Thursday, September 9, 2010

Giovanni's Room

"I stand at the window of this great house in the south of France as night falls,

the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life.

I have a drink in my hand, there is a bottle at my elbow.

I watch my reflection in the darkening gleam of the window pane.

My reflection is tall, perhaps rather like an arrow,

my blond hair gleams.

My face is like a face you have seen many times.

I may be drunk by morning but that will not do any good.
...the countryside is still tonight, this countryside reflected through my image in the pane.

This house is just outside a small summer resort—

which is still empty, the season has not yet begun.

It is on a small hill, one can look down on the lights of the town and hear the thud of the sea.

My girl, Hella, and I rented it in Paris, from photographs, some months ago.

Now she has been gone a week.

She is on the high seas now, on her way back to America.

I can see her, very elegant, tense, and glittering,

surrounded by the light which fills the salmon of the ocean liner,

drinking rather too fast,

and laughing,

and watching the men.

That was how I met her,

drinking and watching,

and that was why I liked her,

I thought she would be fun to have fun with.

I had asked her to marry me before she went away to Spain;

and she laughed

and I laughed

but that,

made it more serious for me,

and I persisted;

and then she said she would have to go away and think about it.

That was how it began,

that was all it meant to me;

I am not sure now, in spite of everything,

that it ever really meant more than that to me.

And I don’t think it ever really meant more than that to her—

at least not until she made that trip to Spain, and, finding herself there, alone, began to wonder, perhaps, if a lifetime of drinking and watching the men was exactly what she wanted.

But it was too late by that time.

I was already with Giovanni.

And the very last night she was here, the very last time I saw her, as she was packing her bag, I told her that I had loved her once and I made myself believe it.

But I wonder if I had.

 I was thinking, when I told Hella that I had loved her, of those days before anything awful, irrevocable, had happened to me, when an affair was nothing more than an affair.

Now, from this night, this coming morning, no matter how many beds I find myself in between now and my final bed, I shall never be able to have any more of those boyish, zestful affairs—

which are, really, when one thinks of it, a kind of higher, or, anyway, more pretentious masturbation.

People are too various to be treated so lightly.

I am too various to be trusted.

If this were not so I would not be alone in this house tonight.

Hella would not be on the high seas.

And Giovanni would not be about to perish, sometime between this night and this morning, on the guillotine."

-James Baldwin

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