“I followed him up the stairs. I was a fornicator, of unnatural appetite, in thrall to an Atheist. I repeated the words in my head and tried to feel the shock of them, but they remained strange and cruel, far removed from Ferris and me. It was simpler to say I was in love.”
“Speak to me, Jacob, do not play the tyrant.
Speak to me.”
“I wondered at him, so wise and so foolish, to have lived with me all these months and not know that the worst storms break inside a man.”
“But what virtue I do have is in me and of me. Men deny the good that comes from themselves, calling it God. So do they with their won evil, calling it the Devil.”
“Are you afraid of dying, Ferris?'
'I'm afraid of not living.”
“The Devil had granted my wish to watch him sleep, but granted it in his usual cruel fashion, making a pain of a pleasure. Yet pleasure there was. I still desired to watch over him, be his dragon against Botts.”
“You talked once of bodily dignity.’
‘I’ve seen heads shot off.”
“Why did You bid me drown the letter? I have lost something that he touched, and the destruction of it has gained You nothing, for now I no longer read the words, I hear them, as if he implored me face to face. Speak to me, Jacob, do not play the tyrant. Speak to me.”
“I dig and plough at your command,' I replied, 'but you will not tell me how to shit.”
“Sin is our condition," I said.
"Say rather that love is our rightful condition."
"You talk like--you are a good man! But how can you be good without God?"
He grinned. "Not so good, neither. But what virtue I do have is in me and of me. Men deny the good that comes from themselves, calling it God. So they do with their own evil, calling it the Devil."
I tried to see how this might be.
"There is no Hell, Jacob."
"And the Bible?"
"Was written by men like ourselves."
He was frightening. At the idea of there being no Hell I had felt a breath of something like freedom, but it was illusion. I marvelled at his foolhardiness, feared it, and loved it.”
“How did men make themselves loved, I wondered. I had passed all my life with men who were loved but I seemed never to have learnt the lesson.”
“Whatever makes a man a beast also renders him pitiable. But it behoves us to be wary of these bestial men despite our compassion, for they frequently turn on their friends.”
“Violent love eats up what it does love, and it is mere appetite. I scribbled on the bottom of this before sending it back: I would sooner cut my own flesh than do you a hurt. You should not have tried to get between us! But only come to see me, and another time I will stand and let me beat to a mummy.”
“I mean that repeated offences, even when they secure forgiveness, drive out love. And from that I came to say that one may compel obedience but never love.”
“Quiet. My body melted heavily into the chair; I heard a cart go up the street. The room grew suddenly big with meaning. Something was about to happen, was happening: each object in the room seemed perfect of its kind, its kind being just its one self. The moment split into Eternity and I went with it: I had neither skin nor bones, but flowed into the world, sacred along with everything else, and was lost.”
“Behold,' said the Voice, 'earthly beauty. It is nothing but seeming, for to the uninstructed eye the world appears fruitful and sweet, yet in it is nothing but a pile of skulls, showing where others were lost as they went before.”
“I wondered how many times I would be told 'Be joyous' before I died. Can a man arrange the sorrows and joys of his life to the Christian calendar?”
“I pictured Becs and myself together, squabbling, but always over little things, while I rotted away at the core from love of Ferris.
It was hopeless.
‘Here.’ I laid my hands on the table, palms up, and jerked my head at them, ‘put yours on top.’
Ferris did not move.
‘Please,’ I said.
He laid his cold hands on mine and I curled my fingers, folding his within them.
‘Now,’ I said, ‘I’ve neither accepted nor refused. Speak it out plainly, tell me and I’ll do it.’
He cried, ‘Don’t put it onto me! Choose for yourself.’
‘This is choosing. Tell Aunt I will do whatever you’ll have me do, and that’s my answer.’ I kept hold of his fingers. We stayed there silent and motionless for some time, while the candles burnt down.
At last he said quietly, ‘It is a lot to give up.’
‘Well. My history is bad enough without bigamy,’ I replied, at which he smiled but made no reply. The candles were half burnt. I took one and rose.
“Will you still walk with me?’
‘Would you walk with a bad angel?”
“All I could do was to hold on tight to the sides of the chair, and keep myself from sucking his fingers. ‘Would”
“Violent love eats up what it does love, and is mere appetite.”
“I took up the letter. On seeing the first line I knew it directly, but could not hold back from reading the whole thing, not once but many times, for it was the only love letter I had received in my life.”
“God cuts out our path, makes a groove in the clay with His finger, and we poor blind ants slide down into it.”
“I studied the shape of my friend’s hands, and how he clasped them. I could smell his skin and hair in the cold air of the church, and stood aching, my face a devout mask stretched over a rotten soul. On”
“Save the people you love, who cares about the rest of the world? - Uncle Jake”
“Crane’s hand rose up on its own to wipe the lone tear that was making its descent from the corner of her eye. She was afraid. She was afraid of him, and he was in love with her fear. “Oh, my love…” Crane murmured.”
“...but I realized now that love was more than a feeling. Love was something you did for another person...”
“A 'very good friend' is a dangerous category with Indian girls. From here you can either make fast progress or if you play it wrong, you can go down to the lowest category invented by the Indian women ever - rakhi brother. Rakhi brother really means 'you can talk to me, but don't even freaking think about anything else you bore'.”
“So I came to the realization: Nothing in life is unfair. It's just life.”
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