She simply could not live with him any longer; Natalia knew that within herself. The marriage was dead and she felt beset, in an undefined, almost pleasurable way by guilt and a sweet compassion.
She felt compassion for Evgenios, her husband of fourteen years — she was even in love with him at first — but the bond had worn out like old clothing, the small moments, the daily ones, lost their luster, time had shrunk and Natalia was drowning, felt asphyxiated, could not abide even his voice — that peculiar sound, as of flowing water on a fissured depth, that once charmed her — “your voice makes me dream of water flowing on a moonlit night,” she would say to him, but she could no longer endure that defeated voice, nor bear to look at his hands, those hands wrapped in a strange almost threatening silence — even when they touched her accidentally she shuddered.
“I can’t bear him, Dimitri, help me. It’s a dead marriage. You know about things like that; you’re a psychiatrist. Even his music disturbs me. He lies for hours buried in the cushions of the sofa, and his interminable nocturnal walks. . . where does he go? Can you tell me where he goes?”
Dimitri listened, afraid to contradict her. A family friend for years, and before that, he and Evgenios were friends in school and in the army.
“Evgenios always liked music, I don’t understand why now, suddenly, it upsets you… , he dared to say to her, you need to look elsewhere for the reasons underlying your aversion to him. . .”, he added.
Natalia gave him a cutting glance. She did not like the word “aversion” even if it was synonymous with the reality of her life. In fact, that same reality eluded her, flowed within her full of fissures, slipped, soft and dangerous, beyond logic.
Her gaze remained fastened somewhere in space, and on her face was a strange compassion, like gentle regret. Evgenios was charming, she admitted that even as she wanted to divorce him. Perhaps those same marks of loneliness and rejection, those deeply shadowed marks of a wounded ego made him charming in her eyes. He was at fault for the failure of his life, deeply, traumatically at fault, and that feeling precisely was cultivated in him by Natalia, with all the female powers of evil that waxed unsatisfied within her and goaded her into the nets of the most insane conceit.
“. . . You must look somewhere else”, repeated Dimitri, who read her thoughts and wondered now what had happened to that youthful girl with the dreamy eyes that Evgenios, madly in love, had married. . . how people could change like this. . . they grow thorns with time, their soul is dulled and their mind becomes burdened with absurdity, which is the flip side of the need for tears, the flip side of a dangerous and showy vanity, like the bright artificial flowers on the table, yes their mind becomes burdened with absurdity, burdened with its future martyrdom. . . he was thinking with prophetic inclination, as he looked at her lamely.
“Somewhere else, of course,” she said, “and I wonder if it doesn’t bother me that nothing happened in his life. . .he didn’t develop, you see, he remained an insignificant minor officer in a bank. . .”
Her eyes were still blank, a withdrawal where doubt hovered, and her face now took on a complacent smile.
She herself had achieved a high position in the company where she worked; she had struggled, worked hard, “ I didn’t waste my time on pointless walks and on velvety hours of music. . . success is not won without giving, you know that. . . time must be productive,” she shouted angrily.
“But for him the hours spent with his music are more valuable than the pursuit of success, don’t forget that Evgenios likes poetry. . . at one time he wrote. . .”
She smiled. The subject of poetry always made her smile, without knowing why exactly. . . poor Evgenios couldn’t even be a poet, so inconsequential, so miserable was he, she thought with that sweet need for compassion, and once again she confirmed for herself that the marriage bond had died within her, finally and irrevocably. She was now building her house, building it with her own money earned from her overtime hours, and all she dreamed of was to live, free, in her house, with new friends, with exciting acquaintances; she was thirty-six years old and she had aged well, she still had the time to love and to be loved by someone worthy of her, someone with a stellar position who would talk at supper about his business trips. . . . All that charmed Natalia, fascinated her, she needed once more to gamble with her feminine powers and to win. . . . She dreamed of passion, nothing is worthwhile in life if not done with passion she thought, and felt her body trembling from ambiguous, misty fantasies and from erotic delirium, whispers in the dark amid moonbeams and half-empty glasses. She would not listen to her friend Anna, her only childhood friend, who tried to bring her back to reality.
“Are you crazy? What’s come over you that you want to divorce him? He’s a wonderful man. . . . He never denied you anything. . . . What’s come over you suddenly, can you tell me?”
No, she couldn’t. And she didn’t want to. What she felt was organic, beyond her powers, in crazy fantasies that disturbed the mind’s balance. It might be fatigue that was affecting her nerve centers, a fatigue heavy like an illness of the soul, maybe it was that same harsh regime of work that she had imposed on herself for years against which she was now rebelling, a rebellion that she did not dare undertake in her youth. But she didn’t want psychoanalysis now, she despised self-examination, I am free now, she said complacently, and I can order my actions and my life. . . I was bruised achieving that marvelous freedom of mine and, well, I’m determined to enjoy it.