I do not remember anything in the room beyond its oversized desk, the squeaking chair he tipped to the wall, and the straight-backed chair I took before him. No. That’s not right. I remember that dust motes sifted the air. That the leaded panes of the window broke the sky into pieces. I remember feeling small.
He asked, “When are you going to fuck me?”
Why did I laugh?
I watched for a long time and thought what my life would have been like if I really were an orphan, if Ethel had raised me on the Lower East Side. I usually felt like her guest—she was so considerate of me. At times I felt like her husband, coming home after my workday to eat food she’d prepared. I didn’t know why it was hard to feel like her daughter.
In Nunez’s vision of the world, writers are like ballerinas: willing to torture themselves for the beauty of truth. The difficulty of communicating our feelings to others is a source of much suffering. The best we can do, Nunez’s novels argue, is to pay tender attention.
The Americans, for their part, are simply called to serve because there’s nowhere else for them. Because, once you’ve been out there in the field, “Home is a trap.” The vagueness of this arena as I’ve just described it is no coincidence: in Klay’s novel, US involvement in Colombia is part and parcel of its long, ill-defined wars.