Thursday, January 16, 2014

the last book I ever read (The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, excerpt twelve)

from Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch:

Tiny table. My knee to her knee—was she aware of it? Quite as aware as I was? Bloom of the candle flame on her face, flame glinting metallic in her hair, hair so bright it looked about to catch fire. Everything blazing, everything sweet. They were playing old Bob Dylan, more than perfect for narrow Village streets close to Christmas and the snow whirling down in big feathery flakes, the kind of winter where you want to be walking down a city street with your arm around a girl like on the old recover cover—because Pippa was exactly that girl, not the prettiest, but the no-makeup and kind of ordinary-looking girl he’s chosen to be happy with, and in fact that picture was an ideal of happiness in its way, the hike of his shoulders and the slightly embarrassed quality of her smile, that open-ended look like they might just wander off anywhere they wanted together, and—there she was! her! and she was talking about herself, affectionate and old-shoe, asking me about Hobie and the shop and my spirits and what I was reading and what I was listening to, lots and lots of questions but seeming anxious to share her life with me too, her chilly flat expensive to heat, depressing light and damp stale smell, cheap clothes on the high street and so many American chains in London now it’s like a shopping mall, and what meds are you on and what meds am I on (we both had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a malady that in Europe had different initials, it seemed, and got you sent to a hospital for Army vets if you weren’t careful); her tiny garden, which she shared with half a dozen people, and the batty Englishwoman who’d filled it with ailing tortoises she’d smuggled from the south of France (“they all die, of cold and malnutrition—it’s really cruel—she doesn’t feed them properly, crumbled bread, can you imagine, I buy them turtle food at the pet store without telling her”)—and how terribly she wanted a dog, but of course it was hard in London with the quarantine which they had in Switzerland too, how did she always end up living in all these dog-unfriendly places? and wow, I looked better than she’d seen me in years, she’d missed me, missed the hell out of me, what an amazing evening—and we’d been there for hours, laughing over little things but being serious too, very grave, she being both generous and receptive (this was another thing about her; she listened, her attention was dazzling—I never had the feeling that other people listened to me half as closely; I felt like a different person in her company, a better one, could say things to her I couldn’t say to anyone else, certainly not Kitsey, who had a brittle way of deflating serious comments by making a joke, or switching to another topic, or interrupting, or sometimes just pretending not to hear), and it was an utter delight to be with her, I loved her every minute of every day, heart and mind and soul and all of it, and it was getting late and I wanted the place never to close, never.

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