Joey, an English graduate is in New York visiting her father George, who she has just found out has dementia. She has begun dating Sam, who is George’s carer. She has a first class degree but was fired from a bar job and is terrified of ‘disappearing’ into insignificance. Watching Obama’s inauguration, she witnesses the crowds brought together in a common vision, which, being English, she feels she cannot share in. Her father, who used to be an academic is losing his cognitive faculties, and the pain of this, added to Joey’s own existential angst, leaves her anchorless …
I’ve always been jealous that I never got to ban the bomb, or burn my bras, jealous of people that lived through the war because, well, they had a common enemy and that’d make you want to fight and it’d make it clear what you were fighting for and it might even allow for a hero or two.
I said this to Sam who, it transpired, one got used to over time – sure there were differences; sex, for example. I liked the British kind, angsty, passionate but essentially joyless and for him, well it was sort of like going to the Oscars, lots of tears and thank yous and I felt he struggled with an overwhelming urge to clap at the end.
We sat with Dad, and played board games and talked and – Sam would take over when Dad forgot things, or when I found dirty plates in the cupboard or his shaving stuff in the cutlery drawer, or once when he struggled for my name – Sam stepped in at times when I just couldn’t really stop myself from finding it all horribly sad. (controls tears.)
In January Sam took me away for the weekend – and when we got to Washington, strangers were high-fiving each other and smiling and everyone seemed so – excited. It was that same feeling I’d had, on that rooftop on Christmas day, right in the pit of my stomach, looking at all those tiny lights holding tiny lives and knowing that they were part of something – but that something was bigger than them – and it was good. And when it came to it, with the sun peeking itself out behind The Washington monument, and looking down the Mall and seeing two million people waiting, exercising the muscle of – faith – well, I thought that it didn’t really matter what you believed in – just as long as you knew how to believe. And just as he appeared and all the flags started waving and young kids started whooping and older men and women shed some quieter tears, Sam turned to me and he wrapped me right up in his scarf and he said – ‘Now, you’ve got to believe in this – right?’
And I looked at him, and he had this stupid smile on his face, grinning ear to fucking ear, and suddenly I realised what kind of balls it takes just to think that the world isn’t such a bad place.