note made in a hotel bar, 1991
However dark it gets outside, the window is an imperfect mirror. Through it you can just see the billowing exhaust smoke of cars stopped at the junction, pedestrians in winter coats.
I’m waiting for someone. I’m reading the Gunn & Guyomard introduction to A Young Girl’s Diary— “Why from the moment one feels desire is there a mystery, an unsayable, a residue, an obscurity–call it what one will–that only vanishes when one’s desire subsides back into indifference? Or, finally: why is one only ever knowledgeable about things one no longer cares to know ?” Across the bar someone says, “I tried to be a beatnik when I was a kid but I got a rash from my pullover.”
If I look sideways I can see reflected in the window an old woman, sitting alone at a table behind me. The table is littered with half-empty glasses, full ashtrays, beer mats, crisp bags. The old woman is dipping her index finger first into a pint glass of Guinness, then into a gin & tonic, licking the alcohol off her finger each time with a satisfied, popping, sucking noise. She’s so absorbed in this game with someone else’s drinks. She’s chuckling and and whining to herself, making the little soft sounds of a baby or a lunatic. I turn round and look directly at her & find a little girl waiting for her mother & father. Perhaps eight years old, she has long red hair, a pleasant freckled face and pale lips.
When I turn back to the window I can’t see the old woman for a moment. Then I can. Waiting for my date to arrive, I practise toggling between the old woman & the little girl; while in my notebook I write, “The last two pages of this introduction are absolutely brilliant–complex, challenging, creative analysis of the diarist’s duality & double “loss of self”, the ambivalence of the text, the reader’s gain written into the writer’s loss.”