March 13th, 2003

Gull as Metaphor

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At Barnegat Light the professor realized that his life had become a dreadful cliché. Mid life crisis. Separation. Divorce. A small apartment, a sports car. Excruciating dates with women no less desperate than he was. Awkward, aching visits with his uncommunicative son.

Nothing at all original about any of it.


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When he made the announcement, his wife thought he was just going through a phase. But finally he convinced her. She got very calm and said, all right. But don't expect me to tell the kids. That's YOUR job.

The best course, he thought, would be to tell them separately. Daughter first, then his son. A prepared speech. You see, honey, sometimes people change. But that does not mean that it's your fault or that we don't love you.

He was taken aback by his daughter's economy of language.

"Fine," she said, and walked out of the room.

The session with his son was somewhat different. The boy looked at him, tears welling in his eyes.

"Why?" he asked.

Well, there had to be a way of explaining it. But all that ever came out were banalities, clichés.

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At Barnegat Light he and his son silently looked at the water. At the sky.

The gulls, the professor decided, were metaphors.


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