offshore of words

január 27, 2012 § Hozzászólás

  ‘That leads up to what I’ve really often wanted to ask you’ Richard went on. ‘It seems to me you find it quite easy to put your feelings into words.’
‘And Maurice?’
‘I don’t. I’m amazed at the amount people talk, actually. I can’t for the life of me see why, if you really feel something, it’s got to be talked about. In fact, I should have thought it lost something, if you follow me, if you put into words.’
Richard looked anxious and Nenna saw that he really thought that he was becoming difficult to understand.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘Maurice and I are talkative by nature. We talk about whatever interests up perhaps for the same reason that Willis draws it and paints it.’
‘That’s not the same thing at all. I like Willis’s drawings. I’ve bought one or two of them, and I think they’ll keep up their value pretty well.’
Beyond Battersea Bridge the light, between grey and silver, cast shadows which began to follow the lighters, slowly moving round at moorings.
At a certain point, evidently prearranged, for he didn’t consult Nenna and hardly glanced at the banks, Richard put about, switched off the engine and hauled it on board. Once he had fitted in the rudder to keep the dinghy straight against the set of the tide he returned to the subject. A lifetime would not be too long, if only he could grasp it exactly.
‘Let’s say that matters hadn’t gone quite right with you, I mean personal matters, would you be able to find words to say exactly what was wrong?’
‘I’m afraid so, yes, I would.’
‘That might be useful, of course.’
‘Like manufacturers’ instructions. In case of failure, try words.’
Richard ignored this because it didn’t seem to him quite to the point. On the whole, he disliked comparisons, because they made you think about more than one thing at a time. He calculated the drift. Satisfied that it would bring them exactly down to the point he wanted on the starboard side of Lord Jim, he asked –
‘How do you feel about your husband?’
The shock Nenna felt was as great as if he had made a mistake with the steering. If Richard was not at home with words, still less was he at home with questions of a personal nature. He might  as well capsize the dinghy and be done with it. But he waited, watching her gravely.
‘Aren’t you able to explain?’
‘Yes, I am. I can explain very easily. I don’t love him any more.’
‘Is that true?’
‘You’re not making yourself clear, Nenna.’
‘I mean that I don’t hate him any more. That must be the same thing.’
‘How long have you felt like this?’
‘For about three hours.’
But surely you haven’t seen him lately?’
‘I have.’
‘You mean tonight? What happened?’
‘I insulted his friend, and also his friend’s mother. He gave me his opinion about that.’
‘What did your husband say?’
‘He said that I wasn’t a woman. That was absurd, wasn’t it?’
‘I should imagine so, yes. Demonstrably, yes.’ He tried again. ‘In any ordinary sense of the word, yes.’
‘I only want the ordinary sense of the word.’
‘And how would you describe the way you feel about him now?’ Richard asked.
‘Well, I feel unemployed. There’s nothing so lonely as unemployment, even if you’re on a queue with a thousand others. I don’t know what I’m going to think about if I’m not going to worry about him all the time. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my mind.’ A formless melancholy overcame her. ‘I’m not too sure what to do with my body either.’
It was a reckless indulgence in self-pity. Richard looked steadily at her.
‘You know, I once told Laura that I wouldn’t like to be left alone with you for any length of time.’
‘Why did you?’
‘I don’t know. I can’t remember what reason I gave. It must have been an exceptionally stupid one.’
‘Richard, why do you have such a low opinion of yourself?’
‘I don’t think that I have. I try to make a just estimate of myself, as I do of everyone else, really. It’s difficult. I’ve a long way to go when it comes to these explanations. But I understood perfectly well what you said about feeling unemployed.’

/Penelope Fitzgerald – Offshore/


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