To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss

To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss

Author:Nicole Krauss
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Harper
Published: 2020-11-03T00:00:00+00:00


I knew her when we were young, and then we lost touch for decades until I saw her again in one of the refugee camps. There are faces suffering can change beyond all recognition. But there are those who possess something, a defining feature maybe, that can’t be altered or deformed, not by time, or displacement, or any variety of pain. Sophie’s eyes were a deep gray that at times, in certain weather, turned almost violet. When I first saw her thin figure in the line that snaked along the chain-link fence, a blue blanket draped over her shoulders, I couldn’t recall her name or even to which of the disjointed epochs of my life she belonged, but I recognized those eyes. Then I heard her voice and I remembered, and for the little while that our paths remained crossed, what I couldn’t remember or never knew, she told me.

Back then Sophie hadn’t been alone, and despite all the intervening years, with their myriad collapses and disintegrations, I still half expected to see Ezra fly out from the jumble of alleys, bundled in some wretched coat hanging below his knees, wild-bearded, rabbinical and rabid, clutching some loaf or can he’d bartered, or talked his way into, or otherwise Ezra-like negotiated. I’d always liked Sophie, and envied him for having her. And I envied how inevitable their coupling seemed, what a solid fit they made while the rest of us kept coming together and apart, hooking up, falling in love, and then discovering we were only half-baked.

They’d met in New York toward the very end of the 1990s, but well enough before the actual end that by the time it was nigh, they had plans in place to spend it together, to spend New Year’s snow camping while all the world’s computers glitched, erasing time, rolling us all back to the Stone Age. These two—ever ready for anything, up for anything—would be ready even for this, spooning in their icy white cave or lying just outside it on their backs, in the cupped wings of their own angels, looking up not at the hyperbrilliance of Grucci fireworks but of native stars: stars scattered wild across the universe over Colorado, I think it was, or maybe Wyoming. That neither of them—one raised on the North Shore of Long Island, and the other on an island in South Jersey, both in Congregations Beth Shalom, both in homes kosher but not shomer Shabbat, where being American was an accident of history, English an accident of history, nature an accident of history—that neither of these two had even the faintest notion of how to make a fire, pitch a tent, or waterproof their stuff, let alone survive in subzero temperatures, fazed them not at all, because thus far they had been fantastically, almost mystically competent, not only in getting into good colleges and making their way in the world but also finding beauty in it. That they broke up for the first time before the


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