Walker Percy Wednesday 77


Then do what? Talk? Talk about what? Some years ago I discovered that I had nothing to say to anybody nor anybody to me, that is, anything worth listening to. There is nothing left to say. So I stopped talking. Until you showed up. I don’t know why I want to talk to you or what I need to tell you or need to hear from you. There is something … about that night … I discovered something. It’s strange: I have to tell you in order to know what I already know. I talk, you don’t. Perhaps you know even better than I that too much has been said already. Perhaps I talk to you because of your silence. Your silence is the only conversation I can listen to.

As punctually as Kant setting out for the university at exactly six o’clock so that shopkeepers along the way could set their watches by him, it had been my custom to arise at exactly nine o’clock, hung over, mouth scammed, breath foul, hands atremble, stagger to a cold shower, and, of late, take a drink.


Elgin was a senior at M.I.T. and had what he thought were two reasons to be grateful to me, though I knew better than to rely on gratitude, a dubious state of mind if indeed there is such a thing. And in truth I had done very little for him, the kind of easy favors native liberals do and which are almost irresistible to the doer, if not to the done to, yielding as they do a return of benefit to one and a good feeling to the other all out of proportion to the effort expended. That was one of the pleasures of the sixties: it was so easy to do a little which seemed a lot. We basked in our own sense of virtue and in what we took to be their gratitude. Maybe that was why it didn’t last very long. Who can stand gratitude?