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Monogamy by Sue Miller

Monogamy by Sue Miller

Author:Sue Miller
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2020-09-07T16:00:00+00:00


16

In the late 1940s and ’50s, Annie and Sofie Kahn had been in the same grammar-school class in a public school in Hyde Park, on the south side of Chicago. Sofie was small, like Annie—the other girls and most of the boys in their class towered over both of them—and maybe as much as anything else, this was what drew them together. But they also both had fathers who worked at the University of Chicago, another bond that made them different from many of the other kids.

They lived in different areas of Hyde Park though, neighborhoods separated by the tracks the Illinois Central Electric trains ran on. In order to see each other after school, one or the other of them had what seemed at the time a long walk. But in that other world, where children at nine or ten or eleven could move around unaccompanied, this wasn’t a difficulty.

By Sofie’s preference, as Annie remembered it, they went to her apartment more often than to Annie’s house. That was fine with Annie. She liked the sense of peace at the Kahns’. It felt welcoming to her.

Annie had four siblings, all of whom, unlike her, often had several friends at a time over after school, so that the house was usually full of kids and their activities: records playing, the bigger boys bounding recklessly and thunderously up or down the stairs, Annie’s sisters and their friends in one or the other of their rooms, dressing up or trying different hairstyles suggested by Seventeen; or gathered in the front hall, using the telephone to pass along school gossip. It must be that, she had thought, that put Sofie off—the noise, the looseness. A looseness that for Annie and her siblings was just part of the sense among them that they were on their own. That their mother had better things to do than fuss with them.

Or other things, anyway. In the daytime, what seemed like her endless chores. Ironing in the kitchen, her cigarette set in an ashtray on the counter nearby, a ritualized pause after each section of a girl’s dress or a boy’s shirt to drag on the cigarette some predetermined number of times. Typing up a report by Annie’s father at the dining room table, or a long letter of her own to her mother, with many carbon copies to go to her sisters.

Sometimes she was literally absent, particularly late in the afternoon, when she went down the street to the Petersons’ house, or the Millers’ or the Levis’ or the Nakagawas’ to have cocktails with the other wives—and then the husbands too, as they drifted home from the campus or emerged from their studies at the far reaches of the houses.

Without her, the noise level in the house rose even higher. The records were turned up, the older kids danced with their friends in the living room or tried their mother’s cigarettes in the backyard—she smoked Pall Malls, which she drew out of an oval red tin, a hundred to the can.



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