Never let me go
If you've ever struggled through Remains of the day and wondered what the fuss was all about, maybe you should give Never let me go a birl. For me, it stands as a humanist monument; like the best of science fiction, it is about us in a way that sometimes novels about us cannot achieve. I say science fiction but the dystopia it draws is no more than a setting for a coming of age novel that runs a little deeper than the young adult fiction I think Ishiguro wished to pastiche.
The blunt style hides a sureness of touch and adherence to tone that are masterful. The narrator's matter-of-fact delivery makes utterly credible the fragile yet tender romance that you feel could be blown away by the least breeze, yet is the most powerful story we can make out of our blighted, doomed lives.
Ultimately, it is a tale of a culture so inexorable that it cannot be escaped, that we are left with what we can build from the scraps we are left by people who think we are worth nothing. It is like a rolling tide that sweeps away even hope to leave us broken, clinging to scraps of memory, all of us with pieces pulled from us until there is not enough left to keep living, which in a typically deft piece of irony, the characters call "completing".
Sometimes when things are bad in my life, I turn inwards, as far as I can, until I feel like I am curled in a ball and nothing can hurt me so long as I don't uncurl.
Things shouldn't have been bad in my life. I had a woman I loved very much, a job I hated but paid the rent, kids who are happy and doing well at school. I live in a great home and although I was worried about upkeep and paying the bills, I felt like I could cope. We are having a new baby and I'm really excited about that.
We had a custody battle for A's kids and the ongoing pain of her reprobate teen's pretending she is a monster, but that seemed to be going our way.
We had a court process for a protection order and that didn't go well. A thought that just telling the truth would be enough so she didn't prepare well for it. She decided she didn't need a lawyer and she got monstered by a sharp operator.
She punished me for that. Every time he does something horrible, hits her teen, is nasty to the littlies, I am punished. Because she can't take it out on him, she takes it out on me. I don't mind so much. I try to help her with the anguish in my clumsy, useless way. And being useless doesn't feel good but I keep trying.
I had a death sentence at work, the knowledge that I would be sacked sooner or later. It got pressing and I started to have pain in my neck and shoulders and pounding in my ears from the high blood pressure because of the stress. At least I have a loving wife who would ease it some though, right? Well, she says take ibuprofen, see the doctor, make it anyone's problem but hers. But it is hers in part, if only because she doesn't like me any more and makes it obvious by being unpleasant to me whenever she has the opportunity. I am left hoping it's just because she's pregnant and maybe when the baby's a year or so and she's recovered, the old A will come back and as long as I've just weathered it as best I can, we'll be fine.
So I got sacked and now I am going to have to use my credit line to pay the rent on Wednesday because the promised payout will arrive some time or never, who knows? I am faced with the fear that I won't be able to support my kids and will not be able to let A be the stay at home mum she wants to be, and I will just be another monster who made promises to her but then let her down. I already feel like that. I feel like I am just being me and I have another woman who thought I was or could be made into something different, something perfect, while they should just be accepted as they are.
Weekends are the worst. She cannot handle the handovers but won't let me do them instead. She wants to say goodbye but for some reason doesn't grasp that that's what really upsets her and seriously, there are more people in her life than her girls. I should matter too. You can't expect me to agree that I don't. Why do women insist on believing that someone like me will agree with their conclusion that I'm not worth shit? Well, something more complicated than that. I already think I'm not worth shit. I want to be with someone who thinks I'm worth something. If they also think I'm not worth shit, why am I even with them? But sometimes I feel like just as they have fooled themselves into thinking I'm not me, I have fooled myself into thinking they will ever think I'm worth anything and it really is just me. I should stop trying and just accept being lonely.
She won't ask him to come here to make it easier or ask to meet somewhere that is less depressing than DFO. She turns up half an hour early and works herself into a state. Then she comes home and relieves all the stress by punishing me for causing it. I know I didn't cause it. That's just how it works.
So I push myself inwards, disappear into my computer game, and try not to talk about anything that's likely to cause a fight, which amounts to not talking about anything I'm fearful about or anything that will set her off.
I'm not excited enough about the baby. I don't remember every single appointment. I've never remembered appointments. When you're new and fresh, it's endearing that you're useless about things like that. When you're married, you're supposed to snap into being someone completely different. Every failing is magnified and you've given a woman licence to point them out to you.
But I am excited. I talk about the baby all the time. I go shopping for clothes. I read baby books. I talk about its name. I constantly try to gauge the other kids' feelings about it and manage them. I'm just not excited in the right way -- not concerned enough about A. Because it's all about her.
We went shopping for clothes for me to wear for a job interview. A came with me to help choose. I tried a pair of trousers on and came out of the dressing room to parade for her, as you do. But she'd disappeared. She'd wandered off to buy herself maternity tights. What I needed didn't matter.
But I didn't need her to come with me in the first place. I don't need help to buy clothes. I am nearly 50 years old. I have been buying my own clothes without needing help for many, many years. When she asked to come, I realised it was her way of being supportive. I would have preferred her to say she was sorry I had lost my job and perhaps ask me how I felt about it but I accept that she has her ways and means.
I don't know what I'm trying to say. Just whining. If I get the job tomorrow, all will be fine. If it gets extended in July, I'll be able to get back on my metaphorical feet. I will stop feeling like I just want to hide in a corner so that no one can see me. I will be okay.