He let the phone slip from his hand and lay crying for a while, silently, shaking the cheap bed. He didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know how to live. Each new thing he encountered in life impelled him in a direction that fully convinced him of its rightness, but then the next new thing loomed up and impelled him in the opposite direction, which also felt right. There was no controlling narrative: he seemed to himself a purely reactive pinball in a game whose only object was to stay alive for staying alive’s sake. To throw away his marriage and follow Lalitha had felt irresistible until the moment he saw himself, in the person of Jessica’s older colleague, as another overconsuming white American male who felt entitled to more and more and more: saw the romantic imperialism of his falling for someone fresh and Asian, having exhausted domestic supplies. Likewise the course he’d chartered for two and a half years with the Trust, convinced of the soundness of his arguments and the rightness of his mission, only to feel, this morning in Charleston, that he’d made nothing but horrible mistakes. And likewise the overpopulation initiative: what better way to live could there be than to throw himself into the most critical challenge of his time? A challenge that then seemed trumped-up and barren when he thought of his Lalitha with her tubes tied. How to live?
Each failed overture of peace made the next overture less likely to succeed. Before long, what at first glance had seemed to Gary an absurd possiiblity – that the till of their marriage no longer contained sufficient funds of love and goodwill to cover the emotional costs that going to St. Jude entailed for Caroline or that not going to St. Jude entailed for him – assumed the contours of something terribly actual. He began to hate Caroline simply for continuing to fight with him. He hated the newfound reserves of independence she tapped in order to resist him. Especially, devastatingly hateful was her hatred of him. He could have ended the crisis in a minute if all he’d had to do was forgive her; but to see mirrored in her eyes how repellent she found him – it made him crazy; it poisoned his hope.