Reading Nabokov’s Mary


You think that summer will last forever. That you will walk out every night together in the wind and the sun on the hill in that peaceful village. As if you were a feature of the air. You think that nothing will ever change, that she will greet you with the same smile, the same excitement, whenever you meet. That you can take your time, not to make a decision—you already know what you’ve decided, or what you would have decided had you allowed yourself to—but that time is a luxury to burn, that time will decide nothing for you.

You think that you will not have to raise your voice to form a question, any question, that your hands will not need to touch her, that she will not need you at her side… That the river will cease moving for you. That you can dip your hand in again and again, into the same water, over the same pebbles, the same rocks, the same shore. That time will still. That’s what you think.

But the river is violated whenever you touch it without understanding that it changes. God will become angry at you.

You will think that you will need nothing more from her than what you can imagine. That your own feelings could not be stifled. Your dreams will play some part in this, as if what you apprehend there is not only the reflection or echo of some rapidly fading shade. As if that shade was not the part of you that you killed, instead some essential, immortal organ. It will die if it is not dead already.

Through the decisions you make, or do not make, you are dying daily. Some part of you is killed in favour of another. Some part of others is killed also. You have watched this happen before. The bloom and fade of human relationships.