City of Glass - CD 02 parte I (2)
The counterman shook his head. “First two times up, Kingman hits solo shots,” he said. “Boom, boom. Big mothers—all the way to the moon. Jones is pitching good for once and things don't look too bad. It's two to one, bottom of the ninth. Pittsburgh gets men on second and third, one out, so the Mets go to the bullpen for Allen. He walks the next guy to load them up. The Mets bring the corners in for a force at home, or maybe they can get the double play if it's hit up the middle. Peña comes up and chicken-shits a little grounder to first and the fucker goes through Kingman's legs. Two men score, and that's it, bye-bye New York.”
“Dave Kingman is a turd,” said Quinn, biting into his hamburger.
“But watch out for Foster,” said the counterman.
“Foster's washed up. A has-been. A mean-faced bozo.” Quinn chewed his food carefully, feeling with his tongue for stray bits of bone. “They should ship him back to Cincinnati by express mail.”
“Yeah,” said the counterman. “But they'll be tough. Better than last year, anyway.”
“I don't know,” said Quinn, taking another bite. “It looks good on paper, but what do they really have? Stearns is always getting hurt. They have minor leaguers at second and short, and Brooks can't keep his mind on the game. Mookie's good, but he's raw, and they can't even decide who to put in right. There's still Rusty, of course, but he's too fat to run anymore. And as for the pitching, forget it. You and I could go over to Shea tomorrow and get hired as the top two starters.”
“Maybe I make you the manager,” said the counterman. “You could tell those fuckers where to get off.”
“You bet your bottom dollar,” said Quinn.
After he finished eating, Quinn wandered over to the stationery shelves. A shipment of new notebooks had come in, and the pile was impressive, a beautiful array of blues and greens and reds and yellows. He picked one up and saw that the pages had the narrow lines he preferred. Quinn did all his writing with a pen, using a typewriter only for final drafts, and he was always on the lookout for good spiral notebooks. Now that he had embarked on the Stillman case, he felt that a new notebook was in order. It would be helpful to have a separate place to record his thoughts, his observations, and his questions. In that way, perhaps, things might not get out of control.
He looked through the pile, trying to decide which one to pick. For reasons that were never made clear to him, he suddenly felt an irresistible urge for a particular red notebook at the bottom. He pulled it out and examined it, gingerly fanning the pages with his thumb. He was at a loss to explain to himself why he found it so appealing. It was a standard eight-and-a-half-by-eleven notebook with one hundred pages. But something about it seemed to call out to him—as if its unique destiny in the world was to hold the words that came from his pen. Almost embarrassed by the intensity of his feelings, Quinn tucked the red notebook under his arm, walked over to the cash register, and bought it.
Back in his apartment a quarter of an hour later, Quinn removed the photograph of Stillman and the check from his jacket pocket and placed them carefully on his desk. He cleared the debris from the surface—dead matches, cigarette butts, eddies of ash, spent ink cartridges, a few coins, ticket stubs, doodles, a dirty handkerchief—and put the red notebook in the center. Then he drew the shades in the room, took off all his clothes, and sat down at the desk. He had never done this before, but it somehow seemed appropriate to be naked at this moment. He sat there for twenty or thirty seconds, trying not to move, trying not to do anything but breathe. Then he opened the red notebook. He picked up his pen and wrote his initials, D.Q. (for Daniel Quinn), on the first page. It was the first time in more than five years that he had put his own name in one of his notebooks. He stopped to consider this fact for a moment but then dismissed it as irrelevant. He turned the page. For several moments he studied its blankness, wondering if he was not a bloody fool. Then he pressed his pen against the top line and made the first entry in the red notebook.
Stillman's face. Or: Stillman's face as it was twenty years ago. Impossible to know whether the face tomorrow will resemble it. It is certain, however, that this is not the face of a madman. Or is this not a legitimate statement? To my eyes, at least, it seems benign, if not downright pleasant. A hint of tenderness around the mouth even. More than likely blue eyes, with a tendency to water. Thin hair even then, so perhaps gone now, and what remains gray, or even white. He bears an odd familiarity: the meditative type, no doubt high-strung, someone who might stutter, fight with himself to stem the flood of words rushing from his mouth.
Little Peter. Is it necessary for me to imagine it, or can I accept it on faith? The darkness. To think of myself in that room, screaming. I am reluctant. Nor do I think I even want to understand it. To what end? This is not a story, after all. It is a fact, something happening in the world, and I am supposed to do a job, one little thing, and I have said yes to it. If all goes well, it should even be quite simple. I have not been hired to understand—merely to act. This is something new. To keep it in mind, at all costs.
And yet, what is it that Dupin says in Poe? “An identification of the reasoner's intellect with that of his opponent.” But here it would apply to Stillman senior. Which is probably even worse.
As for Virginia, I am in a quandary. Not just the kiss, which might be explained by any number of reasons; not what Peter said about her, which is unimportant. Her marriage? Perhaps. The complete incongruity of it. Could it be that she's in it for the money? Or somehow working in collaboration with Stillman? That would change everything. But, at the same time, it makes no sense. For why would she have hired me? To have a witness to her apparent good intentions? Perhaps. But that seems too complicated. And yet: why do I feel she is not to be trusted?
Stillman's face, again. Thinking for these past few minutes that I have seen it before. Perhaps years ago in the neighborhood—before the time of his arrest.
To remember what it feels like to wear other people's clothes. To begin with that, I think. Assuming I must. Back in the old days, eighteen, twenty years ago, when I had no money and friends would give me things to wear. J.'s old overcoat in college, for example. And the strange sense I would have of climbing into his skin. That is probably a start.
And then, most important of all: to remember who I am. To remember who I am supposed to be. I do not think this is a game. On the other hand, nothing is clear. For example: who are you? And if you think you know, why do you keep lying about it? I have no answer. All I can say is this: listen to me. My name is Paul Auster. That is not my real name.
Quinn spent the next morning at the Columbia library with Stillman's book. He arrived early, the first one there as the doors opened, and the silence of the marble halls comforted him, as though he had been allowed to enter some crypt of oblivion. After flashing his alumni card at the drowsing attendant behind the desk, he retrieved the book from the stacks, returned to the third floor, and then settled down in a green leather armchair in one of the smoking rooms. The bright May morning lurked outside like a temptation, a call to wander aimlessly in the air, but Quinn fought it off. He turned the chair around, positioning himself with his back to the window, and opened the book.
The Garden and the Tower: Early Visions of the New World was divided into two parts of approximately equal length, “The Myth of Paradise” and “The Myth of Babel.” The first concentrated on the discoveries of the explorers, beginning with Columbus and continuing on through Raleigh. It was Stillman's contention that the first men to visit America believed they had accidentally found paradise, a second Garden of Eden. In the narrative of his third voyage, for example, Columbus wrote: “For I believe that the earthly Paradise lies here, which no one can enter except by God's leave.” As for the people of this land, Peter Martyr would write as early as 1505: “They seem to live in that golden world of which old writers speak so much, wherein men lived simply and innocently, without enforcement of laws, without quarrelling, judges, or libels, content only to satisfy nature.” Or, as the ever-present Montaigne would write more than half a century later: “In my opinion, what we actually see in these nations not only surpasses all the pictures which the poets have drawn of the Golden Age, and all their inventions representing the then happy state of mankind, but also the conception and desire of philosophy itself.” From the very beginning, according to Stillman, the discovery of the New World was the quickening impulse of utopian thought, the spark that gave hope to the perfectibility of human life—from Thomas More's book of 1516 to Gerónimo de Mendieta's prophecy, some years later, that America would become an ideal theocratic state, a veritable City of God.
There was, however, an opposite point of view. If some saw the Indians as living in prelapsarian innocence, there were others who judged them to be savage beasts, devils in the form of men. The discovery of cannibals in the Caribbean did nothing to assuage this opinion. The Spaniards used it as a justification to exploit the natives mercilessly for their own mercantile ends. For if you do not consider the man before you to be human, there are few restraints of conscience on your behavior towards him. It was not until 1537, with the papal bull of Paul III, that the Indians were declared to be true men possessing souls. The debate nevertheless went on for several hundred years, culminating on the one hand in the “noble savage” of Locke and Rousseau—which laid the theoretical foundations of democracy in an independent America—and, on the other hand, in the campaign to exterminate the Indians, in the undying belief that the only good Indian was a dead Indian.
The second part of the book began with a new examination of the fall. Relying heavily on Milton and his account in Paradise Lost—as representing the orthodox Puritan position—Stillman claimed that it was only after the fall that human life as we know it came into being. For if there was no evil in the Garden, neither was there any good. As Milton himself put it in the Areopagitica, “It was out of the rind of one apple tasted that good and evil leapt forth into the world, like two twins cleaving together.” Stillman's gloss on this sentence was exceedingly thorough. Alert to the possibility of puns and wordplay throughout, he showed how the word “taste” was actually a reference to the Latin word “sapere,” which means both “to taste” and “to know” and therefore contains a subliminal reference to the tree of knowledge: the source of the apple whose taste brought forth knowledge into the world, which is to say, good and evil. Stillman also dwelled on the paradox of the word “cleave,” which means both “to join together” and “to break apart,” thus embodying two equal and opposite significations, which in turn embodies a view of language that Stillman found to be present in all of Milton's work. In Paradise Lost, for example, each key word has two meanings—one before the fall and one after the fall. To illustrate his point, Stillman isolated several of those words—sinister, serpentine, delicious—and showed how their prelapsarian use was free of moral connotations, whereas their use after the fall was shaded, ambiguous, informed by a knowledge of evil. Adam's one task in the Garden had been to invent language, to give each creature and thing its name. In that state of innocence, his tongue had gone straight to the quick of the world. His words had not been merely appended to the things he saw, they had revealed their essences, had literally brought them to life. A thing and its name were interchangeable. After the fall, this was no longer true. Names became detached from things; words devolved into a collection of arbitrary signs; language had been severed from God. The story of the Garden, therefore, records not only the fall of man, but the fall of language.