People need a moral code, to help them make decisions. All this bio-yogurt virtue and financial self-righteousness are just filling the gap in the market. But the problem is that it’s all backwards. It’s not that you do the right thing and hope it pays off; the morally right thing is by definition the thing that gives the biggest payoff.
We think about mortality so little, these days, except to flail hysterically at it with trendy forms of exercise and high-fiber cereals and nicotine patches.
The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom. But a girl who goes into battle beside you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver. Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinding explosion that left you crackling to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.
She informed me, matter-of-factly, that she was old enough to know the difference between intriguing and f****d up. “You should go for younger women,” she advised me. “They can’t always tell.”
Now death is uncool, old-fashioned. To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.
Maybe she, like me, would have loved the tiny details and the inconveniences even more dearly than the wonders, because they are the things that prove you belong.
If she had hurt me, I could have forgiven her without even having to think about it; but I couldn’t forgive her for being hurt.
I read a lot. I always have, but in those two years I gorged myself on books with a voluptuous, almost erotic gluttony. I would go to the local library and take out as many as I could, and then lock myself in the bedsit and read solidly for a week. I went for old books, the older the better – Tolstoy, Poe, Jacobean tragedies, a dusty translation of Laclos – so that when I finally resurfaced, blinking and dazzled, it took me days to stop thinking in their cool, polished, crystalline rhythms.