Waking up middle aged
The only thing common to all the characters in Updike’s Problems and Other Stories is being middle aged in that regular modern mold where the marriage has gone cold and you love her but as a sort of nostalgia or maybe just as a habit, or where you’re in the beginning or end of the divorce that was either depressingly cordial or out-of-proportion vicious, where you have a kid who’s snotty and spoiled and who seem just like their parents except the parents can’t see it.
I was reading Updike, then falling asleep in the way you fall asleep when you know you can’t so you jerk awake in 10 minutes or 15 minutes and then I was dozing again so I set the alarm for 20 minutes, just in case, and kept reading about this guy who’s driving across Nevada after his divorce and his daughter keeps trying to take care of him and….
The alarm screeches scolding and I’m up with that feeling of not knowing what room this is, except it’s worse… “Who am I?
“Am I married to a woman I love only in the sense that I’m nostalgic about our past or to a woman I don’t love but who is part of my habit? Hmmmm. I don’t think so.
“Am I getting divorced? Noooo. I don’t think I’ve ever been married actually.
“Do I have a snotty kid I think might not be learning to cope with life? No. No kids at all, unadjusted or otherwise.
“Wait. I’m a 21-year-old college student who fell asleep in his dorm room reading Updike. That’s right.”
And it’s not like that was a relief.