Forty years of pious introspection have given Tarquin a nose like a bloodhound for his own weaknesses. In this case it is Clare, who lives in the box room at the end of the landing. I say "in this case," in order to pretend that he does not always dream about Clare. But this is untrue. He seldom dreams of anyone so often or so moistly, as he does of this tall black dancing master with the sparrow's knowingness and the cockney twist of the tongue. Therefore the mornings are pleasantly spent in analyzing his unhappy passion and entering the findings in that long-nosed diary of his. If the dream was wet he gives himself full marks (sublimated); if dry, arid, and intellectual then he gets worried (repressed). There is a grave alarm in the air for the healthiness of his "life sexual" (such a dainty pre-Raphaelite arrangement of those clinical terms, don't you know).

Over breakfast we rearrange the clinical scheme, and bolster up his courage for him. It is an endless game of chess with his psyche. Tarquin's effective working life is spent lying on his back, and catechizing himself. His spirit divides itself into two essences, pictured by the words Question and Answer; and he swears to be quite honest with himself, though he does not quite know what he means by this. Honesty and clear thinking are the general idea, however, followed by largeness, scope, and a fine bold spiritual design.

But Clare, on a morning like this? He is painfully dressed, cracking a new packet of candles and filling the sconces. The kettle is boiling. Clare is that unhappy crying for a boy's body at some hour of the evening, or a few scrappy, ill-considered phrases in that remote diary, in which everything must be entered before he dies. Clare? The dirty little brute with the bitten fingernails. Clare is this fatal world which you can see if you stand at the window. The long concrete road, its pure white nap now gouged and muddied by the rubber lips of the buses, the carts, the feet of the ants. Clare is this morning, advancing stage by stage, grimly, painfully, like a paralytic; the crisp morning sounds; the eggs frying; the loaded trays moving about; the geysers running in little spurts and gallops, and the steam leaking into the landings; or the figure of Lobo in diminishing perspective on the roads. Actually Clare is nothing of the sort. When Tarquin thinks about him his face is the face of a broken-down actuary.

But I am not here to interpret him, nor even to make him grow. I simply put him to bed on paper among a few random syllables of English. In an atmosphere so homely one can only help oneself and hope for the best. But Clare?

Tarquin raps on his door primly with the air of the Raven. His dressing gown flows over him in exotic folds. Or else be barks "Clare" once, like a siren, and enters. It is always the same. There is no answer. Once the door is open there is nothing to do but to stare in on the customary wreckage of the box room. The usual foul litter of shirts and pants decorates the bare linoleum. The window is open and the snow has been blowing onto the bed, the floor, the table. The gigolo is hidden.

Tarquin calls, "Clare." No answer or movement. The bed might be nestling a corpse. The wall is a solid mass of photographs: dance steps torn from trade journals which moves slowly in the wind --- the whole wall, I mean, as if it were about to collapse on him. Tarquin begins walking around, examining the pictures, pretending he is interested in them. From the open door he looks like a maiden aunt visiting the zoo, or the Academy. He hates himself, it is obvious. Why does he worry Clare always like this? Why can't he leave him alone? The dirty little beast! After all, dirty: because somehow the sight of Clare's room with its snow and littered underpants is a raw awakening from the idyll, the Marlowesque dream of the riverbank, and the delicate copulation of Narcissi. As usual he does not damn literature, but damns Clare, who cannot live up to the literary reputation which has been invented for him. All this is interesting to the silent partner, the confidant. I am not called upon to remark, or to suggest, or even to admit my own presence. Merely to exist. I am the umpire whose judgment is never even asked for. It is understood that I suffer for Tarquin in his terrible affliction.

--- From The Black Book
Lawrence Durrell

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