should go out and get some fish flakes. He’s probably hungry. I sit like
that for a full two hours, pretending to read e-mails and all the while
listening to the two minds continue their fruitless argument.
I never wanted this job. I never wanted any job at all. I wanted to be
a writer. When I met my wife, I was a year out of college and squatting
in an abandoned house with two friends. A fire had gutted the top floor,
but the first and second were still relatively habitable. The landlord had
forgotten to turn off electricity and water, and we used electric space
heaters and lit fires in the old fireplace. We spent most of our days shivering in layers of sweaters, drinking tea and hot toddies, and making
things. This is the house I brought my wife to after our third date. We’d
laugh about it later, her looking up at the charred windows on the top
floor and asking, as politely as she could, if this was where I lived. She
was in the first year of a psychology PhD at the university I’d graduated
from, in the same city I live in now. I liked that she was smart and capable and fearless. I always assumed she’d be the one with the big career
and I’d stay home and write and raise our kids.
My father got me the interview at Manifold just after we got married. He had very traditional ideas about a man’s role in the household.
I agreed to go just to placate him. I bombed it and figured that was that.
Then two days later, they called and offered me the job.
I didn’t tell my father. I didn’t tell my wife. I thought I could ignore
it, and it would go away. But of course HR called my father, and then my
father, who was nothing if not canny and a good judge of people, called
my wife. She made very little money as a student and was tired of having
nothing and living in shitty shared houses with delinquent landlords.
She was tired, too, of my always lurking around the house, complaining
when my writing wasn’t going well and disappearing for days when it
was. So my father came over for dinner, the two of them confronted me,
and that was that.
I figured it would be a nice day job, nine to five, and then I’d write
at night. I hadn’t counted on how tired it would make me, sitting in one
place indoors for eight hours struggling to comprehend unfamiliar tasks
while everyone around me plunged ahead like it was all the most natural
thing in the world. It took me a full year to adjust; I wrote very little.
And then my life went as lives go: my wife got offered a tenure-track job
at the university; we got pregnant; we bought a house; my daughter was
born; I was absorbed in raising her and working; time passed; my wife