April 16, 2011

Two short passages from Haunted Houses by Lynne Tillman


The time came for Bill and Grace to enact a kind of divestiture service in which Bill's virgin state would be renounced, shattered. His virginity existed differently from hers. His was a lack of experience, the sense that he was not really a man, that he was not aggressive enough, not daring, perhaps a coward, or a fag. He had not made a conquest. While hers, she reminded herself, had been a moral burden, something to worry about giving, indicating loss when given. And she was considered to have been a conquest for someone else. A passive gift, whether she moved or not. A given. Surrender and surrender again. But how could something physically surrendered mean that she, Grace, had really given in. She prided herself on her ability to separate neatly body from mind, self that was hers from self that she gave away. She was not given when she gave, she always held back and drew satisfaction from distance.

What did Christine want from her or want in general. Who is Christine, she wrote, and felt disgusted. The unexpected is stronger than the expressed, it must be, she thought. She looked up ineffable and wrote, My relationship with Christine skirts the ineffable. Except Emily didn't wear skirts and why should she write about women who did? Could she use that figure of speech when it represented another kind of woman? Or, which woman was she writing about? Anyway, the thing didn't have a plot, no drama, didn't build or go anywhere. Emily comforted herself with the idea that plots were like skirts, you either did or you didn't use things like that. Why do people want stories to go somewhere, she asked herself, and retired to bed.


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