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Chapter 36
We went to Disneyland – Rosie, Phil and I. It was great funand appeared to be a success in improving all relationships.
Rosie and Phil shared information and I learned a lot aboutRosie’s life. It was important background for the difficult butessential task of developing a high level of empathy for oneperson in the world.
Rosie and I were on our way to New York, where being weirdis acceptable. That is a simplification of the rationale: in realitywhat was important for me was to be able to make a newstart with my new skills, new approach and new partner,without being held back by others’ perceptions of me –perceptions that I had not only deserved but encouraged.
Here in New York, I am working in the Department ofGenetics at Columbia University, and Rosie is in the first yearof the Doctor of Medicine programme. I am contributing toSimon Lefebvre’s research project remotely, as he insisted on itas a condition of providing funding. I consider it a form ofmoral payback for using the university’s equipment for theFather Project.
280/290We have an apartment in Williamsburg, not far from theEslers, whom we visit regularly. The Cellar Interrogation is nowa story that Isaac and I both tell on social occasions.
We are considering reproducing (or, as I would say in a socialencounter, ‘having children’). In order to prepare for thispossibility, Rosie has ceased smoking, and we have reduced ouralcohol intake.
Fortunately we have numerous other activities to distract usfrom these addictive behaviours. Rosie and I work in a cocktailbar together three evenings a week. It is exhausting at times,but social and fun, and supplements my academic salary.
We listen to music. I have revised my approach to Bach, andam no longer trying to follow individual notes. It is moresuccessful, but my music tastes seem to have been locked in inmy teens. As a result of failing to make my own selections atthat time, my preferences are those of my father. I canadvance a well-reasoned argument that nothing worth listeningto was recorded after 1972. Rosie and I have that argumentfrequently. I cook, but reserve the meals of the StandardisedMeal System for dinner parties.
We are officially married. Although I had performed theromantic ritual with the ring, I did not expect Rosie, as amodern feminist, to want to actually get married. The term‘wife’ in Wife Project had always meant ‘female life partner’.
But she decided that she should have‘one relationship in my life that was what it was supposed tobe’. That included monogamy and permanence. An excellentoutcome.
I am able to hug Rosie. This was the issue that caused me themost fear after she agreed to live with me. I generally findbody contact unpleasant, but sex is an obvious exception. Sexsolved the body contact problem. We are now also able to hugwithout having sex, which is obviously convenient at times.
Once a week, in order to deal with the demands of living withanother person, and to continue to improve my skills in thissphere, I spend281/290an evening in therapy. This is a small joke: my ‘therapist’ isDave and I provide reciprocal services to him. Dave is alsomarried and, considering that I am supposedly wired differently,our challenges are surprisingly similar. He sometimes bringsmale friends and colleagues from work, where he is arefrigeration engineer. We are all Yankees fans.
For some time, Rosie did not mention the Father Project. Iattributed this to the improved relationship with Phil and thedistraction of other activities. But, in the background, I wasprocessing some new information.
At the wedding, Dr Eamonn Hughes, the first person we hadtested, asked to speak to me privately.
‘There’s something you should know,’ he said. ‘About Rosie’sfather.’
It seemed entirely plausible that Rosie’s mother’s closest friendfrom medical school would know the answer. Perhaps we hadonly needed to ask. But Eamonn was referring to somethingelse. He pointed to Phil.
‘Phil’s been a bit of a screw-up with Rosie.’
So it wasn’t only Rosie who thought Phil was a poor parent.
‘You know about the car accident?’
I nodded, although I had no detailed information. Rosie hadmade it clear that she did not want to discuss it.
‘Bernadette was driving because Phil had been drinking.’
I had deduced that Phil was in the car.
‘Phil got out, with a broken pelvis, and pulled Rosie out.’
Eamonn paused. He was obviously distressed. ‘He pulled Rosieout first.’
This was truly an awful scenario, but as a geneticist myimmediate thought was ‘of course’. Phil’s behaviour, in pain andunder extreme pressure, would surely have been instinctual.
Such life-and-death situations occur regularly in the animalkingdom and Phil’s choice was in line with theory andexperimental results. While he had presumably revisited thatmoment many times in his mind, and his later feelings282/290towards Rosie may have been severely affected by it, hisactions were consistent with the primitive drive to protect thecarrier of his genes.
It was only later that I realised my obvious error. As Rosiewas not Phil’s biological daughter, such instincts would not havebeen applicable. I spent some time reflecting on the possibleexplanations for his behaviour. I did not share my thoughts orthe hypothesis I formed.
When I was established at Columbia, I requested permission touse the DNA-testing facilities for a private investigation. Theywere willing to let me do so. It would not have been aproblem if they had refused. I could have sent my remainingsamples to a commercial laboratory and paid a few hundreddollars for the tests. This option had been available to Rosiefrom the beginning of the Father Project. It is now obvious tome that I did not alert Rosie to that option because I wassubconsciously interested in a relationship with her even then.
Amazing!
I did not tell Rosie about the test. One day I just packed mybag with the samples that I had brought with me to NewYork.
I started with the paranoid plastic surgeon, Freyberg, who wasthe least likely candidate in my assessment. A green-eyed fatherwas not impossible, but there was no other evidence makinghim more probable than any of the previous candidates. Hisreluctance to send me a blood sample was explained by himbeing a generally suspicious and unhelpful person. Myprediction was correct.
I loaded Esler’s specimen, a swab from a fork that hadtravelled more than halfway around the world and back again.
In his darkened basement, I had been certain he was Rosie’sfather. But afterwards I had come to the conclusion that hecould have been protecting a friend or the memory of a friend.
I wondered if Esler’s decision to become a psychiatrist hadbeen influenced by the suicide of the best man at his wedding,Geoffrey Case.
I tested the sample. Isaac Esler was not Rosie’s father.
283/290I picked up G............
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