His father's gravestone was a handsome granite; carved into it in Times New Roman were his father’s name, the dates of his birth and death, and the epitaph that his father had requested: “Dead artists roll over in their graves.” Hopper breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he could report to his mother and sisters that all the dates and spellings were correct, and that the gravesite had not yet been desecrated by any of his fans.
They strolled leisurely to Birgit’s apartment and talked about their children. Perhaps for the first time today, Hopper relaxed. He admired the lengths to which Charlize went to protect her children from all the ways that parents encourage and feed their children’s paranoia and neuroses. “All parents damage their kids,” she said. “I just want to keep that damage to a minimum.”
“Do all the other writers live in Elaine’s?” he asked. “No, Hopper, but you will always find the important writers at Elaine’s,” she said. “Elaine understands us in ways that even your father can’t. She understands that writing is the hardest thing in the world.”
“Yes, it is,” Olympia barked. “That’s why I am glad that Silver called me on it. We had quite a fight about the journals. She called me on what she described as my “avarice and ambition.” She was right. I gotta give the girl props for keeping her agency.”
“If you want to have a relationship with someone, you have to work on it,” Ingrid told Hopper. “Your trouble is that having friends is just not that important to you.”
Mayor Andrew Yang had expressed concern about so many people traveling to the city from states where vaccination levels remained low. “I want them coming to New York to spread their cash around, not COVID-19,” he said. “Our city’s positivity rate remains one of the lowest in the country, but we have thousands of tourists arriving every day from places where too many people believe that the vaccines will implant magnets and nano computers into them or turn them into Knicks fans.”
Hopper had acquired his fear of heights when, at the age of eight and standing in the cupola of the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor observatory, he diverted his gaze from New Jersey across the Hudson River to look down. Though encased in impenetrable glass and concrete, Hopper imagined a force of nature -- or perhaps a mystical intervention – forcing him through the building’s membrane and hurtling him towards a violent and gruesome death on the street below, like Evelyn McHale.
“Again, let me explain it to you, Hopper,” Ingrid began, “even though you already know the answer. You are a jerk and impossible to live with – and I am grateful for our divorce – but we are always going to have something between us. It’s like we are still married even though we stopped being married. It’s both disconcerting and wonderful that I can always count on my ex-husband to have my back.”
Hopper believed that his parents had agreed between themselves to use the phrase “My son, the bestselling author” whenever discussing or introducing him. Hopper had heard these five words uttered in the same adoring tone hundreds of times. Now his mother got to add, “I’m adapting my son’s bestselling book for the screen.”
Hopper felt safe walking around in public with a face covering. He liked the anonymity he assumed by covering half of his face. He felt immune from being accosted by the harbingers of past mistakes who could not recognize him behind his mask.