Did he want her to be sympathetic? He saw himself as a kind of usurer, a deficiency which made a constant demand but to whom, nevertheless, people continued to run. His shirt was ornamented with various small knots and shields as if everything was about his descent, his broad, flowing circles of remembrance, his everlasting burdens that the past churned up against a blood-red background. All sense of direction vanished. Nothing was visible. His skin was a terrifying silk dressing gown and there seemed nowhere he could ever undress safely. His back was an abyss as it flew through the café door and into the rose coloured light. Air whipped against his face but he knew he hardly existed in comparison.
He knew he looked sharp. He knew he had delivered the goods in the night. He was always distinguished there, no matter what day it was. There was always something a little ruffled up inside him though, beneath the screen of his exterior, as if a sort of stubborn laziness clung to him and slowed him from maturing. Perhaps what bothered him most was that it was already too late to get older. He seemed unable to get rid of his youthful energy and this had meant he had lost ground. It was as if he had opened only a small account. He was tormented, made restless by charm. You can be sure he needed more out of things. He needed a better return. But his smarts were not long term. He came back too quickly with fixes that tumbled quickly away. And he was often desolate and unable to make up to whatever he loved. In fact he suspected his failures were beginning to accumulate in ways that made it seem that he was now just giving his love and goodness to imaginary beings. He felt there was too much to bear. What surprised him, but not enough to jolt him out of his habits, was that he remained flattered and pampered. In a sense he reproached his own sense of idolatry, because it meant that he too quickly held out his hand to anyone, everyone, who he encountered.
His book, despite his troubles, well, he had at least that. But she hadn’t seemed impressed. He had let her know about the book early on, as if its small weight would be enough to carry him to her heart or if not there then at least her pussy. But she had laughed, and with a long, hard breath had asked him, half jokingly, but only half, whether he wanted her to be his pupil? Which had made the whole thing turn inside out. It now seemed as if he was boasting. And he had pressed his lips tightly together. And something had knotted in behind his chest. His strength seemed to lose its balance. He became a loose object, like a button that might just fall off at any moment. Yet then she had asked him about it. And he had then even said a few things, remarks that were meant to sound casual but now sounded braggardly and uncharitable. So he had tried to turn them away from that. Which had made him keep restarting his sentences and as he did so he became shamefully aware of his tongue and teeth and throat and stammered. He listened to the sound of his own voice like an actor speaking some written words but in a way that destroyed their real meaning. Even if there was no real meaning he managed this. Which had changed his mood to gloom.
The disagreeable sensation flushed out across his face and he met her look as one who is mighty horrified by the cynicism of successful people. And of course in such circumstances he clung to his awareness of how handsome he was as if it was a weapon and he was going to strike a blow. What had she said? He could hardly recall. Everything he remembered might as well have been a lie or stolen. It was as if she was the only one really awake. And yet he had written a book. Was that nothing? Did she think it was a game? Did she want to check? Test him? But the book had been a hard task and he’d been proud to finish it and take it all the way through to publication. That was not a small thing. Surely, he thought to himself at the time, and bitterly, perhaps, but quietly so, surely she didn’t think he was in some sort of a racket? But that hadn’t been anything like what she’d said. And that gave him the thought that maybe he was wasted on her. Which then had made him dally somewhat on her bathing beauty looks – the usual hips, breasts, smooth thighs – and wonder what fate had breathed on him. After all, if she was a monster she hadn’t yet managed to swallow him alive.
Yet the voice of beauty creeps along strange airwaves. He felt like one of those tough, cool, black little characters that lack sympathy and get along fine with the oncoming fly-in-your-face role. And he wished he’d never mentioned the book, even though he saw it as his proof. Talking to her was like throwing roses into the scariest abyss.
In grotesque exaggeration lies a strange comedy. The old woman he visited each week often sat in her bed upright and blind, the curtains drawn and a thin, long hand clutching at her throat as if swallowing hurt. Some people’s lives are like tickets without a number. No cloakroom could work like that. He slept many nights in a chair opposite her bed. Here eyes had a compulsion to repeat what they couldn’t see. So for him the room was a generalised impulse to blindness. He often returned there by different routes. Nevertheless, despite his efforts, returning always brought with it the same desperate feeling of helplessness. He felt that he was always groping in the dark in an unfamiliar room, even though this room he’d known for so long it seemed like forever. There is always the lure of superstition. He thought of the day when he had received in the university two letters from people with the same name from different countries. He felt that two demonic presences were playing a game with him. He had been unable to concentrate on his lectures that day. He had found it difficult to share anything with anyone regarding this particular fright. And it had been ridiculous of course, something which later he recalled with shame, the kind you feel when you’ve lost your way.
Some days he walked the corridors of the university with a sense of great health and vigor. It was something he hadn’t felt in ages. Yet almost immediately – well, by eleven that same morning – he felt annoyed that no one had commented on anything about him. In fact, there were times that he would feel so vexed he’d wish them dead. All of them. But he was also the kind of person who attracted a certain type who always felt they hadn’t seen him for ages and were delighted to sit down and have a coffee. Usually he enjoyed the pretty clever students. The remarkable sanctions of reality were not always for him he supposed. He wasn’t omnipotent and didn’t feel in any way that his actions belied his fine words although he was always careful. In particular, he was acutely sensitive to his rivals and what they might say. He liked to be one step ahead, or at least, be in a position where he could trump their last manoeuvre with something even more dazzling. He was, in this respect, no more shallow than most.
But he agreed that this was a necessity if he was to remain in the game. Rivals, as he liked to gently chide, were everywhere and usually friends. The world is peopled by spirits who overrated their own mental processes and belied strange biases. Their roots were in history, blood and repression. His book took something that had been hidden and brought it into the light. He joked that it was a ghost book because he likened societies to haunted houses. And see, he pointed out, his manner calm and gently instructive, but brooking no contradiction, how ghosts are always unreceptive to their own mortality. Was this heinous thing a necessary fate of all societies? Or was it simply a regular but perhaps avoidable contingency? We must hope the latter. But the point is, from its own point of view, the horror is something denied, and so each ghost remains living on against what we know is the truth. As such, he had concluded after a repertoire of zealous scholarly apparatus which established without doubt his own credentials, this social horror, this mistake, was but a primitive return to something uncanny, and so, ironically, the actual equivalent to believing in ghosts.
Read 47094 from the beginning here.
Read the complete novel 'The Ecstatic Silence' here.