Annie had been single for seven years when she met Graham. Whenever she thought about her first marriage, even long after it had ended, her primary emotion was a kind of shame. Shame that she could have been attracted to someone she felt so little for in the end. That she could have lived with him for so long.
She had excuses, if she’d wished to use them. Alan had been re- markably handsome in a kind of preppy way—tall, with a thatch of blond hair that flopped elegantly across his forehead. And she’d been young, so young and ignorant that she’d regarded him at first as a superior sort of person—he knew where he was going, he knew what he wanted. Annie was shakier on those issues. She had just graduated from college with not much sense of what came next.
Then there was the fact that he felt he was a superior person too. He had an easy contempt for the people around him—even for their friends. For a while, Annie had enjoyed sharing that careless contempt, unsure of herself socially as she was. How much fun! to come home from a party and sit around bad-mouthing all the people who’d been there. How sophisticated, how competent, it had made her feel. How adult—she was twenty-three.
Soon enough, though, as she might have foreseen, Alan’s disdain turned to her. To her life, to her useless preoccupations—she was taking course after course in photography at the Museum School then. To her pitiful income (she did portraits of dogs for their own- ers, she photographed family reunions and graduations and birth- day parties). To her self-delusions (she kept sending off photographs of local events to The Phoenix, to The Boston Globe, in hopes that she could get work as a stringer). It seemed to her a failure of character that she hadn’t known this would be coming, that she should have imagined she’d be exempt from his general critique of the world.
It was when she was driving home with him from a party, a party he was speaking of in that familiar, slightly irritated tone, that it occurred to her that she simply didn’t like him.