And so I watched her for those thirty seconds. She was amending a window display, assisted by a young man of maybe five or ten years her junior. He was routinely attired in a neat suit, with a tie knotted neatly in a neatly pressed collar. His manner seemed conventionally controlled, showing no apparent interest in the woman he was assisting. He played his part with due deference to practical exigency, and then moved back into the body of the shop when it was finished.
But then a change came over the manageress. Her face flushed, her eyes swelled and grew damp, the small and subtle movements of her head took on a random and involuntary character. She looked embarrassed, both by the nature of what her silent language conveyed, and by her conscious inability to keep it quiet. Maybe she noticed me noticing, although she never looked at me.
* * *
I read some of Kafka’s Meditations again tonight. I’d like to quote a small passage here, partly because he writes so much better than I do, and partly because I’m very taken with the tangential route his mind takes away from the regular and routinely received:
If I encounter a pretty girl and invite her: ‘Be nice, come along with me,’ and she walks past without speaking, what she means is:
‘You’re no great lord with your name on the tip of everyone’s tongue, nor a broad-shouldered American with the build of a Red Indian, your eyes scanning the horizon and your skin massaged by the wind of the prairies and the rivers pouring through them; you haven’t travelled to the great oceans heaven knows where, nor sailed upon them. So I ask you, why should I, a pretty girl like me, go along with you?’
My favourite is the one in which the ghost of a little girl walks into his apartment and locks the door. Their subsequent conversation is delightful.