Excerpt From A Work-In-Progress

It’s dusk when you roll up the driveway to the future and, like a carny wheel coming to rest, the Lexus slows then brakes, and the windscreen frames the 121 on Beatrice’s new house. Which is, in fact, not new at all, being at least as old as either of you: Her reinvented life is built atop 40 years of other people’s endings; an occupancy dependent on inevitable departures. And all these concluded histories seem to tarnish her passionate commitment, providing actuarial tables for something that’s just begun.

Maybe new plays better amidst the new, or at least in temporary surroundings. Visited cities are seen as romantic because they’re interstitial: The asynchronous nature of hotel rooms and getting lost just blocks away tend to make reinvention seem far simpler than it is.

For her, starting over is a variation; a jazz riff on a well-known tune. It’s Miles and Trane reimagining “Someday My Prince Will Come:” Shards of the original song remain, embedded beneath the surface, the remnants of other princes past from different places and times.

Her upheaval had stopped at the neighborhood’s edge: slightly farther away from her life with Jack, somewhat closer to her family and friends, and within easy walking distance of the better downtown shops. The winds of change may have gusted through, but they had left her zip code intact.

No, the new start here is your own, and the disconnections will be radical and complete. You’ll need to begin again from scratch, without the safety net of the familiar or a sense of history.

The Nakamichi ejects Lucinda’s CD, and luxury-car silence supplants the dirt-poor twang. Four producers, three studios and two mixdowns had been needed to create authenticity. And though you consider pointing this out, you keep the irony private. Because Beatrice’s connection to her own roots may prove as tenuously honest.

She stares at the house, her profile traced by the bounce of the headlamps off the garage door: And at right angles, patrician still describes her best, just as it did in the moment you first saw her. During all this time there’s never been a need for any other adjective. But when she turns to you that other thing happens–the nobility of her nose disappears. Full-face, she exhibits a blunter elegance, more Emma Thompson than Emma Peel.

“All this change has literally made me ill–I can’t even begin to tell you how much. But now, thank god, you’re finally here, and everything’s going to be okay.” The tight-lipped smile as she puts the car in park disappears just before she kills the lights.

You’re lead around to the back of the house and up vestigial echoes of the cottage stairs: Those three dangerous flights down to the sea have contracted into a backyard stoop. And you wonder if the future will similarly shrink into something sensible, stolid and cautious.

In the kitchen beyond the patio doors the dirty dishes make you squirm. For the first time with Beatrice, you have a sense of genuine intrusion: A deep and sudden need for decorum, or at least a house-warming gift. This is visiting, an interruption of her life’s daily flow, and its currents are eddying around you. It’s the reason that even tender disruptions can only be temporary: All visits require resolution, either by ending or melding with the everyday. Thus staying on here means a giving-in to her provincial undertow.

The cottage, in contrast, had always seemed equidistant from each of your lives. The Gray House had never really been a home, just the consensual emblem of one. It had been forced to provide a sense of here in the absence of anything better: Because outside its weathered clapboard half-remembered hotel rooms had swirled, their color schemes and awful artwork bleeding into one another. But for all the passionate commandeering of the cottage as a port in that storm, it had remained another liminal bedroom, albeit with a beachfront view. Reinvention once again had seemed far simpler than it really was . . . .