Monday, August 5, 2013

the extract

I went to a railway station today and learned that the distance between railway tracks is always 143.5 centimeters or 4 feet 8 1/2 inches. Why this absurd measurement? I asked my girlfriend to find out and this is what she discovered. When they built the first train carriages, they used the same tools they had for building horse-drawn carriages. And why that the distance between the wheels on carriages?  Because that was the width of the old roads along which the carriages had to travel. And who decided the that roads should be that width? Well, suddenly  we're plunged back into the distance past. It was the Romans, the first great road-builders, who decided their roads that width. And why? Because their war chariots were pulled by two horses, and when placed side by side, the horses they used at the time took up 143.5 centimeters.

   'So the distance between the tracks I saw today, used by our state-of-the-art high speed trains, was determined by the Romans. When people went to the United States and started building railways there, it didn't occur to them to change the width, so it stayed as it was. This even affected the building of space shuttles. American engineers thought the fuel tanks should be wider, but the tanks were built in Utah and had to be transported by train to the space center in Florida, and the tunnels couldn't take anything wider. And so they had to accept that the measurement that the Romans had decided was the ideal. But what has all this to do with marriage? 
I paused. Some people were not in the slightest bit interested in railway tracks and had started talking amongst themselves. Others were listening attentively, amongst them Marie and Mikhail. 

  'It has everything to do with marriage and with the two stories we have just heard. At some point in history, someone turned up and said; when two people get married, they must stay frozen like that for the rest of their lives. You will move along side by side like two tracks keeping always that same distance apart. Even if sometimes one of you needs to be a little further away or little closer, that is against the rules. Rules say, be sensible, think of the future, think of your children. You can't change. You must be like two railway tracks that remain the same distance apart all the way from their point of departure to their destination. The rules don't allow for love to change, or to grow at the start and diminish halfway through- it's too dangerous. And so, after the enthusiasm of the first few years, they maintain the same distance, the same solidity, the same functional nature. Your purpose is to allow the train bearing the survival of the species to head off into the future; your children will only be happy if you stay just as you were-143.5 centimeters apart. If you're not happy with something that never changes, think of them, think of the children you brought to into the world.

  'Think of your neighbors. Show them that you're happy, eat roast beef on Sundays, watch television, help the community. Think of society; dress in such a way that everyone knows that you're in perfect harmony. Never glance to the side, someone might be watching you, and that could bring temptation, it could mean divorce, crisis, depression. 

  'Smile in all the photos. Put the photos in the living room, so that everyone can see them. Cut the grass, practice a sport- oh yes, you must practice a sport in order to stay frozen in time. When sport isn't enough have plastic surgery.  But never forget, these rules were established long ago and must be respected. Who established this rules? That doesn't matter. Don't question them, because they'll always apply, even if you don't agree with them.'

   The woman on stage sounded the cymbal. 
   I told Marie to stay where she was, while I went out side to smoke a cigarette.
   "They'll perform a dance in the name of love, in the name of the Lady"
   'You can smoke in here, can't you?'
   'Yes, but I need to be alone.'

It may have been early Spring. But it was still very cold; nevertheless, I was in need of some fresh air. Why I had told that story? My marriage to Esther had never been the way I described; two railway tacks always running beside each other, always forming two correct, straight lines, We had our ups and downs; one or other of us had occasionally threatened to leave for good; yet we continued on together.
  Until two years ago.
  Or until the moment when she began to want to know why she was unhappy.
No one should ever ask themselves that; why am I unhappy? The question carries with it the virus that will destroy everything. If we ask that question, it means we want to find out what makes us happy. If what makes us happy is different from what we have now, then we must either change once and for all or stay as we are, feeling even more unhappy.

I now found myself in precisely that situation, I had a lively, interesting girl friend, my work was going well, and there was every chance that, in the fullness of time, things would sort themselves out. I should resign myself to the situation. I should accept what life was offering me, not follow Esther's example, not look at anyone else, but remember Marie's words, and build a new life with her. 

No, i can't think like that. If i behave in the way people expect me to behave, I will become their slave. It requires enormous self control not ot succumb, because our natural tendency is to want to please, even if the person is to be pleased is us. If I do that, I will lose not only Esther, but Marie, my work, my future, as well as any respect I have for myself and for what I have said and written.