To look and to listen requires the work of attention, selection, reappropriation, a way of making one's own film, one’s own text, one's own installation out of what the artist has presented.
I am very much impressed by that. I never met any one of his class who remembered him. I mistrust all frank and simple people. I always had a suspicion. I finally had somebody verify the story. I was his tennis friend. I do not believe that. I first became aware of his lady's attitude toward him one night after the three of us had dined together. I suggested we fly to Strasbourg. I thought it was accidental. I was kicked again under the table. I was not kicked again. I said good-night and went out. I watched him walk back to the café. I rather liked him.
I am sure he had never been in love in his life. I did not realize the extent to which it set him off until one day he came into my office. I never wanted to go. I had a boat train to catch. I like this town. I can't stand it to think my life is going so fast and I'm not really living it. I'm not interested. I'm sick of Paris. I walked alone all one night and nothing happened. I was sorry for him but it was not a thing you could do anything about. I sorted out the carbons, stamped on a by-line, put the stuff in a couple of big manila envelopes and rang for a boy to take them to the Gare St. Lazare. I went into the other room. I wanted to lock the office and shove off. I put my hand on his shoulder. I can't do it. I didn't sleep all last night. I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends.
I sat at a table on the terrace of the Napolitain. I watched a good-looking girl walk past the table and watched her go up the street and lost sight of her. I caught her eye. I saw why she made a point of not laughing. I paid for the saucers. I hailed a horse-cab. I put my arm around her. I put her hand away. I called to the cocher to stop. I had picked her up because of a vague sentimental idea that it would be nice to eat with some one. I had forgotten how dull it could be. I got hurt in the war. I was bored enough. I went back to the small room. I went over to the bar. I drank a beer. I could see their hands and newly washed, wavy hair in the light from the door. I was very angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing. I walked down the street and had a beer at the bar. I knew then that they would all dance with her. I sat down at a table. I asked him to have a drink. I was a little drunk. I got up and walked over to the dancing-floor. I took my coat off a hanger on the wall and out it on. I stopped at the bar and asked them for an envelope. I took a fiftyfranc note from my pocket.
I saw her face in the lights from the open shops. I saw her face clearly. I kissed her. I was pretty well through with the subject. I went out onto the sidewalk. I did not see who it was. I wanted to get home. I stopped and read the inscription. I knocked on the door and she gave me my mail. I wished her good night and went upstairs. I looked at them under the gaslight. I got out my check-book. I felt sure I could remember anybody. I lit the lamp beside the bed. I sat with the windows open and undressed by the bed. I looked at myself in the mirror of the big armoire beside the bed. I put on my pajamas and got into bed. I had the two bull-fight papers, and I took their wrappers off. I read it all the way through. I blew out the lamp. I wonder what became of the others. I was all bandaged up. I never used to realize it. I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. I couldn't keep away from it. I started to cry. I woke up. I listened. I thought I recognized a voice. I put on a dressing-gown. I heard my name called down the stairs. I looked at the clock. I was getting brandy and soda and glasses. I went back upstairs. I took them both to the kitchen. I turned off the gas in the dining-room. I had felt like crying. I thought of her walking up the street. I felt like hell again.
I walked down the Boulevard. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. I passed the man with the jumping frogs. I stepped aside. I read the French morning papers. I shared a taxi. I banged on the glass. I went to the office in the elevator. I was looking over my desk. I held him off. I left him to come to the office.
I sat down and wrote some letters. I went down to the bar. I looked for her upstairs on my way out. I saw a string of barges being towed empty down the current. I suppose it is. I walked past the sad tables. I watched him crossing the street through the taxis. I never heard him make one remark. I do not believe he thought about his clothes much. I don't know how people could say such terrible things. I don't even feel an impulse to try to stop it. I stood against the bar looking out. I did not want anything to drink and went out through the side door. I looked back. I went down a side street. I got in and gave the driver the address to my flat.
I went up to the flat. I put the mail on the table. I heard the door-bell pull. I put on a bathrobe and slippers. I filled the big earthenware jug with water. I dressed slowly. I felt tired and pretty rotten. I took up the brandy bottle. I went to the door. I found some ash-trays and spread them around. I looked at the count. I had that feeling of going through something that has already happened before. I had the feeling as in a nightmare of it all being something repeated, something I had been through and that now I must go through again. I took a note out of my pocket. I looked back and there were three girls at his table. I gave him twenty francs and he touched his cap. I went upstairs and went to bed.
Note from the author: "When I was 13, my brother gave me a copy of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. It was my first foray into real Literature and I hated it. Even with little or no way to enter the novel, I dutifully slugged through it (I mean, what is cog-nak anyway?) Years later, I have returned to revisit the relationship. In this version, I have erased my way through Hemingway's original text, leaving behind only the phrases that begin with the pronoun 'I'."
Copyright © 2009 by Robert Fitterman. Used with permission of the author.