"I feel and remember my father’s arms underneath me when I’ve come home from the hospital; he isn’t strong enough to do this, but he is forcing himself to do it; I am heavy in his arms, and I feel safe there, but I am lost, and I need constantly to be shoring up the wall that holds my emotions at bay, or I will feel something too great to contain."

"She looked at me, taking stock. “And Sean’s here, too. Sean’s here, right? Just like always. How you doing?” And I started to say “fine,” and I meant to say “fine,” but I ended up saying that I felt my life was filled like a big jug to the brim with almost indescribable joy, so much that I hardly knew how to handle it. That was how I put it, what I said: “I feel like my life is filled,” and then all the rest of it, one big exhale. I am not an eloquent person, and I was surprised to hear myself talking like that, but only a little surprised, because it was exactly the feeling I had in my heart. It was right there at the surface waiting to come out. No way of counting my blessings. No way for anyone to count that high. And so Vicky told me that Jesus always makes a Way, which is how visiting nurses often talk, I’ve found over the years, and I said yes, yes, yes that’s true, yes that certainly is true."

"Did both of them want to bolt from the scene but neither one want to blink first? Their young, perfect bodies, wasted, squandered, covered in the end with wet grass they’d pulled into the pit from the surrounding plain. Trying to put it off. Children. Children in the grip of a vision whose origins lay down within my own young dreams, in the wild freedom those dreams had represented for me, in my desperation: to build and destroy and rebuild, to create mazes on blank pages."

"Trying to explain the feeling I had is like trying to describe what you see when your eyes are bandaged: it’s not impossible, but it’s different from describing something you can actually look at, something you might see in the course of a normal day. It is trying to describe something at which you are unable to look directly."

"That’s what you do when something like this starts to happen in your life: you check and recheck to see if it’s real. And you start talking out loud to yourself, trying to explain it, seeing if you really understand. You then get angry. I did, anyway; I wanted to knock something over. Old feelings, long pressed down to where they couldn’t do any more harm, shed weight and rose inside me like vapor. They felt, to me, the way ghosts are supposed to look. They came up through the center of my body until I felt them at the back of my throat, tendriling out onto my tongue from way down in there. But they did not escape. I pressed the nail of my right index finger into the pad of my thumb rhythmically and focused on the dull sharpness bearing down while waiting for the feeling to ease."

"I’d stay awake until three, and sometimes later, because a pulsing feeling in my stomach made it hard for me to want to sleep. In my room down the hall with my face close to the bright screen, cross-legged. Close enough to the screen to describe variations in the grain of the dust that would form on the glass. Once in a while I’d wipe it clean with the palm of my hot, oily hand. I would watch anything; I believed everything. I could convince myself that I was the last person in the world, watching the screen after the station had signed off, sinking into the blur. Sometimes I’d fall asleep on the floor, my face in the carpet, and I’d wake up with the TV still on, my head near the speaker, local news droning."

"I sift and rake and dig around in my vivid recollections of young Sean on the floor in summer, and I try to see what makes him tick, but I know a secret about young Sean, I guess, that he kind of ends up telling the world: nothing makes him tick. It just happens all by itself, tick tick tick tick tick , without any proximal cause, with nothing underneath it. He is like a jelly-fish adrift in the sea, throbbing quietly in the warm waves of the surf just off the highway where the dusty white vans with smoked windows and indistinct decals near their wheel hubs roll innocently past."

"I guess no matter what your circumstances are you drift at some point from feeling like you’re one of the young people to feeling like some of them could be your own kids. I hadn’t noticed the drift; probably no one does: but I felt my eyes, where most of my expression is concentrated now, beginning to assume that hateful, condescending warmth you struggle your whole life to resist."

"Here and there, alone, reflecting, I’d bump up against what felt like a buffer zone between me and some vast reserve of grief, but its reinforcements were sturdy enough and its construction solid enough to prevent me from really ever smelling its air, feeling its wind on my face. There must be others like me who struggle more than I do. It makes me sad to think of them."

"It is a terrible thing to feel trapped within a movie whose plot twists are senseless. This is why people cry at the movies: because everybody’s doomed. No one in a movie can help themselves in any way. Their fate has already staked its claim on them from the moment they appear onscreen."