“Making love is hardly material,” she said. Aside from any conceivable motive of affectionate devotion…I thought as she rambled on. Finally the interrogation was complete. It had been several weeks and I had waited her out.
She enclosed the papers in an oversized file. I was afraid of what else was in there. Tucking it under her arm, she stepped towards the window.
My original reflections on this moment were awakened by our surroundings. The dew on the awning was somehow closer to me, and the sea peeped through the ruins of the door and the window.
What would she report back? I had hoped Francis would be here. She kept talking about notions of protocol, something about procedure, about the conduct of the commissioned officers of a warship, things I knew nothing about.
But naturally, what I remembered and thought about, a procession of tremendous considerations began to march through my mind, as I played back the scene over and over again.
And yet it is serious in a sense; would I be considered a rogue?
What is the meaning or necessity of our words? And doesn’t she realize that all this should be a secondary consideration. I knew that wolves were on the prowl, and while the little house looked so cozy and safe, without Francis here…
But I could not trot helplessly after him, exposing myself fatally.
So instead I am talking to her. Wanting to reveal something, and then sensing a counter-disposition to reveal nothing. The only way to do it, so that next time there would be no next time.
And that is when she brought up Mr. Omer. She had his handkerchief and asked what I knew of him. Of course I lied.
She sat sobbing and murmuring, to unnerve me, I think. After all, the interview was officially over. She said she was ready to cut it short, since we were both quite weary, but they wanted more. Higher quality information, which I might have, but wasn’t about to give to them.
“By quality information, they mean usable information by virtue of the fact that it is true and uncomplicated…” She added,
“People are said to be predisposed to lying,” and, unable to confine herself to the matters at hand, she cried. She was the other side of me. Her positive, my negative.
DON’T ASK ME TO STAND ASIDE, TO SEE THE PHANTOMS OF THOSE DAYS GO BY ME. I’M NEVER SURE WHAT I’M GOING TO BE, FROM ONE MINUTE TO THE NEXT.
In the afternoon of the next day, she returned and I went down to see her. She told me that one of the boys replied to every question. But of course since he had disappeared, no one could validate this in his absence.
The thought of losing the boys, I could deal with. But then she mentioned Francis, and the thought of him was unbearable. She brought me to the fireside, very much confused.
But I stayed the course. We were the same, after all. With a smile upon our own ingenuous faces, pretty ladies, after all. What had we done? What was our occupation? Are we surprised by knowledge?
Such things, then, are sometimes the opposite of what they seem. I should not be afraid to hear this history. I must go back to the two parlors of the emptied house in Edinburgh.
Francis walked in.
He was later than I had hoped but still, he was there.
He looked at me sideways, and said with his hardest grin, “You mean you are talking to her?” Then, you know, being formed for society and admiration…”Oh my dear! You’ll get me yet.”
Just then, she shouted in a voice of thunder, and took out the key. “We were going up to the house, even though it is already dark.” We were forced to go.
Our satisfaction lived in what might happen, or might not happen, as the case may be in this dazzling tale. But I was never quite sure, you know. I thought she knew all kinds of things that were unknowable.
And there we were up at the house. She listened for any sound from the nether world, but all was as silent.
Francis and I standing there with her, knowing she couldn’t help it. We went inside, since she had the key.
We sat down and it was obvious. She was trying to convince us we would never see Mr. Omer again. She pretended to have known this all along, and she persisted in her questioning, as though we had betrayed something. If we had, she certainly would never know about it.
We knew it would soon be over. As she sat in that sacred space she grew increasingly pale.
“Look at her in her chair,” said Francis, “It never fails that. Under this roof that has been our shelter during so many strange moments, it is a materially impossibility to lose. The rocks and the deep sea prevented me from fresh thought, but we’ll get out of this yet.”
She dissolved at hearing this. To be blind is to be in a state of privation, and she was.
”And yet it is serious in a sense,” said he, “for we were both rogues, never more or less.”
Yet, invariably, however far I might have gone on my own, I wouldn’t have been able to survive any of it without Francis.
There was a release in the air. His hands communicated his sense of relief from recent trouble, and in the saving of human life.
Mr. Omer would be found.
We both knew how close we had come to annihilation. It was severe, and spectacular. We would repeat it over again, and were glad that these odd things happened to us on our way through life.
Into a dressing-room for me; looking for an impulse buy, some retail therapy. I purchase it, thinking it might be slightly embellished for a top. But he and prefers that. I should say preferred, maybe?
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.
It takes a long time to accustom oneself to the little nonsensical whimsy that resulted in the split. We didn’t give much time to that project. But then, I’m pretty sure we are actually registered in that Court, the Court of nonsense and whimsy that is. I thought we could contain it all the way; and when we parted, I looked after him, going, going, gone.
So what if I was less disposed to forgive him; could we have persevered? The way he used to patter,
“But, Dora, my beloved…”
Said I, at last resuming the exchange, “I am going,” under the pretense of being the stronger of the pair.
“You are quite happy with yourself?” said the questioner, nodding.
In the end he left…
Having received, and now half repudiating the ring (or any other little article of that kind, which I associated with the sum total of the relationship), I wasn’t sure what to do.
Of course Mrs. Micawbers had her views. As if I had asked her, my aunt told me her opinions; they were mostly old fashioned, or at least that what I thought. She went on with a quiet enjoyment, spinning a tale involving every mode of transaction, individuals punished appropriately for transacting inappropriately on the most important questions. Somehow they were all affiliated with a numerological mysticism. It was her own blend of Old Testament kabal, fringe Buddhist anarchy, and Tantric yogic theory; she focused on eighteens, sixes, and twos. Sums of these, she said, united, make a whole that helps calculate the unanswerables. That’s what she tried to convince me of anyway. Maybe I’d see the truth and return the ring, so to speak.
I tried to give it all back, but he begged me, “Please keep it,” he said, “Dora…” in his coaxing way.
This is the second installment of A diary of mysterious difficulties…. Check out the first installment in our November 2013 issue.