Record Thirty-Eight

I Don’t Know What Title — Perhaps the Whole Synopsis May Be Called a Castoff Cigarette Butt

I awoke. A bright glare painful to look at. I half-closed my eyes. My head seemed filled with some caustic blue smoke. Everything was enveloped in fog, and through the fog:

“But I did not turn on the light . . . then how is it . . .”

I jumped up. At the table, leaning her chin on her hand and smiling, sat I-330, looking at me.

She was at the very table at which I am now writing. Those ten or fifteen minutes are already well behind me, cruelly twisted into a very firm spring. Yet it seems to me that the door closed after her only a second ago, and that I could still overtake her and grasp her hand, and that she might laugh out and say . . .

I—330 was at the table. I rushed toward her.

“You? You! I have been . . . I saw your room. . . . I thought you . . But midway I hurt myself upon the sharp, motionless spears of her eyelashes, and I stopped. I remembered: she had looked at me in the same way before, in the Integral. I felt I had to tell her everything in one split second, and in such a way that she would surely believe, or she would never . . .

“Listen, I-330, I must . . . I must . . . everything! No, no, one moment — let me have a glass of water first.”

My mouth was as dry as if it were lined with blotting paper. I poured a glass of water but I couldn’t . . . I put the glass back upon the table, and with both hands firmly grasped the carafe.

Now I noticed that the blue smoke came from a cigarette. She brought the cigarette to her lips, and eagerly drew in and swallowed the smoke as I did water; then she said:

“Don’t. Be silent. Don’t you see it matters very little? I came, anyway. They are waiting for me below. . . . Do you want these minutes, which are our last . . . ?”

Abruptly she threw the cigarette on the floor and bent backward, over the side of the chair, to reach the button in the wall (it was quite difficult to do), and I remember how the chair swayed slightly, how two of its legs were lifted. Then the curtains fell.

She came close to me and embraced me. Her knees, through her dress, were like a slow, gentle, warm, enveloping, and permeating poison . . .

Suddenly (it happens at times), you plunge into sweet, warm sleep — when all at once, as if something pricks you, you tremble and your eyes are again widely open. So it was now; there on the floor in her room were the pink checks stamped with traces of footsteps, some of them bore the letter F- and some figures . . . Plus and minus fused within my mind into one lump . . . I could not say even now what sort of feeling it was, but I crushed her so that she cried out with pain . . .

One more minute out of those ten or fifteen; her head thrown back, lying on the bright white pillow, her eyes half-closed, a sharp, sweet line of teeth . . . And all this reminded me in an irresistible, absurd, torturing way about something forbidden, something not permissible at that moment. More tenderly, more cruelly, I pressed her to myself, brighter grew the blue traces of my fingers . . .

She said, without opening her eyes (I noticed this), “They say you went to see the Well-Doer yesterday; is it true?”


Then her eyes opened widely and with delight I looked at her and saw that her face grew quickly paler and paler, that it effaced itself, disappearing — only the eyes remained.

I told her everything. Only for some reason, why I don’t know (no, that’s not true, I know the reason), I was silent about one thing: His assertion at the end that they needed me only in order . . .

Like the image on a photographic plate in a developing fluid, her face gradually reappeared: the cheeks, the white line of teeth, the lips. She stood up and went to the mirror door of the closet. My mouth was dry again. I pomed water but it was revolting to drink it; I put the glass back on the table and asked:

“Did you come to see me because you wanted to inquire . . . ?’”

A sharp, mocking triangle of brows drawn to the temples looked at me from the mirror. She turned around to‘ say something, but said nothing.

It was not necessary; I knew.

To bid her good-by, I moved my foreign limbs, struck the chair with them. It fell upside down, dead, like the table in her room. Her lips were cold . . . just as cold was once the floor, here, near my bed . . .

When she left I sat down on the floor, bent over the cigarette butt . . .

I cannot write any more — I no longer want to!