At Yale, when he was young and headstrong, he’d been sure that one day he’d be the very axis of the world, that his life would be one of deep impact. But every young man thought that. A condition of youth, your own importance. The mark you’d make upon the world. But a man learns sooner or later. You take your little niche and you make it your own. You ride out the time as best you can. You go home to your good wife and you calm her nerves. You sit down and compliment the cutlery. You thank your lucky stars for her inheritance. You smoke a fine cigar and you hope for an occasional roll in the silk sheets. You buy her a nice piece of jewelry at DeNatale’s and you kiss her in the elevator because she still looks beautiful, well preserved, and despite the years rolling by, she really does. You kiss her good-bye and you go downtown every day and you soon figure out that your grief isn’t half the grief that everyone else has. You mourn your dead son and you wake up in the middle of the night with your wife weeping beside you and you go to the kitchen, where you make yourself a cheese sandwich and you think, Well, at least it’s a cheese sandwich on Park Avenue, it would be worse, you could have ended up far worse: your reward, a sigh of relief.
- Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin