The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook
I cooked and we slept. This morning I woke first and his face, sleeping, was ill and thin. I thought it was impossible he should go, I couldn’t let him, he was in no state to go.
He woke, and I was fighting the desire to say: You can’t go. I must look after you. I’ll do anything if only you’ll say you’ll stay with me.
I knew he was fighting his own weakness. I was wondering what would have happened if, all those weeks ago, he had not put up his arms around my neck, unconsciously, in his sleep. I wanted, then, for him to put his arms up around my neck. I lay, fighting not to touch him, as he was fighting not to appeal to me, and I was thinking how extraordinary, that an act of kindness, of pity, could be such a betrayal. My brain blacked out with exhaustion, and while it did, the pain of pity took me over and I cradled him in my arms, knowing it was a betrayal. He clung to me, immediately, for a second of genuine closeness. Then, at once, my falseness created his, for he murmured, in a child’s voice: ‘Ise a good boy,’ not as he had ever whispered to his own mother, for those words could never have been his, they were out of literature. And he murmured them mawkishly, in parody. But not quite. Yet as I looked down at him, I saw his sharp ill face show first, the sentimental falseness that went with the words; then a grimace of pain; then, seeing me look down, in horror, his grey eyes narrowed into a pure hating challenge, and we looked at each other helpless with our mutual shame and humiliation. Then his face relaxed. For a few seconds he slept, blacked out, as I had blacked out the moment before, just before I had bent to put my arms around him. Then he jerked himself out of sleep, all tenseness and fight, jerked himself out of my arms, glancing alert and efficient around the room for enemies, then stood up; all in one moment, so fast did these reactions follow each other.
He said: ‘We can’t either of us ever go lower than that.’
I said: ‘No.’
‘Well that’s played out,’ he said.
‘Buttoned up and finished,’ I said.
He went up to pack his few things into his bag and cases.