Jack realised then that his father had stopped smoking. He was profoundly impressed. It made him realise as other things had not how important this job was to Jerry. He felt that perhaps older people needed satisfactory jobs even more than young ones; they had narrower worlds. They needed hard edges, secure boundaries to their lives. Somehow this made Jerry seem remote: Jack had never felt this before.
He listened, grinned, joked, and all the time there was this unassuageable pain of loneliness in his heart. It wasn’t a boy’s loneliness any longer, but a man’s. He felt he might go through life with this longing, this sensation that there was a pit inside him, never to be filled. He faced up to it, looked at it carefully: it was like a kind of haunting, as irrational and inherently terrifying. Now he knew he had seen its traces on many faces. It was what made old people withdraw into themselves, peering out suspiciously through tiny windows at the world, as the reclusive pensioners of Towser’s house peered at him. it was not that they were defensive in their loneliness: it had changed them to a different kind of person, that was all.
From Ruth Park’s ‘Swords and Crown and Rings’
I’ve mentioned Ruth Park before.
She’s most famous for her novel The Harp in the South. She also wrote a much-loved series for young children called the Muddle-Headed Wombat books. In my adolescence, I devoured her novel for young adults, Playing Beattie Bow.
I hadn’t read any of her other novels until I came across Swords and Crowns and Rings at my library. Written in 1977, it’s a wonderful read, full of observations and thoughts still relevant today.
This I love: this unassuageable pain of loneliness in his heart.
Words like that — they quicken your heart.