Text: Excerpt from David Nicholls, Us (2014)
The first-person narrator, Douglas Petersen, is a scientist. His wife Connie is an artist. Their seventeen-year-old son Albie has started experimenting with photography.
[Albie]'s a mumbler, a swallower of words. Despite spending the last six years in a perfectly nice part of Berkshire, he speaks in a bored Cockney drawl because God forbid anyone should think his father has done well or worked hard. God forbid anyone should think that he's comfortable and cared for and loved, loved equally by both of his parents even if he only seems to desire and require the attentions of one.
In short, my son makes me feel like his step-father.
I have had some experience of unrequited love in the past and that was no picnic, I can tell you. But the unrequited love of one's only living offspring has its own particular slow acid burn.
Albie announced his intention to devote his life to a hobby. Why, I asked Connie, could he not study a more
practical subject and do the things
he enjoyed at weekends and in the evenings, like the rest of us? Because that's not how an arts-based course works, said Connie; he needs to be challenged, to develop his famous 'eye', learn to use his tools. But wouldn't it be cheaper and quicker to just read the manual? I could understand if people still used darkrooms as I had as a young man, but all of that know-how was obsolete, and how could Albie hope to excel in a field where anyone with a phone and a laptop could be
broadly proficient? It wasn't even as if he wanted to be a photojournalist or a commercial photographer, taking pictures for newspapers or advertisements or catalogues. He didn't want to photograph models or weddings, athletes, or lions chasing gazelles, photographs that people might pay for, he wanted to be an artist, to photograph burnt-out cars and bark, taking pictures at such angles that they didn't look like anything at all. What would he actually do for three years, apart from smoke and sleep? And what
professional job could he hope for at the end of it?
'Photographer!' said Connie. 'He's going to be a photographer.'
We were pacing around the kitchen, furiously tidying up, by which I mean tidying up, furious. Wine had been drunk and it was late, the end of a long, fraught argument that, as was his way, Albie had provoked then fled from. 'Don't you see?' said Connie, hurling cutlery at the drawer. 'Even if it's hard, he has to try! If he
loves it, we have to let him try. Why must you always have to stomp on his dreams?'
'I've got nothing against his dreams as long as they're attainable.'
'But if they're attainable then they're not dreams.'
'And that's why it's a waste of time!' I said. 'The problem with telling people that they can do anything they want to do is that it is objectively, factually inaccurate. Otherwise the whole world would just be ballet
dancers and pop stars."
"He doesn't want to be a pop star, he wants to take photographs."
"My point still stands. It is simply not true that you can achieve anything if you love it enough - it just isn't. Life has limitations and the sooner he faces up to this fact then the better off he'll be!"
Well, that's what I said. I believed I had my son's best interests at heart. That was why I was so vocal,
because I wanted him to have a secure professional life, a good life. Listening up in his bedroom, no doubt he had caught all of my words and none of my intention.
Still, the argument was not my finest moment. I had become shrill and dogmatic but even so I was surprised to discover that Connie was now standing still, wrist pressed to her forehead.
'When did it start, Douglas?' she said, her voice low. 'When did you start to drain the passion
out of everything?'
Quelle: David Nicholls, Us (2014; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), pp. 49-53.
 Cockney drawl: East London working-class accent
 to develop one's eye: here_ to develop a sense for the perfect photo
 fraught: showing or producing tension or anxiety
 vocal: outspoken