‘They look so fine, and young, and wrapped up in each other. Love is so fresh and clean at that age. Don’t you think?’
‘Margareta! I’m surprised at you! We both know there’s no such thing as love!’
‘What do you call it?’
Tatyana snuffed our her cigarette. That sly smile. ‘Mutations of wanting.’
‘You’re not serious.’
‘I am quite serious. Look at those kids. The boys want to get the girls into bed so they can have their corks popped off their bottles and forth. When a man blows his nose you don’t call it love. Why get all misty-eyed when a man blows another part of his anatomy? As for the girls, they’re either going along for the ride because they can get the things they want from the boys, or else maybe they enjoy being in bed too. Thought I doubt it. I never knew an eighteen-year-old boy who didn’t drop the egg off his spoon at the first fence.’
‘But that’s list! You’re talking about lust, not love.’
‘Lust is the hard sell. Love is the soft sell. The profit margin is the same.’
‘But love’s the opposite of self-interest. True, tender, love is pure and selfless.’
‘No. True, tender love is self-interest so sinewy that it only looks selfless.’
Everything failed to subdue me. Soon everything seemed dull: another sunrise, the lives of heroes, failing love, war, the discoveries people made about each other. The only thing that didn’t bore me, obviously enough, was how much money Tim Price made, and yet in its obviousness it did. There wasn’t a clear, identifiable emotion within me, except for greed and possibly, total disgust. I had all the characteristics of a human being–flesh, blood, skin, hair–but my depersonalization was so intense, had gone so deep, that the normal ability to feel compassion had been eradicated, the victim of a slow, purposeful erasure. I was simply imitating reality, a rough resemblance of a human being, with only a dim corner of my mind functioning. Something horrible was happening and yet I couldn’t figure out why–couldn’t put my finger on it. The only thing that calmed me was the satisfying sound of ice being dropped into a glass of J&B. Eventually I drowned the chow, which Evelyn didn’t miss; she didn’t even notice its absence, not even when I threw it in the walk-in freezer, wrapped in one of her sweaters from Bergdorf Goodman. We had to leave the Hamptons because I would find myself standing over our bed in the hours before dawn, with an ice pick gripped in my fist, waiting for Evelyn to open her eyes. At my suggestion, one morning over breakfast, she agreed, and on the last Sunday before Labor Day we returned to Manhattan by helicopter.
He buried her beside her husband. After the services were over and the few mourners had gone, he stood alone in a cold November wind and looked at the two graves, one open to its burden and the other mounded and covered by a thin fuzz of grass. He turned on the bare, treeless little plot that held others like his mother and father and looked across the flat land in the direction of the farm where he had been born, where his mother and father had spent their years. He thought of the cost exacted, year after year, by the soil; and it remained as it had been—a little more barren, perhaps, a little more frugal of increase. Nothing had changed. Their lives had been expended in cheerless labor, their wills broken, their intelligences numbed. Now they were in the earth to which they had given their lives; and slowly, year by year, the earth would take them. Slowly the damp and rot would infest the pine boxes which held their bodies, and slowly it would touch their flesh, and finally it would consume the last vestiges of their substances. And they would become a meaningless part of that stubborn earth to which they had long ago given themselves.
What was I after all? Near enough what Conchis had had me told: nothing but the net sum of countless wrong turnings. I dismissed most of the Freudian jargon of the trial; but all my life I had tried to turn life to fiction, to hold reality away; always I had acted as if a third person was watching and listening and giving me marks for good or bad behaviour – a god like a novelist, to whom I turned, like a character with the power to please, the sensitivity to feel slighted, the ability to adapt himself to whatever he believed the novelist-god wanted. This leechlike variation of the super-ego I had created myself, fostered myself, and because of it I had always been incapable of acting freely. It was not my defence; but my despot. And now I saw it, I saw it a death too late.
Lyrical poetry is a realm in which any statement immediately becomes truth. Yesterday the poet said life is a vale of tears; today he said life is a land of smiles; and he was right both times. There is no inconsistency. The lyrical poet does not have to prove anything. The only proof is the
intensity of his own emotion.
Revolution and youth are closely allied. What can a revolution promise to adults? To some it brings disgrace, to others favor. But even that favor is questionable, for it affects only the worse half of life, and in addition to advantages it also entails uncertainty, exhausting activity and upheaval of settled habits.
I knew that on the island one was driven back into the past. There was so much space, so much silence, so few meetings that one too easily saw out of the present, and then the past seemed ten times closer than it was. It was likely that Alison hadn’t given me a thought for weeks, and that she had had half a dozen more affaires. So I posted the letter rather as one throws a message in a bottle into the sea; not quite as a joke, perhaps, but almost.
In the days to follow the hacendado would come up to the corral where they’d shaped the manada and he and John Grady would walk among the mares and John Grady would argue their points and the hacendado would muse and walk away a fixed distance and stand looking back and nod and muse again and walk off with his eyes to the ground to a fresh vantage point and then look up to see the mare anew, willing to see a new mare should one present itself. Where he could find no gifts of either stance or conformation to warrant his young breeder’s confidence John Grady would likely defer to his judgment. Yet every mare could be pled for on the basis of what they came to call la unica cosa and that one thing which could absolve them of any but the grossest defect was an interest in cattle. For he’d broken the more promising mares to ride and he’d take them upcountry through the cienaga pasture where the cows and calves stood in the lush grass along the edge of the marshlands and he would show them the cows and let them move among them. And in the manada were mares who took a great interest in what they saw and some would look back at the cows as they were ridden from the pasture. He claimed that cowsense could be bred for. The hacendado was less sure. But there were two things they agreed upon wholly and that were never spoken and that was that God had put horses on earth to work cattle and that other than cattle there was no wealth proper to a man.
The embassy’s door was of bulletproof steel lined with a veneer of English oak. You attained it by touching a button in a silent lift. The royal crest, in this air-conditioned stillness, suggested silicone and funeral parlours. The windows, like the doors, had been toughened to frustrate the Irish and tinted to frustrate the sun. Not a whisper of the real world penetrated. The silent traffic, cranes, shipping, old town and new town, the brigade of women in orange tunics gathering leaves along the central reservation of the Avenida Balboa, were mere specimens in Her Majesty’s inspection chamber. From the moment you set foot in British extraterritorial airspace, you were looking in, not out.
She would never know, because he would never tell her. Somehow if she’d known the worst parts, she couldn’t have gone on being a haven for him. He was groping for an idea that he couldn’t quite grasp. Men said they didn’t tell their women about France because they didn’t want to worry them. But it was more than that. He needed her ignorance to hide in. Yet, at the same time, he wanted to know and be known as deeply as possible. And the two desires were irreconcilable.