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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 3 chapter 8)

2006-08-22 20:21

  8

  Sabina felt as though Franz had pried open the door of their privacy. As though she were peering into the heads of Marie-Claude, of Marie-Anne, of Alain the painter, of the sculptor who held on to his finger-of all the people she knew in Geneva. Now she would willy-nilly become the rival of a woman who did not interest her in the least. Franz would ask for a divorce, and she would take Marie-Claude's place in his large conjugal bed. Everyone would follow the process from a greater or lesser distance, and she would be forced to playact before them all; instead of being Sabina, she would have to act the role of Sabina, decide how best to act the role. Once her love had been publicized, it would gain weight, become a burden. Sabina cringed at the very thought of it.

  They had supper at a restaurant in Rome. She drank her wine in silence.

  You're not angry, are you? Franz asked.

  She assured him she was not. She was still confused and unsure whether to be happy or not. She recalled the time they met in the sleeping compartment of the Amsterdam express, the time she had wanted to go down on her knees before him and beg him to hold her, squeeze her, never let her go. She had longed to come to the end of the dangerous road of betrayals. She had longed to call a halt to it all.

  Try as she might to intensify that longing, summon it to her aid, lean on it, the feeling of distaste only grew stronger.

  They walked back to the hotel through the streets of Rome. Because the Italians around them were making a racket, shouting and gesticulating, they could walk along in silence without hearing their silence.

  Sabina spent a long time washing in the bathroom; Franz waited for her under the blanket. As always, the small lamp was lit.

  When she came out, she turned it off. It was the first time she had done so. Franz should have paid better attention. He did not notice it, because light did not mean anything to him. As we know, he made love with his eyes shut.

  In fact, it was his closed eyes that made Sabina turn out the light. She could not stand those lowered eyelids a moment longer. The eyes, as the saying goes, are windows to the soul. Franz's body, which thrashed about on top of hers with closed eyes, was therefore a body without a soul. It was like a newborn animal, still blind and whimpering for the dug. Muscular Franz in coitus was like a gigantic puppy suckling at her breasts. He actually had her nipple in his mouth as if he were sucking milk! The idea that he was a mature man below and a suckling infant above, that she was therefore having intercourse with a baby, bordered on the disgusting. No, she would never again see his body moving desperately over hers, would never again offer him her breast, bitch to whelp, today was the last time, irrevocably the last time!

  She knew, of course, that she was being supremely unfair, that Franz was the best man she had ever had-he was intelligent, he understood her paintings, he was handsome and good-but the more she thought about it, the more she longed to ravish his intelligence, defile his kindheartedness, and violate his powerless strength.

  That night, she made love to him with greater frenzy than ever before, aroused by the realization that this was the last time. Making love, she was far, far away. Once more she heard the golden horn of betrayal beckoning her in the distance, and she knew she would not hold out. She sensed an expanse of freedom before her, and the boundlessness of it excited her. She made mad, unrestrained love to Franz as she never had before.

  117

  Franz sobbed as he lay on top of her; he was certain he understood: Sabina had been quiet all through dinner and said not a word about his decision, but this was her answer. She had made a clear show of her joy, her passion, her consent, her desire to live with him forever.

  He felt like a rider galloping off into a magnificent void, a void of no wife, no daughter, no household, the magnificent void swept clean by Hercules' broom, a magnificent void he would fill with his love.

  Each was riding the other like a horse, and both were galloping off into the distance of their desires, drunk on the betrayals that freed them. Franz was riding Sabina and had betrayed his wife; Sabina was riding Franz and had betrayed Franz.

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