his wife, but in this moment where she has lost her parents, where they are visiting her childhood home for the last time, he wants her to take the home in, to allow him some time to think on her parents by himself. Her parents, the narrator notes, weren't terribly kind or generous, but they'd become Herbert's parents, after he lost his own. He wants time to think of them himself.

But that's the beauty of Messing's story. There is no time by himself. Locked in a car with his wife, he is locked also in this marriage. He has duties he performs and things he wins for performing them--usually, unless, of course, he fails to do something he was supposed to, and then, the light goes out, and the sex promised when the nightlight is on is forbidden. Something is changing in Herbert's life. The couple has become familiar to one another--and that in turn is breeding, as the saying goes, contempt.

Contrast that to the parents who are gone. Items that Sylvia used to hate she now loves. Histories "change"--we appreciate things we didn't appreciate in the past, things we could have had at any time. What is this appreciation and familiarity? How do we reconcile what we have and don't have? Why are we never happy when we have it? These are the questions Messing poses. Read the story here at Drunken Boat.

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