[Crossposted at Hogglestock]
At Waterloo, her usual neutral smile in place, the usual courtesies offered and accepted, the usual immaculate appearance adjusted, she took her first steps into a world in which she perceived the possibility of being denied essential information, a world in which silence was commonplace, and absence a forgone conclusion.
The girl, meek, her eyes cast down, like a heifer, was beautiful.
Stangers, introduced to her for the first time, assumed that she had never married, thinking her self-sufficiency no more than the sum of others' indifference. That was their business; hers was to give no sign of anything out of order. This she succeeded in doing. Unbeknown to herself, she was considered slightly forbidding. She had few friends now, but that, she thought, spared her the pain of losing them.
She knew, quite calmly, that her days were empty, as the flat, which she now entered, was empty, with an emptiness she had not quite anticipated. She had thought to enjoy her solitude, but in fact she found herself listening for another's presence, however fleeting, however indifferent. She would have welcomed a stranger, for now she knew that this was possible.
I longed for nothing but a cup of good strong tea, preferably drunk in complete silence. Angela, I knew, would sit up half the night dispatching pieces of wedding cake, the very cake that was giving me such unaccustomed indigestion. I wondered if there were any precedent for a bridegroom wanting to spend his wedding night on his own.The fact that this was more or less the high point of their marriage says quite a bit. But, as I alluded to, Altered States really isn't about Alan's marriage. There is a matrimonial tragedy that Alan has to live with the rest of his life, but stronger than any remorse or regret is an underlying sense of I wonder where Sarah is.
We were at dinner, if you remember. Nobody argues at the dinner table.I would never let something as trivial as that keep me from an important discussion, but my own communication foibles can have the same result. For myself, whatever challenge I may create or find myself in I tend not to let them add to any sort of cumulative inevitability. One of the glories of adult life is the ability to redefine or reset your own destiny even if within broader constraints. But for Maud and Edward and most everyone else who ambles across the pages of Incidents in the Rue Laugier inertia is an unalterable functional reality.
But it is also true that most lives are incomplete, that death precludes explanations...But that notebook serves as a reminder. Its lesson--that any notation, any record, is better than none--tells me that life is brief, and also that it is memorable, that the trace it leaves behind is indelible. And if the trace is inscrutable, this too may be appropriate. The dead, perhaps even more than the living, have a right to their mysteries. And who knows? We, the survivors, may be called upon to explain them, if only to ourselves.