20. desember

"So Nada stayed around the house and nursed me. She was the kind of woman who looks at you only when something has gone wrong--eye blackened, a length of stark white bone piecing your skin. But maybe I'm being too hard on her. She was like any mother, I think, if this hypothetical mother had a prodigious intelligence, a romantic restlessness, and confused memories of a childhood that was, so I gathered, soured with tales of Russia, a dark planet all to itself. And if this mother was beautiful too, that is important. Don't crab about beautiful women and their immoral lives if you're too ugly to have had the opportunity for immorality; psychology, homegrown and professional, has exposed all that. So she was intelligent and imaginative and beautiful, let's blame a few hyperfunctioning glands and nodes as well. I think she was what most American women would like to be. Don't sneer, don't hiss. I am an amateur at life, and would it surprise you to know that I am only eighteen years old? Eighteen, yes, but precocious. And I think that most American women would like to be Nada, just as Nada thought she would like to e Nada--that is, the image, the dream-self that was Nada, not the real, unhappy, selfish, miserable, and rather banal person.

You women, wouldn't you like to be Nada as she appeared to outsiders? I hope you noted the coats, the clothes, the yellow cars, the furniture, parties, country club, etc. And she was also a writer! "Why, I think that's just wonderful!" "How do you find time?" "And what does your husband think?"

And you men, you would all like a Nada on your own. If your income is above a certain level you'd need her to show it off, wouldn't you? That pleasant, sandy-faced woman you married would fade into a living room's beige walls if Nada walked into the room, not just because she was beautiful but because she had ... whatever it was certain women have, I don't pretend to know. Your wife supposes herself chic, and salesladies flatter her, but Nada didn't need anyone's flattery. You'd rather have Nada, bitch that she was, and notice other men's envious stares. The reality would be hell, but the reality is always hell.

Nada, Nada, Nada...

If this sounds delirious it is because I was a little delirious. There was something so vicious and final about their argument the night before that I knew she was leaving. I think I knew it before she did. All that day she wandered in and out of my room, she sat on the edge of my bed and laid her cool, remote hand on my feverish brow, glancing at me with the dim, mild surprise of a person noticing life in a store dummy or in a corpse. I never meant anything to her, never! I was perhaps some outlandish protoplasmic joke Father had wished upon her one night late after a cocktail party. I was flesh and bone and blood and brain tagged "Richard", and "Richard" must have evoked in her mind mechanical thoughts of guilt and responsibility and love. She loved me when she was happy. She loved me when she happened to notice me. She loved me if I was good, if Father was good, if she'd been invited out both nights of a weekend, if the world was going well, if the humidity was low and the barometer agreeable: whereas I loved her always, when she was a bitch or when she was saintly, lovely or ugly, with short shining hair or long greasy hair ... I loved her and what good did it do either of us?

"There are certain times in a person's life," Nada began, trying to smooth out the wrinkles in my sheet with her hand, "when one simply has to shake himself free. You remember how your little puppy Spark used to shake water off himself? Wasn't that cute? Well," she said, her eyes vague with the impropriety of this metaphor, "well, everyone must free himself of impossible pressures, of restraints and burdens that suffocate him."

"If you leave this time, don't bother coming back," I said.

"There is nothing personal, never anything personal i freedom," Nada went on, maybe not hearing me or not caring, "freedom is just a condition one has to achieve. It isn't a new place or a new way of living. It's just a condition like the air that surrounds the earth. We can't breathe without it but--"

"I know all about the air!" I shouted. "So forget it! Shut up!"

"Richard, what?"

"Forget it! Forget everything! Shut up and get out of here!"

And she stood, quiet and serious, looking at me the way she looked at Father or women with their hair in rollers out on the street or the messes neighborly dogs made on our lawn. Her face was magnificent and pale, her eyes dark, a little demented, as if tiny curving pieces of glass had been fitted over them for some weird theatrical purpose. Oh, I don't know! I don't know what she looked like! I watched and watched her for years. I stared at her and loved her. I have photographs of her in my desk drawer that I finger and caress and I still don't know what she looked like; she passed over from being another person into being part of myself. It was as if Nada, my mother, had become a kind of embryonic creature stuck in my body, not in a womb maybe but a part of my brain. How can you describe a creature that is lodged forever in your brain? It's all impossible, a mess."

-- Fra Joyce Carol Oates: "Expensive People" (1968).

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ingermerete

ingermerete

35, Oslo

Inger Merete Hobbelstad (f. 1980) er kulturjournalist, teateranmelder og filmanmelder i Dagbladet og burde egentlig vre lut lei av skrive etter endt arbeidsdag. Men den gang ei. Jo, og s har jeg mastergrad i Litteraturvitenskap med en oppgave som handlet om Homers "Iliaden". Hvilket jeg altfor sjelden fr sprsml om. Og s ns jeg p imh@dagbladet.no.

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