"When the Young Husband..." by Donald Hall appeared in The Atlantic in March of 1993:
When the young husband picked up his friend's pretty wife
in the taxi one block from her townhouse for their
first lunch together, in a hotel dining room
with a room key in his pocket,
midtown traffic gridlocked and was abruptly still.
For one moment before Klaxons started honking,
a prophetic voice spoke in his mind's ear despite
his pulse's erotic thudding:
"The misery you undertake this afternoon
will accompany you to the ends of your lives.
She knew what she did, when she agreed to this lunch,
although she will not admit it;
and you've constructed your playlet a thousand times:
cocktails, an omelet, wine; the revelation
of a room key; the elevator rising as
the penis elevates; the skin
flushed, the door fumbled at, the handbag dropped; the first
kiss with open mouths, nakedness, swoon, thrust-and-catch;
endorphins followed by endearments; a brief nap;
another fit, restoration
of clothes, arrangements for another encounter,
the taxi back, and the furtive kiss of good-bye.
Then, by turn: tears, treachery, anger, betrayal;
marriages and houses destroyed;
small children abandoned and inconsolable,
their foursquare estates disestablished forever;
the unreadable advocates; the wretchedness
of passion outworn; anguished nights
sleepless in a bare room; whiskey, meth, cocaine; new
love, essayed in loneliness with miserable
strangers, that comforts nothing but skin; hours with sons
and daughters studious always
to maintain distrust; the daily desire to die
and the daily agony of the requirement
to survive, until only the quarrel endures."
Prophecy stopped; traffic started.
(Image by Flickr user dawnnakaya)
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