22 July 2012

Javier Marías

[from Javier Marías's A Heart So White, tr. Margaret Jull Costa, New Directions, 1992]

Real togetherness in married couples and indeed in any couple comes from words, not just the words that are spoken — spoken involuntarily — but the words one doesn't keep to oneself — at least not without the intervention of the will. It isn't so much that there are no secrets between two people who share a pillow because that's what they decide — what is serious enough to constitute a secret and what is not, if it is not told? — rather it's impossible not to tell, to relate, to comment, to enunciate, as if that were the primordial activity of all couples, at least those who have become couples recently and are still not too lazy to speak to one another. It isn't just that with your head resting on a pillow you tend to remember the past and even your childhood, and that remote and quite insignificant things surface in your memory, come to your tongue, and that all take on a certain value and seem worthy of being recalled out loud; nor that we're disposed to recount our whole life to the person resting their head on our pillow, as if we needed them to be able to see us from the very beginning — especially from the beginning, that is, from childhood — and to witness, through our telling, all those years before they knew us and during which time, we now believe, they were waiting for us. Neither is it simply a desire to compare, to find parallels or coincidences, the desire to know where each of you was in all the different eras of your two existences and to fantasize about the unlikely possibility of having met each other before; lovers always feel that their meeting took place too late, as if the amount of time occupied by their passion was never enough or, in retrospect, never long enough (the present is untrustworthy), or perhaps they can't bear the fact that once there was no passion between them, not even a hint of it, while the two of them were in the world, swept along by its most turbulent currents, and yet with their backs turned to each other, without even knowing one another, perhaps not even wanting to. Nor is it that some kind of interrogatory system is established on a daily basis which, out of weariness or routine, neither partner can escape, and so everyone ends up answering the questions. It's rather that being with someone consists in large measure in thinking out loud, that is, in thinking everything twice rather than once, once with your thoughts and again when you speak, marriage is a narrative institution. Or perhaps it's just that they spend so much time together (however little time that is amongst modern couples, it still amounts to a lot of time) that the two partners (but in particular the man, who feels guilty if he remains silent) have to make use of whatever they think and whatever occurs to them or happens to them in order to amuse the other person; thus, in the end, there's not a single tiny corner of all the events and thoughts in an individual's life that remains untransmitted, or rather translated matrimonially. The events and thoughts of the others are transmitted too, those they've confided to us in private, that's where the expression "pillow talk" comes from, there are no secrets between people who share a bed, the bed is like a confessional. For the sake of love or its essence — telling, informing, announcing, commenting, opining, distracting, listening and laughing, and vainly making plans — one betrays everyone else, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, blood relations and non-blood relations, former lovers and beliefs, former mistresses, your own past and childhood, your own language when you stop speaking it and doubtless your country, everything that anyone holds to be secret or perhaps merely belongs to the past. In order to flatter the person you love you denigrate everything else in existence, you deny and abominate everything in order to content and reassure the one person who could leave you; so great is the power of the territory delineated by the pillow that it excludes from its bosom everything outside it, and it's a territory which, by its very nature, doesn't allow for anything else to be on it except the two partners, or lovers, who in a sense are alone and for that very reason talk and hide nothing — involuntarily. The pillow is round and soft and often white and after a while that roundness and whiteness become a replacement for the world and its weak wheel.

Javier Marías

Margaret Jull Costas

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps we talked too much back then, back when we talked and told each other secrets. We no longer have that desire, nor need to. We eat with out speaking, talk only when necessary, sleep back to back on separate pillows. We are growing old and growing apart.

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