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."That's a big rock," I point out."I know! Dave's aunt in New York showed him around the diamond district, helped him get a good deal.Of course, he still spent a bundle.""It did the trick," I say."Huh?""It produced 'another tearful acceptance speech.'" Blank looks from the women."You know, the De Beers ad?"After our coffee with Deb, Jennifer and I head toward her apartment.She's invited some guests over for dinner.Her apartment is bathed in color and light.Modern art and textiles from around the developing world clothe her walls, and a burgundy rug I once purchased in New Delhi covers part of the hardwood floor in her bedroom.Mayan huipils and Tibetan prayer flags are interspersed with framed photos.One shows the two of us soaked in sweat at the end of the Lost Coast trail in California; another is from Halloween two years ago, in which she is ironically dressed as a devil and I as our Indian friend Rohit.Jennifer flows gracefully around her kitchen and dining room, cooking and setting the table as if on ice skates.The guests arrive—Rohit and two of Jennifer's Japanese friends.They are all in their late twenties and full of upwardly mobile energy.As we dig into tortellini, Rohit launches into a story about his life as a fledgling investment banker.He says, "The freakin' dinner bill was eighteen thousand dollars for the dozen of us.""Come on!""No, really, it was sick.There were a couple of associates and ten of us new guys.We'd been working seventeen,eighteen-hour days as always, including weekends.Everyone was freakin' stressed.So the guys ordered the most expensive wines and brandies, and there were dozens of plates of food at fifty bucks a plate.People got drunker and drunker, and ordered more drinks, taking a sip or two and leaving them to order another, and the plates were barely touched.It was some kind of orgy.But no one cared because it was all going on the expense account."When Rohit finishes his story, one of the young women turns to me and asks, "So how's Libya?""Liberia," Jennifer corrects her gently."Oops, Liberia.Sorry.God, I can't even imagine what it's like there."I open my mouth and then close it.My heart quickens.A thousand images and feelings fill me.Silverware clicks against china, and I hear the muted honking of cars on Connecticut Avenue below as the others eat, waiting for my response.I can't think of where to start.Jennifer tries to break the tension."More wine, anyone?"One of the girls stretches her glass across to Jennifer and seems to think of something."Mmm!" she says, swallowing a bite."I've got a concierge now!" She describes her new Old Town, Virginia, apartment.Swimming pool, complementary breakfast in the lobby each morning, concierges in top hats."And it's furnished!" she says."It's got a mahogany dining room set.Can you believe it? Mahogany!"The next morning, Jennifer and I are hiking the Great Falls trail on the Virginia side of the Potomac outside D.C."The sticky buds," Jennifer says, stopping trailside to touch a flower just about to open up.As I stroke the bud as well, our fingers meet, and we kiss.She's referring to her favorite book, The Brothers Karamazov.To Dostoevsky, and to Jennifer, the sticky buds represent hope.Jennifer is deeply religious, though she doesn't wear it on her sleeve, just exudes joy and selflessness.She adores infants, whom she believes come out of the womb fully divine.No matter how far a person might stray as an adult, she said to me once, that person still contained his or her inborn potential for goodness."The sticky buds," I repeat."Hey, you never e-mailed back about my question." I take her hand and we continue our walk along the box canyon ridge."What question?""Whether you relate to Dmitri, Ivan, or Alyosha.""Oh.well, personally, I really have a hard time relating to Dmitri, or even Ivan."I need Jennifer to show sympathy for Dmitri.His binges and passion, doubting love, doubting God.Where is Jennifer's dark side? I still want to believe in a loving, involved Creator, want to forget all about the glimpses of evil I have seen in Liberia.Jennifer and I know each other well, and she can tell that I want her to relate to Dmitri or Ivan, so she tries to show traces of empathy for them.But she convinces neither me nor herself.So I change the subject to our future kids.We dance around the topic.I ask, "How do you feel.about living abroad with children?" She says it could be fine, under some circumstances.I ask which circumstances.She replies that she wants to "of course" have her babies in the United States and that they would spend their first years here, where there is superior medical care."But we are all in this together," I protest [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]