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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 4 chapter 6)

2006-08-22 20:21

  6

  Tereza went in to get dressed and stood in front of the large mirror.

  No, there was nothing monstrous about her body. She had no pouches hanging from her shoulders; in fact, her breasts were quite small. Her mother used to ridicule her for having such small breasts, and she had had a complex about them until Tomas came along. But reconciled to their size as she was, she was still mortified by the very large, very dark circles around her nipples. Had she been able to design her own body, she would have chosen inconspicuous nipples, the kind that scarcely protrude from the arch of the breast and all but blend in color with the rest of the skin. She thought of her areolae as big crimson targets painted by a primitivist of pornography for the poor.

  Looking at herself, she wondered what she would be like if her nose grew a millimeter a day. How long would it take before her face began to look like someone else's?

  And if various parts of her body began to grow and shrink and Tereza no longer looked like herself, would she still be herself, would she still be Tereza?

  Of course. Even if Tereza were completely unlike Tereza, her soul inside her would be the same and look on in amazement at what was happening to her body.

  Then what was the relationship between Tereza and her body? Had her body the right to call itself Tereza? And if not, then what did the name refer to? Merely something incorporeal, intangible?

  (These are questions that had been going through Tereza's head since she was a child. Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.)

  Tereza stood bewitched before the mirror, staring at her body as if it were alien to her, alien and yet assigned to her and no one else. She felt disgusted by it. It lacked the power to become the only body in Tomas's life. It had disappointed and deceived her. All that night she had had to inhale the aroma of another woman's groin from his hair!

  Suddenly she longed to dismiss her body as one dismisses a servant: to stay on with Tomas only as a soul and send her body into the world to behave as other female bodies behave with male bodies. If her body had failed to become the only body for Tomas, and thereby lost her the biggest battle of her life, it could just as well go off on its own!

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