Tuesday, 28 August 2012

What's the matter? Tell me!

"... Gordon collapsed unexpectedly upon the bed; lay there inert and spiritless. His mouth, which habitually dropped a little open when his face was in repose, became suddenly helpless and pathetic.
"What's the matter?" asked Dean quickly.
"Oh, God!"
"What's the matter?"
"Every God damn thing in the world," he said miserably. "I've absolutely gone to pieces, Phil. I'm all in."
"I'm all in." His voice was shaking.
Dean scrutinized him more closely with appraising blue eyes.
"You certainly look all shot."
"I am. I've made a hell of a mess of everything." He paused. "I'd better start at the beginning --or will it bore you?"
"Not at all; go on." There was, however, a hesitant note in Dean's voice. This trip East had been planned for a holiday --to find Gordon Sterrett in trouble exasperated him a little.
"Go on," he repeated, and then added half under his breath, "Get it over with."
"I'm coming to that, Phil. I want to tell you frankly.
You're about the only man I can turn to in a matter like this. You won't mind if I just tell you frankly, will you, Phil?"
Dean stiffened a bit more. The pats he was bestowing on his knees grew perfunctory. He felt vaguely that he was being unfairly saddled with responsibility; he was not even sure he wanted to be told. Though never surprised at finding Gordon Sterrett in mild difficulty, there was something in this present misery that repelled him and hardened him, even though it excited his curiosity.
"Go on."
"Hm." Dean resolved that nothing was going to spoil his trip. If Gordon was going to be depressing, then he'd have to see less of Gordon.
"Why didn't you? You've got to buckle down if you want to make good," suggested Dean with cold formalism.
There was an awkward pause. Gordon lay very still, his hands clenched by his side.
"I'm all in," he continued, his voice trembling. "I'm half crazy, Phil. If I hadn't known you were coming East, I think I'd have killed myself. I want you to lend me three hundred dollars."
Dean's hands, which had been patting his bare ankles, were suddenly quiet --and the curious uncertainty playing between the two became taut and strained.
After a second Gordon continued:
"I've bled the family until I'm ashamed to ask for another nickel."
Still Dean made no answer.
"Jewel says she's got to have two hundred dollars."
"Tell her where she can go."
"Yes, that sounds easy, but she's got a couple of drunken letters I wrote her. Unfortunately she's not at all the flabby sort of person you'd expect."
Dean made an expression of distaste.
"I can't stand that sort of woman. You ought to have kept away."
"I know," admitted Gordon wearily.
"You've got to look at things as they are. If you haven't got money you've got to work and stay away from women." "That's easy for you to say," began Gordon, his eyes narrowing. "You've got all the money in the world."
"I most certainly have not. My family keep darn close tab on what I spend. Just because I have a little leeway I have to be extra careful not to abuse it."
He raised the blind and let in a further flood of sunshine.
"I'm no prig, Lord knows," he went on deliberately. "I like pleasure --and I like a lot of it on a vacation like this, but you're --you're in awful shape. I never heard you talk just this way before. You seem to be sort of bankrupt --morally as well as financially."
"Will you lend me the money, Phil?"
"I can't decide right off. That's a lot of money and it'll be darn inconvenient for me."
"It'll be hell for me if you can't --I know I'm whining, and it's all my own fault but --that doesn't change it."
"When could you pay it back?"
This was encouraging. Gordon considered. It was probably wisest to be frank.
"Of course, I could promise to send it back next month, but --I'd better say three months. Just as soon as I start to sell drawings."
"How do I know you'll sell any drawings?"
A new hardness in Dean's voice sent a faint chill of doubt over Gordon. Was it possible that he wouldn't get the money?
"I supposed you had a little confidence in me."
"I did have --but when I see you like this I begin to wonder."
"Do you suppose if I wasn't at the end of my rope I'd come to you like this? Do you think I'm enjoying it?" He broke off and bit his lip, feeling that he had better subdue the rising anger in his voice. After all, he was the suppliant.
"You seem to manage it pretty easily," said Dean angrily. "You put me in the position where, if I don't lend it to you, I'm a sucker --oh, yes, you do. And let me tell you it's no easy thing for me to get hold of three hundred dollars. My income isn't so big but that a slice like that won't play the deuce with it."
He left his chair and began to dress, choosing his clothes carefully. Gordon stretched out his arms and clenched the edges of the bed, fighting back a desire to cry out. His head was splitting and whirring, his mouth was dry and bitter and he could feel the fever in his blood resolving itself into innumerable regular counts like a slow dripping from a roof.
Dean tied his tie precisely, brushed his eyebrows, and removed a piece of tobacco from his teeth with solemnity. Next he filled his cigarette case, tossed the empty box thoughtfully into the waste basket, and settled the case in his vest pocket.
"Had breakfast?" he demanded.
"No; I don't eat it any more."
"Well, we'll go out and have some. We'll decide about that money later. I'm sick of the subject. I came East to have a good time.
"Let's go over to the Yale Club," he continued moodily, and then added with an implied reproof:
"You've given up your job. You've got nothing else to do."
"I'd have a lot to do if I had a little money," said Gordon pointedly.
"Oh, for Heaven's sake drop the subject for a while! No point in glooming on my whole trip. Here, here's some money."
He took a five-dollar bill from his wallet and tossed it over to Gordon, who folded it carefully and put it in his pocket. There was an added spot of color in his cheeks, an added glow that was not fever. For an instant before they turned to go out their eyes met and in that instant each found something that made him lower his own glance quickly. For in that instant they quite suddenly and definitely hated each other..."

"... "Hello, Gordon," called Edith over her partner's shoulder. Her heart was pounding wildly.
His large dark eyes were fixed on her. He took a step in her direction. Her partner turned her away --she heard his voice bleating -- -- " --but half the stags get lit and leave before long, so -- --"
Then a low tone at her side.
"May I, please?"
She was dancing suddenly with Gordon; one of his arms was around her; she felt it tighten spasmodically; felt his hand on her back with the fingers spread. Her hand holding the little lace handkerchief was crushed in his.
"Why Gordon," she began breathlessly.
"Hello, Edith."
She slipped again --was tossed forward by her recovery until her face touched the black cloth of his dinner coat. She loved him --she knew she loved him --then for a minute there was silence while a strange feeling of uneasiness crept over her. Something was wrong.
Of a sudden her heart wrenched, and turned over as she realized what it was. He was pitiful and wretched, a little drunk, and miserably tired.
"Oh -- --" she cried involuntarily.
His eyes looked down at her. She saw suddenly that they were blood-streaked and rolling uncontrollably.
"Gordon," she murmured, "we'll sit down; I want to sit down."
They were nearly in mid-floor, but she had seen two men start toward her from opposite sides of the room, so she halted, seized Gordon's limp hand and led him bumping through the crowd, her mouth tight shut, her face a little pale under her rouge, her eyes trembling with tears.
She found a place high up on the soft-carpeted stairs, and he sat down heavily beside her.
"Well," he began, staring at her unsteadily, "I certainly am glad to see you, Edith."
She looked at him without answering. The effect of this on her was immeasurable. For years she had seen men in various stages of intoxication, from uncles all the way down to chauffeurs, and her feelings had varied from amusement to disgust, but here for the first time she was seized with a new feeling --an unutterable horror.
"Gordon," she said accusingly and almost crying, "you look like the devil."
He nodded. "I've had trouble, Edith."
"All sorts of trouble. Don't you say anything to the family, but I'm all gone to pieces. I'm a mess, Edith."
His lower lip was sagging. He seemed scarcely to see her.
"Can't you --can't you," she hesitated, "can't you tell me about it, Gordon? You know I'm always interested in you."
She bit her lip --she had intended to say something stronger, but found at the end that she couldn't bring it out.
Gordon shook his head dully. "I can't tell you. You're a good woman. I can't tell a good woman the story."
"Rot," she said, defiantly. "I think it's a perfect insult to call any one a good woman in that way. It's a slam. You've been drinking, Gordon."
"Thanks." He inclined his head gravely. "Thanks for the information."
"Why do you drink?"
"Because I'm so damn miserable."
"Do you think drinking's going to make it any better?"
"What you doing --trying to reform me?"
"No; I'm trying to help you, Gordon. Can't you tell me about it?"
"I'm in an awful mess. Best thing you can do is to pretend not to know me."
"Why, Gordon?"
"I'm sorry I cut in on you --its unfair to you. You're pure woman --and all that sort of thing. Here, I'll get some one else to dance with you."
"What is the matter?"
"Just me," he repeated. "I'm going loony. This whole place is like a dream to me --this Delmonico's -- --"
As he talked she saw he had changed utterly. He wasn't at all light and gay and careless --a great lethargy and discouragement had come over him. Revulsion seized her, followed by a faint, surprising boredom. His voice seemed to come out of a great void.
She nodded absently.
Her distaste was growing. She barely nodded this time, waiting for her first possible cue to rise.
He reached out and patted her hand, and involuntarily she drew it away.
"It's mighty fine of you," he repeated.
"Well," she said slowly, looking him in the eye, "any one's always glad to see an old friend --but I'm sorry to see you like this, Gordon."
There was a pause while they looked at each other, and the momentary eagerness in his eyes wavered. She rose and stood looking at him, her face quite expressionless.
"Shall we dance?" she suggested, coolly.
--Love is fragile --she was thinking --but perhaps the pieces are saved, the things that hovered on lips, that might have been said. The new love words, the tendernesses learned, are treasured up for the next lover..."

To save you from googling (if you have read at all, which, I assume, is unlikely), I can say now, the 2 passages above are taken from "May Day", my favourite short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read the story several months ago (because of the link between it and "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J. D. Salinger) and today, for some certain reasons, it came to my mind and I decided to post the passages here. 
(As you can see, some inessential sentences have been removed merely for conveniences- by "inessential" I mean they're perfect in the story, only inessential in this post because, without them, you can still grasp the meaning. They only make the passages a bit too long. If intrigued you can read the whole story yourself). 
Fitzgerald, as a man, has his limitations, yet as an author, is 1 of the most observational and insightful writers of his time and of all time, and with precise, meticulous, sophisticated and descriptive language, is, if not the best, then 1 of the best, at depicting hypocrisy and superficiality. 

Besides, Fitzgerald also touches me on the personal level. 1st he makes me hesitate to confide myself in others, who might urge "What's the matter? Tell me!" only out of politeness, or, might have genuinely good intentions at the beginning but grow bored after a short while, then lose concentration and ask further questions solely as a formality. I'm afraid, in life only mothers, priests and psychologists have the patience to listen attentively to someone's problems/ sorrows, we usually lose concentration easily and get bored when someone starts to tell a story that is of no concern to us. 2nd, as you can see in the previous sentence, he embarrasses me, because my face turns red as I confess, there have been certain occasions on which someone confides something in me and I get tired after some minutes but have to continue listening. 

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