…a coming together, a binding together, anything together
After two hours of walking along the canal towpath, lost amongst thoughts, literary and otherwise, was Oscar sufficiently prepared for dinner with Helen?
Oscar’s level of preparedness could only be assessed if it is taken into consideration that he could not have known what was ahead of him that night. He was calm and even minded. The only thought which troubled him concerned the difficulty of rendering what was mundane in life equally mundane in literature. That is: how can the utter lack of significance of the one-moment-to-the-next of his life be rendered equally mundane in the written word? That is: how can the significance imbued into every word of literary fiction be overcome in order to represent the unadulterated hum drum ness of every thought, event, sight, sound and feeling which made up his mental and physical existence? If such thoughts could be deemed to amount to troubled thoughts, then Oscar’s thoughts were troubled, otherwise he was calm and even minded.
Would these thoughts prove to be enough of a distraction this evening, numbing his sensitivity to the advances of Helen and insulating him from the warmth of her attention and touch?
It is highly unlikely. Such thoughts have so little substance that they could be blown away by the sight of a broken toaster or the sound of a flickering candle, both of which are present at the scene towards which he is haphazardly ambling. They are certainly not weighty enough to stand up against the soft words of a beautiful woman.
Is Helen such a beautiful woman?
Considering that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that it is also only skin deep, and if you also consider that beauty is here but for a moment and lasts only the spring and summer of life, as well as considering that beauty is what beauty cannot be, then yes, Helen is such a beautiful woman.
What is the defining characteristic of Helen’s beauty?
It would have to be her awareness of it. She does have round breasts and long legs and slender arms like any other beauty, red lips, pale skin, sparkling eyes, glossy hair, high cheek bones, fresh breath, white teeth, smooth back, lithe figure, rounded hips, a firm but full bottom, as well as the other attributes of beauty listed elsewhere; however, it is Helen’s awareness of her own beauty which marks her out.
Is Helen’s greater preparedness for the evening ahead an unfair advantage?
Are there any possible weaknesses in Helen’s position?
There is, in fact, a significant weakness; it could best be described as a crack running through her world and pouring out darkness.
Could this weakness be explained without resorting to figurative language?
Very easily. Since Helen met the man with the neatly trimmed beard, round glasses, bushy eyebrows, weak head of thinning hair, grey stubble, eyes magnified by his glasses, mouth hanging open for another word, she has not been herself.
Isn’t the phrase “not been herself” a figurative device?
No. She has literally not been herself. However, to explain this it will be necessary to resort to figurative devices: Helen’s self is made up of a picture she has of herself. Since meeting that seemingly ordinary and everyday middle-aged man in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket, that picture has been ruptured. He, that man, his pale face lit up by fluorescent lighting, has entered that picture and refused to melt away into the wider brush strokes of the background. Now, without this man, Helen feels incomplete.
Does she love this man?
As she is in love with the picture she has of herself, she must be. However, she does not want to be in love with such an ordinary middle-aged man and she will never relent in her intense hatred of him.
Is Helen in love with Oscar?
Is Oscar in love with Helen?
Is that Oscar’s key in the door right now?
Yes. Oscar has arrived. On opening the door he will smell the full smell of well-cooked food. Only when the door is closed behind him, will Oscar register the dimmed lights and soft music. Only after several minutes, minutes Helen will surely not give him, would he begin to apprehend the true nature of the situation.
Would Oscar find such a situation off putting?
Oscar would certainly not baulk at the prospect of having sex with Helen. Helen’s act of seduction, with him as its object, has in fact been a recurrent narrative in his fantasies, both dreams during his sleeping hours, over which he has no control, and day dreams, which he actively encourages. One favourite dream involves just such a scenario – him arriving home to find Helen dressed in very little and intent on sexual congress. However, the prospect of something happening and its happening are two very different things, as different as two things can possibly be.
Are there not two other things that are more different?
It is impossible to answer that question.
Do any factors count against Helen’s successful seduction of Oscar?
It is difficult to know how Oscar would react to such a scenario unfolding before his eyes in the world of reality. That reality normally circumvents his dreams and wishes is the situation which Oscar, as well as the vast majority of humankind, has become comfortable with. A sudden one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn in this regard could result in the complete collapse of Oscar’s perception of the world and his inability to play either seducer or seducee in any act of seduction.
Despite spending the last three hours methodically preparing herself for this moment, Helen has not fully put herself into the enterprise. Her image of herself, polluted as it has been by the image of the man with the neatly trimmed beard, round glasses, bushy eyebrows and weak head of thinning hair, has been tarnished. However, her confusion at this point is as nothing in comparison to the hatred she feels towards this anonymous man. Helen’s hatred, which has always been wholehearted and all consuming, has sapped any real enthusiasm for the enterprise at hand.
The term “successful” also needs to be given a clearer definition in this context. Helen will not measure success by the successful completion of the sexual act. She has ever only wanted to ensnare Oscar. She only wants him to love her, crave her and have difficulty living without her. She never had the least intention of gratifying Oscar sexually, nor any hope of gratifying herself sexually through him.
The sight of the broken toaster or the sound of a flickering candle will now come into play, blowing away Oscar’s as always insubstantial thoughts. However, there are another set of thoughts to take their place: what about Smith? Should he have left his friend to his fate at the hands of the local police? Would Oscar’s failure to attempt to secure his release be taken amiss? Was Smith right now plotting his revenge? Shouldn’t Oscar be at least a little concerned about his friend’s well being? And – had the electricity bill not been paid yet again?
When Oscar sat himself down, lost in such thoughts, Helen distractedly placed a plate on the table before him. Though the line of her cleavage was on show, neither of them seemed to notice. Not Helen, in the picture she had of herself. Not Oscar, in order to furnish his fantasies with yet more material.