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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 5 chapter 17)

2006-08-22 20:56

  17

  One of Jules Verne's famous novels, a favorite of Tomas's in his childhood, is called Two Years on Holiday, and indeed two years is the maximum. Tomas was in his third year as a window washer.

  In the last few weeks, he had come to realize (half sadly, half laughing to himself) that he had grown physically tired (he had one, sometimes two erotic engagements a day), and that although he had not lost his zest for women, he found himself straining his forces to the utmost. (Let me add that the strain was on his physical, not his sexual powers; his problem was with his breath, not with his penis, a state of affairs that had its comical side.)

  One day he was having trouble reaching a prospect for his afternoon time slot, and it looked as though he was going to have one of his rare off days. He was desperate. He had phoned a certain young woman about ten times. A charming acting student whose body had been tanned on Yugoslavia's nudist beaches with an evenness that called to mind slow rotation on a mechanized spit.

  After making one last call from his final job of the day and starting back to the office at four to hand in his signed order slips, he was stopped in the center of Prague by a woman he failed to recognize. Wherever have you disappeared to? I haven't seen you in ages!

  Tomas racked his brains to place her. Had she been one of his patients? She was behaving like an intimate friend. He tried to answer in a manner that would conceal the fact that he did not recognize her. He was already thinking about how to lure her to his friend's flat (he had the key in his pocket) when he realized from a chance remark who the woman was: the budding actress with the perfect tan, the one he had been trying to reach all day.

  This episode both amused and horrified him: it proved that he was as tired mentally as physically. Two years of holiday could not be extended indefinitely.

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