The Black Notebook
On this morning Stanley had stacked the top of the piano with ranks of beer mugs. In a corner was a packing case stacked with bottles. The air around the piano was thick with smoke, lit with stray gleams of reflected sunlight. The three men were isolated from the room in a haze of sun-lanced smoke. Johnnie played, played, played, quite oblivious. Stanley drank and smoked and kept an eye on the girls coming in who might do for himself or Johnnie. And Ted alternately yearned after the political soul of Stanley and the musical soul of Johnnie. As I’ve said, Ted had taught himself music, but he could not play. He would hum snatches from Prokofiev, Mozart, Bach, his face agonized with impotent desire, forcing Johnnie to play. Johnnie played anything by ear, he played the airs as Ted hummed them, while his left hand hovered impatiently just above the keys. The moment the hypnotic pressure of Ted’s concentration relaxed, the left hand broke into syncopation, and then both hands were furious in a rage of jazz, while Ted smiled and nodded and sighed, and tried to catch Stanley’s eye in rueful amusement. But Stanley’s returning smile was for mateyness only, he had no ear at all.
These three stayed at the piano all day.
There were about a dozen people in the hall but it was so large it looked empty. Maryrose and Jimmy were hanging paper garlands from the dark rafters, standing on chairs and assisted by about a dozen aircraftmen who had come down from town by train having heard that Stanley and Johnnie were there. June Boothby was on a window sill, watching out of her private dream. When invited to help with the work, she slowly shook her head and turned it to stare out of the window at the mountains. Paul stood to one side of the working group for a while, then came over to join me on my window sill, having commandeered some of Stanley’s beer.
‘Isn’t that a sad sight, dear Anna?’ said Paul, indicating the group of young men with Maryrose. ‘There they are, every one positively hang-dog with sex frustration, and there she is, beautiful as the day, and with not a thought for anyone but her dead brother. And there’s Jimmy, shoulder to shoulder with her, and he has no thought for anyone in the world but me. From time to time I tell myself I should go to bed with him, because why not? It would make him so happy. But the truth is, I’m reluctantly coming to the conclusion that not only am I not a homosexual, but that I never was. Because who do I yearn for, stretched on my lonely pillow? Do I yearn for Ted? Or even for Jimmy? Or for any of the gallant young heroes with whom I am so constantly surrounded? Not at all. I yearn for Maryrose. And I yearn for you. Preferably not both together of course.’