Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo
I go through awful sleep patterns. This week, I've been falling asleep (unintentionally) as soon as I hit my bed, only to wake up at 2/3/4AM to shower and then stay up for the rest of the night. When this happened last night, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe my weird sleep & lack of it is what's kind of resulted in my strange mood these past few days. I've been tired physically but also mentally, which has led to discouraged thoughts, rising doubts & insecurities, etc. "Sleep is the key to happiness," I reminded myself early this morning. And I went back to sleep. So here I am, awake & feeling more optimistic (+ it's Friday!). Birds still chirping, but a little later now.
I like that my friends know to gift me books. So far, they haven't missed the mark. I've loved each one. Bridge of Sighs was a birthday gift, so it took me six months to finally pick it up. It's a monster of a book, a little more than 500 pages long, so maybe there was some intimidation there and some waiting for the right time.
"The self I meet coming and going is, I confess, relentlessly unexceptional. I'm a large man, like my father, and the resemblance has always been a source of pleasure to me. I loved him more than I can say, so much that even now, many years after his death, it's hard for me to hear, much less speak, a word against him. Still, there's also something bittersweet about our resemblance. I am, I believe, an intelligent man, but I'll admit this isn't always the impression I convey to others. Over the course of a lifetime a man will overhear a fair number of remarks about himself and learn from them how very wide is the gulf between his public perception and the image he hopes to project. I've always known that there's more going on inside me than finds its way into the world, but this is probably true of everyone. Who doesn't regret that he isn't more fully understood? I tend to be both self-conscious and reticent. Where others regret speaking in haste, wishing they could recall some unkind or ill-considered opinion, I more often have occasion to regret what I've not said. Worse, these regrets accumulate and become a kind of verbal dam, preventing utterance of any sort until the dam finally breaks and I blurt something with inappropriate urgency, the time for that particular observation having long passed. As a result, until people get to know me, they often conclude that I'm slow, and in this I'm also like my father.
I don't remember how old I was the first time I overheard somebody call Big Lou Lynch a buffoon, but it so surprised me that I looked the word up in the dictionary, convinced I'd somehow mistaken its meaning. This was probably the first time I recognized how deeply unkindness burrows and how helpless we are against it. At any rate, I've noticed that people who eventually come to like me often seem embarrassed to, almost as if they need to explain. Though I've been well and truly loved, perhaps more than I've deserved, my father is the only person in my life to love me uncritically, which may be why I find it impossible to be critical of him. In one other respect, I'm also my father's son: we both are optimists. It is our nature to dwell upon our blessings. What's given is to us more important than what's withheld, or what's given for a time and then taken away. Until he had to surrender it, too young, my father was glad to have his life, as I am to have mine."
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