Chapter 2 Summary

Every touch, gesture, and action used to be intimate between them. That was in the early times, eight years ago, when the marriage was new—not the “eventual extended grimness” their marriage became. As Lianne sorts the mail, she discovers a postcard casually scrawled by a friend visiting Rome. The picture catches her attention. It is a photo of Shelley’s twelve-canto poem called Revolt of Islam. It is a beautiful design, but that is not why it captures her attention. Though it had been mailed weeks before, she is struck by the coincidence of that title arriving on this week, a mere three days after the planes had struck.

Lianne tells her mother she is glad her son was with his grandmother when his father arrived at their door, covered with ash and soot, gray and bloody and unexpected. It would have been awful for Justin to see his father like that, Lianne tells her mother as they sit in Nina’s comfortable apartment just off of Fifth Avenue. She explains that she did not know what to do. The phones were out, so they went to the hospital. Nina Bartos, a retired university professor, asks why he came to her apartment, why he did not go to a friend’s house—or straight to the hospital himself. Lianne says she does not know but that Keith is fine. He simply needs some rest and some time.

It is clear that Nina does not think highly of her daughter’s choice in a husband. She asks how Justin is doing, having his father back in their home. Lianne says the boy seems fine; he is back in school, now that schools have reopened. Her mother asks what is next, and Lianne says there is nothing next:

Eight years ago they planted a bomb in one of the towers. Nobody said what’s next. This was next.

When the towers fell, Lianne thought he was dead, like so many others thought their loved ones were dead. Nina reminds her daughter that she once wanted something, something she thought Keith would provide; unfortunately, he is a man who “wanted a woman who’d regret what she did with him.” Lianne loved the idea of living full-time with such a dangerous man, says Nina, but he is a man “built for weekends.” And she married him.

Lianne reminds her mother that she then threw him out, would not allow him to stay. If Keith had been an artist, a scholar, or a poet, she says, Nina would have approved of his bad behavior in the name of “art.” Then he would have been allowed to behave in whatever outrageous manner he chose. As she taunts her mother with this double standard, the intercom buzzes. Lianne prepares to hear the doorman announce the arrival of Martin, her mother’s lover.