I begin to feel the curious malaise that makes me wonder: am I in the wrong time? The wrong place?
There is nothing wrong with cities. They are occasionally beautiful, always stimulating, and as my beloved daughter-in-law, Camila, said as we were walking back last night, everyone feels at home in them—or at least in New York.
But there is also the solemn pressure, which I can avoid elsewhere, of humanity, massed and on the move; the ten billionth baby is due to be born somewhere any day now, and although here in the U.S. we can’t rival India, we are doing our best, particularly as so much of the hope and support offered by the women’s movement ebbs and flows away, and we find ourselves again, inevitably, necessarily, caught and re-caught in the meshes of family.
Walking the corridors of this hotel in pre-dawn darkness, I see that someone has put a florist’s arrangement of white roses and white hydrangeas on one of those anonymous dark wood tables that stand in elevator lobbies. The roses have no smell—it has been bred out of a lot of hybrids for reasons I don’t understand—but they are fresh and almost damp when I put my face to them.
Somewhere, far beyond this stretching megapolis, someone is growing roses in a greenhouse, someone—probably one of the people we are working so hard to drive out of this country—watered and fertilized, clipped and tended them, bringing a few at last to this luscious bloom that will gather glances as people wait for the elevator.
Surely, this is grace; like the grace that allowed me to escape much of what confined me, early wrong choices showing, in hindsight, the seductive contours of their comforts: money, security, repetition; and it takes a radical restructuring of my resolve to remember that, as a writer, I can’t afford those comforts, which depend on a degree of blindness, any more than I can afford to grow white roses in a greenhouse, or to insist on my singularity.