Ah, baby boomers, we do have our memories, don’t we?! That’s what Akron, Ohio writer and newspaper columnist Sue Amari describes in her first novel, A Calculated Guess. It’s set in a world marked by the 1970s, an ode to the last stop on a strange trip.
His eyes lifted from the television set to the picture of Lisa on the bookshelf.
God, she was beautiful, he thought. Sometimes he forgot.
He got up and walked to it, picked it up, warily, gingerly, as if it was dangerous, then set it on the coffee table in front of him.
He had taken the picture one beautiful fall day, when the sun was out and the leaves were those glorious colors of brilliant orange, deep maroon, and dark mustard yellow. It was a Sunday morning, yes, that was it. They were having coffee on the deck, when she said, “Let’s go hiking in the park.”
It had been one of those days when ordinary mixed with glorious, when you got up in the morning and felt, for no tangible reason, everything was going to go perfectly right.
And it had. He found a parking space right by the park entrance. She wore the sweater that he especially loved, its vivid blue perfectly playing off the brilliance of the fall leaves.
She had walked slightly ahead of him, then suddenly turned around and asked, “See wasn’t I right all along? Aren’t you glad we stayed?” and the sun danced off her blonde hair, and her eyes displayed that youthful exuberance he always found so unavoidable.
It wasn’t so much his “Yes, you were right” that took him by surprise, as much as the realization that it was true. Maybe the truest thing he ever felt. And that was when he snapped the picture.
Seamus leaned into the couch’s pillows and closed his eyes.
After she passed, people told him to remember the good times, but the truth of it was, that only made everything worse.
He opened one eye, then the other.
Jesus, he thought, that was it! Hadn’t he spent the past three years reminding himself of everything that fell off the mark? The miss on the job in San Francisco because she refused to go. The kids that never were. The personality that was so big, so enchanting, it sometimes had a tendency to steamroll.
The truth of it was, he had synthesized all that, weighed it against the leaving, and always came up firmly as a stay. Otherwise he would have left long before her diagnosis.
He stayed because he was happy. Why was that so hard to admit?
He picked up the picture, placed it back on the bookshelf, then returned to the couch.
She was there for forty years, and then she was gone, as if she had been a character in a fable set in an increasingly faraway time.
Yes, it was much easier to think of all the things that were wrong, but the truth of it was, most of it was very, unbearably right.