1. The man is told by his girlfriend she doesn’t love him anymore. The man essentially makes his girlfriend tell him this, because how else can she explain why she's breaking up with him? The man thinks he will never love anyone again. The man is determined never to love anyone again. Years later, when the man is in love again, he prepares to tell the woman for the first time. The man is terrified. The first time he says the words "I love you," he says them into her phone machine.

2. What is it about police lights that sets a man’s heart galloping? There's something primal about it, the fight-or-flight response. The police officer, however, has a gun, so neither fight nor flight is a good idea. The man pulls over at the side of the road, and the police officer approaches him. Not for the first time, the man wishes he were a woman. Many a woman the man has known has gotten out of a speeding ticket. These women have done this by flirting or crying, but the man isn't about to flirt with a police officer, and he isn’t about to cry, either. But then the police officer shines the light in the man's eyes, he shines the light in the man's car, he is standing tall above the man with his badge and his gun, and the man thinks he will admit to anything. He will admit to crimes he didn't commit. The man will go to his priest to confess. (The man doesn’t have a priest—he’s Jewish—but he will confess anyway.) He will do whatever the police officer says.

3. The man takes his daughter for her first day of preschool. She's in tears, screaming, "Daddy, don't go!" and the man is thinking, "What kind of insane person thought to inflict preschool on a three-year-old?" The man is that insane person. The man and his wife. The man also understands that in five minutes, his daughter will be laughing, and it's he, the man, whom preschool is being inflicted on. Because he will be thinking of his daughter all day. He will be thinking of his daughter his whole life as, slowly, she recedes from him. When she goes on sleepovers and soon to college, when she passes through the stages that she must, one of which involves hating her father, he will try, vainly, to conjure the girl she was, the child he used to hoist above his head, to whom he would say, "I promise I'll be back."

4. Back when the man was only five, he would sleep over at his friend Adam’s house, with Adam and Adam's parents and Adam’s brother and sister and Adam’s two dogs. But whenever Adam tried to sleep over, Adam would miss his parents. In the middle of the night, Adam's parents had to be called. The man tried not to think of it this way, he tried not to make too fine a point of it, but Adam was a baby. When the man was 13, he was sent to sleepaway camp for the first time. The man hadn't seen Adam in years, but now he thought of him, because the man missed his family, so much he felt as if he couldn't breathe. The man's parents were in Europe, and the man's grandmother didn't know what to say other than to tell the man, "Stick with it." So the man tried. The man was good at sports, so he played sports. The man was good at writing letters, so he did that, too. The man wrote letters to his parents. The man wrote letters to his classmates, all 46 of them. The man wrote letters to his brother, who was at the same summer camp as the man, so the man simply walked over to his brother's bunk and handed him the letters. In the history of that summer camp, the man was told, no one had ever written as many letters as he had. But then, in the history of that summer camp, the man believed, no one had ever been as homesick.


Next Story