“Natural rhythms, my dear. That’s the ticket.”
Posted May 25, 2007on:
I have never been able to connect with strange women except if they are in distress or, in some way, hung-up. She looked abysmally happy.
“You live in the boarding house, don’t you?” she asked. “Yes, I think you’re the only one who is permanent there.”
I wasn’t able to answer, a common fault of mine.
“What do you do? I mean, we’ve all been wondering what you do. You look frail and timid, like some great thinker or something. That’s what I think, anyway. My husband thinks you’re recovering from some romantic disease. Who’s right, him or me?”
She sat down on the black rock. The rain was drenching us. I was unprepared for such a downpour, being dressed in white seersucker pants, white paisley shirt and finely woven linen shoes. I stood near her, waiting, but resolved not to give out with any information. If pressed I might improvise on one of my memories. One should have an electric mind, I decided right there, not a tepid half-awake coping mind.
“Walk me down the beach,” the girl said. “I’m so wet. We’re both so wet. You don’t mind, do you? I’ll tell you a secret, we call you Dr. Angst because of that gloom on your face. You don’t mind, do you?”
I walked with her. I was, in fact, deeply offended, not by being called Dr. Angst but by being noticed that much. Words began to spill out of me, quite out of my control. “Why try to know anything about a place?” I said, with a good measure of authority. “The customs, the size, the weather, the people, the economy, the politics, the fish, the suntan techniques, the games, the swimming. It is better to stay indoors and not mess around with useless experience. A small room in a boarding house. Anonymous. Eat each meal at a plastic counter. Smitty’s will do. Do nothing, want nothing, if you feel like walking, walk; sleeping, sleep. Do you know how hard that is? No memories; if they start to intrude, invent them. Three is sufficient. I use only three. New York for adventure, beaches for relaxation, the octopus and Nog for speculation. No connections. Narrow all possibilities. Develop and love your limitations. No one knows you. Know no one. Natural rhythms, my dear. That’s the ticket.”
From “The Octopus” by Rudolph Wurlitzer, Paris Review No. 38