The story “After the wink” by Carolyn Steel Agosta narrates the story of a 42-year old woman, mother of three children, and responsible wife who has a loving and attentive husband. The true-to-life and ironical story discloses the widespread phenomena with which many women face at mature age. The heroine is not ready to become old, though her age and public opinion destroy her woman entity, associated with the capacity to be liked by the men.
The narration evolves around the single event – the romantic adventure (or possible affair on the side) which happened to the heroine. In a coffee-shop, she gets acquainted with a nice-looking man who is older, than the heroine. They have an ordinary conversation about trifles (parking and traffic in the town); he invites her for a date to the poetry slam. The date ends in a bar where they dance and kiss. The kiss is the final point at which the heroine has to acknowledge that she will not do a thing.
The story has a highly personal character, because the heroine reveals the deep emotional experience. Apparently, the heroine is remarkably close to the author, if it is not the author herself, due to utterly observant details and personal observations. She discloses the intimate thoughts, like things which attract her most in men: “I’ve suddenly become fascinated with men’s arms. Forearms, lightly furred, with those lines of tendons and the swell of muscle below the elbow that women just don’t have. And men’s hands, square and capable” (Agosta 1). On the other hand, the heroine is rather ironical. When she notices that the man is reading the New Yorker, she accurately observes: “The guy’s literate, for crying in the sink” (Agosta 1). Moreover, she frequently resorts to bitter self-irony: “It’s embarrassing to know I’m lusting in Lawn and Garden”, “Knockers up” (Agosta 1). The narration looks a part of a diary in which secrets are revealed; however, the narration seems not meant for a stranger’s eyes. The realistic way of representing, life realms (book and magazine they read, McDonald’s Happy Meal figures in her car, place names of their residence) underscore the credibility of the story.
The heroine identifies that the “affair” is only “an exercise in visibility” for her and the man she meets (Agosta 3). She has developed her own theory of aging which reflects on acquiring invisibility after 40. She claims that, then, people are perceived as persons “whose daughter is now an adult and whose mother is now a child and who’s supposed to hold everything together” (Agosta 3). Evidently, the level of self-concept grows when a woman feels attractive and rivets men’s eyes. The daily routine, in which the waist is used to wear an apron and carry children for years, suggests nothing romantic and exciting. The talent of keen observer lets the speaker notice that the man she meets “still has a bit of anxiety about how he looks to a younger woman” and is also “scared of becoming invisible” (Agosta 4; Agosta 5).
The images of both heroes are incomplete, portrayed by some minor details. The heroine appears before readers presumably as the exponent of thoughts and feelings with no physical appearance. First of all, she represents herself in the role of the woman who wants to evoke interest, but not the woman in the role of wife, mother or professional. The hero obtains several nicknames appropriate to the development of actions Mr. Attractive, Mr. Handsome, Mr. Gorgeous, Mr. Still-Has-It, and Mr. It-Might-Have-Been. “He has a little bit of curly black/grey/white hair coming out of the collar of his shirt” (Agosta 2). The readers see the image of the man in the light of the heroine’s enthusiastic portrayal. The story is a monologue narrator of the speaker. Evidently, the narrator ascribes to him the biased attributes like, “good hands, wide and blunt-fingered, the hands of a man who can fix things” (Agosta 5).
Despite the apparent simplicity and conversational character of speech, the symbolic elements represented on the speech level supplement the message of this story. When the sympathy between them begins to make known the heroine addresses to heavens and God (“for god’s sake”, “God help me”, “thanks heavens”). When it becomes clear that the adventure may finish in something wrong, the tone changes abruptly (“damn, what a hell of”). The heroine who has not “kissed another man on the lips over 20 years” wanted to experience something different from what she had in her life (Agosta 4). The desire to make something unusual instigates her to visit the poetry slam where she pretends to be interested. However, the story does not call to cheating in order to diversify long-term matrimonial life. On the contrary, the adultery “wasn’t on the list” of things the heroine planned to do in her life (Agosta 5). One more significant symbol is the light in the bedroom window the woman sees when she returns home after the date. It means that someone is waiting there for her; it points out that customary way of life is resumed.