The following day is the 22nd of January. Theo writes in his diary that this “would have been [his] daughter [Natalie’s] birthday if [he] hadn’t run her over and killed her in 1994, when she was fifteen months old.” Theo says he cannot recall the “exact circumstances” which led to the accident, but does remember backing the car out of the driveway on his way to class—his wife Helena, he says, had parked it “clumsily”—and feeling a “gentle bump” beneath the left rear wheel as he did.
The horrific death of Theo’s first and only child is describe as hazy and fairly banal. Only one detail—the “gentle bump”—emerges clearly through the fog. Theo’s memories have so far been shown to be sharp, clear, and all-encompassing, so his inability to remember his daughter’s death signals its devastating weight and traumatic fallout.
There was no time for grief, Theo says—he was too overwhelmed by “horror and guilt.” Helena believed that he “cared less, and she was right.” Their marriage fell apart in the wake of Natalie’s death, and Theo can admit that while he would never have run over Natalie on purpose, he felt only a mild affection for the child while she lived.
Theo and Helena moved out of the home where the accident had occurred, into a house on St. John Street—the house he still lives in. The two of them took separate rooms, and though they “didn’t stay permanently apart,” their emotional life as well as their sex life was never the same.
Theo and Helena’s having grown apart further symbolizes the isolationism, fatalism, and various schisms that have cropped up between the nations of the world in the wake of Year Omega.
Theo describes his house, which is much too big for just him. Helena, he says, has recently left him after having fallen in love with a man named Rupert Clavering, a sensitive graphic designer thirteen years her junior. Theo admits to having had affairs with his history students all throughout his marriage, and notes that Helena was unusually perceptive in recognizing the fact that he continued to sleep with her only “at carefully regulated intervals [so that the affairs would be] driven by more discriminating needs than the relief of sexual deprivation.”
Theo’s solitude is an outcome of his own making. After isolating his wife emotionally and physically, he now occupies a vast home whose many rooms he has no use for. His entrapment within an empty place symbolic of his failure mirrors humanity’s current state—forced to consider all that has gone wrong, on a planet whose beauty and resources are of little use to a species with no hope or future.