The Blue Notebook
Simultaneously, Michael stirs and I feel him growing big against my buttocks. The resentment takes the form: Of course he chooses now, when I am unrelaxed and listening for Janet. But the anger is not related to him. Long ago, in the course of the sessions with Mother Sugar, I learned that the resentment, the anger, is impersonal. It is the disease of women in our time. I can see it in women’s faces, their voices, every day, or in the letters that come to the office. The woman’s emotion: resentment against injustice, an impersonal poison. The unlucky ones who do not know it is impersonal, turn it against their men. The lucky ones like me — fight it. It is a tiring fight. Michael takes me from behind, half-asleep, fierce and close. He is taking me impersonally, and so I do not respond as I do when he is loving Anna. And besides with one half of my mind I am thinking how, if I hear Janet’s soft feet outside I must be up and across the room to stop her coming in. She never comes in until seven; that is the rule; I do not expect her to come in; yet I have to be alert. While Michael grips me and fills me the noises next door continue, and I know he hears them too, and that part of the pleasure, for him, is to take me in hazard; that Janet, the little girl, the eight-year-old, represents for him partly women — other women, whom he betrays to sleep with me; and partly, child; the essence of child, against whom he is asserting his rights to live. He never speaks of his own children without a small, half-affectionate, half-aggressive laugh — his heirs, and his assassins. My child, a few feet away through the wall, he will not allow to cheat him of his freedom. When we are finished, he says: ‘And now, Anna, I suppose you are going to desert me for Janet?’ And he sounds like a child who feels himself slighted for a younger brother or sister. I laugh and kiss him; although the resentment is suddenly so strong I clench my teeth against it. I control it, as always, by thinking: If I were a man I’d be the same. The control and discipline of being a mother came so hard to me, that I can’t delude myself that if I’d been a man, and not forced into self-control, I’d have been any different. And yet for the few moments it takes for me to put on the wrap to go in to Janet, the resentment is like a raging poison. Before I go in to Janet I wash myself quickly between the legs so that the smell of sex may not disturb her, even though she doesn’t yet know what it is. I like the smell, and hate to wash it off so quickly; and the fact that I must adds to my bad temper. (I remember thinking that the fact I was deliberately watching all my reactions was exacerbating them; normally they would not be so strong.) Yet when I close Janet’s door behind me, and see her sitting up in bed, her black hair wild, in elf-locks, her small pale face (mine) smiling, the resentment vanishes under the habit of discipline, and almost at once becomes affection. It is six-thirty and the little room is very cold. Janet’s window is also streaming with grey wet. I light the gas fire, while she sits up in bed, surrounded by bright patches of colour from her comics, watching me to see if I do everything as usual, and reading at the same time.