The Black Notebook
‘She hasn’t asked you to do anything about it,’ said Willi.
‘But that isn’t the point.’ George sank his face on his flat palms, and I saw the wetness creep between his fingers. ‘It’s eating me up,’ he said. ‘I’ve known about it this last year and it’s driving me crazy.’
‘Which isn’t going to help matters much,’ said Willi, and George dropped his hands sharply, showing his tear-smeared face, and looked at him.
‘Anna?’ appealed George, looking at me. I was in the most extraordinary tumult of emotion. First, I was jealous of the woman. Last night I had been wishing I was her, but it was an impersonal emotion. Now I knew who it was, and I was astounded to find I was hating George and condemning him - just as I had resented him last night when he made me feel guilty. And then, and this was worse, I was surprised to find I resented the fact the woman was black. I had imagined myself free of any such emotion, but it seemed I was not, and I was ashamed and angry - with myself, and with George. But it was more than that. Being so young, twenty-three or four, I suffered, like so many ‘emancipated’ girls, from a terror of being trapped and tamed by domesticity. George’s house, where he and his wife were trapped without hope of release, save through the deaths of four old people, represented to me the ultimate horror. It frightened me so that I even had nightmares about it. And yet - this man, George, the trapped one, the man who had put that unfortunate woman, his wife, in a cage, also represented for me, and I knew it, a powerful sexuality from which I fled inwardly, but then inevitably turned towards. I knew by instinct that if I went to bed with George I’d learn a sexuality that I hadn’t come anywhere near yet. And with all these attitudes and emotions conflicting in me, I still liked him, indeed loved him, quite simply, as a human being. I sat there on the verandah, unable to speak for a while, knowing that my face was flushed and my hands trembling. And I listened to the music and the singing from the big room up the hill and I felt as if George were excluding me by the pressure of his unhappiness from something unbelievably sweet and lovely. At that time it seemed I spent half my life believing I was being excluded from this beautiful thing; and yet I knew with my intelligence that it was nonsense - that Maryrose, for instance, envied me because she believed Willi and I had everything she wanted - she believed we were two people who loved each other.
Willi had been looking at me, and now he said: ‘Anna is shocked because the woman is black.’
‘That’s part of it,’ I said. ‘I’m surprised that I do feel like that though.’
‘I’m surprised you admit it,’ said Willi, coldly, and his spectacles flashed.
‘I’m surprised you don’t,’ said George to Willi. ‘Come off it. You’re such a bloody hypocrite.’ And Willi lifted his grammars and set them ready on his knee.