Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene I hardly paid it any attention. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that 18 years later I would recall it in such detail.
Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I'm made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.
Once, long ago, when I was still young, when the memories were far more vivid than they are now, I often tried to write about her. But I couldn't produce a line. I knew that if that first line would come, the rest would pour itself onto the page, but I could never make it happen. Everything was too sharp and clear, so that I could never tell where to start – the way a map that shows too much can sometimes be useless.
He had a rare talent for finding the interesting parts of someone's generally uninteresting comments so that, while speaking to him, you felt you were an exceptionally interesting person with an exceptionally interesting life.
Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.
I read a lot, but not a lot of different books: I like to read my favourites again and again. Back then it was Truman Capote, John Updike, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler. At 18 my favourite book was John Updike's The Centaur, but after I had read it a number of times, it began to lose some of its initial lustre and yielded first place to The Great Gatsby. Gatsby stayed in first place for a long time after that. I would pull it off the shelf when the mood hit me and read a section at random. It never once disappointed me.
"What kind of authors do you like?" I asked, speaking in respectful tones to this man two years my senior. "Balzac, Dante, Joseph Conrad, Dickens," he answered without hesitation. "Not exactly fashionable." "That's why I read them. If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That's the world of hicks and slobs. Real people would be ashamed of themselves doing that.
"I think you look better now than you did before," I said. And I meant it. As far as I could recall, with long hair she had been just another cute student. A fresh and physical life force surged from the girl who sat before me now. She was like a small animal that has popped into the world with the coming of spring. Her eyes moved like an independent organism with joy, laughter, anger, amazement and despair. I hadn't seen a face so vivid and expressive in ages, and I enjoyed watching it live and move.
"You're very clear about what you like and what you don't like," she said. "Maybe so," I said. "Maybe that's why people don't like me. Never have." "It's because you show it," she said. "You make it obvious you don't care whether people like you or not. That makes some people angry."
"That's the kind of death that frightens me. The shadow of death slowly, slowly eats away at the region of life, and before you know it everything's dark and you can't see, and the people around you think of you as more dead than alive. I hate that. I couldn't stand it."
Girls my age never use the word "fair". Ordinary girls as young as I am are basically indifferent to whether things are fair or not. The central question for them is not whether something is fair but whether or not it's beautiful or will make them happy. "Fair" is a man's word, finally, but I can't help feeling that it is also exactly the right word for me now. And because questions of beauty and happiness have become such difficult and convoluted propositions for me now, I suspect, I find myself clinging instead to other standards – like, whether or not something is fair or honest or universally true.
"Languages are like games. You learn the rules for one, and they all work the same way. Like women."
"A riddle wrapped in an enigma."
"So cute the mountains crumble and the oceans dry up."
"Don't feel sorry for yourself," he said. "Only arseholes do that."
"You try too hard to make life fit your way of doing things. If you don't want to spend time in an insane asylum, you have to open up a little more and let yourself go with life's natural flow."