"She was asking him to agree that her life was not a failure.”
“She was fifty-three years old and lonely and oppressed; why couldn’t he let her have her illusions? That was what her wounded, half-drunken eyes had seemed to be saying throughout his interrogation: Why can’t I have my illusions?
Because they’re lies, he told her silently in his mind as he champed his jaws and swallowed the cheap food. Everything you say is a lie. […] Everything you live by is a lie, and you want to know what the truth is?
He watched her with murderous distaste as she fumbled with her spoon. They had ordered ice cream, and some of it clung to her lips as she rolled a cold mouthful on her tongue.
Do you want to know what the truth is? The truth is that your fingernails are all broken and black because you’re working as a laborer and God knows how we’re ever going to get you out of that lens-grinding shop. The truth is that I’m a private in the infantry and I’m probably going to get my head blown off. The truth is, I don’t really want to be sitting here at all, eating this goddam ice cream and letting you talk yourself drunk while all my time runs out. The truth is, I wish I’d taken my pass to Lynchburg today and gone to a whorehouse. That’s the truth.”
“That was the only time they mentioned George, though they sat talking for another twenty minutes or so. Or rather, Alice talked, while Harvey Spangler listened and nodded and seemed to be waiting only for a decent chance to leave. Why couldn’t she stop talking? Did all lonely people have that problem?”
“The subjects of her talk didn’t matter; he knew what she was really saying. Helpless and gentle, small and tired and anxious to please, she was asking him to agree that her life was not a failure.”
Richard Yates - A special Providence (Vintage Classics-2008)