by MARTHA GELLHORN
EVERY day now,which Matthew Hendricks woke, it heard the voice, (whose voice?) asking: what are you doing here? How do you mean “here,” he would answer irritably in silence. Here happened to be Paris. Before that, for two years, it had been Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands; before that, New York; before that, Majorca; before that, Rome; before that, Three Star Ranch, Kneehole, Montana; before that, London. What difference did here make; here was more places than he could easily remember; he had to match years and addresses before he knew where he had lived. Why don’t you just say, “What are you doing?” and have done, Hendricks demanded of this unknown inquisitive voice. There was no answer, of course. All the voice did was ask once, ruin the beginning of the day, and shut up. It is not, Hendricks thought, as if I were a cheerful waker. Some people feel low at sunset, l’heure bleue given over to assignations, brooding cocktails, a wistful spell with the gramophone, doubt. For me I’heure bleue is dandy. By then I have got past the day, I can rest on my oars, more time is finished. It is waking that I hate. I do not need any foreign voice asking me questions I cannot answer.
There were other irritations, besides the voice. His workroom changed; papers, pencils, the typewriter, books were minutely disarranged. Each morning he lost his temper and his time, putting back exactly where it belonged what he used for his work. He made tremendous scenes to Rose, his wife, shouting that he asked very little and expected at least that she could control her maids. In an equal rage, Rose said the room would not be cleaned, then he would be at peace in the untroubled dirt, and she in peace without his ridiculous carrying on. He locked the room and kept the key; even so, in the mornings, some subtle disorder had occurred. He could not explain it, he did not dare speak of it; gradually, without mentioning the subject, the maid Ermilla resumed her daily dusting and sweeping.
He had also begun to suffer from an intermittent trick of vision. He would be talking to one of the many friends who appeared for drinks, for dinner, and speaking to Johnny Fitch he would sec Tom Boyd’s face or vice versa. Rose observed a new habit of blinking, she thought Matthew had some deplorable growing nervous tic; he was trying to blink the right face on to the right person. It was all maddening, harassing; he wished he had never agreed to come to Paris. He had been content in the Caribbean, half asleep, floating in the warm air and the warm sea, not sure what month it was or what year, letting time flow over him.
Rose, who never thought about her husband but only drew conclusions, decided Paris was doing Matthew a great deal of good. He had been increasingly lazy in St. Thomas, he was behind schedule on his book, but now in Paris he was again working as he should. She did see that Matthew, always a detached undemanding man, had become fussier; she put it down to age and admitted she probably had little manias herself which she did not notice. If she ignored Matthew’s nonsenses, he would get over them. She believed in not taking things seriously.
Awake, Matthew Hendricks lay still, getting used to it. He studied the weather. There had been an immense amount of weather to study, in all the places he lived; he preferred weather which did not change. Today, the first autumn rain fell with unlikely gray persistence. He had forgotten this rain, during two years in the tropics, and regarded it with distaste. It did not matter to him, he simply did not like it. Get up, Matthew Hendricks told himself, go on get up. Let it rain.
While shaving he studied his face because it was there before him, as the weather was. He did not like or dislike this collection of features. Except for his eyes, his appearance had nothing to do with him, he wore the face and the tall elegant body of a stranger, a well-mannered healthy tamed prosperous fellow who woke and lived and slept without any doubts except those that can be handled. His eyes, Hendricks thought, more or less suited him; he saw them as unpleasantly sharp, bright without warmth, greenish, snooping, remembering. But they sat so nicely in his head, wide apart beneath arched brows, that no one was apt to notice their real quality. His hair, his skin, his jawline, his neck were all younger than they should be; youth came naturally to him and stayed and stayed. He had a fine nose, he knew he was handsome, and took no interest in it because this handsomeness belonged to someone else. He went on shaving and felt as ugly as rotten fruit.
The maid knocked at the door, bringing breakfast. Hendricks was ready with his attractive smile and cordial voice. “Bon jour, Ermilla.”
“Bon jour, Monsieur.”
Rose found these treasures wherever they went; the treasures worked like slaves, they were grateful, they never went out, being too hideous to have any other interests, loyalties, loves. Ermilla made a pale green blur in the room, setting his breakfast tray on the table by the window. Rose always put her maids into green uniforms for the morning. Long ago, Hendricks had explained to his wife that he could speak to no one until lunch time; his mind would be shredded; his day’s work destroyed. Mrs. Hendricks obeyed this rule of absence and silence not from love nor in consideration of her husband’s talent. She respected her husband’s writing because it was far more intersting to be rich from books than from the manufacture of radiators or shower caps. She enjoyed being known as the wife of a famous novelist; Hendricks was convinced that the sort of people who read his books were the sort of people Rose had for friends. Fame meant nothing except money. He could not imagine what else he would do if he did not sit down every day at nine and write until one; he might as well make all this money which he and Rose seemed to need.
The work went badly; the rain was like a fool whispering in the room, not talking to him but snuffling on and on. He was upset, then angry, then frantic. He did not care about what he was writing, a love story set in a Caribbean island; but it gave him an athlete’s pride to be able to do this, day after day. He was proud of his discipline and his skill. Why should today’s raid matter? If he started breaking up for rain, the next thing would be that he couldn’t work if there were sun, or wind, or snow.
He went to lunch, bothered by a small sickish headache. Seven hundred words, he told himself; the daily quota was twelve hundred. Seven hundred to throw away; and he never threw away his work, he could rely on its quality, it was always up to the standard he set for it.
Rose said, “Hello, Matty, how was the morning?”
”I couldn’t work. It’s the rain.”
“Not really?” She took it for granted that Matthew worked well unless he had the flu or a hangover; Matthew was never difficult about his books.
“We may have to leave,” he said, “I don’t want any soup.”
“But darling, we’ve only been here six weeks.”
“ I’m not going to have my work interfered with.”
“Of course not. Probably the rain will stop later on. It’s a fall shower. Lucy Harrison telephoned. She’s here for the dressmakers. I asked her to dinner. And the Boyds. And Johnny Fitch. Shall we have a party next week?”
“ Your birthday.”
So soon, he thought, has it come so soon again? And then it seemed years since the last one, several years lived between forty-six and forty-seven, several years hurried together. He was bewildered.
“I don’t want a parly.” Not do I want to see Lucy Harrison, he thought; did Rose know about Lucy Harrison? Clothes and men, but mainly clothes; Lucy’s interest in men wore out, eventually the man was just someone to admire her clothes, He was ashamed of Lucy Harrison, and ashamed that for months in some other year, some other place, he had obediently thought about her infuriating dresses.
He found himself waiting for the rain to stop, which it didn’t, and waiting to see Lucy Harrison. The afternoon was as treacherous and unsettled as the morning. He had forgotten Luey’s golden handsomeness and the false way she had of looking interesting. Still, as before, those mindless eyes held promise; her body too could confuse a man into thinking it was meant for use. She used it long enough to get: what she wanted: an attached admirer who would tell her how beautiful she was. He saw that Johnny Fitch was responding nicely; Johnny Fitch wanted to bed that lightly-bronzed clothes horse. Hendricks was saddened and alarmed because he felt nothing except boredom.
“Telephone me. The Crillon.”Lucy said softly as he helped her into her sable tippet. “Darling,”she said in a warm voice. He nodded. He would not telephone. Johnny could attend to her. Johnny did no work of any kind. It was still raining.
THE voice woke him as usual, asking, “What are you doing here?” He turned to the window and saw the permanent rain. He had to force himself to sit at his long oak table, so neatly arranged with the tools of his trade; and the story stuck dead after two paragraphs. He looked at the paper as if he had found something alive and hideous on it, a spotted spider, an oozing worm. It was only ten o’clock; what became of a day that would be so long? Three hours until lunch time with nothing to do, no one to be, no place to go. What did a man do with the morning, if he couldn’t work; and how could he face the afternoon when he had already used up his energy living through the morning.
“I won’t be able to stand this, you know,” he said at lunch. “I couldn’t work again.”
“Matty! How too terrible. Perhaps you’re not feeling well ?“
“I feel awful.”
“But then let’s telephone Dr. Dupré. The Boyds say he’s wonderful.”
“It’s the rain.”
“We can’t do much about the rain,” Rose said.
“We’ll have to leave.”
“Now Matty, really, it’s too silly. Where would you want to go?”
Where? Yes, where? Suddenly he knew that there was nowhere on earth he wanted to go; no new name pleased him; it would be raining, one way or another, everywhere. And another house, another Ermilla, another cook? What for? Change, he thought, does one good. It does not. It is only change. It is only wearing shorts instead of flannel trousers, only smelling sea instead of gasoline, only mountains instead of house fronts, sun instead of rain. “Do you like Paris?” he asked Hose.
“I adore it.”
He thought that, at forty-three, she still looked like one of the dowdier, smaller, neutral types of flower: marguerite, bachelor’s-button, pansy. Paris, also, shrank to her size and became a pretty place for her to be pretty in.
“All right. But I don’t want anyone here for a week or two and I don’t want to go out. Make your plans on your own.”
“Whatever you say, darling.” I’ll get Johnny Pitch to squire me round, Rose thought, unless Lucy has him already. If not Johnny, there’s Alain Varenges, probably better for my French anyhow; he dances well. Matthew was easy and reliable, but not exciting; how could he be, after eighteen years. It was all right to be unexciting, but all wrong to be troublesome; one could not tolerate a man who made scenes because the weather affected him.
I’ll go out and walk, Hendricks thought, or sit in a bar; but there was the rain and having done nothing all morning he had no strength to do nothing all afternoon. It was odd how writers never seemed to have anything to do except write or live; you never found writers (or did you?) deep in remarkable disinterested pursuits like stamps or Etruscan pots or astronomy or the respiratory system of frogs. What do I usually do in the afternoons, he wondered, having this unmovable afternoon on his hands. I mooch around, he answered himself, I suspend judgment, I wait for night. And at night? At night I do what Rose has arranged. But I have friends; I might go and see a friend now, taking a taxi through this goddamned rain. Who were his friends? They were a lot of people he knew. Women were more diverting than friends; at present there were no women. He had not recovered from the fatigue and disappointment of the last affair, at Charlotte Amalie. Besides, now that he thought of it, it was appalling to use women only as a means to get through the afternoon. This is terrible, he told himself, just because I haven’t worked for two days.
Rose telephoned Dr. Dupré and made charm over the wire and got a prescription for seconal and sent Ermilla to collect it. She was displeased with her husband. Matthew could keep himself in seconal and not ask these absurd little services like a helpless baby; besides why should he need drugs to sleep? “You ought to get more exercise. Have a nice evening. I’m going to the theatre with Alain Varenges.”
The seconal produced a thick bloated kind of sleep until three in the morning when Hendricks woke, thinking: I can’t work because I don’t know what that story is about . The story was planned as if it were a conducted tour with all points of historical interest, museums, hotels, hours of arrival and departure listed in advance. He went to his workroom and studied, for a cold hour, the folder where he kept the main outline, the biographies of the characters, and the chapter outlines. There was nothing lacking and nothing different; this was as well packaged as the fourteen novels which had preceded it. I’m drugged, he thought, I don’t know what I’m thinking; tomorrow morning I will get up and work, that’s all there is to it.
At seven, the voice woke him with its guttural question. “You bastard,” Hendricks said aloud, ”I wouldn’t tell you if I knew.” It was still raining.
“Ermilla,” he said, when the maid brought his tray, “il pleut toujours comrae ça, en octobre, à Paris?”
“Mais je ne sais pas, Monsieur. Vous savez, moi, je suis de Rouen.”
“Et à Rouen, il pleut comme ça?” .
“ Je ne sais pas, Monsieur.”
Why not, Hendricks thought, she can bloody well know if it rains at Rouen since she lives there, for God’s sake; she doesn’t have to be a complete imbecile. “Rose,” he said, stamping into his wife’s room, “get another maid, get someone pretty, put her in a blue uniform for a change.”
“Matthew, what is the matter with you?” Puffy-eyed, Hose frowned at him over her breakfast tray, her letters, the Paris Herald Tribune. She had been out late, dancing; she felt slightly hung over; she could not remember when she had seen Matthew in the morning; the maids were none of his business; this was going too far.
“I think I’ll go to a hotel for a few days. The house is getting on my nerves.”
“Honestly Matthew. Pull yourself together. See a doctor. Play golf. Do something sensible. What will everyone think if you move to a hotel?”
“Whatever they like. Whatever you tell them.”
“I’ll let you know.”
For a day, the suite at the Georges V with its colorless modern furniture, its woven curtains patterned in a tasteful design of knotted intestines, seemed a useful change; it amused him; he ordered drinks in his room, delighted to see no green uniforms, delighted not to feel Rose anywhere around. The view was different too, but on second thoughts not different enough. He had never liked the right bank; it was Rose who considered it bohemian if not common to live on the left bank unless you had a huge old inherited house. He moved the next day to the Lutetia, and the golden oak furniture and the orange and blue flowers of the wallpaper brightened him; he felt that he was back in a remembered world that had been free and fun some time ago. If he changed hotels every two days that would keep him so busy he would not need to work. If he took seconal at night, say twice in the night, he would not have a very long day. Then he could walk around and buy books along the quais. He did not want any of the books one bought along the quais; he would, instead, just walk; as soon as the rain stopped.
He moved to the Hotel Jacob, where the walls were the color of old dried blood, a knob was missing from the brass bed, and the mirror in the wardrobe rippled like water. He tried the Hotel Littré and did not find it funny, just sad, worn to colorlessness, smelling of a thousand passing strangers who did not have enough money. He was sick of moving and hotels. He sat at the small wobbly writing table, provided by the Hotel Littré, with the weak lamp bulb burning against the gray morning light, and thought: I cannot write anywhere or over. I don’t know how I ever started to write and I don’t knowhow I managed to write so much, and nothing I write makes sense and who are those people anyhow and where is that island and what do they think they are doing there and why.
He had been awake for four hours, he needed a bath and a shave, he could smell himself, gray and dank like the towels, the room was cold. Clearly, in front of him, he heard the known voice asking, “What are you doing here?”
He raised his eyes and saw, without surprise, a man; head and shoulders and fat, square, while hands.
“Pleased to meet you, at last,”Hendricks said. “ You look just like your voice.”
The man said nothing; apparently he had finished talking. He studied Matthew Hendricks through clean gold-rimmed glasses. He saw Matthew Hendricks entirely and had no opinion.
“What’s your name?” Hendricks asked and said, into the silence, “Don’t bother, I know it anyhow. Well, doctor, what can I do for you?”
He knew it was the other way around but he did not intend to be an affable or easy patient. He would haggle about the price and he would lie as much as he felt like. He would lead Dr. Wolfgang Haumwitz a pretty chase.
“I did not. ask you to come,” Hendricks said. “And I do not specially want or need your services. First of all, I am going to pack and go home. You may think me a person suffering from some neurosis with a fancy name, who has to flit, from hotel to hotel. You are mistaken. I am upset by an inability to work and I am accustomed to work.”
Dr. Raumwittz said nothing, stared without blinking and with impersonal contempt, and when Hendricks had lifted his suitcase from the top of the wardrobe, Dr. Raumwitz was gone.
Quite right, Hendricks thought with satisfaction, he could be reported to the medical profession, very unethical to break in on people and solicit trade. Then Hendricks had one of those terrifying suspended moments, knowing this had all happened before, but where, to whom, in what life, and he thought: there was no one here, I’ve started talking to myself, this is very bad, I better get on home and cut this out, I’ll begin to think I really did see that fellow if I’m not careful.
Rose Hendricks was relieved to find her husband home at lunch time. For six days she had been telling her friends that Matthew had at last turned into a writer, he found hotels w-ere more inspirational, too comic of Matthew, such an affectation, it must be something you caught from Paris. She had done this cheerfully and well and her friends believed Matthew had gone off on a toot with a lady which was nobody’s business. The Hendricks were married for keeps, that was clear; they both had their flirts from time to time; self-interest, habit, laziness, and a practical if dreary wisdom held them together. Their marriage was considered very good; Rose’s manners, in this instance, were faultless. Rose would have accepted a short trip with a woman but was annoyed by a break in custom. She wished always to know where she stood, a need of hotel rooms for working was new and disagreeable.
“I hope you worked well,” she said.
“ I didn’t work at all.”
She refused to discuss it; she would not indulge Matthew in this folly. She told him her news: the theatre, Balenciaga’s collection, the Boyds were going to Tangier since a fortune teller had predicted a wet winter in Paris, Lucy Harrison and Johnny Fitch were a thing, they spend their evenings at Monseigneur’s which was so childish you could only do it if beginning a romance, Ermilla had a boil poor creature, she thought they might join the Boyds for Christmas or go to Tunis on their own. He did not listen; he was wondering if he changed his schedule and worked in the afternoons, it would go better.
His workroom looked abandoned and strange, he seemed to have been away from it for months. The last chapter had been written by someone else; he went back and read through the whole book, it was more than half finished.. He could not imagine who had dreamed it up, nothing was familiar. It was a bore, which did not surprise him; the books were not written to please him, they were for other people whose tastes he had always understood. Suddenly he felt he had come to the wrong house, this was not his address; the room seemed queer because he did not belong in it. He went into the bathroom and studied his face, to reassure himself. More than ever it appeared to be someone else’s, and to have no connection with him. I’ll read, he decided, and made himself comfortable on the couch in his workroom. He tried a detective story and Madame Bovary and Paradise Lost and then started reading the Encyclopedia, volume Maryb to Mushe, very slowly, saying the words in his mind. He got up, put on his raincoat and hat, and left the house.
HE WAS sitting on a bench in the sodden Tuileries gardens when Dr. Raumwitz returned. Dr. Raumwitz, oddly, looked just the same outdoors as indoors; he had on a starched white medical gown with a collar like a Russian blouse, he was inordinately clean. His skin was colorless but not sick, be had thin brownish hair combed over a large bald spot, his eyes were fish round and pale blue. Dr. Raumwitz appeared to be waiting, but not for anyone or anything.
“All right,” Hendricks said, ”I’ll talk.
This did not seem to interest the doctor; whether Hendricks talked or not was his own affair. He might not have heard. He went on observing Hendricks and the empty unnatural city garden, because they were there to be looked at. That’s a really mean character, Hendricks thought, he despises without caring. If you despise, you’ve got to know what you think is respectable; you can’t despise and let it lie and not demand or hope for something better.
“Do you just want to share this bench or do you want to talk?” Hendricks asked.
It seemed to him that the doctor shrugged, slightly; he took this as a sign that the doctor would accept talk. I’ll make him answer me, Hendricks thought, I’ll force him to commit himself one way or another. He can’t get away with following me around and sneering and not explaining.
“I am afraid of time,” Hendricks announced. “You’re pleased, aren’t you? You knew I was afraid of something. You wouldn’t be in business unless people were scared silly and wanted to talk about it. Okay, put that in your goddamned notebook; I’m scared of time.”
The doctor did not move, wrote down nothing; it was necessary for Hendricks to turn so he could see the doctor’s face,
“If you are not amused,” Hendricks said, “just get up and go. I’m not trying to hold your attention, doc old boy, I was sitting here first. I can talk to any number of people without paying them, you know. Besides, I’m busy.”
At this, the quickest faintest smile passed over the doctor’s eyes.
“I have managed my life very well,” said Hendricks, with dignity, ignoring the doctor’s mirth, “and I am almost forty-seven which is a lot of time to have gone through, believe me. Now, for no reason that I can see, it’s out of my hands. If I knew why, I’d be perfectly all right. Don’t think I’m worried about money. If I never write another line there’ll be enough money. I’ve made plenty, it’s been put away, invested, there’d be a decent income from now on. Rose might leave me; she likes having a lot of money and a lot of people and she likes to think I’m important so she can think she’s important. I don’t care a damn if Rose leaves; I’m used to her but I can live easily without her. Also don’t go off on that routine stuff about sex, my sex is fine. I’ve been a writer a long time and it’s the only work I know how to do, but it’s just work. I haven’t got any mission to express myself or tell people something they ought to know or make beautiful sentences. I’m a professional; I write because I know how to and that’s the way I make money. It’s only time, time is the thing.”
Time, he thought, the years of it behind, day after day, and the years ahead; time is anguish.
Dr. Raumwitz was not concerned, sat still, comfortable in his starch, with his bright frozen eyes. Hendricks felt he had been tricked into talking, so he could be insulted by this indifference.
“Stuff you,” Hendricks said furiously, “get the hell off this bench. You smug bastard, you think time is easy, don’t you? You think I don’t want to admit I was in love with my mother or my father or whoever the hell you’re supposed to be in love with, or I was happy in the womb or I’ve got a yen for little boys with curly eyelashes. You ignorant condescending son of a bitch. I deserve it for talking to you in the first place.”
Without haste, as if he were alone on the bench, Dr. Raumwitz rose and vanished. Matthew Hendricks rubbed his rain-damp hand over his eyes; he had the hollow breathless feeling of having fallen miles, in an elevator, in an airplane, he was afraid he would be sick. He sat. very still and breathed slowly until the emptiness and the cold and the nausea were under control. I’ve got to do something about this, he told himself, now, quick; find people, talk, drink; I’ll tell Rose to invite friends, to get theatre tickets. I’ll fill up the time. What difference does il make if I don’t work for a month, probably I’ve worked too long. I could get a thorough check-up from Dr. Dupré, see an oculist, if there’s sun in Tangier we might go there with the Boyds.
The afternoon dark had rolled in, smoke soft and close; he walked along the Rue de Rivoli making plans, listing all the things there were to do: tailors, art galleries, squash, movies, bars, gambling, learn a new language maybe Russian or Arabic, something long and difficult, dinner parties, concerts.
“Chéri,”said a scratching voice and a hand touched his arm.
He looked down into a face all run into a point, a damp little rat’s face. Light came from a cheap jewelry store under the arcades; her high-heeled slippers were soaked; her hair had never been set or the rain had returned it to its primitive frizz.
“Non merei, je regrette,” Hendricks said with absent-minded politeness, but she had given him an idea. He walked faster in the protection of the arcades to the Crillon.
MADAME HARRISON was in, would Monsieur go up to number 307; in the elevator, Hendricks hoped that she would be alone, not surrounded by her usual languid gang all drawling from the front of their mouths. Lucy had been resting, with astringent pads on her eyes. This year, for some reason, the fitters seemed incredibly clumsy, she was killing herself to get the few little things she needed, if it kept up like this one would have to shop in New York and the weather was disgusting beyond words and she could not make up her mind about Johnny Fitch. It seemed a vast amount of trouble to start something new for such a short time, she would be going back to New York in less than three weeks; it did mean you could not look after your skin properly at night, was it worth it? She was delighted that Matthew had dropped in, Matthew was less effort than a new beau and remarkably good-looking still. “My dear, you’re soaked,” Lucy said. “Come and dry out by the fire.”
Even given over to eye-pads, she was dressed in black velvet slacks and embroidered velvet slippers and a high-necked black sweater which was becoming to her spectacular breasts.
“You are a treat, Lucy, you’re exactly what I need.”
“Darling, I was thinking of you, I know I made you happen in, by thinking. You know what depresses me?” Lucy asked, ringing for the floor waiter. “It’s the way men don’t last. I cannot think what has happened to men. There used to be so many of them, anywhere one went, and suddenly there are absolutely none, or they sag and bulge and look too ghastly. Like that awful Toulouse-Lautrec, you know the one with the fat bald man at a restaurant table, sticking out his lips at the tart. I cannot understand it. You’re the only man I know who doesn’t make me feel we’re all falling apart, and getting old and nasty.”
“You,”Hendricks said, “have no trouble with time. You look the same as you ever did.”
“But of course. That’s what, makes me so angry with men.”
The waiter brought four champagne cocktails at once, with an order to repeat; mild drunkenness, Hendricks thought, was excellent for making time pass.
“ Time,” he said after the second cocktail, “what do you think about time, Lucy?”
“Oh my dear, always late, that’s what I think; or else . . . what do you mean, time?”
“Maybe that’s it. Always too late, whatever year it is, it’s too late. Still there’s so much of it ahead, more than one can stand to think about, too late to use it, you only have to wait through it.
I can’t bear this idea,”Hendricks said in desperation, “of life being nothing except using up time.”
“Oh Matthew, darling, have another cocktail for God’s sake. Since when does one talk about what life is? Heavens. I’m always so busy I can’t find enough time in the day . . .”
“We’re wasting time.”
“There’s been no one else like you. I’ve missed you.” These were the most banal of lies but served their purpose. Lucy, anyhow, was glad to settle the question of Johnny Fitch.
Comfortable on the wide sofa before the fire, Hendricks thought only of the feel of the silken glossily-filled sweater, of the slender not hard not soft velvet-covered thigh. Lucy enjoyed, as remembered, the authority of his hands. Her breath came a little faster, she felt cat-sleepy, ready to purr. They were in no hurry. She moved, in delicious ease, and happened to see the clock on the mantel. Not really so late, oh damn, she thought, there’s hardly enough time; it meant rushing to dress for dinner, afterwards, when one wanted to rest. Not today, she thought, better another day, earlier. Hendricks, bemused in this perfect and satisfying use of present time, had just told himself: I’ll be fine here until at least seven-thirty, and thus returned, shocked, to his oppressive calculations. What shall I do afterwards, tonight, and tomorrow? He had to remind himself of what his hands knew. The perishable game was spoiled; tactfully, slowly, by mutual consent, they gave it up. He praised her beauty; she kissed him cozily; they felt amiable together and rather bored. He suggested lunch tomorrow.
Walking home along the Champs Élysées he looked at the shining black road and the passing cars, heard the trees drip, and thought it might be a street anywhere. He was so little surprised by places that he had stopped seeing them; he felt nothing but the hour, he was pushing against walls of time. Past time was tragically light and empty behind him, not used up in any way but forever gone. The reason people can manage, Hendricks decided, is they have no time to notice; perhaps I could find a job with office hours. But he knew he could not, who would hire him and to do what ? He went home because it was less trouble than to go anywhere else.
ROSE had planned to dine quietly and play canasta with Matthew and then gently lead him into talk. It was her duty to keep Matthew to his productive routine. Instead Matthew read now with offensive concentration; during dinner he had been listless.
“Dr. Raumwitz,” Hendricks suddenly observed, “thinks it’s something to do with you and me, or my writing. A frustrated writer, a frustrated husband, a conventional explanation like that. He’s a stupid Herman who only knows what he’s read.”
“You’ve been seeing a doctor, Matty" Is anything the matter with you?”
“Who is Dr. Raumwitz?”
“A man,” Hendricks said slyly, and returned to his book.
He took his book to bed but could not read; he had little passing shaking giggles, as he saw what fools he had made of both Raumwitz and Rose, by bringing the doctor into the conversation. Raumwitz now became a useful private joke, to lease Rose with. He was no longer frightened but instead quite proud; it was not everybody who had hallucinations. He imagined the wide possibilities of an hallucination and waited hopefully for Dr. Raumwitz to appear, so he could brag to him and also include the doctor in the merriment. The doctor did not appear; the harder Hendricks waited the emptier the room became. Perhaps, Hendricks decided, while his pleasure and confidence wilted, he had made a mistake; perhaps you exorcised yourself by talking and above all by being pleased. He felt lonely, to his surprise, and went to sleep; and woke in the night thinking very clearly, the man has no professional morals, he cannot abandon me this way. Then his mind teetered in a racing cloudy void; no no, he told himself, urgently anchoring to fact, an hallucination can do whatever it likes. He determined not to talk to Rose any more, not to play with this mysterious business, and took seconal out of anxiety. Just before the sudden sleep, he wished he could remember the dreams he was sure to have, so as to discuss them with Dr. Raumwitz.
In the morning, Hendricks did not hear Dr. Raumwitz’s voice; the lack of that insufferable daily question upset him. What had happened now; where was Raumwitz gone; what would come next ? He locked his workroom door and hid the key under a pile of socks, he was done with that novel and that room, he was not going to torment himself. He began then a long walk through Paris which lasted for almost three weeks. He walked all day slowly and without effort; when he was tired he stopped for coffee or a drink, he ate his meals at whatever restaurant appeared in the moment of feeling hunger. Time was measured in giant periods, each day endured like a month, but he was not unhappy.
A fog seemed to shroud Paris so that he saw it in outline, never noticing exactly the streets or the buildings. Occasionally a face would drift towards him and catch his attention and remind Hendricks how little he liked the French. They were an inadmissibly ugly race; they all looked as if they had some peculiar individual repellent smell. Why did they always talk as if they were in a rage or coming out of or going into a rage; it was a tedious antihuman pose. Late at night, when most of the French had gone to bed, he observed their city and sometimes found it good; not much, he thought, this is an overadvertised town. He liked the Lion de Belfort, it was a self-respecting beast; he liked the Parc Monceau because it was so hopelessly dreary and surrounded by unromantic ugly streets: he liked the perfect closed rectangle of the Palais Royal, inside there it was calm and apart as if one were in a ship: he grew fond of the Eiffel Tower, treating it as a monstrous architectural joke the French had played on Paris; he would clamber up the stairs until he was breathless and then look without wonder at this city which meant nothing to him, for which he felt neither love nor curiosity.
He thought all day long in sleepy comfortable sequence, sliding from a vision of a pin-striped suit into memories of women he had slept with, focusing briefly on an idea, the beginning or the middle of a story, two men talking beside a taxi with the meter clicking, what were they talking of, something special, something final; where had they come from, where were they going; no, it was too much trouble, he wanted to follow no one through the planned deviousness of a story. He would look in a shop window and wonder who could ever buy that gilded bronze standing lamp encrusted with metal flowers and ivy leaves, who would eat from that garish china; he recalled sensations of pure physical pleasure, swimming naked in the jade green Caribbean, riding in Montana; sometimes he hummed tunes he could not finish.
He looked for Dr. Raumwitz, expecting that any minute the doctor would appear and stare at him in mute disdain. For a time Hendricks searched carefully, by newspaper kiosks, at the tables of cafés, waiting now and again beside the iron-girdled trees of the city. He would find himself in unlikely parts of Paris, at the rubbishy Porte de St. Cloud, among the soiled white tiles of the Poissonière metro, and think: Raumwitz will be here or why did I come? Raumwitz, he concluded, has left town or is haunting someone else. He laughed out loud and people turned in the street to see him and hurried on.
At night, in his room, feeling his legs heavy and his body pleasantly worn out from the day’s travels, he tried talking to Raumwitz; there was a great deal to talk about until he put it into words, whereupon it sounded poor and ill considered. He had always thought he had a good brain, but talking to the absent Raumwitz in the empty room, he saw that his mind was a filing case for babble.
“Are you interested in history, doctor?” he had inquired, with some idea of beguiling the doctor back. ” I’m not. You know why? Because people make the history they like and want and need. I used to think the human race was a large victim, fooled and terrorized by leaders; but I don’t any more. I’ve met a lot of the leaders; they are nothing but the human race too, masquerading. Perhaps leaders lie to themselves even more than we do, about motives and their own virtue. But you know, they are something we invent so we deserve them. No one leads us out of the desert for the simple reason that we are crazy about the desert, that’s where we want to stay. I beg your pardon?” For by then Hendricks felt he saw Raumwitz although the room was totally occupied by furniture and rugs and curtains. Raumwitz, Hendricks was certain, had snorted in mockery. “All right,” he said, “you say something; put me straight if you’re so sure I don’t know what I’m talking about.”He was confused in his feelings about the doctor, outraged by this betrayal but also anxious to please. Why had Raumwitz appeared if only to make himself at once necessary and unavailable?
He tried many subjects, as if he were putting crumbs on the window sill to lure a bird. He explained to thedoctor that love had obviously been invented by writers, it was far too unnatural not to be a work of art; conceivably women might love their children, when the children were small and helpless, beyond that the emotion was fake, it came from reading books. The doctor could not have been concerned with love, for he stayed resolutely away. Nor was ho attracted by literature although Hendricks pleadingly assured the room that he knew a lot about writing and had valuable ideas. Hendricks’s dreams, remembered with effort and recounted with clarity, did not appeal to the doctor; he was gone; his voice asked no morning question, his fish eyes behind the polished eyeglasses were observing elsewhere. Bored with me, Hendricks thought, and found this rejection unbearable; Dr. Raumwitz had proved to him that he was a man of no interest whatever. He came home later and waked earlier; he was eager for morning when he could again enter his slow walking dream.
ROSE was so worried that she talked to her friends; this was against her code. Without ever having thought of it, she knew she had no friends but only accomplices.
She talked to Angela Boyd, who was perhaps the kindest of the many people she knew. “Matthew is seeing a doctor; I gather a psychiatrist. He won’t tell me anything about him. I never heard the man’s name before; you know, Angela, a person like Matthew could fall into the hands of some crook and be simply ruined. You know the hold psychiatrists get over people. This man of Matthew’s is a German; I never trust Germans. Matthew is getting stranger every day; he only comes home to sleep; I have no idea where he spends his time or whom he sees.”
Angela Boyd, studying her Martini and frowning reliably, because she enjoyed other people’s problems, said, “The thing to do, darling, is try to get him to see someone reputable. I’ve heard of a wonderful man, Renée de Bouviers was telling me about him. It seems that Jean Louis Gratz, you remember him, had a complete nervous breakdown and this man got him out of it. He has a sort of clinic; I’ll get all the gen about it for you. I’ve always thought Matty was almost too calm, it’s people like that who keep everything inside who break up. It’s certainly nothing serious but you’re right, he oughtn’t to be consulting some quack.”
Johnny Fitch thought Matthew needed a change of scene; they could all trundle off somewhere, he gay, the only catch was weather, unless they turned right round and went to Mexico, they would find every place chilly or windy or damp.
Alain Yarenges thought Matthew was engaged in an enviable sinister love affair; had involved himself with a whore, preferably Chinese or Russian, and was having an orgy. Alain Varenges inquired, with tact, whether Matthew was spending a great deal of money and was amused that Rose had thought of this before. They had a common checking account; Matthew used almost no money at all.
It was a relief to Rose when Matthew finally came home with a teeth-chattering, trembling chill; he looked sunken in, white-faced with a reddish tip to his nose and reddish eyes; he had been walking in the rain for several days, he had not eaten enough for weeks. She telephoned Dr. Dupré, delighted to have a verifiable sickness on her hands, a known doctor and Matthew safely stuck in bed. The cold got worse rapidly; Dr. Dupré said Matthew’s general condition was poor. Upon questioning Rose, he made disapproving sounds about excessive use of sedatives. Matthew was very thin, had no appetite now of course with fever, did not respond to the modern cure-all drugs. He seemed well on the way to pneumonia: Dr. Dupré sent a nurse.
It was the nurse who reported delirium. “Mr. Hendricks talks to a man, a doctor called Raumwitz, she said. “ He jokes with him; then he tries to shock him.”She smiled at Dr. Dupre with the tolerance born of her business and his; the sick, one way or another, were lamentable children. “Women,”she said. “And then Mr. Hendricks becomes very excited and angry and shouts at this Dr. Raumwitz and asks him why he hasn’t been to see him.”Rose, hearing this from Dr. Dupré, said, “I knew it. It’s all the fault of that ghastly German, I think Matthew has been going to see him every day. A psychiatrist.”Dr. Dupré looked up Dr. Raumwitz in the medical directory and could find no such name; Rose was enraged. “ A cheat, a fraud, not even a doctor. What can have gotten into Matthew?”
“We must presume your husband is in a temporarily unstable nervous condition, Mrs. Hendricks. The first thing is to cure ihis respiratory infection; after that, he should have competent psychiatric advice.”
Rose telephoned Angela Boyd and asked her please, at once, to get all the information about the doctor who had helped Jean Louis Grntz. Dr. Dupré vouched for this man, yes indeed, he knew his work, excellent man, a modified, adaptable, elastic Freudian; Mrs. Hendricks could feel confidence in Dr. Mersling. His clinic, in Neuilly, was charming, modern and comfortable; a rest cure there would be highly desirable, as soon as Mr. Hendricks threw off his present infection.
Hendricks woke one morning feeling cool and weak; he knew he had been ill, but did not know for how long nor care, since time no Longer mattered, it was at once limitless, stationary and insignificant. He was surprised to see the nurse and disliked her hygienic face and the sprouting mole on her chin, He would stay in bed, he assured Rose, as long as necessary but not if that homely woman was rustling around. The nurse was changed. Hendricks seemed passive and good-natured; when Rose suggested that he go to a nursing home for his convalescence since the period after pneumonia, or whatever he’d had, was known to be tricky, he said “Fine" as if she had suggested going to the theatre. She arranged to take him, in four days, to Dr. Mersling’s clinic. In advance, she called on Dr. Mersling, whom she found so attractive that she wished she needed a little mental care herself.
Dr. Mersliug was tall, dark, always bending slightly to hear or perhaps to comfort, immensely quiet, with a gentle smile and caressing brown eyes. Rose explained about the unknown dishonorable Dr. Raumwitz, who had caught her husband in a weak moment and done him serious harm, he wasn’t himself at all any more. “But I do feel that he trusts this man,”Rose said. “It will be difficult for you, doctor; my husband seems to depend on this “horrible Dr. Raumwitz. I haven’t told him you are a psychiatrist.”
Dr. Mersliug understood, Dr. Mersling was much more helpful than one’s father had ever been. Wildly good-looking, Rose thought in the cab going home, an absolute charmer, I wonder if one can invite him dinner when this mess is over.
Hendricks, well bundled up in a polo coat and muffler, with a rug around his knees, stared without interest through the taxi window, seeing this city he had so blindly and carefully walked over. The clinic was a large cream-colored square stucco house in a garden. Once inside, it became immediately a clime by virtue of its imposing cleanliness; it did not smell but looked disinfected. Dr. Mersling, in a white medical blouse with a stand-up collar, came to the door to greet them. Hendricks eyed him with understanding and amusement. He realized at once that this handsome sympathetic fellow was a psychiatrist; he wanted to laugh. If they imagined he would talk to the chap, they couldn’t be more wrong. He had had the only psychiatrist he was ever going to consult. Hendricks listened with patient boredom while Rose and Dr. Mersling made stage conversation about his health. Dr. Mersling was full of feather-soft assurance; Mr. Hendricks would be on his feet, good as new, in no time at all; ready to work again on those books they all admired; Mr. Hendricks had nothing to worry about. They had reserved a corner room, Dr. Mersling hoped the Hendricks would think it as pleasant as he did, perhaps they would like to come up now, it might be best for Mr. Hendricks to get settled in bed. Hendricks was too tired to laugh alone; he would have liked someone to share this joke. He thought with longing and affection of Dr. Raumwitz who had the grace to say nothing, being such a smart operator that he knew all talk was useless, people did not reach each other through words; maybe Dr. Raumwitz was sure they did not reach each other in any way.
Hendricks shifted his feet, glanced idly around the restful entrance hall and saw, on a chintz easy chair in a nest of rubber plants, Dr. Raumwitz, comfortable, motionless and silent as usual. Hendricks was careful to make no sign of recognition nor show his delight. Dr. Raumwitz was not looking at Hendricks but at Dr. Mersling. His eyes were glaucous and despising as always, but there was more in them: Dr. Raumwitz was entranced, Dr. Raumwilz was laughing at his colleague too.