Two Confessions

An old submariner explains his time in the navy:

“I was prudent, which is why I never said anything. Weighing out the options it did not seem desirous to expose myself through speech. Whole acres opened up between sentences, and I took care to arrange exponential pauses between words, which buried themselves, like veins of mercury, in the sand.

“When Levin proposed to Kitty, without words, I of course understood, though, strangely, I also felt sorrow at their squandering an opportunity to speak.”

On being single, from someone who isn’t:

“Watching movies, I sometimes get a sense of the secret underworld of the single.

“On the screen, two single people are at a wedding. All around them are children, grandparents: the ceremonials that those who are single ignore, but everyone else can’t help but notice. The two single people are dancing together, sitting at a table, nearly touching hands, talking about nothing. Each is thrilled by some latent idea that the other person may be interested in them romantically, but nothing is said about it. The feeling is enough. It doesn’t need to be approached directly, in fact, it’s better this way, because if it isn’t mentioned, but nursed, it becomes the secret heart of the conversation. Someone (a friend of either, or of both) may come along and pull the two onto the dance floor, where the mood will disintegrate but the feelings and the conversation will linger, beating, in the minds and rib-cages of the two talkers.

“The feelings are sometimes acted upon, sometimes not. In either case, in bed, or in the car on the way home, or the next day (if something has happened between the two single people, who are now no longer single people, but tenuously together–or perhaps not) the night will be recounted to the minutest detail. Each moment captured and re-lived again, and again, especially those gestures or words that at first seemed inconsequential, because of their mundanity, but later took on a crucial character because of that very mundanity (which becomes ambiguity). Those moments, their endless revival (that is, until that does end, as everything does), are poetry.

“This idea of poetry can be lost when one is in a stable relationship, because love no longer seems to be of such importance. It can easily be taken for granted. But in the minds of those who are single, even without meaning to, “love”, the idea of “companionship”, infuses every gesture, every thought, so that one hardly knows which feeling is love, or more properly, the quest for love, and which is simply breathing.”

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