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Essay: Mrs. Dalloway

Richard Dalloway decides to tell his wife that he loves her. His decision is not spontaneous. His wife Clarissa has just had a visit from a former lover, a man she might have married instead of Richard.

And so, Richard decides perhaps this is a good time to tell Clarissa he loves her—in so many words—and he interrupts his working day to do it. Buying a bouquet of roses, he strides across London to surprise his wife with the flowers and his declaration.

“For he would say it in so many words,” he thinks, “Because it is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.”

When he finally arrives, Clarissa is surprised and pleased. “He was holding out flowers—roses, red and white roses. (But he could not bring himself to say he loved her, not in so many words.)” Instead, they sit for a few minutes and talk of ordinary things.

Then he goes back to work.

At this point I always have to stop reading Virginia Woolf’s novel, “Mrs. Dalloway,” because I am crying. And because I need to think about my own life.

Who needs to hear me say “I love you” in so many words?

“It goes without saying,” we sometimes say, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.