While I'm Falling - By Laura Moriarty

While I’m Falling

Laura Moriarty



ON A VERY COLD DAY during my sophomore year of…


I DID NOT ALWAYS want to be a doctor. I…


HAYLIE BUTTERFIELD WAS THE only person in the dorm I…


HER DAUGHTER HAD CALLED her crazy. Or told her she…


ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT, Jimmy blasted electronica from…


IT COST FOUR MORE QUARTERS to leave a message on…


“GOOD MORNING.” The words were said sweetly, and very softly.


GRETCHEN GAVE ME A RIDE back to Jimmy’s. She felt…


THIRD FLOOR CLYDE was waiting outside my door.


SHE WAS TOO TIRED to get into the whole story.


SHE GOT UP EARLY to take Bowzer out. She did…


“THIS PERSON HAS MY PHONE? Why does he have my…


NATALIE WOKE IN DARKNESS, forgetting, for a moment, where she…


I KNEW, EVEN AS I TOOK the test, that I…


MY MOTHER SAID THAT Pamela O’Toole, formerly Pamela Butterfield, was…


FOR MY NEPHEW’S first Christmas, I knit him a hat.


Other Books by Laura Moriarty


There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.

—J. K. Rowling, Harvard Commencement, 2008


ON A VERY COLD DAY during my sophomore year of college, when I was living just an hour away from home in a dorm, my father returned from a two-day seminar on financial planning to find what he initially thought was a stranger asleep in his bed. Even after he turned on the overhead light, he didn’t recognize the bearded face of the man sleeping openmouthed on one of the firm, supportive pillows he always missed so much while away. In those first confusing moments, my father later told me, he simply didn’t comprehend the situation. He would soon forgive himself this slowness—his experience as a trial lawyer had taught him that people often cannot comprehend the unexpected; the human brain can fail to register what seems impossible. “Blinded by naiveté” was how he explained it to me, in one of his more vulnerable—or perhaps more calculating—moments. Even after he turned on the light, he said, it took him several seconds to recognize the blond hair and pleasant face of one of the men who had worked on our roof the previous summer. Naiveté aside, I’m surprised he recognized the man at all. My father worked long hours, and so the repair of the roof, like everything that had to do with the house, had fallen to my mother’s domain.

The roofer’s tanned shoulders were visible over the top of the duvet. He did not wake when my father turned on the overhead light. Bowzer, our dog, was curled up at the foot of the bed, his silver chin resting on a lump that appeared to be the man’s right foot. When my father kicked the bed, the roofer turned and sighed, resting one pale arm over his eyes. He seemed to be groping for something—or someone—with his other hand, but still my father allegedly remained clueless. Our house was on a cul-de-sac in a suburb of Kansas City that is known for its safety, excellent public schools, and complete lack of public transportation; still, my father said that for far too long, he truly perceived the man as some kind of confused, unshaven transient who had broken in to take a mid-morning nap.

“I was exhausted,” he explained to me later. “Okay? Veronica? You understand? I’d been on a plane all day. All I wanted was to come home, change clothes—maybe even, God forbid, have someone make dinner for me—and I walk into that.”

He said the situation only started to make sense after he spotted the note. It was creased in half so it sat like a little tent on top of the roofer’s work boots, which were on the floor next to the bed, wool socks still nestled inside. Before my father even picked up the note, he recognized the lined yellow paper, a pad of which my mother kept in the drawer of her bedside table for copying down interesting passages in books, and gift ideas from the catalogues that she also read while in bed.

“O CLOUD-PALE eyelids, dream-dimmed eyes…” You look so beautiful asleep I can’t bring myself to wake you. But make sure you are gone by three. (And take this note with you!) I will call you. And I promise you, all day long, I will think about being brave.

The note was not signed, but my father of course recognized my mother’s handwriting, the careful cursive, the neat and even loops. He looked at