Fiction | March 01, 1988

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“No, you’re not a failure,” Eleanor says.  “That’s nonsense.”

She sounds exasperated, downright angry, but then she laughs.  A loud, ribald laugh that Nora, after fifteen years, knows not to take personally.  The laugh is Eleanor’s typical response to human problems: it clears the air, puts the situation in perspective.  For that, Eleanor says, is what Nora has gotten herself trapped inside.  A “situation.”

Nora says, caustically, “You mean I’ve even failed at that? Being a failure?”

Eleanor makes a gesture with her hands, fingers outspread, held clutched above her ears.  Pulling out her hair.

Go ahead, Nora thinks.

“It’s just that you’re so intense, so damned serious,” Eleanor says.  She laughs again, though less convincingly.  “You’ve always been that way, you know.  Ever since college.”

“Have I?” Nora says.

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