Walker Percy Wednesday 79


At least in Louisiana we knew how to take things easy. We could always drink.


Then I realized why I drank and smoked. It was a way of dealing with time. What to do with time? A fearful thing: a human body of ten billion cells ready to do any one of ten billion things. But what to do?

The empty tape was spinning past the tape head.


Christ, here’s my discovery. You have got hold of the wrong absolutes and infinities. God as absolute? God as infinity? I don’t even understand the words. I’ll tell you what’s absolute and infinite. Loving a woman. But how would you know? You see, your church knows what it’s doing: rule out one absolute so you have to look for another.

Do you know what it’s like to be a self-centered not unhappy man who leads a tolerable finite life, works, eats, drinks, hunts, sleeps, then one fine day discovers that the great starry heavens have opened to him and that his heart is bursting with it. It? She. Her. Woman. Not a category, not a sex, not one of two sexes, a human female creature, but an infinity. What else is infinity but a woman become meat and drink to you, life and your heart’s own music, the air you breathe? Just to be near her is to live and have your soul’s own self. Just to open your mouth on the skin of her back. What joy just to wake up with her beside you in the morning. I didn’t know there was such happiness.


Yes, but at midnight all cats are black, so what difference does anything make? It does make a difference? What? You opened your mouth and then thought better of it—

But don’t you see. I had to find out. There I was in early middle age and I couldn’t answer the most fundamental question of all. What question? This: Are people as nice as they make out and in fact appear to be, or is it all buggery once the door is closed?

So I meant to find out once and for all. There is something worse than knowing the worst. It is not knowing.