For someone else, somewhere else. Someone invisible. Even the idea of him, looking on this considered face; of the ugliness—of his watching face—the ugly thoughts of his, considering her, shatters quickly and violently the illusion, illusive passion—knowing that she, receiving that of him,—and so he is made impotent. A floppy, fish-like thing in his hands—but how could she have known, when they were first together in the girl's dorm at _____ University—her roommate, sexiled in a neighboring room—charging the ferocity of his initial contact with her, that of her—the beauty of her jealousy, the roommate's, he thought—jealous of her, Elizabeth; jealous of him, Brayden.
To be a part of that social assault, that time-honored rite of collegiate ridicule—and so, to be a man, like other men, among other men and among women like other women—men like those he had seen or heard of but who were never real to him in any social capacity worth mentioning—to be a man, like other men, in the girls' dorm—sexiling the “fat and undesireable” one, being the Prime Mover of a sexiling, of internecine collegiate domestic strife: that was the main thing.
So charged, so emboldened and, in a sense, justified; he grabbed her, and himself, and felt and dwelled in the moment of that mysterious rush, blind, unthinking instant of daring—the face, something out of an anatomy textbook: he, searching for someone else in the face—Elizabeth, her face as plain as his,—as he had found “the something” in the roommate's scorn and, perceived, imputation to him of manly apathy.
But nothing like pleasure in her face, anywhere.
ii. Berta Lebovics had never felt so alone—so alone to be with company. There was a time in her life—before Anthony, Mike and Amarique, and the Bigger Apartment—when she was alone, but in another way alone. Times she would sit on the train coming home from work and see lovers wrapped up in each other, and then it was something to be envied, scorned. And she would return home on the train, wondering if she were missing something. Smallish couples, looking somewhat alike, so attuned to each others life's-rhythms as to cease to have two, to abrogate one in favor of the other. But then there was something so desperate about it, and because it was desperate, it was ugly; and she needed now to shield herself from the ugliness of the thing as she had needed to shield herself from that which invoked in her jealousy and resentment—the nagging lingering itch that that outside of the context of desperate-small-couplehood, she was truly missing something, fundamentally “missing out”—a degree of support she needed sorely. This was the most troubling though, suggesting, as it did, that such relationships might have only seemed appealing from the outside looking in—suggesting that though each member of each loving subway couple entwined was happy or at least complacent or fulfilled in that arrangement—that, despite how much better off one was for the support and attention of one to him or her desperately clinging, to whom he or she clung desperately—that this was, off of paper, unappealing, only necessary; and because necessary, but not providing happiness—providing only a method by which one might cop with a perceived lack or impossibility of—because panacea for the already dying; because, not strength for the living—then, in actuality, a rite of dying. Not the key to happiness in this life, but something enlists to send away for just another day the wolf that always returns.
Brayden and Elizabeth and Berta Quits Drinking, here partially excerpted, are chapters from the fourth section of , a novel forthcoming, by Zak Block