Free Women 2
‘Yes, you are. I know quite well if you were discussing Tony with my mother you’d be saying something different. And if you could see that girl — I can just hear what you’d be saying. She’s a sort of mother-figure. Why aren’t you honest with me, Anna?’ This last phrase he positively shrieked at her; his face was distorted. He glared at her, then turned quickly, and as if he had needed this flare of anger to give him courage, he began examining her notebooks; his back set in stubborn opposition to the possibility of her preventing him.
Anna sat still, terribly exposed, forcing herself into immobility. She was suffering, remembering the intimacy of what she had written. And he read on and on, in a stubborn fever, while she simply sat there. Then she felt herself go into a kind of stupor of exhaustion, and thought vaguely: Well, what does it matter? If this is what he needs, then what does it matter what I feel?
Sometime later, perhaps as long as an hour, he asked: ‘Why do you write things in different kinds of handwriting? And you bracket bits off? You give importance to one kind of feeling and not to others? How do you decide what’s important and what isn’t?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘That isn’t good enough. You know it isn’t. Here you’ve got an entry, it was when you were still living in our house. “I stood looking down out of the window. The street seemed miles down. Suddenly I felt as if I’d flung myself out of the window. I could see myself lying on the pavement. Then I seemed to be standing by the body on the pavement. I was two people. Blood and brains were scattered everywhere. I knelt down and began licking up the blood and the brains.”’
He looked at her, accusing, and Anna was silent. ‘When you had written that, you put heavy brackets around it. And then you wrote: “I went to the shop and bought a pound and a half of tomatoes, half a pound of cheese, a pot of cherry jam, and a quarter of tea. Then I made a tomato salad and took Janet to the park for a walk.”’
‘That was the same day. Why did you put brackets round the first bit, about licking up the blood and the brains?’
‘We all have mad flashes about being dead on the pavement, or cannibalism, or committing suicide or something.’
‘They aren’t important?’
‘The tomatoes and the quarter of tea is what is important?’
‘What makes you decide that the madness and the cruelty isn’t just as strong as the — getting on with living?’
‘It’s not just that. I’m not bracketing off the madness and the cruelty — it’s something else.’
‘What?’ He insisted on an answer, and Anna, out of her depths of exhaustion, looked for one.