Seymour on Muriel

“We got passes, till midnight after the parade. I met Muriel at the Biltmore at seven. Two drinks, two drugstore tuna-fish sandwiches, then a movie she wanted to see, something with Greer Garson in it. I looked at her several times in the dark when Greer Garson’s son’s plane was missing in action. Her mouth was opened. Absorbed, worried. The identification with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer tragedy complete. I felt awe and happiness. How I love and need her undiscriminating heart. She looked over at me when the children in the picture brought in the kitten to show to their mother. M. loved the kitten and wanted me to love it. Even in the dark, I could sense that she felt the usual estrangement from me when I don’t automatically love what she loves. Later, when we were having a drink at the station, she asked me if I didn’t think that kitten was ‘rather nice.’ She doesn’t use the word ‘cute’ any more. When did I ever frighten her out of her normal vocabulary? Bore that I am, I mentioned R.H. Blyth’s definition of sentimentality: that we are being sentimental when we give to a thing more tenderness than god gives to it. I said (sententiously?) that god undoubtedly loves kittens, but not, in all probability, with technicolor bootees on their paws. He leaves that creative touch to script writers. M. thought this over, seemed to agree with me, but the ‘knowledge’ wasn’t too very welcome. She sat stirring her drink and feeling unclose to me. She worries over the way her love for me comes and goes, appears and disappears. She doubts its reality simply because it isn’t as steadily pleasurable as a kitten. God knows it is sad. The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on earth.”

-J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters

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