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Towards happiness, by Octave Mirbeau

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… My wife is pretty divinely: never more admirable eyes illuminated with more beauty a more delicious face; she is inexhaustibly good… I love her, she loves me; just six months ago today we were married. Only six months, is it possible? … And we separate. Yes, it was decided yesterday in tears. Ah! How we cried!… To this idea of ​​not seeing each other again, never, both of us, we experienced an atrocious pain; a terrible tearing has been done in our two souls. It seemed to us that it could not be. And yet, that is; that is better for her, for me … What will she become without me? … And where, without her, will I go?

Notice that I have nothing, absolutely nothing to reproach my wife, nothing but being a woman. Woman, that’s his only crime! Woman, that is to say, an obscure, elusive being, a misunderstanding of nature to which I do not understand anything. And his grievances are the same with me. She reproaches me only for being a man, and for not understanding me any more than I understand her. Because, in truth, I do not understand her. I have probed all the mysteries of life; I have snatched their secret from many beings with whom I have nothing in common, whose language and habits differ from mine as much as the caterpillar differs from the lark. What the dog is looking; what the cat wants, observer and demonic; where is going the scary raven, I know it. As of the woman, I do not know anything, nothing, nothing. I enter no more into her than into the soul of a god, into the dream of a marine anemone.

“Ah! Why do not you have a crystal forehead?” I said to my wife… “I would see the prodigious mechanism of your brain, I would surprise the maddening operation of your thought. You would not be for me the inexplicable and vivid image that you are … And then, who knows? … With delicacy, by means of a fine gold tip, as a watchmaker corrects the movement of a watch, I could perhaps adjust you to my fancy.”

And she answered me:

“And you, my beloved … Why is your chest not transparent? … I might know the reason for the beating of your heart, and I would put them in unison with the beatings of mine.”

Why?… Oh! Yes, why ?

It’s stupid to understand, we separate because my wife does not have a crystal front, which will never have any woman, and because my chest, mine, is made of opaque flesh, impenetrable to the eyes, the wat are all human breasts… What a sad madness that life is!

If, still, our marriage had been one of those accidental and decent unions, as so many are met, who live to each other two beings ignoring each other, without sympathies with each other, without affinities, without magnetization of the flesh and the spirit, I would not complain. But no! … We knew each other from childhood; together we played, she and me. I can still see her, in the middle of a large lawn, not far from a pool where swans were playing, some white, some black; I see her again, with her short dress, her bare legs, her fair hair which made her like a thick golden cloak. She was pushing a hoop in front of her, very small; or, with a slight blow of her snowshoe, she was sending me back a flounce of white and red feathers, which clung, sometimes, while falling, to the balanced point of a seringa. And we embrace often. I understood her, she understood me. We read in our eyes, in our hearts, as in a familiar book, this great book of images that his mother explained to us amid admiration and laughter. Then she was made of the same spirit as me, of the same flesh as me, finer spirit, more delicate flesh, that’s all. I followed her always, moved and charmed. Later, the communion of our dreams and thoughts became more intimate, deeper, more intellectual, to the point that it seemed to us that one spirit animated both of us. Our sensibilities were the same; the same, our enthusiasms. We loved the same books, the same music, the same painting, the same poor people. In life, in art and in suffering, it was not a fact, not a dream, not a tear, it was nothing that affected us alike … at least I thought so … After all, perhaps nothing has happened to these things, to the recollection of which I indulge. I felt them, then, yes; but who told me that they really existed? Have I not been able to create them in my imagination, and in my imagination alone? The impressions, the feelings of which I appeared, and which were mine, floated around her, without ever penetrating into her. I saw it through a luminous projection of my soul. Why do not I see her anymore?

* * *

When we were old, we got married – it had been agreed between our parents and us since childhood. That night, Claire – her name is Claire, and do you not find in this woman’s name a detestable irony? That evening Claire and I were walking in a wood, next to the house. The night was beginning to fall. Through the moving foliage, in the jagged sky, we saw the first stars, all pale. A luminous shadow rose from the earth, between the trunks of trees whose bark, from place to place, gleamed silently. In the road where we were walking, leaning towards each other, an old man appeared. His back bent under a heavy burden of heather and cut ferns. He stopped when he saw us.

“It’s been a long time since the doves and lovebirds are lying,” he said… “And where are you going?”

“Towards happiness,” replied my wife, whose hand trembled in mine, deliciously.

“Ah! Well, in this case, good trip!… But do not wake the blackbirds, they are mocking birds.”

And with a jerk of his loins, tightening on his shoulders the bundle of heather and cut ferns, he continued on his way. I thought I heard a sneer go under the branches. And the moon rose, behind the trees, majestic and pink, crossing, in its midst, through a thin chesnut stick.

“Look,” I say to my wife, “how the moon is pink!”

Claire scanned, with a furtive glance, the wandering and splendid star that swayed in the firmamental space.

“Pink?… The moon?… You’re crazy,” she said. “Who has ever seen a pink moon?”

“Look!” I repeated.

She shrugged and asked me:

“Why do you want the moon to be pink? … Why do you say it’s pink?”

“But, my dear soul, because I see it this way.”

His voice took on a brief accent:

“What, you still claim that the moon is pink?”

Stupidly, I stopped. Stupidly, ah! certainly. What did it matter to me, I ask you, that the moon was pink, blue, or yellow, especially at that moment? I answered firmly, with challenge:

“She is pink, she is pink, she is pink!”

Claire sank down on a fallen tree trunk, which blocked her foot obliquely, and her head in her hands, her throat shaking with sobs:

“My God! My God!” she moaned… “He does not love me anymore! What a misfortune, he does not love me anymore!”

I rushed to the feet of my wife.

“My dear treasure!” I implored. “I was wrong. She is not pink… No, really, she is not pink… She is… she is… as you wish… I was wrong, forgive me!”

“No, no!” Claire whispered, “You think she’s pink, naughty!”

“No, I swear to you!”

“No! No! You believe it … It’s to please me that you say that … but you believe it!”

In spite of myself, I could not repress a slight movement of revolt.

“And even if I believe it, what connection is there between a moon, pink or not, and my love?”

This time, Claire was sincerely indignant. She exclaimed:

“What connection? … He asks it! … Ah! It’s infamous!”

She was biting a piece of bark with rage; she was so exasperated, that I feared for a moment that she was seized with an attack of nerves. Then I seized her in my arms, I filled her with caresses and lulling words.

“Calm down, my darling,” I murmured. “Yes, it is very true that there is a relationship, an intimate relationship. By Jove! I know it. It was to play, you know well as before… And then, it is not pink … A pink moon, it’s absurd … A pink moon! Ha! ha! ha! …”

In the heat of my denials, I came to deny, not only the pink color of the moon, but the very existence of the moon.

Calmed and satisfied, Claire radiated.

“You see, my dear … You see … And then, please … Never say that the moon is pink, never!”

* * *

That very evening – the night of our wedding – I realized that an abyss had been dug between my wife and me. Perhaps it had always existed, I would be tempted today to believe it. What is certain is that I saw it for the first time. Alas! The days and months that followed proved to me that the abyss was growing deeper and widening. The clue came to me, not by the approach of monstrous cataclysms and transcendental horrors, but by the continual harassment of a thousand small facts, a thousand microscopic details of an extraordinary and sickening vulgarity. And the abyss that separated us was no longer an abyss: it was a boundless, infinite world, not a world of space, but a world of thoughts, sensations, a purely intellectual world, between poles of which there is no possible reconciliation. From then on, life was a torture. Although close to each other, we understood that we were forever separated, and this continual and visible presence of our bodies made the removal of our souls even more painful and more sensitive … We loved each other, however. Alas! What is love ? And what can his short and stunted wings do for such an infinite? When I saw Claire crying, I asked myself: “Suffering is perhaps the only thing that can bring man and woman closer together.”

But what is she crying?

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