Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn't know if she would ever find out where it was or become part of it.
It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.
No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.
She closes her eyes. He probably won’t come back, she thinks. Or he will, differently. What they have now they can never have back again. But for her the pain of loneliness will be nothing to the pain that she used to feel, of being unworthy. He brought her goodness like a gift and now it belongs to her. Meanwhile his life opens out before him in all directions at once. They’ve done a lot of good for each other. Really, she thinks, really. People can really change one another. You should go, she says. I’ll always be here. You know that.
Generally I find men are a lot more concerned with limiting the freedoms of women than exercising personal freedom for themselves.
Her eyes fill up with tears again and she closes them. Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense, and she's aware of this now, while it's happening. She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life, of which this is the first moment, and even after many years have passed she will still think: Yes, that was it, the beginning of my life.
She believes Marianne lacks ‘warmth’, by which she means the ability to beg for love from people who hate her.
It's funny the decisions you make because you like someone, he says, and then your whole life is different. I think we're at that weird age where life can change a lot from small decisions.
If people appeared to behave pointlessly in grief, it was only because human life was pointless, and this was the truth that grief revealed.
All these years, they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil, growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions.
Not for the first time Marianne thinks cruelty does not only hurt the victim, but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and more permanently. You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.
It feels powerful to him to put an experience down in words, like he's trapping it in a jar and it can never fully leave him.
There’s always been something inside her that men have wanted to dominate, and their desire for domination can look so much like attraction, even love.
He knows that a lot of the literary people in college see books primarily as a way of appearing cultured, It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about. Even the writer himself was a good person, and even if his book really was insightful, all books were ultimately marketed as status symbols, and all writers participated to some degree in this marketing.
It suggests to Connell that the same imagination he used as a reader is necessary to understand real people also, and to be intimate with them.
Marianne wanted her life to mean something then, she wanted to stop all violence committed by the strong against the weak, and she remembered a time several years ago when she had felt so intelligent and young and powerful that she almost could have achieved such a thing, and now she knew she wasn’t at all powerful, and she would live and die in a world of extreme violence against the innocent, and at most she could only help a few people. It was so much harder to reconcile herself to the idea of helping a few, like she would rather help no one than do something so small and feeble.
Suddenly he can spend an afternoon in Vienna looking at Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, and it’s hot outside, and if he wants he can buy himself a cheap cold glass of beer afterwards. It’s like something he assumed was just a painted backdrop all his life has revealed itself to be real: foreign cities are real, and famous artworks, and underground railway systems, and remnants of the Berlin Wall. That’s money, the substance that makes the world real. There’s something so corrupt and sexy about it.
Still, Connell went home that night and read over some notes he had been making for a new story, and he felt the old beat of pleasure in his body, like watching a perfect goal, like the rustling movement of light through leaves, a phrase of music from the window of a passing car. Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.
He often makes blithe remarks about things he 'wishes'. I wish you didn't have to go, he says when she's leaving, or: I wish you could stay the night. If he really wished any of those things, Marianne knows, then they would happen. Connell always gets what he wants, and then feels sorry for himself when what he wants doesn't make him happy.
Connell wished he knew how other people conducted their private lives, so that he could copy from example.
If he silently decides not to say something when they’re talking, Marianne will ask ‘what?’ within one or two seconds. This ‘what?’ question seems to him to contain so much: not just the forensic attentiveness to his silences that allows her to ask in the first place, but a desire for total communication, a sense that anything unsaid is an unwelcome interruption between them.
He has sincerely wanted to die, but he has never sincerely wanted Marianne to forget about him. That’s the only part of himself he wants to protect, the part that exists inside her.
You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.
Their feelings were suppressed so carefully in everyday life, forced into smaller and smaller spaces, until seemingly minor events took on insane and frightening significance. It was permissible to touch each other and cry during football matches.
It's time you'll never get back, Marianne adds. I mean, the time is real. The money is also real. Well, but the time is more real. Time consists of physics, money is just a social construct.
He was like a freezer item that had thawed too quickly on the outside and was melting everywhere, while the inside was still frozen solid. Somehow he was expressing more emotion than at any time in his life before, while simultaneously feeling less, feeling nothing.
He did gradually start to wonder why all their classroom discussions were so abstract and lacking in textual detail, and eventually he realised that most people were not actually doing the reading. They were coming into college every day to have heated debates about books they had not read. He understands now that his classmates are not like him. It's easy for them to have opinions, and to express them with confidence. They don't worry about appearing ignorant or conceited.
Lately he’s consumed by a sense that he is in fact two separate people, and soon he will have to choose which person to be on a full-time basis, and leave the other person behind.
At times a person will make eye contact with Marianne, a bus conductor or someone looking for change, and she’ll be shocked briefly into the realisation that this is in fact her life, that she is actually visible to other people. This feeling opens her to certain longings: hunger and thirst, a desire to speak Swedish, a physical desire to swim or dance.
If she was different with Connell, the difference was not happening inside herself, in her personhood, but in between them, in the dynamic.
She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life, of which this is the first moment, and even after many years have passed she will still think: Yes, that was it, the beginning of my life.
Marianne had a wildness that got into him for a while and made him feel that he was like her, that they had the same unnameable spiritual injury, and that neither of them could ever fit into the world. But he was never damaged like she was. She just made him feel that way.
He does have immaculate taste. He's sensitive to the most minuscule of aesthetic failures, in painting, in cinema, even in novels or television shows. Sometimes when Marianne mentions a film she has recently watched, he waves his hand and says: It fails for me. This quality of discernment, she has realised, does not make Lukas a good person. He has managed to nurture a fine artistic sensitivity without ever developing any real sense of right and wrong. The fact that this is even possible unsettles Marianne, and makes art seem pointless suddenly.
That's money, the substance that makes the world real. There's something so corrupt and sexy about it.
Could he really do the gruesome things he does to her and believe at the same time that he’s acting out of love? Is the world such an evil place, that love should be indistinguishable from the basest and most abusive forms of violence?.
They’ve done a lot of good for each other. Really, she thinks, really. People can really change one another.
He understands now that his classmates are not like him. It’s easy for them to have opinions, and to express them with confidence. They don’t worry about appearing ignorant or conceited. They are not stupid people, but they’re not so much smarter than him either. They just move through the world in a different way, and he’ll probably never really understand them, and he knows they will never understand him, or even try.
How strange to feel herself so completely under the control of another person, but also how ordinary. No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.
She tries to be a good person. But deep down she knows she is a bad person, corrupted, wrong, and all her efforts to be right, to have the right opinions, to say the right things, these efforts only disguise what is buried inside her, the evil part of herself.
You need to get straight in your mind what you think a good society would look like, said Marianne. And if you think people should be able to go to college and get English degrees, you shouldn't feel guilty for doing that yourself, because you have every right to.
Dublin is extraordinarily beautiful to her in wet weather, the way gray stone darkens to black, and rain moves over the grass and whispers on slick roof tiles. Raincoats glistening in the undersea color of street lamps. Rain silver as loose change in the glare of traffic.
He can’t help Marianne, no matter what he does. There’s something frightening about her, some huge emptiness in the pit of her being. It’s like waiting for a lift to arrive and when the doors open nothing is there, just the terrible dark emptiness of the elevator shaft, on and on forever. She’s missing some primal instinct, self-defense or self-preservation, which makes other human beings comprehensible. You lean in expecting resistance, and everything just falls away in front of you.
He tells her that she’s beautiful. She has never heard that before, though she has sometimes privately suspected it of herself, but it feels different to hear it from another person.
If anything, his personality seemed like something external to himself, managed by the opinions of others, rather than anything he individually did or produced. Now he has a sense of invisibility, nothingness, with no reputation to recommend him to anyone.
At times he has the sensation that he and Marianne are like figure skaters, improvising their discussions so adeptly and in such perfect synchronisation that it surprises them both. She tosses herself gracefully into the air, and each time, without knowing how he's going to do it, he catches her.
To me it’s weird when animals pause because they seem so intelligent, but maybe that’s because I associate pausing with thought.
He reaches for her hand and she gives it to him without thinking. For a second he holds it, his thumb moving over her knuckles. Then he lifts her hand to his mouth and kisses it. She feels pleasurably crushed under the weight of his power over her, the vast ecstatic depth of her will to please him. That’s nice, she says. He nods. She feels a low gratifying ache inside her body, in her pelvic bone, in her back.
Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was and become part of it. She had that feeling in school often, but it wasn’t accompanied by any specific images of what the real life might look or feel like. All she knew was that when it started, she wouldn’t need to imagine it anymore.
Maybe I want to be treated badly, she says. I don’t know. Sometimes I think I deserve bad things because I’m a bad person. He exhales. In the spring he would sometimes wake up at night beside Marianne, and if she was awake too they would move into each other’s arms until he could feel himself inside her. He didn’t have to say anything, except to ask her if it was alright and she always said it was. Nothing else in his life compared to what he felt then. Often he wished he could fall asleep inside her body.
He finds himself rushing to the end of the conversation so they can hang up, and then he can retrospectively savor how much he likes seeing her, without the moment-to-moment pressure of having to produce the right expressions and say the right things. Just to see Helen, her beautiful face, her smile, and to know that she continues loving him, this puts the gift of joy into his day, and for hours he feels nothing but a light-headed happiness.
He feels ambivalent about this, as if it’s disloyal of him, because maybe he’s enjoying how she looks or some physical aspect of her closeness. He’s not sure what friends are allowed to enjoy about each other.
Marianne lived a drastically free life, he could see that. He was trapped by various considerations. He cared what people thought of him.
She felt happy to be surrounded by people she liked, who liked her. She knew that if she wanted to speak, people would probably turn around and listen out of sincere interest, and that made her happy too, although she had nothing at all to say.
She feels that even she doesn’t know what her family are like, that she’s never adequate in her attempts to describe them, that she oscillates between exaggerating their behaviour, which makes her feel guilty, or downplaying it, which also makes her feel guilty, but a different guilt, more inwardly directed.
This was probably the most horrifying thing Eric could have said to him, not because it ended his life, but because it didn’t. He knew then that the secret for which he had sacrificed his own happiness and the happiness of another person had been trivial all along, and worthless.
Her body is just an item of property, and though it has been handed around and misused in various ways, it has somehow always belonged to him, and she feels like returning it to him now.
Things happened to him, like the crying fits, the panic attacks, but they seemed to descend on him from outside, rather than emanating from somewhere inside himself. Internally he felt nothing. He was like a freezer item that had thawed too quickly on the outside and was melting everywhere, while the inside was still frozen solid.
He wants to understand how her mind works. If he silently decides not to say something when they’re talking, Marianne will ask ‘what?’ within one or two seconds. This ‘what?’ question seems to him to contain so much: not just the forensic attentiveness to his silences that allows her to ask in the first place, but a desire for total communication, a sense that anything unsaid is an unwelcome interruption between them.
He seemed to think Marianne had access to a range of different identities, between which she slipped effortlessly. This surprised her, because she usually felt confined inside one single personality, which was always the same regardless of what she did or said. She had tried to be different in the past, as a kind of experiment, but it had never worked. If she was different with Connell, the difference was not happening inside herself, in her personhood, but in between them, in the dynamic.
Now she knows that in the intervening years Connell has been growing slowly more adjusted to the world, a process of adjustment that has been steady if sometimes painful, while she herself has been degenerating, moving further and further from wholesomeness, becoming something unrecognisably debased, and they have nothing left in common at all.
If Niall could see Marianne, he would say: don’t tell me. You like her. It’s true she is Connell’s type, maybe even the originary model of the type: elegant, bored-looking, with an impression of perfect self-assurance. And he’s attracted to her, he can admit that. After these months away from home, life seems much larger, and his personal dramas less significant. He’s not the same anxious, repressed person he was in school, when his attraction to her felt terrifying, like an oncoming train, and he threw her under it.