Walker Percy Wednesday – 22


“Quite a Carnival. Two proposals in one Mardi Gras.”
“Who else?”
“No kidding.”
“No kidding. And I’ll tell you something else. Sam is quite a person behind that façade. An essentially lonely person.”
“I know.”
“You’re worse than Sam.” She is angry.
“Sam is a schemer. He also likes me. He knows that someday I will be quite rich. But he also likes me. That isn’t so bad. Scheming is human. You have to be human to be a schemer. Whenever I see through one of Sam’s little schemes, I feel a sensation of warmth. Ah ha, think I to myself, so it must have been in the world once—men and women wanting something badly and scheming away like beavers. But you—”
“You’re like me. So let us not deceive one another.”
Her voice is steadier. Perhaps it is the gentle motion of the train with which we nod ever so slightly, yes, yes, yes.
She says: “Can’t you see that for us it is much too late for such ingenious little schemes?”
“As marrying?”
“The only way you could carry it off is as another one of your ingenious little researches. Admit it.”
“Then why not do it?”
“You remind me of a prisoner in the death house who takes a wry pleasure in doing things like registering to vote. Come to think of it, all your gaiety and good spirits have the same death house quality. No thanks. I’ve had enough of your death house pranks.”
“What is there to lose?”
“Can’t you see that after what happened last night, it is no use. I can’t play games now. But don’t you worry. I’m not going to swallow all the pills at once. Losing hope is not so bad. There’s something worse: losing hope and hiding it from yourself.”
“Very well. Lose hope or not. Be afraid or not. But marry me anyhow, and we can still walk abroad on a summer night, hope or no hope, shivering or not, and see a show and eat some oysters down on Magazine.”
“No no.”
“I don’t understand—”
“You’re right. You don’t understand. It is not some one thing, as you think. It is everything. It is all so monstrous.”
“What is monstrous?”
“I told you,” she says irritably. “Everything. I’m not up to it. Having a little hubby—you would be hubby, dearest Binx, and that is ridiculous—did I hurt your feelings? Seeing hubby off in the morning, having lunch with the girls, getting tight at Eddie’s and Nell’s house and having a little humbug with somebody else’s hubby, wearing my little diaphragm and raising my two lovely boys and worrying for the next twenty years about whether they will make Princeton.”
“I told you we would live in Gentilly. Or Modesto.”
“I was being ingenious like you.”
“Do you want to live like Sam and Joel?”
“Binx Binx. You’re just like your aunt. When I told her how I felt, she said to me: Katherine, you’re perfectly right. Don’t ever lose your ideals and your enthusiasm for ideas—she thought I was talking about something literary or political or Great Books, for God’s sake. I thought to myself: is that what I’m doing?—and ran out and took four pills. Incidentally they’re all wrong about that. They all think any minute I’m going to commit suicide. What a joke. The truth of course is the exact opposite: suicide is the only thing that keeps me alive. Whenever everything else fails, all I have to do is consider suicide and in two seconds I’m as cheerful as a nitwit. But if I could not kill myself—ah then, I would. I can do without nembutal or murder mysteries but not without suicide. And that reminds me.” And off she goes down the steel corridor, one hand held palm out to the wall.
None of this is new, of course. I do not, to tell the truth, pay too much attention to what she says. It is her voice that tells me how she is. Now she speaks in her “bold” tone and since she appears more composed, to the point of being cheerful, than her words might indicate, I am not seriously concerned about her.