Don DeLillo: Great Jones Street

“There’s nothing more boring than a well-traveled person.”

The old tub was mounted on the bruised feet of an ambiguous creature, possibly an imperialistic lion. Opel batted some suds off her nose. She wallowed in the hour-old foam, occasionally adding some hot water, sinking quickly to her neck whenever she felt a chill in the room.

“So you’ve got nothing to tell me,” I said.

“It’s boring. Who cares? People who travel a great deal lose their souls at some point. All these lost souls are up there in the ozone. They get emitted from jet aircraft along with the well-known noxious chemicals. There’s a soul belt up there. People who travel talk about nothing but travel. Before, during and after. This is the world’s worst soap, Bucky. Shit, you come into my apartment and live here and go out shopping and bring back absolute crap in the way of amenities for the body. How’s a girl supposed to stay pretty? Least you can do is come rub my back. There’s a tremendous inner sort of destructiveness to travel talk in the midst of travel. Also too much travel simply isolates people. It narrows them. It makes them boring.”

I decided to walk into the tub, not bothering to take off my clothes. We splashed around for a while. That sort of thing isn’t fun for long. Opel stepped out of the tub, dried herself and got into bed. I changed clothes and followed. It was probably late afternoon. I was never sure of time while she was there. Alone I lived in the emergency of of minutes, in phases of dim compliance with the mind’s turning hand. The room had seasons and I responded to these; it was the only way to evade chaos. I knew the phases. I did not fear the crisis inherent in time because I borrowed from it, shifting with the systematic light, sitting still in darkness. Now none of this mattered. There was a mind besides my own, closing over the room. All need for phases soon vanished, as did all hope for order. We remained in bed a long time, getting up only when necessary. The bed became a shelter within the room. We saw no reason to undress when getting in or to dress when getting out. No one thing kept us there. We immersed ourselves in love and conversation, favoring the latter, ready to settle for the pastels of sex, these milder pleasures being all we could hope to know in our combined quiescence. We lived in bed as old couples rock on porches, without hurry or need, content to blend into benevolent materials, to become, for instance, wood. Even the weather seemed distant, that hard winter pressing less insistently on the window. Opel talked a great deal, delivering herself of observations, conceits and verities. Her more complex monologues were spiral staircases with no ultimate step, just an attractive patch of surreal sky. Other times she inhabited moods of bottomless gloom. My own talk was spare, consisting mainly of background noise. Each day passed, detached from time, linked to no causall nexus, an accident of form and consolidation. The room was striped in transitional light. Through morning’s polar tones we huddled under blankets, opening our bodies only to the dark, babbling all the time, eating limp sandwiches and swilling tea. The bed grew in splendor and it began to seem imperative that we remain there. I chose this moment to leave.

Great Jones Street, p. 54–56


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