Despair

Free Despair by Vladimir Nabokov Page B

Book: Despair by Vladimir Nabokov Read Free Book Online
Authors: Vladimir Nabokov
wife. Barely did we find ourselves alone than with blunt obstinacy I turned the conversation towards “the abode of pure delight”—as that Pushkin poem has it.
    Meanwhile I counted the days with impatience. I had put off the appointment till the first of October, because I wanted to give myself a chance of changing my mind; and I cannot help thinking today that if I
had
changed my mind and not gone to Tarnitz, Felix would still be loitering about the bronze duke, or resting on a neighboring bench, drawing with his stick, from left to right and from right to left, the earthen rainbows drawn by every man with a stick and time to spare (our eternal subjection to the circle in which we are all imprisoned!). Yes, thus he would still be sitting tothis day, and I would keep remembering him, with wild anguish and passion; a huge aching tooth and nothing with which to pull it out; a woman whom one cannot possess; a place, which, owing to the peculiar topography of nightmares, keeps agonizingly out of reach.
    On the eve of my departure, Ardalion and Lydia were playing patience, whereas I paced the rooms and surveyed myself in all the mirrors. At that time I was still on admirable terms with mirrors. During the last fortnight I had let my mustache grow. This altered my countenance for the worse. Above my bloodless mouth there bristled a brownish-red blotch with an obscene little notch in the middle. I had the sensation that it was glued on; and sometimes it seemed to me that a small prickly animal was settled on my upper lip. At night, half asleep, I would suddenly pluck at my face, and my fingers did not recognize it. So, as I was saying, I paced about and smoked, and out of every speckly psyche in the flat there glanced at me, with eyes both apprehensive and grave, a hastily made-up individual. Ardalion, in a blue shirt with a pseudo-Scotch tie, clapped down card after card, like a tavern gambler. Lydia sat sideways to the table, legs crossed, skirt up to above stocking line, and exhaled the smoke of her cigarette upward, with her underlip thrust out and her eyes fixing the cards on the table. It was a black and boisterous night; every five seconds there would come, skimming across the roofs, the pale beam of the Radio Tower: a luminous twitch; the mild lunacy of a revolving search-light. Through the narrow window ajar in the bathroom there arrived from some window across the yard, the creamy voice of a broadcaster. In the dining room the lamp illumined my hideous portrait. Blue-shirted Ardalion clapped downthe cards; Lydia sat with her elbow on the table; smoke rose from the ashtray. I stepped out on to the balcony.
    “Shut the door—there’s a draught,” came Lydia’s voice from the dining room. A sharp wind made the stars blink and flicker. I returned indoors.
    “Whither is our pretty one going?” asked Ardalion without addressing either of us.
    “To Dresden,” replied Lydia.
    They were now playing
durachki
, dupes.
    “My kindest regards to the Sistine,” said Ardalion. “No, I can’t cover that, I’m afraid. Let’s see. This way.”
    “He’d do better if he went to bed, he’s dead-tired,” said Lydia. “Look here, you’ve no right to feel the pack, it’s dishonest.”
    “I didn’t mean to,” said Ardalion. “Don’t be cross, pussy. And is he going for long?”
    “This one too, Ardy dear, this one too, please, you haven’t covered it, either.”
    So they went on for a good while, talking now of their cards and now about me, as though I were not in the room or as though I were a shadow, a ghost, a dumb creature; and that joking habit of theirs, which before used to leave me indifferent, now seemed to me loaded with meaning, as if indeed it were merely my reflection that was present, my real body being far away.
    Next day in the afternoon, I got out at Tarnitz. I had a suitcase with me, and it hampered my movements, for I belong to that class of men who hate carrying anything; what I like is to display

Similar Books

Beginner's Luck

Len Levinson

Legacy of Lies

Joann Ross

Four of a Kind

Valerie Frankel

Hellstrom's Hive

Frank Herbert