Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 875, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Beach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beach. Show all posts

22 September, 2015

Jensen Beach, "The Apartment"

Louise and Martin have been married over thirty-five years and have a thirty-four year old son, Jonas, who also still lives in Stockholm. On her way to meet Jonas for lunch, Louise notices the new name on the apartment in which an old woman had died. The name on the just purchased apartment is the same last name as Louise's lover from thirty-five years earlier. Seeing this name from her past, she begins remembering details of the time she'd been afraid, temporarily, that Jonas had been that other man's child.

After lunch, she drinks two bottles of wine and some scotch and then decides, that the new young woman who just moved in to the apartment in which the previous owner had died, is the daughter of her former lover. Skillfully handled, we see Louise drink to the point that she is unafraid to approach the new neighbor and proceeds to tell Sara, the new neighbor, that she could be her mother. "'You could be my daughter,' Louise said." When Louise saw her son off to work and that he blended into the crowd, she'd felt comforted but when she met the new neighbor, she thought, "She was beautiful, as far from the middle as Louise's son was near it."

Louise in her late fifties to early sixties had been unfaithful to her husband and feared that the child she was carrying was her lover's child. Guilt, alcoholism, destiny and infidelity are woven into a story that shows a middle-aged woman succumb to her guilt and hatred of her husband of many years. She was pregnant, about to give birth, when she learned that her husband, Martin, had no compunction about leaving a small child, the neighbor's child, alone in an apartment because he was tired and didn't feel like babysitting. Louise made excuses for his working long hours and not being at home. She also has a convoluted idea that imagining the worse will keep it from happening.

This paragraph brings Louise's life to clear view. "Sara smiled, and in the smile Louise, even drunk, located judgment. This was how Jonas looked at her; Martin, too. The same sad eyes, the narrow, thin-lipped smile. They pitied her, thought she was ridiculous, incapable, unwell. She hated them all. 'A woman died here, she said.'" And, we could say that Louise died as well. She's been dying for a long time and instead of trying to understand her, Louise's family pities her. How dare she be weak and human!

The story is subtle and needs to be read more than once to capture the nuances of behavior and emotions not only of Louise stuffing down her emotions with alcohol but also that of Martin and Jonas. “The Apartment” is a well-written story illuminating the heavy price a person pays for long-term guilt and the detriment of a loveless, hate-filled marriage.

 It's written in a close third-person point of view and past tense. It takes place in Stockholm. It was published in the August 31, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.