Fixed Immovable Objects
It was as if he were a mirror and she could see herself triumphant in it. But it wasnÕt her point he was interested in. He was fascinated by the ease she took in speaking to him. It was as if he were simply there. It was as if he had simply always been there. So it was not that he was invisible at all. It was more that he was . . . inevitable. . . a fact with which the woman had to reckon, and a means by which she might seize her own beliefs and raise them above him like a flag of conquest. A fixed, immoveable object then. A thing to reckon with by regarding it blankly, as if any hint of recognition of his basic humanity would cause her to slip and fall back again, to plunge into the void over which she had always dangled.
Yes that was it. She was talking, but not to him. She was talking to a picture And he did not recognize him in her picture, and she did not make room for him in that picture either. That was clearly not her interest. She was making her point, which included him, but only as a construct, an identity that had been created by the culture. He could see she derived strength and pleasure from what she said. That if he were a construct, if we were all constructs, then there was some measure by which she might be valued, because she knew. And in her knowing she could raise herself to the level of one who is immovable as well.
The world is too small, he thought as she went on. The world is too tight. He was having a little trouble breathing. The world is like a bag that has been slipped over your head at night and everyone is watching you to see exactly when you will finally quit breathing. It was terrible to be looked at like that—like being fixed in a blind glare, an unseeing and unfeeling glare of prescience. That much he was sure of. But she was talking with such sweetness, with that non-specific smile he had seen so many times before, and she was, once again, insisting on her point, with the ferver of one who believes implicitly that her construction is the right one, the end to history and the beginning of a bright new intellectual light.
He thought for a second that she was right. That she was the true heir to westward expansion: the corrective, the balm. The emblem of a new primordial fashion that kissed oblivion with her educated red lips.
He was a little nauseous now, but she did not seem to notice. The sweat was beginning to gather on his brow. He imagined that inside each silvery bead she would be able to see herself repeated many times.
It was not that she was not nice. She was very nice. He could see it was important for her to be nice. It was as if in being nice she was proving something. And the proof was positive. The proof was a way for her to create herself in front of him.
He wished he could create himself again and again, inside every moment of his life as it began again. He wished that, like her, he could be whatever he wanted to be. Because that was what she was saying to him. She was saying that people, that students, are mirrors, and that she and her colleagues were their brave engineers.
He was pale and feeling badly. There was a pain in his arm. He had been sitting this way for quite a long time. He had been listening to her. He had been nodding quietly as she insisted. He reflected that she did not know she was insisting. That she was wrapped inside herself as the inevitable reflection of the only real idea. And she loved that idea to the exclusion of all else. It was the idea of herself as someone who had been made. It was the idea of herself as a self that had been stolen, fashioned and given back again without realizing it. And he sympathized, he did, because, he knew what that was. But he was not feeling well and his chest began to pound and he slipped down in his chair a little though he still kept looking at her. She did not seem to see that there was any problem, though he had to acknowledge she was getting farther away. He could no longer see her as beautiful, or brilliant or as someone in pain. He could only see a woman who was floating away, as a weather balloon is loosed into the sky over the bay. And he was down on the floor, but she was telling him about her afternoon. About how she had been created, about how she had been made. And then he could not hear her, and the world, so broken that it had broken her and raised this likeness in her place, that world was flickering and about to fade.