You see, Millat did not love her. And she thought Millat didn't love her because he couldn't. She thought he was so damaged, he couldn't love anybody any more. She wanted to find whoever had damaged him like this, damaged him so terribly; she wanted to find whoever had made him unable to love HER.
Now, how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face os Christ in a ciabatta roll - then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greetings cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.
Millat didn't love Irie, and Irie was sure there must be somebody she could blame for that. Her brain started ticking over. What was the root cause? Millat's feeling of inadequacy. What was the root cause of Millat's feelings of inadequacy? Magid. He had been born second because of Magid. He was the lesser son because of Magid.
Joyce opened the door to her and Irie marched straight upstairs, maliciously determined to make Magid the second-son for once, this time by twenty-five minutes. She grabbed him, kissed him and made love to him angrily and furiously, without conversation or affection. She rolled him around, tugged at his hair, dug what fingernails she had into his back and when he came she was gratified to note it was with a little sigh as if something had been taken from him. But she was wrong to think this a victory. It was simply because he knew immediately where she had been, why she was here, and it saddened him. For a long time they lay in silence together, naked, the autumn light disappearing from the room with every minute that passed.
"It seems to me," said Magid finally, as the moon became clearer than the sun, "that you have tried to love a man as if he were an island and you were shipwrecked and you could mark the land with an X. It seems to me it is too late in the day for all that."
Then he gave her a kiss on the forehead that felt like a baptism and she wept like a baby.