It was a pure French she spoke, and for a foreigner like myself a joy to listen to. She pronounced every word distinctly, using almost no slang, no colloquialisms. The words came out of her mouth fully formed and with a retarded tempo, as if she had rolled them on her palate before surrendering them to the void wherein the sound and the meaning are so swiftly transformed.
Her laziness, which was voluptuous, feathered the words with a soft down; they came floating to my ears like balls of fluff. Her body was heavy, earth-laden, but the sounds which issued from her throat were like the clear notes of a bell.
What I am getting at is that Carl, unknown to himself, was cheating himself. He was always endeavouring to hold back instead of giving forth. Thus, when he did break, out, whether in life or with the pen, his adventures took on an hallucinating quality. The very things he feared to experience, or to express, were the things which, at the wrong moment, that is to say when least prepared, he was forced to deal with.
His audacity, consequently, was bred of desperation.
He behaved sometimes like a cornered rat, even in his work. People would wonder whence he derived the courage, or the inventiveness, to do or say certain things. They forgot he was ever at a point beyond which the ordinary man commits suicide. For Carl suicide offered no solution. If he could die and write about his death, that would be fine. He used to say on occasion that that he couldn't imagine himself ever dying, barring some universal calamity. He said it not in the spirit of a man filled with a superabundance of vitality; he said it as one who refused to waste his energy, who had never allowed the clock to run down.
She sprawled forward over the desk, the pencil still in her hand. "Bring her over here," said Carl, who was in bed and squirming about like an eel now. I turned her around, got it in frontwise and, lifting her off her feet, I dragged her over to the bed. Carl pounced on her immediately, grunting like a wild boar. I let him have his fill, and then I let her have it again, from the rear. When it was over she asked for some wine, and while I was filling the glass she began to laugh. It was a weird laugh, like nothing I had ever heard before. Suddenly she stopped, asked for paper and pencil, then a pad with which to support the paper. She sat up, put her feet over the edge of the bed, and began composing another poem. When she had written two or three lines she asked for her revolver.
"If you've got it, there's no great harm in getting it again," I remarked cheerily. "Get a double dose and spread it abroad. Infect the whole continent! Better a good venereal disease than a moribund peace and quiet. Now I know what makes the world civilised: it's vice, disease, thievery, mendacity, lechery. Shit, the French are a great people, even if they're syphilitic.
Don't ever ask me to go to a neutral country again. Don't let me look at any more cows, human or otherwise."
I was that peppery I could have raped a nun.
"Mon Dieu!" I heard her say, as though from afar, "ll dort." Then after a heavy pause: "Well, that beats everything. Come, let's get out of here! One is drunk and the other is inspired. We're wasting time. That's how foreigners are -- always thinking of other things. They don't want to make love, they want to be titillated..."
Titillated. I wrote that down, too. I don't remember what she had said in French, but whatever it was, it had resuscitated a forgotten friend. Titillated. It was a word I hadn't used for ages. Immediately I thought of another word I only rarely used: misling. I was no longer sure what it meant. What matter? I'd drag it in anyway.
There were lots of words which had fallen out of my vocabulary, living abroad so long.
Hers was the typical cold seductive charm of the Northern woman in whom prodery and lasciviousness battle for supremacy. I knew she wanted me to talk love.
Say anything you like, do anything you like, but use the language of love -- the glamorous, sentimental words which conceal the ugly, naked reality of the sexual assult.
I place my hand squarely over her cunt, which was steaming like manure under her dress, and said:"Christine, what a wonderful name! Only a woman like you could own such a romantic name. It makes me think of icy fjords, of fir trees dripping with wet snow. If you were a tree I would pull you up by the roots. I'd carve my initials in your trunk..."
P 52 [Carl]
"Christine!" he would say, caressing her arm, stroking her like a cat. "Christine! What a gamical name!" (Actually he detested the name; he used to say that it was a stupid name, fit for a cow or a spavined horse.) "Let me think," and he would roll his eyes heavenward, as if struggling to capture the precise metaphor. "It's like fragile lace in moonlight. No, not moonlight -- twilight. Anyway, it's fragile, delicate, like your soul... Give me another drink, someone. I can think of better images than that."