On Forgetfulness

“Yet each disappointment Ted 
felt in his wife, each 
incremental deflation, was 
accompanied by a seizure of 
guilt; many years ago, he had 
taken the passion he felt for 
Susan and folded it in half, so 
he no longer had a drowning, 
helpless feeling when he 
glimpsed her beside him in 
bed: her ropy arms and soft, 
generous ass. Then he’d 
folded it in half again, so 
when he felt desire for Susan, 
it no longer brought with it an 
edgy terror of never being 
satisfied. Then in half again, 
so that feeling desire entailed 
no immediate need to act. 
Then in half again, so he 
hardly felt it. His desire was 
so small in the end that Ted 
could slip it inside his desk or 
a pocket and forget about it, 
and this gave him a feeling of 
safety and accomplishment, 
of having dismantled a 
perilous apparatus that might 
have crushed them both. 
Susan was baffled at first, 
then distraught; she’d hit him 
twice across the face; she’d 
run from the house in a 
thunderstorm and slept at a 
motel; she’d wrestled Ted to 
the bedroom floor in a pair of 
black crotchless underpants. 
But eventually a sort of 
amnesia had overtaken 
Susan; her rebellion and hurt 
had melted away, deliquesced 
into a sweet, eternal 
sunniness that was terrible in 
the way that life would be 
terrible, Ted supposed, 
without death to give it 
gravitas and shape. He’d 
presumed at first that her 
relentless cheer was mocking, 
another phase in her 
rebellion, until it came to him 
that Susan had forgotten how 
things were between them 
before Ted began to fold up 
his desire; she’d forgotten and 
was happy — had never not 
been happy — and while all 
of this bolstered his awe at 
the gymnastic adaptability of 
the human mind, it also made 
him feel that his wife had 
been brainwashed. By him.” 
― Jennifer Egan, A Visit from 
the Goon Squad 

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