She looks up. I’ve caught her by surprise. Her face opens up and all of a sudden it’s like that paper mask is transparent. I’m looking right through it, and I get a flash of some kind of life we could’ve had—barbecues, dogs, kids flopping over us in bed—it rolls through me fast but strong and clear, like one of those cooking smells that blows in the window so sharp you can pick out the ingredients. And then it’s gone. It’s gone, and Holly’s holding my hand. Finally, after that long long wait, her hand is back on mine. Dry cool fingers, slim. The rings loose. I close my eyes. My hand is so hot, I feel my pulse in every finger. I’m afraid she’ll let go but she doesn’t let go. She keeps her hand around mine and it’s like she’s holding all of me in her cool sweetness, calming my fever back down.
As for myself, I’d rather not say very much. When I breathe, the air feels good in my chest. And when I think of the mirrored room, as of course I still do, I understand now that it’s empty, filled with chimeras like Charlotte Swenson—the hard, beautiful seashells left behind long after the living creatures within have struggled free and swum away. Or died. Life can’t be sustained under the pressure of so many eyes. Even as we try to reveal the mystery of ourselves, to catch it unawares, expose its pulse and flinch and peristalsis, the truth has slipped away, burrowed further inside a dark, coiled privacy that replenishes itself like blood. It cannot be seen, much as one might wish to show it. It dies the instant it is touched by light.
Je zittriger und erschöpfter Davis von seinen Liegestützen wird, umso mehr vermischen sich die normalen Wörter, die wir alle jeden Tag benutzen, mit den Wörtern, die er zu einem früheren Zeitpunkt in seinem Leben benutzt haben muss [...] Und als mir Davis' alte Wörter erst einmal aufgefallen waren, fing ich an, sie überall zu hören, denn dieser Ort hier ist ein Wortgefängnis - Wörter bleiben hier stecken, sind gefangen von dem Moment an, an dem in unserem alten Leben die Uhr stehengeblieben ist [...] und ich schnappe mir diese Ausdrücke, ich fange sie in meinem Kopf und ich bewahre sie auf. Denn jedes davon hat die DNA eines ganzen Lebens in sich, eines Lebens, in das diese Worte gepasst und in dem sie einen Sinn ergeben haben, weil alle anderen sie ebenfalls benutzten. Ich sammle diese Wörter, und später, wenn ich das Notizbuch aufschlage, im dem ich dieses Tagebuch führe, [...] trage ich eins nach dem anderen ein. Und aus irgendeinem Grund versetzt mich das in gute Laune, wie Geld auf der Bank.
As the weeks progressed, I developed a morbid fascination with the enormity of all he didn’t know. I reminded myself incessantly that the happiness I heard in his voice when we spoke each night was predicated upon a trust and faith and mutual understanding that I had already betrayed countless times in countless different ways, ways that would make him scream, were he to glimpse them. The thought tortured me. I felt like a poisoner sprinkling arsenic on Hansen’s food while he wasn’t looking, watching him eat it bite by bite. I wished he would guess, but I did everything in my power to keep him from guessing, and it was easy. I sounded the same! He had no reason to doubt me! He believed that I loved him, and he was right! I was made for this treachery! Each night, as I reported to him the jobs I was on hold for, the church I’d wandered into, the croque monsieur I’d had for lunch, I would imagine rescuing him from his ignorance and my duplicity by telling him everything. This fantasy of absolution so enthralled me that at times I completely lost track of our conversation. To say it and have him know, to close the gap between us. I couldn’t do it. And yet I knew that it couldn’t go on this way, either, that sooner or later I would have to choose between Hansen and everyone else. A lifetime of deceiving a good man was more than even I could stomach. So I left.
This way,” he said gently, wheedlingly, rallyingly, and they walked, Moose and his diminutive companion, around the edge of Belmont Harbor, past the totem pole, up toward the bird sanctuary and then to the edge of the lake, the great flickering oceanic lake that could look milky and tropical in sunlight (as now) or greenish-gray beneath clouds, that during storms could rage in tones of purple-black. And Moose finally did what he’d been longing to do: climbed over the seawall and perched on a cube of concrete with the boy beside him, that mischievous boy he had been, that happy, blind boy, looking out at the sunlight striking the lake with sparks, listening to sounds of locusts although there were none, they had ended with the cornfields. Clicking noises, amoebic phantoms waving their tentacles from the sky; Moose observed these phenomena, which he recognized as hallucinations induced by the excited state of his thoughts, observed them in part to avoid looking at Moose-the-boy, who was watching him. Moose felt the boy’s eyes on his face, a prolonged stare that would be rude in anyone but a child, a stare Moose put off returning for as long as possible because he knew it contained a question he could answer only with the greatest expenditure of energy (and right now he was so tired), and perhaps not even then: What had happened to him?
Like the apple bruising Kafka’s beetle, each of these pellets of recollection lodged in Moose’s flesh, releasing its cargo of memories of all the things he had lost— “Not lost! Gained!” Moose thundered aloud, but now, mercifully, that debate (lost or gained?) was supplanted in his mind by the proximity of Belmont Harbor and the yacht club. Yes, this was the place; Moose eased the station wagon into a parking space, desperate to free himself of its chassis, whose sole purpose, it now seemed, was to hold him still so that these bullets of memory could assault him, enter his flesh and release their shrapnel of foolish and unreliable nostalgia.
Even asleep, the little greyhound trailed after her madame, through a weave of green stars and gas lamps, along the boulevards of Paris. It was a conjured city that no native would recognize—Emma Bovary’s head on the pillow, its architect. Her Paris was assembled from a guidebook with an out-of-date map, and from the novels of Balzac and Sand, and from her vividly disordered recollections of the viscount’s ball at La Vaubyessard, with its odor of dying flowers, burning flambeaux, and truffles. (Many neighborhoods within the city’s quivering boundaries, curiously enough, smelled identical to the viscount’s dining room.) A rose and gold glow obscured the storefront windows, and cathedral bells tolled continuously as they strolled past the same four landmarks: a tremulous bridge over the roaring Seine, a vanilla-white dress shop, the vague façade of the opera house—overlaid in more gold light—and the crude stencil of a theater. All night they walked like that, companions in Emma’s phantasmal labyrinth, suspended by her hopeful mists, and each dawn the dog would wake to the second Madame Bovary, the lightly snoring woman on the mattress, her eyes still hidden beneath a peacock sleep mask. Lumped in the coverlet, Charles’s blocky legs tangled around her in an apprehensive pretzel, a doomed attempt to hold her in their marriage bed.