October 22, 2006

Zeit Journal

From the Atlantic:
Nabokov wrote in America, as he touches a stone on a bridge on the night his wife has died:
I had never touched this particular knob before and shall never find it again. This moment of conscious contact holds a drop of solace. The emergency brake of time. Whatever the present moment is, I have stopped it. Too late. In the course of our, let me see, twelve, twelve and three months, years of life together, I ought to have immobilized by this simple method millions of moments; paying perhaps terrific fines, but stopping the train. Say, why did you do it? the popeyed conductor might ask. Because I liked the view. Because I wanted to stop those speeding trees and the path twisting between them. By stepping on its receding tail. What happened to her would perhaps not have happened, had I been in the habit of stopping this or that bit of our common life, prophylactically, prophetically, letting this or that moment rest and breathe in peace. Taming time. Giving her pulse respite. Pampering life, life—our patient.
Of the summer past a memory lingers: my wife floating in a thirty-dollar blow-up pool under the gilt sun. She, normally active as a perpetual motion machine, made the whole day somnolent by her somnolence. The present moment was halted.

Flash forward to an aging October. A weakened but unbowed sun visited one afternoon and we all went on a hike, including darling Lilliputians with wits more sure than promissory notes. Oh but the joys of friendship are disproportionate! And like a salve was the back-and-forth, to-and-fro, the easyness of it, the finishings of each other sentences, the inside jokes. The lilliputians spoke of fantastical pippsiehorses, an evolution of the term "pixie horse" in a children film. "Now," she said, "I can at last understand your hillybilly talk," after he read from a park sign explaining the derivation of a forest obscurity. “Talk slowly” being the knee-jerk reaction to hearing a sudden reference of an erotic nature, I was glad he gave me the opening after he drawled ‘nymph’ in his recital.

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