Record Fourteen


A Cold Floor

I shall continue to relate my adventures of yesterday. I was busy during the personal hour before retiring to bed, and thus I was unable to record everything last night. But everything is graven in me; especially, for some reason, and apparently forever, I shall remember that unbearably cold floor. . . .

I was expecting O-90 last evening, as it was her regular day. I went downstairs to the controller on duty to get a permit for the lowering of my curtains.

“What is the matter with you?” asked the controller. “You seem so peculiar tonight.”

“I . . . I am sick.”

Strictly speaking, I told her the truth. I certainly am sick. All this is an illness. Presently I remembered; of course, my certificate! I touched it in my pocket. Yes, there it was, rustling. Then all this did happen! It did actually happen!

I held out the paper to the controller. As I did so, I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks. Without looking directly at her, I noticed with what an expression of surprise she gazed at me.

Then at twenty-one-thirty o’clock. . . . In the room to the left the curtains were lowered, and in the room to the right my neighbor was sitting over a book. His head is bald and covered with bulging lumps. His forehead is enormous — a yellow parabola. I was walking up and down the room suffering. How could I meet her, after all that happened? O-90, I mean. I felt plainly, to my right, how the eyes of my neighbor were staring at me. I clearly saw the wrinkles on his forehead like a row of yellow, illegible lines; and for some reason I was certain that those lines dealt with me.

A quarter of an hour before twenty-two the cheerful, rosy whirlwind was in my room; the firm ring of her rosy arms closed about my neck. Then I felt how that ring grew weaker and weaker; and then it broke and her arms dropped. . . .

“You are not the same, not the same man! You are no longer mine!”

“What curious terminology: ‘mine.’ I never belonged —” I faltered. It suddenly occurred to me: true, I had belonged to no one before, but now . . . Is it not clear that now I no longer live in our rational world but in the ancient delirious world, in a world of the square root of minus one?

The curtains fell. There to my right my neighbor let his book drop at that moment from the table to the floor. And through the last narrow space between the curtain and the floor I saw a yellow hand pick up the book. Within I felt: “Only to seize that hand with all my power.”

“I thought . . . I wanted to meet you during the hour for the walk. I wanted . . . I must talk to you about so many things, so many . . .” ,

Poor, dear O-90. Her rosy mouth was a crescent with its horns downward. But I could not tell her everything, could I, if for no other reason than that it would make her an accomplice to my crimes? I knew that she would not have the courage to report me to the Bureau of Guardians, consequently . . .

“My dear O-, I am sick, I am exhausted. I went again today to the Medical Bureau; but it is nothing, it will pass. But let us not talk about it; let us forget it.”

O-90 was lying down. I kissed her gently. I kissed that childish, fluffy fold at her wrist. Her blue eyes were closed. The pink crescent of her lips was slowly blooming, more and more like a flower. I kissed her. . . .

Suddenly I clearly realized how empty I was, how I had given away . . . No, I could not — impossible! I knew I must . . . but no — impossible! I ought . . . but no — impossible! My lips cooled at once. The rosy crescent trembled, darkened, drew together. O-90 covered herself with the bedspread, her face hidden in the pillow.

I was sitting near the bed, on the floor. What a desperately cold floor! I sat there in silence. The terrible cold from the floor rose higher and higher. There in the blue, silent space among the planets, there probably it is as cold.

“Please understand, dear; I did not mean . . .” I muttered, “With all my heart, I . . .”

It was the truth. I, my real self, did not mean. . . . Yet how could I express it in words? How could I explain to her that the piece of iron did not want to? . . . But that the law is precise, inevitable!

O-90 lifted her face from the pillow and without opening her eyes she said, “Go away.” But because she was crying she pronounced it “OO aaa-ay.” For some reason this absurd detail will not leave my memory.

Penetrated by the cold, and torpid, I went out into the hall. I pressed my forehead against the cold glass. Outside a thin, almost imperceptible film of haze was spread. “Toward night,” I thought, “it will descend again and drown the world. How sad a night it will be!”

O-90 passed swiftly by, going toward the elevator. The door slammed.

“Wait a minute!” I screamed. I was frightened.

But the elevator was already groaning, going down, down, down. . . .

“She robbed me of R-, she robbed me of O-90, yet, yet . . . nevertheless . . .”