terrible lingering fears about ourselves

We shall now discuss love.


We shall now discuss love.   

What powerful words, what weapons, are stored up in the mountains, at suitable spots, in special caches of the granite heart, behind painted surfaces of steel made to resemble the mottling of the adjacent rocks! But when moved to express his love, in the days of brief courtship and marriage, Hugh Person did not know where to look for words that would convince her, that would touch her, that would bring bright tears to her hard dark eyes! Per contra, something he said by chance, not planning the pang and the poetry, some trivial phrase, would prompt suddenly a hysterically happy response on the part of that dry-souled, essentially unhappy woman. Conscious attempts failed. If, as happened sometimes, at the grayest of hours, without the remotest sexual intent, he interrupted his reading to walk into her room and advance toward her on his knees and elbows like an ecstatic, undescribed, unarboreal sloth, howling his adoration, cool Armande would tell him to get up and stop playing the fool. The most ardent addresses he could think up - my princess, my sweetheart, my angel, my animal, my exquisite beast - merely exasperated her. “Why,” she inquired, “can’t you talk to me in a natural human manner, as a gentleman talks to a lady, why must you put on such a clownish act, why can’t you be serious, and plain, and believable?” But love, he said, was anything but believable, real life was ridiculous, yokels laughed at love. He tried to kiss the hem of her skirt or bite the crease of her trouserleg, her instep, the toe of her furious foot - and as he groveled, his unmusical voice muttering maudlin, exotic, rare, common nothings and every-things, into his own ear, as it were, the simple expression of love became a kind of degenerate avian performance executed by the male alone, with no female in sight - long neck straight, then curved, beak dipped, neck straightened again. It all made him ashamed of himself but he could not stop and she could not understand, for at such times he never came up with the right word, the right waterweed. 

— Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things

comments powered by Disqus