Mary GaitskillUSAWriting2008

Novel excerpt:


Winter is the city is a big, irritable man walking down the street at twilight with gray trash blowing around him. He is constricted against the cold, and even though he is walking energetically, he is secretly turned inward. Deep in his chest, behind the bones and under the muscle, he is protecting a small, hot seed. Inside the seed are thousands of fiery colored strands, and when it bursts apart, they will pour out in all directions. There will be Spring. Spring is a handsome black bike messenger with dazzling almond eyes hammering down the streets to deliver his packages like he’s a pinball in a machine, hitting everything exactly right, dropping back down the slot and firing out again. He has the seed now and he doesn’t even know it, he tosses it quick and casual from hand to hand, his head full of light and movement. Light and movement keep pouring from the seed, the strands growing bigger and broader, unfurling until each brilliant burst finds a shape that suits it. The shapes do not hold of course. The unfurling keeps going, but very slow and torpid now as big blond Summer moves down the street in early evening, her abdomen protruding a bit in her tight dress and the thick red skin of her heels hanging just over the rims of her sandals, the little fleshy nubs of her painted toes poking out the front. You stand in line at the post office, smelling the other people in line and sensing that the shapes of things are bleeding slightly in the heat.


But this season was an empty pocket stuck between winter and spring. That is how it seemed to Bettina Long when she stuck her hand out the window into the air shaft to see what the weather was like. It was not something that would take a human form. It was tingling emptiness, tense and stretched open, waiting for something to come into it. Or maybe waiting for something to come out of it; emptiness goes two ways. Once Bettina said to a therapist “My life is empty!,” and the woman had answered “If that’s true you are lucky. Emptiness is very beautiful.” At the time, Bettina had wanted to slap the pious bitch. But right now she liked this tingling, stretched-open feeling.