Direktlänk till inlägg 11 maj 2011

a horrible spot a woman's in

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 11 maj 2011 07:41

He having stood me in such excellent stead that afternoon, it was rather a pity that, come nightfall and my first really clandestine visit to Rennie, I was no longer prepared to be Joe Morgan or any other sort of dancer. I was never highly sexed. For me the intervals between women were long, as a rule, and I was not normally disturbed by doing without sexual intercourse. A condition of erotic excitement such as I'd entertained during most of this first school day was almost as rare as a manic with me, and almost as easily dissipated. After the one game I was good for, I was as unarousable as a gelding. That, I think, is not how Rennie had found me on the evening of our first adultery, shortly after we'd played Peeping Tom on Joe -- the sheer energy required to be the spirited lover is difficult, but not entirely impossible, for me to muster -- but that's how I felt on this evening when I went to her. I was neither bored nor fatigued nor sad, nor excited nor fresh nor happy: merely a placid, undesiring animal. The initial act had been a paradigm of assumed inevitability. Three days after our eavesdropping Joe went to Washington to do research in the Library of Congress, and before leaving he asked me to keep Rennie company during his absence -- a very Morganesque request. I went out there and spent the afternoon playing with the boys. It was notnecessary for me to do this at all, but neither was it obviously compromising. Rennie quite unsuggestively invited me to stay for dinner, and I did, though I had no special reason not to eat as usual in a restaurant. We scarcely spoke to each other. Rennie said once, "I feel lost without Joe," but I could think of no appropriate reply, and for that matter I was not certain how extensive was the intended meaning of her observation. After dinner I volunteered to oversee the boys' bath, spun them a bloodcurdling bedtime story, and bade them good night. I could have left then, but my staying to drink ale with Rennie during the evening certainly had no clear significance. We talked impersonally and sporadically -- much of the time nothing was said, but mutual silences were neither unusual nor uncomfortable with Rennie -- and I truly remember very little of our conversation, except that Rennie mentioned being weary and thanked me for having helped with the children that day. The point I want to make is that on the face of it there was no overt act, no word or deed that unambiguously indicated desire on the part of either of us. I shall certainly admit that I found Rennie attractive that day. Her whole manner was one of exhausted strength: throughout the afternoon her movements had been heavy and deliberate, like those of a laborer who has worked two straight shifts; in the evening she sat for the most part without moving, and frequently upon blinking her eyes she would keep them shut for a full half minute, opening them at last with a wide stare and a heavy expiration of breath. All this I admired, but really rather abstractly, and any sexual desire that I felt was also more or less abstract. We spoke little of Joe, and not at all about what we'd seen through the living-room window. Then at nine-thirty or thereabouts Rennie said, "I'm going to take a shower and go to bed, Jake," and I said, "All right." To reach the bathroom, she had to go through a little hallway off the living room; to get my jacket, I had to go to an open closet in this same hallway, and so it is still not quite necessary to raise an eyebrow at the fact that we got up from our chairs and went to the hallway together. There, if she turned to face me for a slight moment at the door to the bathroom, who's to say confidently that good nights were not on the tips of tongues? It happened that we embraced each other instead before we went our separate ways -- but I think a slow-motion camera would not have shown who moved first -- and it happened further (but I would not sayconsequently) that our separate ways led to the same bed. By that time, if we had been consciously thinking of first steps -- and I for one certainly wasn't -- I'm sure we both would have assumed that the first steps, whoever made them, had already been made. I mention this because it applies so often to people's reasoning about their behavior in situations that later turn out to be regrettable: it is possible to watch the sky from morning to midnight, or move along the spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet, without ever being able to put your finger on the precise point where a qualitative change takes place; no one can say, "It is exactlyhere that twilight becomes night," or blue becomes violet, or innocence guilt. One can go a long way into a situation thus without finding the word or gesture upon which initial responsibility can handily be fixed -- such a long way that suddenly one realizes the change has already been made, is already history, and one rides along then on the sense of an inevitability, a too-lateness, in which he does not really believe, but which for one reason or another he does not see fit to question.

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We looked one another over appraisingly. What I said, with professorial succinctness, was: "My name's Jacob Horner; my office is in Room Twenty-seven, around the corner. There's a list of my office hours on the door." I assigned texts and described the course; that was all, and that was enough. My air of scholarly competence, theirs of studious attention (they wrote my name and office number as frowningly as if I'd pronounced the Key to the Mystery) were so clearly feigned, we were all so conscious of playing school, that to attempt a lesson would have been preposterous. Why, confronted with that battery of eager bosoms and delicious behinds, a man cupped his hands in spite of himself; the urge to drop the ceremonious game and leap those fine girls on the spot was simply terrific. The national consternation, if on some September morn every young college instructor in the land cried out what was on his mind -- "To hell with this nonsense, men: let's take 'em!" -- a soothing speculation! "That's all for today. Buy the books and we'll start right off next time with a spelling test, for diagnostic purposes." Indeed! One hundred spelling words dictated rapidly enough to keep their heads down, and I, perched high on my desk, could diagnose to my heart's content every bump of femininity in the room (praised be American grade schools, where little girls learn to sit up front!). Then, perhaps, having ogled my fill, I could get on with the business of the course. For as a man must grow used to the furniture before he can settle down to read in his room, this plenitude of girlish appurtenances had first to be assimilated before anyone could concentrate attention on the sober prescriptions of English grammar. Four times I repeated the ritual pronouncements -- at eight and nine in the morning and at two and three in the afternoon. Between the two sessions I lounged in my office with a magnificent erection, wallowing in my position, and watched with proprietary eye the parade of young things passing my door. I had nothing at all to do but spin indolent daydreams of absolute authority -- Nerotic, Caligular authority of the sort that summons up officefuls of undergraduate girls, hot and submissive -- leering professorial dreams! By four o'clock, when my first working day ended, I had so abandoned myself to the dance that I was virtually in pain. I tossed my empty brief case into the car and drove directly across town to the high school, to seek out Miss Peggy Rankin; after some inquiry at the principal's office I caught up with her just as she was leaving the teacher's lounge. "Come on!" I said urgently. "I have to see you right away!" She recognized me, blushed, and fumbled for protests. "Comeon!" I grinned. "I can't tell you here how important it is!" I took her arm and escorted her swiftly outside. "What's the matter, Jake? Where are we going?" "Wherever you want to," I said, holding the car door open for her. "Jake, for God's sake, are you just picking me up again?" she asked incredulously. "What do you mean,just? There's nothing just about this, girl." "There certainly isn't! It's fantastic! What do you think I am, for heaven's sake?" I stepped on the accelerator. "Shall we go to your place or to mine?" "Mine!" she said furiously. "And just as fast as you can! I've never in my life met such a monster as you are! You're simplya monster!" "I'm not simply a monster, Peggy: I'malso a monster." "You're an incredible cad! That exactly describes you -- you're a complete cad! You're so wrapped up in yourself that you don't have a shred of respect for anyone else on earth! Turn left right here." I turned left. "The fourth house up on the right-hand side. Yes." I parked the car. "Now look at me, Jake.Look at me!" she cried. "Don't you realize I'm just as much of a human being as you are? How in theworld could you even look me in the eye again after last time? I'd have been shocked if you'd even had the gall to face up and apologize to me, butthis --" "Listen, Peggy," I said sharply. "You say I don't respect you. Is that because I didn't bother to flatter you at Ocean City, or apologize afterwards, or call up yesterday to make a date for today?" "Of course it is! What do youthink I mean? You haven't got the slightest bit of common courtesy in you; not even common civility! I'm -- I'm astonished! You're not a man at all." "I'll explain this only once," I said solemnly; "I assumed you were mature enough to understand it at once, without explanation, as these things should be understood." "What on earth are you getting at?" "I'm afraid I overestimated you, Peggy," I declared. "I thought after I met you that you might actually be the superior woman you give the first impression of being. But you know, you're turning out to be one hundred per cent ordinary." She was speechless. "Don't you understand," I smiled, my testicles aching, "that I'm probably less interested in sex than any other man you've ever met?" "Oh, myGod!" "I enjoy it, all right, just as I'd enjoy having a lot of money, but I'm not willing to put up with any nonsense to get either." "Not even a common respect for a woman's dignity!" "That's it, right there," I said soberly: "a common respect, a common courtesy, a common this, a common that. Add it all up and what it gives you is a common relationship, and that's a thing I've no use for. You don't seem to be my kind of girl, Peggy, and I could have sworn you were. My kind of girl doesn't want common respect; she wants uncommon respect, and that means a relationship where nobody makes the common allowances for anybody else." "I don't believe you," Peggy said, aghast and troubled. "You're testifying against yourself, then," I said quietly. "Don't you understand that all this rigmarole of flattery and chivalry -- the whole theatrical that men perform for women -- isdisrespect? Any lie is disrespect, and a relationship based on that nonsense is a lie. Chivalry is a fiction invented by men who don't want to be bothered with taking women seriously. The minute a man and woman assent to it they stop thinking of each other as individual human beings: they assent to it precisely so they won't have to think about their partners. Which is completely useful, of course, if sex is the only thing that's on your mind. I may as well tell you, Peggy, now that it's too late, that you're the only woman I ever dared try to respect before, and take completely seriously, on my own terms, just as I'd take myself. No lies, no myths, no allowances, no hypocrisy. That's the only kind of relationship with a woman that I could ever stay interested in vertically as well as horizontally." Peggy burst into nervous laughter. "You mustn't laugh at that, Peggy," I said gravely. "Oh, my God!" she laughed. "Oh, myGod !" I turned from the wheel and very carefully socked her square on the cheek. The blow threw her head back against the window, and immediately she began crying. "As you see, I'm still taking you seriously," I said. "Oh!" "Try to understand, Peggy, that I'mjust not that interested in laying women. I can do without. But I will not have my Deepest Values thrown in my face! I'm not a man who strikes girls. To hell with girls. What I want is a female human being that I can take as seriously as myself. If you're not interested, get out, but don't laugh at the only man who's ever taken you seriously in your whole life." "Jake, for God's sake!" Peggy sobbed, embracing my lap and all that waited impatiently therein. "I'm so sorry I could die!" Fresh tears. "What a horrible spot a woman's in!" I patted her head. "Our society makes sincerity sound like the greatest hypocrisy of all." "Jake?" "What?" Because she'd lost her summer tan, her red eyes looked redder than they had in July. "I'll die if you say it's too late." I smoothed her hair. "I socked you, didn't I? Nothing's less chivalrous than that." "Thank God you did!" she smiled bravely. She inspected the welt on her cheek in the mirror. "I wish it would never go away." "I reallywas just bringing you home, you know, Peggy," I smiled, playing the kicker at the end of my hand. "When can I see you?" She was properly amazed. "Jake?" "What?" "Oh, Jake,now! You've got to come up to my apartment right now!" I made a mental salute to Joseph Morgan,il mio maestro, and another to Dr. Freud, caller of the whole cosmic hoe-down: up to Miss Peggy's flat we tripped. Apas de deux, anentrechat, and that was that. I left on promises of greater things to come, which I had no special plans to keep.

 
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