Even at the cinema watching that awful Going My Way, the day they met, he saw every white straying of her ungauntleted hands, could feel in his skin each saccade of her olive, her amber, her coffee-colored eyes.
He’s wasted gallons of paint thinner striking his faithful Zippo, its charred wick, virility giving way to thrift, rationed down to a little stub, the blue flame sparking about the edges in the dark, the many kinds of dark, just to see what’s happening with her face.
Each new flame, a new face.
She isn’t my wife, really. We just have some kids. … No, no kids, not even kids.
Sometimes, though, it feels as if we had kids.
… She isn’t beautiful, she’s… easy to live with. … No, she isn’t. … That’s why I don’t live with her.
… But even with beautiful girls, you look at them and that’s that.
He did this to make certain he
could not accept her offer of financial help. The gesture had touched him but it was necessary to
resist, of course, or die in his soul. But this wasn’t the only reason to piss away her birthright. He
was making a gesture of his own, a sign of ironic final binding. Let it all come down. Let them
see each other pure and lorn. This was the individual’s revenge on the mythical couple.
“In that little street, Via della Croce, where I bought you
the same tie your wife did.
Do you remember? And I never knew if you were wearing hers or mine.”
A man may ask anything of a woman, but unless he wishes to behave like a brute, he must make it possible for her to act in harmony with her deepest self-deceptions.