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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 4 chapter 29)

2006-08-22 20:21

  28

  They started back to Prague.

  All the way Tereza brooded about the photograph showing her naked body embracing the engineer. She tried to console herself with the thought that even if the picture did exist, Tomas would never see it. The only value it had for them was as a blackmailing device. It would lose that value the moment they sent it to Tomas.

  But what if the police decided somewhere along the way that they couldn't use her? Then the picture would become a mere plaything in their hands, and nothing would prevent them from slipping it in an envelope and sending it off to Tomas. Just for the fun of it.

  What would happen if Tomas were to receive such a picture? Would he throw her out? Perhaps not. Probably not. But the fragile edifice of their love would certainly come tumbling down. For that edifice rested on the single column of her fidelity, and loves are like empires: when the idea they are founded on crumbles, they, too, fade away.

  And now she had an image before her eyes: a rabbit scampering along a furrow, a hunter with a green cap, and the belfry of a village church rising up over the woods.

  She wanted to tell Tomas that they should leave Prague. Leave the children who bury crows alive in the ground, leave the police spies, leave the young women armed with umbrellas. She wanted to tell him that they should move to the country. That it was their only path to salvation.

  She turned to him. But Tomas did not respond. He kept his eyes on the road ahead. Having thus failed to scale the fence of silence between them, she lost all courage to speak. She felt as she had felt when walking down Petrin Hill. Her stomach was in knots, and she thought she was going to be sick. She was afraid of Tomas. He was too strong for her; she was too weak. He gave her commands that she could not understand; she tried to carry them out, but did not know how.

  She wanted to go back to Petrin Hill and ask the man with the rifle to wind the blindfold around her eyes and let her lean against the trunk of the chestnut tree. She wanted to die.

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