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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 1 chapter 10)

2006-08-22 19:13

  10

  Her gestures grew abrupt and unsteady. Two years had elapsed since she discovered he was unfaithful, and things had grown worse. There was no way out.

  Was he genuinely incapable of abandoning his erotic friendships? He was. It would have torn him apart. He lacked the strength to control his taste for other women. Besides, he failed to see the need. No one knew better than he how little his exploits threatened Tereza. Why then give them up? He saw no more reason for that than to deny himself soccer matches.

  But was it still a matter of pleasure? Even as he set out to visit another woman, he found her distasteful and promised himself he would not see her again. He constantly had Tereza's image before his eyes, and the only way he could erase it was by quickly getting drunk. Ever since meeting Tereza, he had been unable to make love to other women without alcohol! But alcohol on his breath was a sure sign to Tereza of infidelity.

  He was caught in a trap: even on his way to see them, he found them distasteful, but one day without them and he was back on the phone, eager to make contact.

  He still felt most comfortable with Sabina. He knew she was discreet and would not divulge their rendezvous. Her studio greeted him like a memento of his past, his idyllic bachelor past.

  Perhaps he himself did not realize how much he had changed: he was now afraid to come home late, because Tereza would be waiting up for him. Then one day Sabina caught him glancing at his watch during intercourse and trying to hasten its conclusion.

  Afterwards, still naked and lazily walking across the studio, she stopped before an easel with a half-finished painting and watched him sidelong as he threw on his clothes.

  When he was fully dressed except for one bare foot, he looked around the room, and then got down on all fours to continue the search under a table.

  You seem to be turning into the theme of all my paintings, she said. The meeting of two worlds. A double exposure. Showing through the outline of Tomas the libertine, incredibly, the face of a romantic lover. Or, the other way, through a Tristan, always thinking of his Tereza, I see the beautiful, betrayed world of the libertine.

  Tomas straightened up and, distractedly, listened to Sabina's words.

  What are you looking for? she asked.

  A sock.

  She searched all over the room with him, and again he got down on all fours to look under the table.

  Your sock isn't anywhere to be seen, said Sabina. You must have come without it.

  How could I have come without it? cried Tomas, looking at his watch. I wasn't wearing only one sock when I came, was I?

  It's not out of the question. You've been very absent-minded lately. Always rushing somewhere, looking at your watch. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if you forgot to put on a sock.

  He was just about to put his shoe on his bare foot. It's cold out, Sabina said. I'll lend you one of my stockings.

  She handed him a long, white, fashionable, wide-net stocking.

  He knew very well she was getting back at him for glancing at his watch while making love to her. She had hidden his sock somewhere. It was indeed cold out, and he had no choice but to take her up on the offer. He went home wearing a sock on one foot and a wide-net stocking rolled down over his ankle on the other.

  He was in a bind: in his mistresses' eyes, he bore the stigma of his love for Tereza; in Tereza's eyes, the stigma of his exploits with the mistresses.

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