‘It can- cause pain, though.’

should be writing an essay on ‘notes from the underground’ right now, but whatever. was looking through old diary entries- found a reference to this scene, which i wrote about a year ago. maybe it’s the rain falling just beyond the window right now. or the weird mood i’ve been in all night, one of those moods of semi-spiritual questioning where sometimes you feel like you’ve got a black hole in you. but anyway. here it is.

‘What were you reading?’ Elinor asked, softly, into the dark.

There was a moment of silence. Elinor strained her eyes, but all she could make out of Augusta was her dark shape in the bed.

‘Mansfield Park,’ came the reply.

‘Any good?’

A hesitation. ‘I’m not sure how much I like it yet. I sort of want to hug the heroine, but I also sort of want to throttle her. There is a very nice fellow in it, though. And a horrendous old cow called Mrs Norris.’

‘Well, maybe you’ll make up your mind about the heroine when you finish,’ Elinor said. She thought of her copy of Underworld, sitting unfinished on her bedside table at home.

‘Perhaps. Maybe I won’t, though.’ She paused. ‘Sometimes I’m like that. I feel two ways about something. Or more than two ways. And neither one’s less true than the other- even if I feel one of them more often, or more strongly. You know? And I can’t pin it down like that. I can’t reconcile them. I simply have to hold all the ways I feel there in my head, and listen to them all at the same time, and try not to make myself pin either one down and set a seal on it.’

‘It’s not a crime to feel two ways at once about something.’

‘No.’

A minute ticked by. It seemed like such a long time that Elinor thought Augusta had gone to sleep. But Augusta had not gone to sleep. She spoke again.

‘It can- cause pain, though. It can make you feel less- solid. The ways we see ourselves- we build those up on what we know of ourselves- the solid things about us. For example, I know that I’m very clever, and I know that I’m shockingly awful at tennis, and I know that I have a passionate hatred of Tristam Shandy, and a passionate love of clementines, and that sort of thing. And when things aren’t solid- when they’re un-pin-down-able- I feel less solid. I feel un-pin-down-able. I feel like- there isn’t a real me. Only lots of facets of something.’

‘Alright,’ said Elinor. ‘So how about this: maybe what you call the real you is the result of all those facets converging, and making a picture. And I don’t want you to be pin-down-able.’

Outside, the roar of a car engine. ‘I love you,’ said Augusta.

Elinor turned over in bed. She stared at the pale shadow of the lampshade.

 

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