34. given the choice



You ask me if it really happened that way. If it was really like that. Don’t we all live in our own reality? In V.’s mind, no provision had been made for me to tag along; he’d imagined picking a trinket up along the way, hailing a cab, and that would be the end of that. He hadn’t anticipated that I’d come along for the walk, and then for the taxi ride, babbling as we hurried down the street because I felt happier than I’d felt in a long time—loved, even. In the taxi I grew silent; I stared out the window, trying to commit to memory the cars and trucks and storefronts and endless people blurring by like a smeared painting. I sank down in my seat and leaned into him. He wanted me to sit upright, to keep a distance—I could sense that—but as often happens when I register information too jarring to process, too contradictory to my emotional needs, I packed it away and saved it for a later time. For V., no doubt, it was all too much, too many conflicting states: the reality of the hotel room, and now the far more urgent reality of heading home. This was not his usual way of operating. I was leaning into a man I longed to lean into, leaning into him as though he could hold me up somehow. But he was already negotiating the leap back into his life; he would soon make a clean break and let me fall.

Its elegantly articulated lines, with a hint of casual confidence, caught the eye of personalities ranging from the Duke of Windsor to Marcello Mastroianni. I wonder if you’re making any progress on your translation. You’ve taken an absurd amount of time to render a mediocre advertising text into German; your sense of self-respect requires that you improve it, your intellect that you verify its claims, your business acumen that you analyze the degree to which the language speaks to its target group, your experience in international finance to assess future prospects and risks. You have immersed yourself in the world of luxury shoes, where the words “insolent” and “audacious” evoke the theatrics of the boardroom, of big money. You are incubating, preparing yourself for reentering the professional world: creative and bold, perennially in vogue, the superlative reference in … But will it change you, turn you into one of them? You once told me that you thought you were being punished in advance for some wrong you would have inevitably committed, had you continued in what you were doing. There are ethical repercussions to everything, but they are considered irrelevant if they do not impact the home team: repercussions of trade negotiations, of pharmaceutical research, of moving other people’s money around, of eating meat. I read about the development of weapons robots the other day; horrified to the very fabric of her soul, a Nobel laureate had spoken out against them, but then a researcher proceeded to turn her argument around, stressing the need to implement technology to help combatants abide by the “ethical” rules of war. When putting an innovation into practice, given a choice between the most beneficial application to mankind and the most destructive, humanity invariably chooses the most destructive. But although history has demonstrated this, the ongoing idiocy of “positive thinking” is still, bafflingly, not yet apparent to all.

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