You come back

You come back into the room
where you’ve been living
all along. You say:
What’s been going on
while I was away? Who
got those sheets dirty, and why
are there no more grapefruit?
Setting foot on the middle ground
between body and word, which contains,
or is supposed to, other
people. You know it was you
who slept, who ate here, though you don’t
believe it. I must have taken
time off, you think, for the buttered
toast and the love and maybe both
at once, which would account for the
grease on the bedspread, but no,
now you’re certain, someone else
has been here wearing
your clothes and saying
words for you, because there was no time off.

Margaret Atwood, “Morning in the Burned House”.


Canadian nature writer Ernest Thompson Seton had an odd bill presented to him on his twenty-first birthday. It was a record kept by his father of all the expenses connected with young Ernest’s childhood and youth, including the fee charged by the doctor for delivering him. Even more oddly, Ernest is said to have paid it. I used to think that Mr. Seton Senior wad a jerk, but now I’m wondering, What if he was-in principle-right? Are we in debt to anyone or anything for the bare fact of our existence? If so, what do we owe, and to whom or to what? And how should we pay?

Margaret Atwood, “Payback. Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth”.