Hilltop: A Literary Paper. Volume 1 Number 3
The Eternal Female
The Eternal Female
If only she would die, he kept thinking to himself. If only she would walk off somewhere and kill herself, or, accidently, as she went out into the street, perish beneath destructive wheels.
She talked swiftly, earnestly, all the time, pushing his thoughts deeper into him with her words which, once beyond the outer walls of the ear, merged with the obliterative rhythm of his blood that wished her dead. But she could not tell this.
Her words insulated her against his negative, resigned reception, and the words went on and on, pleading vainly, a radiating battalion of vowels and consonants spent and heaped before his impregnability. She was lost in them, without meaning and dignity, knowing only that somehow, if utterly inadequately, they mirrored her needs, and would perhaps excavate hidden truths—and even if they did not, words were the only weapon to hand, and had to be used in the absence of better.
Part of her desperation arose from instinctively knowing that he heard but part of her pleading—but that part may be the part which would count. And again, it had happened in this manner before.
An accidental meeting—they never met now by design—swiftly assumed the aspects of this present encounter—and would probably end as had all the others—each going separate ways, she alone bearing the stigmata of having heard or participated.
She knows, he thought, that it's no good—but she won't admit it.
". . . but I have changed and don't expect the same falseness and empty refinements out of life—" she was saying, "and I don't try to live it like a Hemmingway short-story any more."
So, she's changed the author, he thought, and was lost to her words again, hastening into the intricate secrecies of his mind away from the sickness of her desperation.page 20
A sudden nausea burned him, confirming his antipathy, magnifying the reasons for his rejection—the malodorous restaurant becoming more sickly-sweet with the scent of her flesh, seeping from armpits and heavy thighs, saturating, deadening her words, implicating innocent objects in her feminine humidity which spread stingingly, like a wet sore, beneath the eyelids.
". . . but I am another—a better person—and I've got to tell you what you're throwing away—because someday you may come to know it for yourself and if you realise now it won't be too late and I know I can help you so much."
How else could she believe herself and excuse her persistence except by believing him, without her, lost?
Of course he was lost—lost even to himself and to his deepest probings, but lost in a manner which another could never restore to him. He was wearied now, his own thoughts opening wider doubts in his designs, his fear flowering to the spring of her words, touching him at last, ironically, as she too reached exhaustion. Reserving his mental ridicule for her at the beginning, now he wished for her destruction—her absorption in the infinite— the extreme extension of ridicule.
The idea laughed softly inside him. He laughed softly with it, breaking her words, breaching her sentences. A pause for her eyes to cloud with hurt, he, taking delight from it.
"You're laughing at me." Her voice, unreal, without malice, accepting that she would appear ludicrous.
"Perhaps you are better off with some virtuous little dame," dismissing virtue as only those who are easy about it are able.
"Then you don't want me at all?" with resigned finality.
"Have I done anything to suggest that I do? Have I sought you, even on this occasion?" He had said something definite at last. But then he remembered having said the same thing on other occasions. So it was not a definite rejection. He would have to repeat it again in the future, persisting in his rejection just as she, unable to accept the fact that he was making a sane decision, would persist in her pusuit.
She existed, her demands existed, and she knew only the fulness of her own day. Because she could not conceive of the fulness of his—because he lived his life and not she—how could she see him as anything but incomplete without her? Where there was life, was hope.
If only she would die!
"I don't know what you're thinking any more. I can't get near you and you don't want to let me get closer . . ." but it was all lost again in words—everywhere words, pleading, jostling, desperate, made by her mouth of no meaning. Arising from mazy emptyiness into moist nothing, but they passed him as passed the minutes on his wrist, and were of as little consequence.
It was her face, sallow and distorted by her sounds, the vital, hopeless eagerness of expression that he wished would die—the words didn't matter.
He stared at the face, setting it in a haze of hate before him, resolving it into the immobility of death, hardening the shades and contours, poising the eyes pin-rigid, relaxing its coherence into a handful of grey ashes, giving it rest.
"Please think about it—please. Here's my number—Goodbye—and please. . ."
This was the end of it. This grimy scrap of paper. All things equated in symbols.
Watch now, her flat-heeled, heavy departure, the loose swing of the hips—a careless facade contrived with cunning ease around all which was care, all hunger, all solace and need here seated. Here was her secret, all guardedness despite the lie of its freedom—a revelation of recurrence—like her words, winding round encirclingly, expunging, forgetting, but never allowing itself to be forgotten.
Unconscious of a beginning, acknowledging no end, but breeding and rebreeding images to itself, shrouded in esoteric rites of omniscience.
All of it, he thought, such a delusion. And she, the eternal female, who could walk forth unmaimed by the death-wish, regular as the moon, resuming but never succumbing, and loving as tenaciously as death so that one could only hate it or admire.
He was not sure which.