“…everything has a past. Everything – a person, an object, a word, everything. If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future.”
“In our time... a man whose enemies are faceless bureaucrats almost never wins. It is our equivalent to the anger of the gods in ancient times. But those gods you must understand were far more imaginative than our tiny bureaucrats. They spoke from mountaintops not from tiny airless offices. They rode clouds. They were possessed of passion. They had voices and names. Six thousand years of civilization have brought us to this.”
“Did he really believe God wrote stories that were open to one explanation only? A story that knew but one explanation could hardly be interesting and was certainly not worth the trouble of remembering.”
“Good-bye, Davita. Be discontented with the world. But be respectful at the same time.”
“I like his optimism,' I said. 'I like the way when he and some other rabbis saw a jackal in the ruins of Jerusalem, and the others began to cry, he laughed and said that just as the prophecy of the destruction of the temple was fulfilled, so the prophecy of the rebuilding would also be fulfilled. I like that.”
“Everyone laughed their heads off, which is not what literally happened but I like the idea of laughing heads becoming detached from bodies through extreme hilarity, so it was a good way to describe things.”
“It’s no one’s fault really,” he continued. “A big city cannot afford to have its attention distracted from the important job of being a big city by such a tiny, unimportant item as your happiness or mine.”
This came out of him easily, assuredly, and I was suddenly interested. On closer inspection there was something aesthetic and scholarly about him, something faintly professorial. He knew I was with him, listening, and his grey eyes were kind with offered friendliness. He continued:
“Those tall buildings there are more than monuments to the industry, thought and effort which have made this a great city; they also occasionally serve as springboards to eternity for misfits who cannot cope with the city and their own loneliness in it.” He paused and said something about one of the ducks which was quite unintelligible to me.
“A great city is a battlefield,” he continued. “You need to be a fighter to live in it, not exist, mark you, live. Anybody can exist, dragging his soul around behind him like a worn-out coat; but living is different. It can be hard, but it can also be fun; there’s so much going on all the time that’s new and exciting.”
I could not, nor wished to, ignore his pleasant voice, but I was in no mood for his philosophising.
“If you were a negro you’d find that even existing would provide more excitement than you’d care for.”
He looked at me and suddenly laughed; a laugh abandoned and gay, a laugh rich and young and indescribably infectious. I laughed with him, although I failed to see anything funny in my remark.
“I wondered how long it would be before you broke down and talked to me,” he said, when his amusement had quietened down. “Talking helps, you know; if you can talk with someone you’re not lonely any more, don’t you think?”
As simple as that. Soon we were chatting away unreservedly, like old friends, and I had told him everything.
“Teaching,” he said presently. “That’s the thing. Why not get a job as a teacher?”
“That’s rather unlikely,” I replied. “I have had no training as a teacher.”
“Oh, that’s not absolutely necessary. Your degrees would be considered in lieu of training, and I feel sure that with your experience and obvious ability you could do well.”
“Look here, Sir, if these people would not let me near ordinary inanimate equipment about which I understand quite a bit, is it reasonable to expect them to entrust the education of their children to me?”
“Why not? They need teachers desperately.”
“It is said that they also need technicians desperately.”
“Ah, but that’s different. I don’t suppose educational authorities can be bothered about the colour of people’s skins, and I do believe that in that respect the London County Council is rather outstanding. Anyway, there would be no need to mention it; let it wait until they see you at the interview.”
“I’ve tried that method before. It didn’t work.”
“Try it again, you’ve nothing to lose. I know for a fact that there are many vacancies for teachers in the East End of London.”
“Why especially the East End of London?”
“From all accounts it is rather a tough area, and most teachers prefer to seek jobs elsewhere.”
“And you think it would be just right for a negro, I suppose.” The vicious bitterness was creeping back; the suspicion was not so easily forgotten.
“Now, just a moment, young man.” He was wonderfully patient with me, much more so than I deserved. “Don’t ever underrate the people of the East End; from those very slums and alleyways are emerging many of the new breed of professional and scientific men and quite a few of our politicians. Be careful lest you be a worse snob than the rest of us. Was this the kind of spirit in which you sought the other jobs?”
“I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.”
“Does "doing exactly what I want" mean not thinking about other people's feelings? Because that's just not the kind of person I am.
Maybe it can mean whatever I want it to mean, like taking care of myselfand not letting people walk over me”
“This hand isn't over. It can't be. I went all in.”
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