--An excerpt from Falling: The Story of One Marriage
''We have to separate,'' my wife told me. It was a late-summer evening eleven and a half years after we had gotten married. We were on our deck, drinking gin-and-tonics and smoking cigarettes, an entitlement of marital stress. The setting sun cast rose-colored shadows across the mansard roof of the Victorian elementary school visible beyond the hickory tree in our next-door neighbor's backyard. A straggling bumblebee drowsed in the pots of geraniums that, together with the wooden boxes of clematis and petunias and ivy, lined the deck's warping plank floor. A light breeze out of the east enhanced the quiet by sweeping the noise of the city traffic seaward. The elementary school had an outdoor basketball court, where sometimes after work I would take my daughter to practice her pitching, and the noise from a game -- preadolescent shouts, the tripping thump of the dribbled ball and its rattled smack against the metal backboard -- drifted across the intervening gardens.
''We do?'' I asked. After all, our marriage wasn't hellish, it was simply dispiriting. My wife and I didn't hate each other, we simply got on each other's nerves. Over the years we each had accumulated a store of minor unresolved grievances. Our marriage was a mechanism so encrusted with small disappointments and pretty grudges that its parts no longer closed.
My wife exhaled impatiently -- she was English and had that hurried European way of smoking -- and tapped her cigarette into a flowerpot.