The Black Notebook
George Hounslow came into the hall and went straight over to Maryrose. She was still on her chair, supported by her gallants. They gave way in all directions as he approached. Suddenly something frightening happened. George’s approach to women was clumsy, overhumble, and he might even stammer. (But his stammer always sounded as if he were doing it on purpose.) Meanwhile his deep-set brown eyes would be fixed on the women with an almost bullying intentness. And yet his manner would remain humble, apologetic. Women got flustered or angry, or laughed nervously. He was a sensualist of course. I mean, a real sensualist, not a man who played the role of one, as so many do, for one reason or another. He was a man who really, very much, needed women. I say this because there aren’t many men left who do. I mean civilized men, the affectionate non-sexual men of our civilization. George needed a woman to submit to him, he needed a woman to be under his spell physically. And men can no longer dominate women in this way without feeling guilty about it. Or very few of them. When George looked at a woman he was imagining her as she would be when he had fucked her into insensibility. And he was afraid it would show in his eyes. I did not understand this then, I did not understand why I got confused when he looked at me. But I’ve met a few men like him since, all with the same clumsy impatient humility, and with the same hidden arrogant power.
George was standing below Maryrose who had her arms raised. Her shining hair was down over her shoulders, and she wore a sleeveless yellow dress. Her arms and legs were a smooth gold-brown. The airforce men were almost stupefied with her. And George, for a moment, had the same look of stunned immobility. George said something. She let her arms drop, stepped slowly down off the chair and now stood below him, looking up. He said something else. I remember the look on his face - chin poked forward aggressively, eyes intent, and a stupidly abased expression. Maryrose lifted her fist and jabbed it up at his face. As hard as she could - his face jerked back and he even staggered a step. Then, without looking at him, she climbed back on her chair and continued to hang garlands. Jimmy was smiling at George with an eager embarrassment, as if he were responsible for the blow. George came over to us, and he was again the willing clown, and Maryrose’s swains were back in their poses of helpless adoration.
‘Well,’ said Paul. ‘I’m very impressed. If Maryrose would hit me like that, I’d believe I was getting somewhere.’
But George’s eyes were full of tears. ‘I’m an idiot,’ he said. ‘A dolt. Why should a beautiful girl like Maryrose look at me at all?’
‘Why indeed?’ said Paul.