CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
“No, that’s what you want to know. That’s not what the problem is.”
“So, what’s the problem then?”
“It’s not really possible for me to tell you that.”
“Why not? Are you not allowed to?”
“No, I’m not able to. It just isn’t possible.”
“But isn’t that your job?”
Melancholy told her, “No. If we take our metaphorical Japanese-speaking cat, for example. Suppose you wanted to get to a particular street in Tokyo and you stopped to ask the cat directions. If the cat started speaking Japanese to you, and even gesticulated with its paws, could you understand its directions?”
Lorna thought for a moment and then said, “I think I would have a rough idea, because I would see the direction it was pointing in.”
“But what if it was saying ‘Don’t, whatever you do, go in that direction because it is the wrong direction’?”
“Well, then I’d get completely lost.”
Agent Melancholy said, “Exactly! So, imagine that you were travelling along a road and you came to a fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go, and then you noticed me sitting beside the road. You approached me to ask me directions (just as you have done today), but at that moment, I transformed into a cat who was very learned but could only speak Japanese. You asked me for directions. I might well have been able to then recite two hours of finely honed Japanese verse to you. But you would still be lost, because you could not understand a word of Japanese. Do you see?”
Lorna said, in her own simple way, “Well, couldn’t you just tell me in English?”
“But perhaps the cat cannot speak English. It can only speak Japanese.”
Lorna said, now a little impatiently, “But I’m not interested in the cat. I just want to know if Felipe feels anything for me.”
Melancholy said, “I see.” He crossed his arms and held his chin with his right hand for a moment. He watched Lorna whilst seeming to perform some sort of calculation in his head. He then agreed to take on her case. He put on his nondescript overcoat and accompanied her back to her workplace. On the way, he told her, “Just imagine I am not here. I will follow you for a few days and gather the clues. I might whisper my observations into your ear from time to time, but I will speak so softly that no-one else will hear.”
Lorna had no objections. She just wanted the riddle to be solved—did Felipe have any feelings for her, or not?
Lorna worked in an open-plan office. She sat at her desk and Melancholy sat beside her. She whispered, “That’s Felipe, over there.”
Felipe Perez’s desk was on the other side of the office, about twenty yards to the left of her desk. Their desks faced in the same direction and Felipe’s was a few yards ahead of hers, so that if he glanced over his right shoulder, they could see each other. Felipe’s father was Spanish and his mother Chinese and Felipe seemed to have inherited all the best traits from both his parents, in both looks and personality. He had long black hair, a dark Mediterranean complexion and dark, alluring eyes. There was a mystique that seemed to surround him; he would have to do nothing more than merely enter a room to cause every eye in the room to turn towards him, like compass needles seeking north.
While she was walking back to the office, she gave Agent Melancholy the details of her brief relationship with Felipe. They started dating a few weeks before. They met a few times at the coffee machine during their breaks, started chatting, then sending each other messages on the internal mail system, then they arranged a date. In the following two weeks, they had sex twice at Lorna’s flat, but then she noticed he did not seem to be saying the right things to her, nor messaging her any more at the office, then it occurred to her he had never even told her he was attracted to her.
As she watched him, her head steadily filled with a mass of words that swirled like a swarm of angry bees, until her face began twitching with the strain of holding them in. She reached out to touch his hand but then recalled the contorted look on his face when he pretended to strangle her—just to make it look as though he hated her. But she was not fooled by him, and she now became so enraged with his ploy that she withdrew her hand, stuck out a few fingers instead and violently prodded the back of his hand.
The letter rattled (a little like a basket of test tubes); his eyes glanced briefly up at her, then returned to wandering over the letter’s surface like someone stumbling through a dark mist.
She watched his wandering eyes (—Look at him; he’s still trying to pretend his trick in the living room worked, but it didn’t. And now he’s trying to make me think it did), and she said, “—But it didn’t work; it didn’t.”
He continued pretending to read the letter.
She told him, “Don’t think I don’t know that you can hear me.”
No response.
She shouted, “Listen to me!”
No response.
She snatched the letter from him and he watched it in her hands, now with a seemingly desperate expression, as if he were clinging to a mountainside at night‑time and she had snatched his only foothold from him and he could sense himself beginning to fall, down, down, into the terrifying darkness hovering beneath him.

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