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The Woman at the Washington Zoo: Writings on Politics, Family, and Fateby Marjorie Williams and Timothy Noah
From "The Pragmatist"
After the house tour, which concludes with Ping-Pong, Darman is pressed over dinner to proceed with the formal interview he has promised? sitting down, with the tape recorder running. No, he says, he will only talk "on background," meaning that anything he says may be quoted, but not attributed to him. He doesn't want to do it for the tape recorder ? oh, and also, he doesn't really want to talk about his early life; that's all just tedious detail.
We are at an impasse, neither willing to abide by the other's ground rules. For now, a tour of his house is as close as we may get to a tour of his mind. The enduring image of the evening will have to be this one: of Darman, unprompted, flinging open the door of a closet to illustrate something he is saying about his marriage ? then quickly instructing me that the closet's contents are off the record, not to be written about. Look at me, he says. But do not see....
I find myself on my hands and knees in the back yard, holding a green plastic magnifying glass. I am trying, with my son, to catch an ant....And to my surprise, I love our insect hours. Part of it is the familiar way that time slows and expands when you make yourself truly stop and be where your child is, doing what he is doing, trying neither to manage nor to escape it. As Willie searches, his self-consciousness falls away. I can surreptitiously inventory his newly skinny body, the arms and legs that are suddenly, shockingly long. (I did love that little boy.) I can covet the sweet spot at the back of his neck, just below his hairline, until he shoots a swift glance upward at me: "Oh Mommy, you missed it. You were supposed to look at the spider." He says this with sympathy, for my opportunity lost....
From "The Doctor Factor"
My most memorable brushes [with irritable doctors] have been with an eminent surgeon whose method is to stride into the examining room two hours late, pat your hand, pronounce your certain death if he can't perform an operation on you, and then snap at your husband to stop taking notes, he can't possibly follow the complexity of the doctor's thinking. Dr. X swats away questions like flies. He spends five precious minutes swearing at the wallmounted phone, which decades of surgical experience have not equipped him to operate, and then finally pronounces that he can't perform the surgery. "Unless you want me to. But there's a 50-50 chance I would kill you."
Why is it, I ask my husband on the way home, that I'm the one who's sick, but they're the ones who are allowed to have the big, operatic personalities?
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