Issue 123, Summer 1992
We were in the car, swinging through the traffic, & the air inside drooped with folded wings at the shut windows & the scent she used, sweeping through the streets that swirled in eddies of changing light, talking nervously she & I of what was coming. Then down into the dirty brick of Swallow Road, & the chauffeur of her proud car incredulous at first, then anxious for her safety, yet not so anxious as she was. Up the stairs, & in through the glass door, & her involuntary cry of ‘Henry,’ for she was nervous while the chauffeur thought dark things of me below, & my voice reassuring her. At our table, groping through the names of Spanish dishes, wrestling with the faulty English of our waiter. She saw someone she did not wish to see, & was that because my reputation had outdistanced me? Then our modest half bottle of some Spanish wine & her account of how she took Vingarnis [sic] as a tonic, & of how her daily dose inebriated her, of my fears that our waiter & myself should have to carry her downstairs to the proud car & the chauffeur’s face when he saw what had been done; of my trip to Africa to give Society leisure to forget.
Perhaps we were substitutes for each other, so that her young man was not myself but someone else who in her imagination was toying with the Spanish omelette in my place, while I began to know that it was not her at any rate whom I would have sitting opposite me, but someone else perhaps.