How Will I Be Remembered?
By Finn Janning
He sits on the sofa and looks at their wedding pictures. It was three years ago. Not even three years, he thinks. They both looked so happy. Drunk. Elegantly wasted, as they had been so many times before. And later. Everything was later for them, postponed. For nearly thirteen years they had been together. That’s a long time. At such an age, most kids would be baptized. Was it too long?
He had always known that she couldn’t have kids. It was one of the first things she told him. No ovulation, she told him that sunny day on the beach. How could he know what would happen? Back then he was so in love. And younger. She seemed free, at least carefree. It attracted him.
Everything was fine until two months ago. He turned 40. It was time to draw up the balance sheet. It was impossible not to. He didn’t plan it, of course not. It just happened, like when a computer hard disc became fragmented and had to be defragged, and then the user initiated the improvements by pressing ‘restart.’ Was it really that simple? Was it time to start over, time to get rid of all the downloaded crap to gain some speed? He didn’t know. All he thought about was something like: What have I accomplished? What will I be remembered for? And what worried him was the silence that followed. He could not answer those two questions. He felt like a spot on the table that no one would care about once he had been wiped off the cloth. He felt useless.
Who will remember me? Who?
He can hear that she is parking the car in the driveway. Slightly earlier than usual. Soon she will open the front door. Soon she will be standing in the living room. Soon he will tell her that he wants a divorce, tell her that he wants to have kids. Soon he will start a new life. Change. He knows that kids are the solution. They will remember him. He is convinced. It’s a natural law. All his friends are shagging with a purpose. I need someone younger, too. He needs to balance his own wrinkles.
His mind drifts back to the beginning of his troubling thoughts and questions. Two months ago, he went to Barcelona with two of his friends. Three days, nothing more. The weekend was all about getting drunk. Celebrating their forties. In Barcelona he met Carolina. At one point he touched her culo, her Latina ass. It felt like he was sticking his hand through a time-portal reaching 18 years back to that time, when everything was so damn firm. Carolina was 22, with dark brown hair, almost black eyes, and a small, tight body. He met her that first night; at least it must have been that first night. After all, he saw her again. And now he can’t stop seeing her every time he closed his eyes.
One night she told him: “I can be the mother of your kids.” It was a declaration of trust. It was a sign. He began to drool. He told himself it was the beers, but he knew it was the hope she had installed in him. He didn’t know how to handle her gesture. Yes, she was drunk, yes, she was young, and yes, he instantly got excited when she told him. He felt proud. And strong again. As if life, at last, had a purpose.
Carolina made him feel less incomplete. He wanted to feel complete. It was a kid that was lacking. A kid was the solution. He knew it. It was no longer just a thought; it was a vision. What man doesn’t want to pass on his genes?
His drifting comes to a halt. He is back in the real world. He can hear his wife. She rattles the keys at the door. She opens the front door and yells for him. Calls him “honey’. Twice: “Honey . . . honey.” The sweet word distracts like the sound of fart at a mindfulness meditation practice. He gets up from the sofa and walks slowly, kind of defiantly toward the hall. There she is. Her face is different. Inviting. Far too happy to cope with the words he has prepared. He notices that she is holding a bottle of champagne and a large bouquet of roses in her hands. Did I forget anything, he thinks. Did I?
She says (with trembling voice): You know what?
He doesn’t say anything. He is so very unprepared for this.
She says: I am pregnant.
He says: What? I thought . . . but how?
She says: Yes, I thought so too.
She starts to cry. She waves with one of her hands in front of her mouth to get some air. Gasping a little. It doesn’t seem like her; she is 42 years old. Women of that age hardly ever gasp. She snatches for her breath like a dog drinking. He just stares at her. He can’t move. He is not even aware that his mouth is wide open.
He says (a little disappointed, he can hear): But . . . how?
She says: The doctor said that our love, your love, has made me fertile. That was his only explanation. A miracle.
He repeats: A miracle.
Then, she opens her arms, still holding the flowers and the bottle of champagne. She smiles. She cries. She snatches a breath once again.
She says: One glass should be ok.
He says: Of course.
He walks the final distance to her. Takes the flowers and the champagne, puts them on the chair. He doesn’t look at her. It’s like he can’t see, see what is coming. Instead he embraces her tightly while thinking: This is it.
Finn Janning is a writer and a philosopher. He has published fiction and nonfiction in both Danish and English, some has been featured in Epiphany and Under the Gum Tree among other publications. His most recent books are A Philosophy of Mindfulness – A Journey with Deleuze (NFB Publishing, 2017), and The Happiness of Burnout (König Books, 2015). He holds a PhD in philosophy from CBS in Denmark. He presents philosophical perspectives at: finnjanning.com and tweets at @finn_janning.
Finn Janning – To Love Slowly