The Blue Notebook
It was easy when I was a child. It seems to me now that I must have lived for years in a state of exhilaration, because of ‘the game’. But now it is very hard. This afternoon I was exhausted after a few moments. Yet I did succeed, just for a few seconds, to watch the earth turn beneath me, while the sunlight deepened on the belly of Asia and the Americas fell into darkness.
Saul Green came to see the room and to leave his things. I took him straight up to the room, he gave one glance at it and said: ‘Fine, fine.’ This was so off-hand I asked if he expected to leave again soon. He gave me a quick wary look, which I already knew to be characteristic, and began long careful explanations, in the same tone he had used for his apologies about the day in the country. Reminded, I said: ‘I believe you spent the day exploring Soho with Jane Bond.’ He looked startled, then offended — but quite extraordinarily offended, as if he’d been caught out in some crime, then his face changed, it became wary and careful, and he started off on a long explanation about changed plans, etc., and the explanation was even more extraordinary, since it was clearly all untrue. Suddenly I got bored, and said that I had only asked about the room because I intended to move to another flat, so if he planned a long stay, he should look for somewhere else. He said it was Fine, it was Fine. It seemed as if he wasn’t listening, and that he hadn’t seen the room at all. But he came out after me, leaving his bags. Then I said my landlady’s piece, about there being ‘no restrictions’, making it a joke, but he didn’t understand, so I had to spell it out, that if he wanted girls in his room I didn’t mind. Was surprised by his laugh — loud, abrupt, offended. He said he was glad I assumed he was a normal young man; this was so American, the automatic reaction one is used to when virility is in question, so I didn’t make the joke I had been going to, about the previous occupant of the room. Altogether I felt everything to be jarring, discordant, so I went down to the kitchen, leaving him to follow if he wanted. I had made coffee, and he came into the kitchen on his way out so I offered him a cup. He hesitated. He was examining me. I have never in my life been subjected to as brutal a sexual inspection as that one. There was no humour in it, no warmth, just the stockman’s comparison-making. It was so frank that I said: ‘I hope I pass,’ but he gave his abrupt offended laugh again and said: ‘Fine, Fine’ — in other words, he was either unconscious he had been making a list of my vital statistics, or he was too prudish to acknowledge it. So I left it, and we had coffee.