“I have never suffered greatly.”

For luck or exorcism she touched his hand to the maple veneer of the awful bedstead. “Then you still have something to fear.”

“I mean, when there has been tragedy or risk, I have not felt enough. Whatever enough means.” He was not warning her, just telling the truth. “If you can reach fifty without a catastrophe, you’ve won. You’ve got away with it. Perhaps even now I’ve had more good life than they can take from me.”

But “you,” Paul meant himself. “They” were undefined. Caro said nothing. By now she would have given up her life for him, but repudiated his wish to be indemnified, by arithmetical advantages, against experience. “Got away with it,” he had said, as if life itself were a felony, a shiftiness exposed like stained ticking on a rented bed. As if, for all his authority, he were a fugitive. His father had perhaps renounced existence; but he had not given it the slip.

She would have told him, “You can’t have this without catastrophe,” but was silent out of fear of loss—reminded how nothing creates such untruth as the wish to please or to be spared something.

Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus