"The small seed of despair cracks open and sends experimental tendrils upward to the fragile skin of calm holding him together. Are You on the Right Road?" P. 2
Only hope is holding Conrad together.
"But he cannot relax, because today is a Target Date. Tuesday, September 30. One month, to the day, that he has been home. And what are you doing Jarrett? Asking weird questions like From what? Toward what? Questions without answers. Undermining. A serious affliction. Worse than acne, worse, even, than an unidentifiable rash. So what the hell kind of cure was that?" P. 4
This is showing that Conrad is not still well and he panics and is nervous about what life is like in the real world.
"Vaguely he can recall a sense of calm, of peace, that he had laid claim to on leaving the hospital. There were one or two guiding principles to get him through the day. Some ambitious plans, also, for putting his life in order. But the details have somehow been lost. If there ever were any." P. 5
Conrad is still afraid of what life is like outside of the hospital life.
"He turns his attention to his beard. Every morning the same face, the same thoughts. A good time to take stock, though. Calvin Jarrett, forty-one, U.S. citizen, tax attorney, husband, father. Orphaned at the age of eleven." P. 7
His life has been the same consistent pattern and there is no new way to it until the worst happened.
"Responsibility. That is fatherhood. You cannot afford to miss any signs, because that is how it happens: somebody holding too much inside, somebody else missing signs." P. 9
Being a father is difficult and when times get tough it is the hardest job he will have.
"He was supporting his family, his boys, in style: whatever they needed, whatever they wanted, they got. He had arrived. He was here. Not bad for the kid from the Evangelical Home." P. 10
Even though he had a tough upbringing, his life now is what he made of it. Successful.
"In the early morning, the room is his enemy; there is danger in just being awake. Here, looking up, it is a refuge. He imagines himself safely inside; in bed, with the covers pulled up. Asleep. Unconscious." P. 14-15
Getting up each morning is the most difficult thing for Conrad because he has nothing to live for since loosing his brother.
"Haven't lost your sense of humor after all but your sense of identity is what seems to have been misplaced. No. Wrong. You don't lose what you never had." P. 15
Conrad never lost his humor but his identity has disappeared. He never lost who he was but it can be misplaced.
"Wrong. There is a need. To regain his spot on the swim team, to get back into choir again, there are no choices at all, just endless motion." P. 19
Conrad has a need to start trying again, he needs his life to go back to the way it was.
"It is like the hole in your mouth where a tooth was and you cannot keep your tongue from playing with it." P. 24
Conrad cannot stop thinking about what happened and what life WAS like.
Chapter 4 :
"Then, are we going to live like this? With it always hanging over our heads?" P. 30
The family does not what to live with this pain forever but it won’t go away without trying to forget.
"Riding the train gives him too much time to think, he has decided. Too much thinking can ruin you." P. 31
The father does not want to over think what had happened because it is slowly destroying the family.
"He does not believe himself to be innocent. It has to be his fault, because fault equals responsibility equals control equals eventual understanding. How things happened. Why they happened. So where is the fault? Is it in believing that the people you love are immortal? Untouchable?" P. 34
The father thinks that it is his fault that the son was killed. The people who you love are not immortal, that anything can happen to them.
“At the end of the hall is a doorway with light behind it. He goes to it. The letters stuck to the opaque glass with adhesive backing, spell out T C BERGER M D.” P. 37
This is the first time Conrad is going to his therapist since leaving the hospital.
“People nervous? Treat you like you’re a dangerous man?”
Conrad knows that this man understands him, and will help him
“What did you do? O.D.? Make too much noise in the library?” “No.” Looks steadily at the bookcase in front of him; floor-to-ceiling, jammed with books. “I tried to off myself.” P. 41
We now know that Conrad wanted to end his life when his brother died because there was nothing left for him.
"A good thing you do not have to know who you are, Jarrett, in order to perform, because today there is a minimum of information available on that subject." P. 47
He does not know who he is but he must be able to preform who he was.
"If she knew, though, that it is not only of Conrad but of himself that he is asking questions now; basic, hopeless questions that mock him, finger him as a joker, a bumbler, a poor dope. Who the hell are you? as he walks down the street, and who can step in time to that music for more than thirty seconds?" P. 47-48
They are afraid that Conrad cannot get over what happened, that life may not be the same for him.
"Things were so different at the hospital. People were, you know, turned on all the time. And you just can't live like that. You can't live with all that emotion floating around, looking for a place to land. It's too exhausting. It takes so much energy, just to get through a day, even without all that soul-searching we used to do."P. 55
Conrad felt that no one actually cared about him in the hospital. They just wanted him to “get better” and leave.
“He says, “Your mother and I were talking about going to London sometime.” “Not for Christmas?” P.61
Conrad doesn’t want to go away so soon after getting out of the hospital and losing his brother.
“In the car, she says to him, “I told you he’d go if you asked him.” “He doesn’t want to, though.” P. 62
Conrad loves his father but he does not want to go even if his father wants to.
"Lying on the bed at the Sonesta Beach in his bathing suit, staring at a mosquito above his head, its tiny body pressed against the rough plaster ceiling, spreading a half-inch gray shadow on the stark white." P. 75
Conrad feels his life is meaningless. A bug has more life then him.
" 'This problem, kiddo,' Berger says, 'it's real, you know. A good, healthy problem needs a good, healthy solution. Point of separation. Between the sicks and the wells. Real problems, real solutions, you get it?' " P. 79-80
When having a problem, you need something to fix it. A solution, but the solution has to be real and meaningful for the problem to disappear.
"There is no problem improving your timing, or perfecting a stroke, if the desire is there, but you cannot fire up, cannot manufacture desire, when there is no spark at all to build on. This was not a mistake, what happened today. It is not to be looked at as a failure." P. 84
Conrad needs to have passion again, but it is not there. There is no desire to become better but just to be normal.
"She laughs, self-consciously. 'It's called Search for Identity.' " P. 88
Conrad needs to be able to find himself again.
"They learned, all of them, that certain things drove her to the point of madness: dirt tracked in on a freshly scrubbed floor; water-spotted shower stalls; articles of clothing left out of place. And, he had to admit, he liked a clean house; he liked the order she brought into his life, perfectionist that she was." P. 89-90
Even though the mother can be a pain, what she does for the family is remarkable.
"Depending on the reality one must face, one may prefer to opt for illusion."P. 93
One may want to see what life is going to bring them but others may want to live a dream. The mother wants to see the fake life and pretend that nothing happened.
"They are ordinary people, after all. For a time they had entered the world of the newspaper statistic; a world where any measure you took to feel better was temporary, at best, but that is over. This is permanent. It must be." P. 94
The pain they feel now is forever but the happiness that they pretend to have is only temporary.
" 'Nothing's new, nothing's on my mind. I don't think anything. I don't feel anything.'
Nothing is ever on Conrads mind. It is empty, no emotion.
Abruptly he sits up. 'I oughta go home.' "P. 98
Conrad is embarrassed that he feels nothing. He just wants to walk away from everything.
"You go through it, you sort it out, you throw some of it away. Then you stack up the rest, nice and neat. Next time it won't be such a big deal." P. 100
Conrad must face his fears and go through his brothers belongings and see him again.
"I would have told you, if I thought you gave a damn!" P. 109
Conrad feels his family isn’t there for him like they used to be.
" 'I think I just figured something out,' he says. 'What's that?' Berger asks. P. 110
Conrad knows that his life can’t go on like this forever.
'Who is it who can't forgive who.'" P. 119-120
The family can’t forgive themselves for what happened, even though it was not their fault.
"Listen, be aware, kiddo. People don't change on command from other people. You oughta know that, having already given her the ultimate command a year ago." P. 121
You have to allow yourself to change, you cannot let someone change you.
" 'The body doesn't lie,' Berger says. 'You remember that. So all you gotta do is keep in touch.'" P. 121
Berger is saying don’t over work yourself because when the body says its tired, it’s tired. Conrad knows that his body is exhausted but he just keeps going.
"And he thinks about going upstairs; thinks about passing Conrad's door, going down the hall to their bedroom, where they will silently undress, and separately grieve. And what about tomorrow then? And all the tomorrows to come? Why can't we talk about it? Why can't we ever talk about it?" P. 129
They will never talk about what happened because they feel it will make it worse, but leaving it untouched is destroying their family more and more each day.
"He has concluded, on this crisp and sunny day in January, that what his life lacks is Organization. Goals. Standing at his desk, his foot on the chair, he gazes out of his bedroom window, pondering, making rapid notes." P. 130
The father knows that his life isn’t right, that something is what is used to be. He is trying to change what happened.
"Lists. Buck used to find the scraps of notes on his desk; those stern, written commands to himself to shape up. He could cop them and they would show up, folded inside his napkin at dinner, or taped to the mirror in the bathroom. 'The Great Listmaker is at it again, folks!' he would tease him. Reverting to old ways--does that signify a moving backward, or forward?" P. 133
The father does not know if how he was before is helping him move forward in life or if he is living the past.
" 'That box,' he says. 'I feel like I've been in it forever. Everybody looking in, to see how you're doing. Even when they're on your side, they're still looking in. Like, nobody can get in there with you.' " P. 138
Everyone is looking from the outside but they don’t know what it’s like on the inside.
" 'I'm getting a feeling from you,' he says, 'of heavy guilt. About missing the signals. Am I right?' 'Yes,' Cal says, 'sure.' It is easier now that Berger's back is to him. He hadn't realized it was the eyes that were making him nervous. 'You don't have something like that happen and not feel the responsibility.'" P. 146
He knows that something is wrong with Conrad but he is afraid that he missed all the signs to help him.
"Hell, all life is accident, every bit of it--who you fall in love with, what grabs you, and what you do with it. . . ." P. 146-7
Life is what you make of it, things happen but you must get through it with clear eyes.
"Anyway, a person who performs these joyless and ritualistic sex acts upon himself, this is what he deserves." P. 156
The way that Conrad gives out is how he will receive.
"The answer to what? Life, reduced to the simplest of terms. Formulas. Get away for a while. Everything works out for the best." P. 160
Life isn’t simple, but running away will not help.
"People are born. Then they die. In between, they perform a lot of pathetic and more-or-less meaningless actions." P. 162
When you are born, you begin your life. Your life is what you make of it until you die.
"The fear behind the fear of losing people is that there might have been something you could have done to prevent it." P. 162
Even though what had happened is not the families fault, their fear of losing their child could have been prevented if they were less careless.
"One thing for sure, Ray is not right. Life is not a series of pathetic, meaningless actions. Some of them are so far from pathetic, so far from meaningless as to be beyond reason, maybe beyond forgiveness." P. 163
Life isn’t meaningless if you believe it isn’t.
“On the way home he allows his hand to slide across the seat , encounter hers and hold it lightly while she talks.” P. 170
This is the first time in a very long time that Conrad is out on a date and feels like there is a connection. There is no pain.
"Safety and order. Definitely the priorities of his life. He is not a man inclined toward risk. There. A definition at last. I'm a man who believes in safety." P. 173
Cal knows that he is not one to take risks and he knows that what happened was not his fault because there was no risk involved.
“She had referred to him after the very first meeting as Arnold Fagin; had never missed an opportunity to point out the ways that Arnold worked to control him. To own him, she said. Between those two whom he loved, he had tried to wedge his own wants, his own needs, sitting nervously on the fence. It hadn't worked." P. 174
His mother tried to get what she wanted by playing with both of the mens minds, but it didn’t work out in her favor.
"It seems that he had quietly and simply, one day, turned it off. Before it had gotten started. Priorities again. Safety and order. Infidelity is a dangerous business. People get hurt." P. 175
Cal is afraid of getting hurt again so he begins to help his family by making them safer, but it is just hurting them more and more.
"He lets him pull out first, holding himself tight, control is all, he will not, will not. Not here. Not again." P. 182
Conrad doesn’t want to show his friends that he is in pain.
"Waiting is part of the punishment." P. 185
Waiting for anything hurts. Conrad wants to hurt himself, each and every punishment he does to himself makes him wait for the next.
"He passes a sign, high off the highway and to his left: Are you on the right road? In the shape of a cross, leaves and flowers entwined around it."P. 186-7
He does not know if he is on right road in his life, if it is the one he should stay on or get off of.
"In the end that does more to separate people than unite them. People don't like to be told things. There has to be a way of getting a message across, without setting yourself up as a holy man. But, shouldn't the need to send the message be proof enough that you are not a holy man?" P. 187
You do not need to be a saint or a prophet to tell someone that you have potential, but some may not believe you and could ruin their lives as well as yours.
"He reads this as a statement of his good health. Today he is capable of improvement." P. 194-195
The doctor is telling Conrad that he is stable, but on the inside he knows that he isn’t.
"'I know,' Audrey says, 'that you have to be careful with Beth. I mean, emotion is her enemy. She wants everything to go smoothly to go right. You know. the way she's planned it.'" P. 203
Beth is an emotional mess and she wants to continue life as it was before but it does not work that way.
"He remembers Carole Lazenby's words at lunch that day. 'She's a perfectionist. . . . She never lets herself get trapped. . . .' " P. 203
If Buck and that girl never went out that night, Buck would still be with their family.
"His jaw aches something hard pinches his mouth between his teeth "to keep him from swallowing his tongue" they say he knows better it is how they punish you for failure here and someone crying 'Lord, what has he done? What has he done to himself?'" P. 214
Conrad tries to keep himself how he was before it all happened but each and everyday, life gets harder and harder.
"All the outer signs must be right, then: hair cut to the right length, polite answers, expensive suede jacket made in Mexico." P. 216
Everything may look right on the outside but you don’t know whats in the inside.
"That was punishment too being forced to submit over and over to a hopeless rerun of that day to what could have been done to make the sum of it different. Nothing. That is the nature of hell, that it cannot be changed; that it is unalterable and forever." P. 218
Nothing can be changed but it can be forgotten and forgiven.
"It's a very far-out act of self-preservation, do you get that, Con? And you were right. Nobody needs you to be Buck. It's okay to just be you." P. 224
His family knows that he was trying to be Buck but they know that he can’t, because he is his own person.
"Geez, if I could get through to you, kiddo, that depression is not sobbing and crying and giving vent, it is plain and simple reduction of feeling." P. 225
The pain that Conrad feels is not crying, but it is all internal and cannot be fixed without accepting what had happened.
"And anyway, punishment doesn't do a damn thing for the guilt, does it? It doesn't make it go away. And it doesn't earn you any forgiveness." P. 228
The punishment that Conrad is doing to himself isn’t helping him, but making it worse.
"It must be hard to grow up when your father is breathing down your neck all the time. I think I would hate it." P. 234
Conrad knows his father means well but he wants to be treated like a normal kid.
"That whole vicious thing! He made it as vicious, as sickening as he could! The blood--all that blood! Oh, I will never forgive him for it! He wanted it to kill me, too!" P. 237
Conrad killed himself but his parents thought he wanted to make his death even more horrible for them.
"He didn't do it to you. He only did it to me. I don't know what he wants from me, and I've never known! Does he want me to throw my arms around him when he passes a chemistry exam? I can't do it! I can't respond, when someone says, 'Here, I just did this great thing, so love me for it!' I can't!" P. 238
They are both shocked and upset that Conrad killed himself but they wish they could have done something different before to prevent it.
"Mama, I'm sorry! Dad, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" P. 240
That is all Conrad could say when he was dying in the hospital bed.
“Then, after a moment, her head drops over her book again, her hair spilling over her shoulder. Her face is hidden from Cal, also.” P. 243
She is too ashamed to be with her husband since both of their children are gone. They have nothing to love for anymore.
“I’m so ashamed, I’m still so ashamed. That’s why we moved here, you know. My mother thought it was Akron. But it wasn’t Akron, it was me.” P. 250
Conrad knows that others have problems that he is not the only one, but now he knows that this is real and she has a problem too that she got over.
"No need for any more words. The sun is warm on his back. He could fall asleep here, maybe he will, waiting for whatever comes next." P. 259
His parents know that the pain is gone and he will be happier now.