The Blue Notebook
We did. That was months ago. What frightens me now is — why did I go on with it? It wasn’t the self-flattery: I can cure this man. Not at all. I know better, I’ve known too many of the sexual cripples. It wasn’t really compassion. Though that was part of it. I am always amazed, in myself and in other women, at the strength of our need to bolster men up. This is ironical, living as we do in a time of men’s criticizing us for being ‘castrating’, etc., — all the other words and phrases of the same kind. (Nelson says his wife is ‘castrating’ — this makes me angry, thinking of the misery she must have lived through.) For the truth is, women have this deep instinctive need to build a man up as a man. Molly for instance. I suppose this is because real men become fewer and fewer, and we are frightened, trying to create men.
No, what terrifies me is my willingness. It is what Mother Sugar would call ‘the negative side’ of the woman’s need to placate, to submit. Now I am not Anna, I have no will, I can’t move out of a situation once it has started, I just go along with it.
Within a week of my having gone to bed with Nelson the first time I was in a situation I had no control over. The man Nelson, the responsible quiet man, had vanished. I could no longer even remember him. Even the words, the language of emotional responsibility had gone. He was driven by a shrill compulsive hysteria, in which I was also caught up. We went to bed for the second time: to the accompaniment of a highly verbal, bitterly humorous self-denunciation which switched at once into hysterical abuse of all women. Then he vanished from my life for nearly two weeks. I was more nervous, more depressed than I can remember being. I was sexless, too, I had no sex — nothing. A long way off I could see Anna, who belonged to a world of normality and warmth. I could see her but I could not remember what it was like to be alive, as she was. He rang me twice, making excuses, insultingly obvious, because there was no need for them — they were excuses made to ‘a woman’, to ‘women’, to ‘the enemy’, not to Anna; in his good moments he’d be incapable of such insensitivity. I had, in my mind, written him off as a lover, but intended to keep him as a friend. There’s a kinship between us, the relationship of a certain kind of self-knowledge, of despair. Well, and then one evening he came over, unannounced, and in his other, his ‘good’ personality. And listening to him then I could not remember what he was like when hysterical and driven. I sat there and looked at him, in the same way as I look at the sane and happy Anna — he’s out of reach, she’s out of reach, moving beyond a glass wall. Oh, yes, I understand that glass wall certain kinds of Americans live behind, I understand it too well — don’t touch me, for God’s sake don’t touch me, don’t touch me because I’m afraid of feeling.