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Reflections of a working writer and reader




Between my fits of sleep I thought about you, rehearsing our future, which I knew would be brief. Of course we would sleep together, though this topic had not yet been discussed. In those days, as you recall, it had to be discussed first, and so far we had not progressed beyond a few furtive outdoor gropings and one moment when under a full moon on one of those deserted brick streets, you had put your hand on my throat and announced that you were the Boston Strangler; a joke which, for one with my literary predilections, amounted to a seduction. But though sex was a necessary and even a desirable ritual, I dwelt less on it than on our parting, which I visualized as sad, tender, inevitable and final. I rehearsed it in every conceivable location: doorways, ferry-boat docks, train, plane and subway stations, park benches. We would not say much, we would look at each other, we would know (though precisely what we would know I wasn’t sure); then you would turn a corner and be lost forever. I would be wearing a trench coat, not yet purchased, though I had seen the kind of thing I wanted in Filene’s Basement the previous autumn. The park bench scene – I set it in spring, to provide a contrast to the mood – was so affecting that I cried, though since I had a horror of being overheard, even in an empty hotel, I timed it to coincide with the radiator. Futility is so attractive to the young, and I had not yet exhausted its possibilities. Margaret Atwood.

Extracted from the short story, Hair Jewellry from the collection, Dancing Girls, published by Virago in 1984.

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