The Blue Notebook
The morning after the party Nelson telephoned and announced that he wanted to marry me. I recognized the dream. I asked him why he had said that. He shouted: ‘Because I wanted to.’ I said he was closely bound to his wife. Then the dream, or film sequence, stopped, and his voice changed and he said, humorous: ‘My God, if that’s true, I’m in trouble.’ We talked a bit longer, then he said he had told his wife he had slept with me. I was very angry, I said he was using me in his fight with his wife. He started screaming and reviling me as he had screamed at her the night before at the party.
I put down the receiver and he was over in a few minutes. He was now defending himself about his marriage, not to me, but to some invisible observer. I don’t think he was very conscious of my being there. I realized who it was when he said his analyst was on holiday for a month.
He went off, shouting and screaming at me - at women. An hour later he telephoned me to say he was sorry, he was ‘nuts’ and that was all there was to it. Then he said: ‘I haven’t hurt you, Anna, have I?’ This stunned me - I felt the atmosphere of the terrible dream again. But he went on: ‘Believe me, I wanted nothing more than to have the real thing with you’ - and then, switching into the painful bitterness - ‘If the love they say is possible is more real than what we seem to get.’ And then again, insistent and strident: ‘But what I want you to say is that I haven’t hurt you, you’ve got to say it.’ I felt as if a friend had slapped me across the face, or spat at me, or, grinning with pleasure, had taken a knife out and was turning it in my flesh. But I said that of course he had hurt me, but not in a way which betrayed what I felt; I spoke as he had spoken, as if my being hurt was something that could be thought of casually three months after the beginning of such an encounter.
He said: ‘Anna, it occurs to me - surely I can’t be so bad - if I can imagine how one ought to be, if I can imagine really loving someone, really coming through for someone … then it’s a kind of blueprint for the future, isn’t it?’
Well these words moved me, because it seems to me half of what we do, or try to be, amounts to blueprints for the future that we try to imagine; and so we ended this conversation, with every appearance of comradeship.
But I sat, in a kind of cold fog, and I thought: What has happened to men that they can talk like this to women? For weeks and weeks Nelson has been involving me in himself - and he has been using all his charm, his warmth, his experience of involving women, and using them particularly when I’ve been angry, or he knows he has said something particularly frightening. And then he turns casually and says: Have I hurt you? For it seems to me such an abrogation of everything that a man is, that when I think of what it means I feel sick and lost (like being in a cold fog somewhere), things lose their meaning, and even the words I use thin, become echo-like, become a parody of meaning.