فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

A Conversation about Men

The next afternoon I met Holly on the stairs. “You,” she said, hurrying past with a package from the drugstore. “You left her there to die from the cold! And now she’s really unhappy.”

I realized from her words that Mag Wildwood was still in the apartment.

But Holly didn’t stop to talk. Suddenly she was worried about Mag - but the night before she hated her. I didn’t understand.

During the weekend, there was a bigger mystery. First, a Spanish or Italian man came to my door and asked for Miss Wildwood. Our conversation was difficult because he didn’t understand my English. But I liked him. His brown face was handsome and he wore an expensive suit.

Toward evening, I saw him again. I was going out to dinner and he was arriving in a taxi. The driver helped him carry a lot of suitcases into the house. That gave me something to think about.

Sunday was a warm, late summer day. The sun was strong and my window was open. I heard voices on the fire escape. Holly and Mag were lying there, with the cat between them. Mag was making a woollen sweater.

“I think you’re l-l-lucky,” she said to Holly. “There’s one good thing you can say about Rusty. He’s an American.”

“Why is that important?”

“Darling. We’re in the middle of a war.”

“And when it ends, you won’t see me again. I’ll leave the country. I’m going to travel the world.”

“I don’t feel that way. I’m p-p-proud of my country. The men in my family were great soldiers. There’s a big statue of Grandfather Wildwood in the center of Wildwood.”

“Fred’s a soldier,” said Holly. “But there’ll never be a statue of him. I don’t think he’s a great soldier. But maybe he is. Brave people are usually stupid and he’s quite stupid.”

“Is Fred that boy upstairs? Is he a soldier? He does look stupid.”

“He’s not stupid. And he’s a different Fred. Fred’s my brother.”

“You call your own b-b-brother stupid?”

“He is stupid.”

“Don’t say that! That boy is fighting for you and me and all of us.”

“What is this: a speech for the government?”

“I want you to understand. I like a joke, but I’m a really s-s-serious person. I’m proud to be an American. That’s why I’m sorry about Jose. He’s very handsome, isn’t he?”

Holly agreed and started playing with the cat.

“But I can’t imagine m-m-marrying a Brazilian. And being a B-b-brazilian myself. It’s a long way from here. Six thousand miles, and I don’t know the language -“

“Go to a language school.”

“Do they teach P-p-portuguese? Do people really speak Portuguese? No, Jose must stop working for the Brazilian government. He must become an American. Why does he want to be the p-p-president of Brazil. That’s a crazy idea.” She was quiet for a minute, then she spoke again. “I’m really in love. You saw us together. Do you think I’m really in love?”

“Does he bite?”

“Bite?”

“Bite you. When you’re in bed.”

“No. Is that important?” Then she continued, “But he does laugh.”

“That’s good. I like a man who laughs in bed. Most of them just make strange noises. OK. He doesn’t bite in bed but he laughs. And -?”

Mag didn’t answer.

“I said -“

“I heard you. And I want to tell you. But it’s difficult to remember. I d-d-don’t think about these things much. About sex and men. You do but I don’t. They go out of my head like a dream. Most people don’t talk about sex, Holly. I’m a very-very-very ordinary person.”

“It’s natural to think about sex. And to look at men. What’s wrong with looking at a guy’s body? A lot of men are beautiful. Jose is beautiful, but you don’t even look at him in bed. So you’re not in love with him.”

“L-l-lower your voice.”

“You’re not in love with him,” Holly repeated.

“I’m a loving person. I have a loving heart.”

“OK. You have a loving heart. But that doesn’t keep a man warm in bed.”

“Jose isn’t unhappy,” Mag said. “And I am in love with him. I make winter sweaters and socks for him. I’ve made ten pairs of socks in three months. And this is the second sweater.”

She put down the sweater. “But why am I doing this? Sweaters in Brazil! I should make s-s-sun hats.”

Holly lay back. “Surely they have a winter.”

“I know that it rains. Heat. Rain. T-t-t-trees.”

“Heat. Trees. It sounds good to me.”

“Better for you than for me.”

“Yes,” said Holly, sounding sleepy. “Better for me than for you.”

On Monday, when I went down for the morning mail, there was a new name on the card on Holly’s mailbox. Miss Golightly and Miss Wildwood were now traveling together.

I wasn’t very interested because there was a letter in my own mailbox. It was from a small college magazine. They liked one of my stories. They couldn’t pay me but that wasn’t important. They wanted to print the story. Print the story in a magazine! I was so excited. I wanted to tell someone. Running up the stairs, I knocked loudly on Holly’s door.

I couldn’t speak when she opened the door. Her eyes were half-closed with sleep. I gave her the letter and she read it slowly. Then she gave it back to me.

“Don’t let them use your story. Not until they pay for it,” she said.

I looked at her angrily. I didn’t want her opinions. I wanted her to be happy for me.

She smiled. “Oh, I understand. It’s wonderful. Come in,” she said. “We’ll make some coffee and have a party. No. I’ll get dressed and take you to lunch.”

Her bedroom was in the same state as the other rooms in the apartment. There were a lot of boxes and suitcases. All her things were packed. She was ready to leave. This room did have a piece of furniture, though - a double bed made of light wood, with a shiny cover.

She left the door of the bathroom open. As she washed, she talked to me.

“You know that Mag Wildwood has moved in? Isn’t that good? She’s not a lesbian, but she’s stupid. That’s almost as good as a lesbian. A stupid person will pay for the apartment and take my clothes to the cleaner’s.”

She came out of the bathroom. “And she’s quite a successful actress. Isn’t that great? She’ll be out of the apartment for most of the day. And there won’t be too much trouble with men because she’s getting married. He’s a nice guy, too. But he’s a little smaller than her - about a foot smaller. Now where -?”

She was on her knees looking under the bed. She found her shoes, then she searched for a shirt and a belt. The room was a mess but Holly was perfect.

“Listen,” she said, and put her hand on my face. “I’m happy about the story. I really am.”

That was a beautiful Monday in October 1943. We started with drinks at Joe Bell’s bar. When he heard of my good luck, he refused to take our money. Later, we walked toward Fifth Avenue, and watched the soldiers. They were playing music, not for the war but for me.

We ate lunch at the cafe in the park. Then we laughed and ran and sang along the paths toward the old wooden boathouse. It’s not there now. An old man was sweeping up trash and putting it on a fire. The smoke made the only dark cloud in the sky. It was the end of the year but to me this was the start of something.

I sat with Holly near the boathouse. I thought of the future and spoke of the past.

“When you were a child, was life good?” Holly asked.

She listened to my stories about my life before New York. Then she told me about her life but the telling was strange. She didn’t name places or people. “I had pretty cousins and we had lots of parties,” she said. “We went swimming in the summer. I was very happy.”

“But you ran away from home when you were fourteen,” I said.

“That’s true. The rest of my story was a lie. But really, darling, your story was so sad. I didn’t want my story to be sad, too.”

She stood up. “I’ve remembered something. I must send a gift to Fred.”

That afternoon we walked around New York, looking for gifts for Fred. She wanted food for him. “He’s a big, tall guy and he loves to eat,” she said.

It was dark when we came out of the last grocer’s store. We were near the store with the bird cage in its window, so I showed it to her. She liked it.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “But it is a cage. Nothing can be free inside there.”

We were near a larger store and she took my arm. “Let’s steal something,” she said, and she pulled me inside.

I was scared because people were watching us. Holly laughed and stole something small. Then she took my hand and we walked away. It was as simple as that. Outside, we ran for a few blocks because we were so excited.

“Have you often stolen things?” I asked.

“I had to when I was younger,” she said. “I steal sometimes now - it’s good practice. One day I may need to do it again.”

I have a memory of spending many days like that with Holly. Sometimes we did spend a lot of time together but in reality the memory is a lie. Toward the end of the month, I found a job. It was necessary and I worked from nine o’clock in the morning to five in the evening.

My hours were very different to Holly’s. When I came home from work, Holly was getting out of bed, except on Thursday, her Sing Sing day. She also got up early in the day when she went horse riding.

Sometimes, I stopped at her apartment for a cup of coffee. She was always going out, usually with Rusty Trawler, Mag Wildwood, and the handsome Brazilian. His name was Jose Ybarra-Jaegar because his mother was German. They were a strange group. Ybarra-Jaegar was different to Holly, Rusty, and Mag. He was intelligent, well - dressed, and serious about his work. He was something important in the government and went to Washington three or four days a week. Did he enjoy these nights? Night after night in clubs - La Rue or El Morocco - listening to Mag t-t-t-talk and looking at Rusty’s baby-face?

He was a foreigner, I thought. He didn’t understand Americans. To him, we were all the same. He didn’t realize that people were different - some good and some bad. He thought we were all interesting and fun to be with. And, I thought, Holly wanted him.

That explains some of what happened next.

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