The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Sleep" by Colm Toibin

This story can be found here in The New Yorker.

First line: “I know what you will do when morning comes.”

Last line: “I like to think that I am silent, but how can I tell?”

This story seems quite straightforward.  Man meets and falls in love with younger man he meets on the Internet.  They are close enough, affectionate enough, that they spend nights together.  One keeps his things at the other's place.  Intimate enough for the younger man to hear the narrator’s vicious nightmares.  Close enough for the younger to insist that the man with a ghost seek help before the relationship goes further in time and commitment.  And then leaves to wait. 

The narrator visits with a therapist across the ocean and, through hypnosis, experiences the heart attack of the brother that haunts him.

What begins to twist and turn in my mind then is the ending.  The narrator returns to New York, and with less and less frequency, responds to the texts and calls from his lover.  Then those become even less and less. 

There is foreshadowing of this throughout the story – the reality that without this ghost the narrator cannot be with the young man.  Yet the longing compels him to write this story in first person to the lover.  It seems a eulogy rather than a hope for reconciliation. 

This story was frustrating for me.  The narrator loved his relationship so much that he met the demands of his lover, but then didn’t tell him what he had done.  He just writes this story.  I wanted it to be clear to me why he didn’t go back to the young man.  Or at the least, for the emotional hole left by the death to be filled.  But instead, we have this story – a letter, of sorts.

It is not a straightforward tale.  And it left me with questions.  It starts with "knowing" and ends with "thinking".  

The younger lover is told: "You have learned something that I don't want to know."  

That is a game-changer.

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