‘We should go for it,’ Jonny said, ‘we should do it now. There’s no reason to wait any longer.’ He was talking about a book he’d just read. A book about some guy who’d gone off to live in the woods, and was apparently having a great time.
‘We’ve got jobs,’ Imogen said. She was cooking spaghetti Bolognese in the little kitchen in their flat, while Jonny was “helping”, slicing vegetables distractedly while he talked with his eyes intense and wild, his hands moving rapidly. ‘Everything I’ve read,’ he said, ‘it makes sense. People aren’t designed to live in the world the way it is. We’re designed to survive- to cope with immediate dangers and needs. You’re always saying you’re stressed out. It’s because the world makes you like that- all these every day worries dragging you down. We have to pare everything back… pare everything back so that all that matters is staying alive and getting from one day to the next, and our feelings can be raw and true and immediate-’
‘Jonny, I don’t know if I could live in the wild,’ Imogen said. She was tired, and hungry, and she just wanted to eat. ‘I don’t know how to live like that, not really. I know we’ve sort of tried it for short periods, on holidays and things, but that’s not the same as doing it all the time. And there isn’t really wilderness in England. Not like you’re talking about. Do you mean for us to move to a different country, away from all our family and friends?’ She thought for a while and something else occurred to her. ‘What about when we have children-’ she started.
‘It’ll be better for children.’
‘But… what about schools?’
‘You’re a teacher,’ Jonny said, ‘you could teach them.’
Imogen shook her head. ‘I’m an English teacher,’ she said, ‘what if our children wanted to go to university to do a different subject? I can’t teach them to a level where they’d be accepted on their course, especially not if they want to do maths or science or something. And children need social skills as well. They can’t learn all that from us, they need to learn it from being with other children and being involved with the world.’
Jonny sliced celery with frenzied abandon. ‘On the news the other day they were talking about what percentage of teenagers had thought about committing suicide, and it was… it was… well, I can’t remember the numbers. But it was too high, Imogen! It was far too high. Children are under way too much pressure nowadays. The world isn’t right for children. In fact… I’d rather… I’d rather not have them at all than bring them into a fucked up world like this.’
Imogen stopped cooking and hugged him. ‘Jonny,’ she said, ‘don’t get upset. If we decide to go and live somewhere else we don’t want it to be because we’re running away. We want it to be because we believe we’ll be happy.’