Sibylle Berg will be appearing as a featured writer at the Festival Neue Literatur. The following excerpt is translated by Sophie Duvernoy.
Der Tag, als meine Frau einen Mann fand
Chloe plays dead
Rasmus’s habit of kissing me in the mornings could be sweet under other circumstances.
Like if I weren’t there.
My resistance isn’t a sign that I lack love; but I don’t want anything organic on my mouth in that hour in which I move from my dreams into the day.
I just want my peace in the mornings, especially when I’ve woken up around three in a hideous hotel room and fallen back asleep around seven. I’m not sexual in the mornings, but for years Rasmus has kissed me without noticing that I turn my head away, roll my eyes, or let my tongue hang out of my mouth as if I’ve just expired. Rasmus kisses. I can’t imagine that it’s a sign of his affection. He’s more likely following the same impulse that dogs have when they pee against the same trees again. You have to believe me that I’m not bothered by his person when he touches me, Frau Doktor, as you examine my frigidity on a gynecological chair in the presence of six hundred students. In the mornings, after waking from erotic dreams—in which I only have encounters with strangers which make me nervous because I feel my body temperature draining away completely in the dream from the shock that something extraordinary gives you, like an air pocket on a plane—anyways, after feeling like that, I don’t want reality. I want to keep the dream alive, move slowly, drink coffee. I want to kiss Rasmus on the cheek, hug him, feel happy that he’s there, and I don’t want to be bothered by his genitals. They have nothing to do with what connects us.
Rasmus begins to massage my neck. That means that he’s feeling sexual, will ignore my lack of bodily reaction, and will stick his member into me, that body part that brings turmoil into our love. A little pain and the overwhelming desire for coffee. I make sounds that I assume are arousing and help to quickly end the exercise that we call making love. I have no idea what else to call it, that thing we do at increasingly long intervals.
I understand why we do it. It’s part of the whole package. If you ask someone single what they expect of a partner, they say passion, crazy sex. With that they mean something reckless. Whips, parking lots, airplanes.
That, damn it, is what they told us, that couples have to have sex to affirm their love. We might as well live alone if we’re not going to follow through on the consequences of the biological calls of our genital organs. The reality of peaceful cohabitation is disturbed by corny jokes about older couples who have nothing to say to each other, films about sex in old age, songs about people who eat the clothes off each others’ bodies. One can never do justice to the demands that our fantasies make on sex.
We sense that we’re being controlled, that our thoughts are being manipulated to preserve the sanctity of the family in its steadfast, death-defying purchasing power. We know that, make fun of it, and follow unwritten laws that clearly contradict our bodily desires. I assume that we don’t want to fuck. I think that no one who’s been with another person for ten years wants to, but we conjoin, move our bodies to a universal beat. WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH WITH IT. A few minutes every few weeks, more often on vacations, exceptional circumstances turn us into war victims: we’re doing it now, we’re not gentle. We are quick, precise, silent. Strange, we’ve never laughed at ourselves during sex. Or with each other. Or at all. We laugh a lot otherwise. We hold each other so tightly and caress each other, we protect each other, so why, why do we have to fuck as if we’re strangers.
* * * *
Lentz helps Rasmus
If my member were bigger, it would look less ridiculous. I’m a Finn, my skin is white, I have no hair on my body, and my cock is bent slightly crooked, thin, tapering at the end. Chloe’s behind moves in waves. She makes noises that are supposed to indicate faked enjoyment. I can immediately feel myself growing soft. I escape into poetry. How fittingly Michael Lentz says it:
how you, whole bud, slip out of the bud
all noble-eyed, your gaze ennobles me
I drive driving senses back
you a green leaf
I a white leaf
so fill me…
These words grow, fill me up. I explode. Thanks, Lentz.
Under the shower—the personnel told me that this was a rainforest shower, which means that it dribbles quietly—I grow sad, like I usually do after intercourse. Sex, our death zone. No man’s land. Minefield. In which a sweet pair of cubs becomes serious and adult. The proper actions with stupid faces. Awkward silences, ridiculous organs in bad lighting. How is that supposed to work in a relationship that’s almost monozygotic? In which you can tell the other’s mood by their breathing? Every bodily state, every change in the heartbeat, how is that supposed to work—to love, get to know each other, and go hog wild, crazy in lust. When it still hadn’t happened, three years after we’d met, I would sit in the bathroom at night and cry. Because I thought that everything would have to start over again: breaking up, searching for a new partner who gets me hard and horny, all that shit.
Back then, I chose love over sex. The triumph of reason over desire. Nowadays, we have sex when I’m hard in the mornings, because my bladder is pressing on my prostate.
* * * *
Rasmus thinks about children after sex
I often wish that we had a child. Born when I still had hope, grown up in the euphoria of our early years. The child could bathe in the sea. We’d have a shag and have something to deal with afterwards. Not my failing, but: the child. What does our child do? Shouldn’t we travel to some interesting cultural spots now? And then we’d sit in one of those uncomfortable wagons, gaze at monasteries and temples, and tell the child about our ideas of extinct cultures. We’d say: “Look at those old ruins, that was a great civilization. And in two hundred years happy families will stand in front of the ruins of our exposed concrete apartment, just as we’re standing in front of these ruins.” The child would fly into a proper panic and ask, “Why will we have gone extinct?” I’d talk about degeneracy, greed, stupidity. Myself excepted. The child would be scared and sleep under the bed every night until puberty.
Ten years ago, I still believed that my big break was coming. I was in love with Chloe, felt that my private life was taken care of with her, wasn’t home a lot. What would I have done with a child? Nowadays, Chloe feels too old. I feel like she’s lying. She’s not in menopause yet, I’d have noticed that. Then why?
Chloe would be a wonderful mother. She has a sense of humor; she’s not one of those women who lecture their children in shrill voices, grab their arms, or say things like, “Torben, I don’t want you to play with that dead pigeon, that’s unhygienic.” I wouldn’t be the father who would have to shoot Torben later, masking the whole thing as a hunting accident, because I pushed the sensitive child to debone a deer when he was six. I’d be a comrade. I’d welcome his homosexuality and have open, nonjudgmental conversations with him.
Chloe doesn’t want my child. Perhaps primarily because she’s disappointed in me. Perhaps primarily because she doesn’t trust me to feed a family. She’s not wrong to think that.
* * * *
Chloe thinks of Rasmus’s mother
Often, after sex, I randomly think of Rasmus’s completely liberated mother, who left Finland a long time ago, but lacking an interesting illness like ADHD or herpes, insists on her immigrant status as a marker to distinguish her from the other six billion. She cements being thrown into a strange world with a light lisp, peasant blouses that presumably no one actually wears in Finland, a complete edition of Kaurismäki’s films and by dreamily listening to Finnish tangos. Even Rasmus often explains his bad habits by referring back to the breadth of Lapland, although as far as I know, that’s not where Helsinki is. When it seems like I’ve gone to sleep at night, he turns on the air conditioner. On the highest setting. Owing to his ancestors’ inability to perceive the cold.
Rasmus has showered and has rubbed his body with sunscreen: his white body, whose middle already betrays his age, the body with which he will lie in a coffin one day, a thought that brings me to tears on vulnerable days. Thanks to his white-skinned ancestors, Rasmus doesn’t tan. Of course not. He wears his straw hat, which can still be read as an outdated reference to youth culture in larger cities; but here, in conjunction with the rest of his appearance, he looks like a tourist with a silly hat. Rasmus’s glasses are big and have black rims. I was relieved that he finally needed a little correction and that the glasses weren’t made of plain glass anymore. Idiosyncrasies for which I would judge other people don’t matter when it comes to Rasmus. I notice them, make fun of them, but nothing bothers me. Luck, chemistry, or wisdom? Maybe you can grow used to someone and love him for the fact that he puts up with you. Overcoming strangeness and becoming familiar, that’s the wisdom that only we possess. I often think that when I follow the breakups in our circle of friends from my moral high ground. We’ve won the lottery; we’ve got the secret; or maybe we’re just smarter than the others.
Our small morning disturbance is forgotten, we’ll get through this crisis. Only a few more weeks, then we’ll think of a reason why Rasmus’s mission here has failed and will travel home. There, we can do everything differently. Maybe I can go back to school. My eyes grow glassy. Or maybe we can open a store together; the coffee is dripping out of my half-open mouth. Above all, we need to get Rasmus’s mother out of our lives. And we have to abandon this sad backwater at all costs. I have the damned feeling that something terrible will happen to us here.
* * * *
I can’t stay for another second in this hotel room, examine the old mattresses, the carpets that reek of desperation, the curtains that are half ripped-down. If I stay here for another second, with Rasmus on the bed, lying stiffly next to him, my head will be torn from my neck with a soft sound, my body will split apart in the middle, I’ll scream and never stop.
I need some distance, I say.
Relief is immediate. I almost stumble out of the room, out of life, out of responsibility. I stop at the front desk, order a taxi, and fear that Rasmus will show up and beg me to stay. I can’t do that now. Can’t speak, can’t think, can’t stay. Something’s burst, and I have to stuff my organs back into my stomach cavity. I let myself be driven into town. I’m not thinking. Later. Later.
* * * *
Rasmus throws up 132
She’s been gone for three days now. Or four? I marked the day of her departure on my phone; I don’t care about the rest. I’m serving my time. I almost enjoy watching myself serve it. I’m not eating anymore. Drinking alcohol and water. During the night I had a strange dream, so sharp it felt real. I saw Chloe lying on the stomach of another man. I got up and had to vomit.
* * * *
Chloe looks out the window
I was in the taxi and told the driver, “Start driving, quickly.” He didn’t understand me—these foreigners can never speak German—and rolled by Benny at a leisurely pace. Benny was looking at me. With great disappointment, hands hanging, body collapsed. I had the feeling that my hair dye was running down my face. It was only sweat. I’m not even allowed to find myself ridiculous. Or embarrassing. It’s the norm today, with yuppies, to feel embarrassed for others. They call it second-hand shame and forget how ridiculous they are when they’re on the toilet.
I barely acknowledge Rasmus in the hundred hours of our flight, I can’t touch him, hear him breathe, everything about him is wrong. He isn’t Benny, but it’s not his fault. I’m too unhappy to feel pity, too weak to feign a gesture of tenderness. Twenty years. What did we do in this long delusion, all this time.
One of the lights down there belongs to Benny. I want to jump out of the plane to be with him. I can’t sleep.
* * * *
Chloe is beside herself
It’s two a.m., there’s an imaginary second hand ticking away. Backache. Fucking age. Fucking sofa. Fucking second hand. Not having ticking clocks anymore drives people my age crazy. Our watches are on our cell phones. Noiseless. We make the noise in our heads. Count along, miscount. Drive ourselves crazy. Jump out the window.
My tracksuit is merging with my body, my black hair has gone gray. It might be time to return to my life.
My horror at the fleeting thought that I might wash, knock on the bedroom door, quietly lie down next to Rasmus, caress his face, and have breakfast in bed with him and our electronics in the morning, swells into a fanfare of terror at the beep of a text message. At once, my breathing changes. Veins I didn’t know I had begin to pulse, my heart beat changes unpleasantly.
I MISS YOU.
I kiss the phone and think—did I really just kiss the phone? And stop thinking, and look at the words, the phone number, I can’t breathe. I’m shaking. I answer.
I miss you too.
What can we do?
I can’t sleep anymore.
I can’t live without you anymore.
I can’t come to you.
I can come to you.
For reasons unclear to me, I’m sitting in front of the sofa. Maybe I need the ground to hold me. Listen, this is a life, not a circus performance, miracles aren’t provided for. No bleeding Madonnas, no winning the lottery, no prizes, no hidden treasure. The one you want never comes with flowers in the night, leans a ladder against your window, swims across an ocean. All that happens in our lives is the petty, boring, expected stuff, and miracles—there are no miracles, I think, and write, Come!
* * * *
Rasmus gazes into a dark pit
Benny’s coming. Says Chloe. She looks like something you might find under the garbage can, her eyes are gleaming. Fever? Delusion?
I have a day of screeching idiots behind me and I don’t feel like going home. I open my door every evening only because of the lack of another option, and my constant hope that this zombie might disappear from my house and Chloe might return.
So now Benny’s coming.
“Who the fuck is Benny?” I ask.
Something about the question makes Chloe aggressive. Presumably the fuck.
I can’t live without him anymore. It’s HIS fault that I can’t sleep or eat, and if you tell me to go, I’ll go, and I won’t come back. Says Chloe aggressively, as I mentioned, and I try to understand everything. So the fuck seems appropriate. Chloe has a fucker, and he’s coming? She’s expecting me to let her live here with her fucker? She had a fucker? She wasn’t thinking about her fucking menopause; she was in bed with some foreigner.
I can’t look at Chloe. It would make me damned nauseous. Well, I’m already nauseous. The next thing would be to throw up. Cramps. Shock. I sit down. This information is too much for me. What’s she imagining? That the three of us have a relationship? That we lie together in our marriage bed? That Benny sleeps in Mother’s room? How exactly do you picture this, and where do you see me in this constellation? So – where am I in this? I ask, having become forbearing through my daily dealings with complete idiots.
I have no idea, all I know is that I don’t want to lose you and need to see Benny. I have to figure it out for myself. D’you understand?
I nod. I don’t get it at all, I’m looking at Chloe’s avatar, I can’t recognize her hair or her smell; her gestures and facial expressions are unfamiliar. To see her like this is like hearing an old song that gave you a deep feeling at some point, but you can’t remember what it was anymore. I know that I was happy with Chloe, but what did that feel like? And why can’t I touch her anymore? What can make another person so unfamiliar in such a short time?
I have the right to be happy. Says Chloe. And the sentence is so dumb that I can’t think of an answer. Does this right to be happy, as she calls it, include my unhappiness, or completely ignoring me? I’m so overwhelmed with the desire to smash something on Chloe’s head that my hands are shaking.
I imagine her lying dead in front of me. A pretty picture. Or, the cowardly alternative, that she packs her things and disappears forever from my apartment, my mother’s apartment.
This new picture … needs some getting used to. No, it’s awful. The pain hits me with such force that I can’t breathe anymore. I have to be alone for a moment, I say, and go into the bedroom, to be alone.
I try to imagine Chloe’s absence. A teddy bear that I would put on her pillow, stroke every evening; breakfast alone at the kitchen table. My mother would be in front of the door with a van full of furniture the day after Chloe’s departure. I don’t want that. I don’t want to start over again, sit in bars when I’m almost fifty, chat up prostitutes, go to brothels and wait for an erection which won’t even happen despite the allure of a stranger; spend nights with Mother in front of the television; then a women named Ursula who was a librarian. I’ll go feed the swans with Ursula and ask myself why she wears such tight knit dresses over her fat ass, and tight boots on her club-shaped legs. I can’t take it, I can’t do it.
Yes, he can come, I shout over to Chloe, and hope that I sound confident.
* * * *
Rasmus and Chloe in bed
Chloe is lying in bed next to me for the first time in two weeks. Next to bringing a lover into the house, her ridiculous attempt at gratitude is the most brutal thing she could do to me. The person who’s been with me for twenty years, has been warm to me, with all her silly, tired talk, watched TV with her head on me, put her cold feet on me, stares intently at the ceiling, is careful not to touch me. I barely dare to look at her, afraid I’ll get angry and suffocate her with the pillow. I barely dare to breathe so as not to disturb her in her anticipation. I’m too cowardly to jump out the window.
* * * *
Rasmus looks at the clock
In two and a half hours, Chloe’s new boyfriend will land in my—I pause at the word “my”—city, and I am trying to picture him. Gelled hair and lots of body hair. Bigger than me, especially in the genital area. With his massive, circumcised penis and taut round balls, he’ll have brought Chloe to the orgasms that I could never give her.
I wasn’t made to arouse Chloe. From the very beginning there was a strange imbalance in our desire, our want of each other, which exists in most relationships. But these feelings often turn around or balance themselves out with time. With us, Chloe always stayed on top. She was always the one I didn’t deserve. Chloe never desired me. I didn’t find it important, she kept my interest all these years through the slight indifference with which she treated me from the very first day. Chloe was never jealous. She never controlled me, and she never wanted to talk about her feelings with me. How I’ve always hated that trait of Western women, the tendency to analyze the ego, the constant, noisy need to orient oneself in the world, with neither the humor nor the intelligence to look at oneself as a ridiculous creature from which something is constantly escaping.
Chloe never faked passion, and I loved her the more for it. I tried even harder. But I’m not a good lover. Like everyone in my generation, I was guided by porn. No woman ever complained. But that might be because, apart from Chloe, I only had actresses. Actually, just three actresses, at the height of my career. My certainty that women are put in the world to supply care, warmth, and sexual servitude grew in proportion to my failures and the resulting lack of opportunities for unfaithfulness. In all the moments I sized women up, looked at the way they aged, and was repulsed by their smell—without looking at myself critically—I longed for Chloe. Presumably everything that is doubtlessly done to women—violence, abuse, marginalization—is based on the broken honor of rejected men.
Men like me, sitting cluelessly on the toilet in front of a mirror.
There are my feet again, which are growing into an obsession, their inner sides full of blue veins that look unfamiliar to me; my slightly too-thin legs; the stomach covering my penis; my chest with a few gray hears; a double chin. When the bell rings, I go to the door, wrapping the towel around my hips that I’ve laid out for this purpose.
Hi, I’m Carmen, says the woman, who probably is named Jessica.
Carmen is around sixty and hasn’t aged well. She’s wearing an azure-colored ensemble in a leopard print, feather earrings, and golden bracelets on very brown wrists. Her hair is irritatingly blue-black, her skin too dark. The sharp, sour smell of tanning lotion. Blue contact lenses, eyes too small. An unattractive person. That’s what I would look like if I were a woman and a prostitute. I suddenly have no desire to stick anything whatsoever into this woman. But for shamefully simple reasons, I just want to humiliate a woman. I think of Chloe, who’s running around the airport right now and reapplying her lipstick, and I invite the woman into my apartment. Hi, I’m Carmen, says Carmen again, she’s probably also senile. Carmen, who’s from a family of small-town drunks. East Westphalia? Abusive father, victimized mother, maybe she let herself be beaten. Fuck it, I know everything about the pathological disposition of women who prostitute themselves, even those who claim to enjoy doing so, but honestly, I don’t care. Prostitution doesn’t confuse me, I don’t see the difference between a bad actress sucking my cock and Carmen. The woman—well, at least I hope she’s one—is sitting on our marriage bed and, in this room decorated completely according to bourgeois standards, looks like a seashell-studded box embossed with the name of a vacation resort. Everything’s just right: the Bauhaus furniture, the fur rug, the original print, the lamps, the Alfred Roth bed, and on it, naked, Carmen. She’s smiling, open lips, too-small teeth, too much gum showing, which is a sign of malnutrition, so my guess concerning her terrible parental circumstances is right. She has a little bit of red lipstick on a too-small incisor. Can you pay up front? Sure, I can pay her up front, she stashes the money, takes off my towel, and holds my penis in her hand. I hadn’t remembered it so small and white. Maybe it lost a few centimeters today. Carmen takes it in her mouth; the penis is scared. She does her thing well in light of the circumstances. Slowly, it grows; I close my eyes and try to imagine a beautiful woman, but Chloe’s picture keeps blotting out images of long-legged, plump-assed young models, the erection threatens to collapse every time. The visualization isn’t working, so I look at Carmen and her gold bracelets—gold leaf? tin? honestly fucked for?—tinkling rhythmically, she’s using a little too much spit, and now, from above, along with her slightly too-fat stomach and still quite beautiful legs, I see some grey in her dyed hair. It makes me horny, to know that such a bruised creature is sucking on me. I bought you, you old bug, I think, and I get hard. One of my most solid erections in a long time. Carmen runs her tongue along my glans and suddenly sticks a finger in my ass. I ejaculate into the void. That is to say, into Carmen’s mouth. I look at the clock. I think Chloe’s lover is landing exactly now.
* * * *
Chloe confronts her domestic situation
How can you describe the effects of a flu, or the delirium of hormones. Shivering, feverish, voice too high, body burning. Love is the only state that allows us to forget our mortality. People smarter than me achieve this through working obsessively, creating art. I could never do that. I never had a talent.
Or—I was too lazy to look for it.
With every step, I look back at Benny. He might have disappeared. I could be completely insane, and he might never have existed.
But he’s there. HE looks at me as if I were something shining very brightly.
I don’t hesitate to open the door, there’s no fearful pause, I’m not ashamed of confronting my husband. There’s no one you can care less about than someone who stands in the way of your new passion.
The apartment is quiet. A brief moment of hope. Maybe Rasmus has moved in with his mother. Or gone to a bar, or simply dissolved. I don’t care about anyone apart from Benny. But I’m not even interested in him. Interested is the wrong word. I can’t think of words. Just sounds. We’re standing in the hallway, the TV is on. I didn’t even know that we had a TV. That’s your husband, right? asks Benny and doesn’t seem worried despite his open fly; obviously he must have been in stranger situations. He’s carrying a sailcloth bag, seems up for anything and ready for a new adventure. Rasmus doesn’t turn around. The back of his head makes me furious. There’s a talent show on the TV of whose presence I was unaware. A fat boy, who probably grew up in his father’s cellar, is singing Ave Maria. A man who looks like a shredded sponge, apparently part of the jury, passes judgment in the typically smart-ass, offended manner of a stereotypical German: We have to ask ourselves why you chose this song, it doesn’t fit your voice at all. If you know the history of the Ave Maria… Benny walks over to Rasmus, offers him his hand, calmly ignores the refusal of the gesture, and sits down next to Rasmus.
Rasmus is wearing an undershirt that he’s obviously acquired for just this moment. His legs have never been spread this far apart; his muscles tense when he lifts the beer bottle to his mouth. Where’s your visitor going to sleep, asks Rasmus, continuing to stare at the TV. I don’t know how to behave in situations like this, it’s not like you’re taught that anywhere. I escape into the bathroom, wipe the sperm off my legs. In the living room, Benny is talking about otters. Outside, snow is falling. I notice now that the window is open and that a small, white heap is gathering on the swept cement floor.
* * * *
Rasmus looks at the snow
Snow is falling into the apartment. The window’s open, I hope you idiots freeze so that you feel like me. I hope that the snow will spread in the bedroom and bury me beneath it, so that it’s quiet and I don’t have to hear my wife’s giggling. She’s lying on my sofa with her friend. She’s been giggling for an hour, and I’m absolutely helpless with rage. Every time I look away from the snow on the floor, I see her smashed head in front of me.
What can I distract myself with? What? I need to focus. I or something in me possibly linked to a demon bellows, “I need to work tomorrow, shut up!” After that, it’s quiet.
I feel better. I imagine booting the pair, naked, as I assume they are, off the sofa and out into the street. I could do it if I were someone else. I sit up. Button my pajama top and stand behind the door. Shortly, shortly I’ll rip it open and drag him out of the apartment, he’ll fall, I’ll drag him along behind me by one arm, his face will be cut open on the cement, a trail of blood, a kick in the ass, the neighbors, good young leftists, will open their apartment doors in astonishment, they haven’t seen this much action in years. After the man it’s Chloe’s turn, covering her breasts, shivering, I have no pity, beat her head against the stairwell wall a few times, she slides down to the ground, half unconscious.
* * * *
Rasmus at three in the morning
That giggling from outside. Whispering and giggling. As if I were the father, and Chloe, my daughter, had her high school boyfriend in bed for the first time. But she’s only my wife.
Well, maybe we should rethink the concept of marriage. What speaks against letting this person, to whom I’m not related, have a little fun? Does she belong to me because we signed a piece of paper? Do we belong to each other, and does that mean we have to torment each other, even when we don’t feel like it? Doesn’t marriage inevitably mean the end of all feeling?
Chloe isn’t just stronger and better-looking than me, she’s smarter, too. The only reason that women don’t rule the world already is their laziness. Most of the women I know are too lazy to even finish a thought. And they’re always a little insulted because they sense that they could have done more than become the wives of mediocre assholes. They hide their cleverness behind esoteric bullshit, they waste their energy through their disgusting desire to please. And then they fall asleep.
But she delights this body of mine,
That she loves, that loves her too,
As it delights you too, my wife!
And then she also has my soul —
Richard Dehmel’s wondrous lines come to me all of a sudden. A poet who was unjustly and completely forgotten.
Just like me.
Me. The one who sits in bed with his head leaning against the wall and listens to his wife and her lover. Agitation and anger have taken my bodily functions to the extremes of their capabilities to the point that I fear a heart attack. Breathe in. Breathe out. Distract yourself. Remind yourself of conversations with dumb women, whose words have buried themselves deep in your memory. Like the lyrics of bad pop songs.
“I have these incredible blocks that prevent me from putting all my energy into life. I have to find out where they come from. What traumatized me. That’s why I’m going to hypnosis, to work on it. Speaking of which, you should really be more open to things. All you ever do is work.”
You can only answer that with a Mauser. They relax while we work, send us off to the front while they polish their fingernails, read books, watch shows on the Arte channel, and talk nonsense. This damned habit of laying every little spasm, every little feeling on the table and talking endlessly about it until there’s nothing left.
As much as I try to develop a hatred for Chloe, find her repulsive, or place the last twenty years in question, I can’t. There’s no alternative. The thought of turning to another woman—just so as not to be alone—is horrible. Without noticing, I’ve hit the back of my head against the wall, and now a trickle of blood is running down by my ear, along my Adam’s apple.