Longing is a strong emotion and in Nine Avenues it takes various forms. The passages here express how some of the characters live with their desire.
Dan fell back onto the bed; Elizabeth drew him to her; their arms joined like rope, folded over and under the other. Intimacy resumed without a break. They had to use the time well, to be surrounded in and with and by the other in the few hours they have: to have taken the time, to have committed to the one, and the other.
They are obliged to manage their time well, and each week for a year they have met in the room. They enter the room happy after a hundred and sixty five hours apart. The room’s decoration does not interest them: they are consumed by each other. But after a year neither Elizabeth nor Dan has wanted to move to another permanent state: their separate obligations, to a husband and a wife; with each person’s individual trail of emotional mortgages is already too high.
After three hours, when they dress and kiss goodbye – an estranged and polite gesture, he and she contemplates separately on the way home, or back to the office, the restraints of love. It is a thought that first arises again and again as they part and take the corridor in their own steps, never daring to look behind for fear that the other is not looking either, and therefore a glance is searching the void. In the taxi, or the bus, as they go away for another week the thought becomes more acute. The resistance they resent is their fear and to replace the anxiety they wish they could be elsewhere. “Flights in Airless Space”
Ed became the organizer of the cinema club and had a busy two night program. One evening Marion called him and left a message, that she was coming back. Until then, nothing had ever been said. Marion left a long message and when she stopped speaking; there was a pause and if someone had been listening they could have inferred that she was ready to speak again; but she said nothing only the sound of the machine’s low electric buzz unsettled the room. Then she hung up: the machine clicked and whirled its small gears and in the quiet room, it seemed loud. The room was quiet again; the street lights shone through the curtains and cast a feeble yellow glow into the empty and airless room, all quiet but for the occasional sound of a passing car which drove slowly past the windows. Then it was all silent. “Then Silence”
Since the last time she saw Peter, she has not used her given name, had almost forgotten it; the name belonged to another.
At that moment it falls into place; any explanation is wasted, any attempt to fill in the time, the unfulfilled and incomplete love since they had been young, its meaning and its endurance is clear to Elizabeth.
She stares at him, more alert than reason and memory might inform her; the stare is firm but full of regret.
Peter turns from Elizabeth, he is still.
She observes his profile and the creases formed by sun and wind on his face and she imagines that she had witnessed them form over time.
She turns away from him to look ahead; his book is closed in her hands, her finger has marked the dedication page.
The park is quiet, the world is quiet now.
Elizabeth remembers thirty-five years; she can say nothing, she has nothing to say, but sit still, beside him, accepting what is and what could have been.”
…we had nothing but the clothes and shoes on our bodies; our minds comprised of memories vague and remote in that wide flat land. Some men had a photograph which they feared losing more than their own lives: these pictures stayed pressed inside their clothes. I did not have that luxury, when, at the end of a day, with aching back and bent legs I crashed to the ground. Only words came to me. They came in phrases; they were reminiscent of days gone by when people could talk that way, unlike the groan of the man beside me. And so it was that I called up your voice, heard you speak and put phrases together to hear again from another time what was distant to me cowering on the ground. Then to fill in your voice, with your presence, I would say softly with barely breath passing from my mouth, I would say, If you wear that dress; then immediately I was in my best suit standing at your front step waiting for you to enter the hallway and I would hold you in my eyes as you walked towards me, unable to stop a smile and I beheld you in that dress; somehow changed as though the fabric harnessed some hidden part of yourself and now it radiated to me. There you were clearer than any photograph and moving towards me as I am now moving to you.
“If you wear that dress”
13th December 2013
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