1 "Up, down, good, bad," said the man with the tubes up his nose, " there's lots of variety… However, notions of balance between extremes of fortune are stupid—or at best unobservant." He watched as the nurse fed pellets into the green nozzle that stuck from his side. "Mm," said the man. " Good. Yum. (Next time more basil…) When a long-desired baby is born, what joy! More happiness than we find in sex, more than we take in success, revenge, or wealth. But should the same infant die, would you measure the horror on the same rule? Grief weighs down the seesaw; joy cannot budge it." 2 "When I was nineteen, I told a thirty- year-old man what a fool I had been when I was seventeen. 'We were always,' he said glancing down, 'a fool two years ago.'" 3 The man with the tubes up his nostrils spoke carefully: "I don't regret what I did, but that I claimed I did the opposite. If I was faithless or treacherous and cowardly, I had my reasons—but I regret that I called myself loyal, brave, and honorable." 4 "Of all illusions," said the man with the tubes up his nostrils, IVs, catheter, and feeding nozzle, "the silliest one was hardest to lose. For years I supposed that after climbing exhaustedly up with pitons and ropes, I would arrive at last on the plateau of walking-level- forever-among- moss-with-red-blossoms. But of course, of course: A continual climbing is the one form of arrival we ever come to— unless we suppose that the wished-for height and house of desire is tubes up the nose."
From White Apples and the Taste of Stone. Copyright © 2006 by Donald Hall. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.