"Listen, Patrick. We need to talk about something;" she says. "Or at least I need to talk about something."
...where there was nature and earth, life and water, I saw a desert landscape that was unending, resembling some sort of crater, so devoid of reason and light and spirit that the mind could not grasp it on any sort of conscious level and if you came close the mind would reel backward, unable to take it in. It was a vision so clear and real and vital to me that in its purity it was almost abstract. This was what I could understand, this was how I lived my life, what I constructed my movement around, how I dealt with the tangible. This was the geography around which my reality revolved: it did not occur to me, ever, that people were good or that a man was capable of change or that the world could be a better place through one's taking pleasure in a feeling or a look or a gesture, of receiving another person's love or kindness. Nothing was affirmative, the term "generosity of spirit" applied to nothing, was a cliche, was some kind of bad joke. Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason. Desire - meaningless. Intellect is not a cure. Justice is dead. Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one really felt anymore. Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in... this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged...
"...and I don't remember who it was you were talking to... it doesn't matter. What does is that you were very forceful, yet... very sweet and, I guess, I knew then that..." She places her spoon down, but I'm not watching her. I'm looking out at the taxis moving up Broadway, yet they can't stop things from unraveling, because Jean says the following: "A lot of people seem to have..." She stops, continues hesitantly, "lost touch with life and I don't want to be among them." After the waiter clears her dish, she adds, "I don't want to get... bruised."
I think I'm nodding.
"I've learned what it's like to be alone and... I think I'm in love with you." She says this last part quickly, forcing it out.
Almost superstitiously, I turn toward her, sipping an Evian water, then, without thinking, say, smiling, "I love someone else."
As if this film had speeded up she laughs immediately, looks quickly away, down, embarrassed. "I'm, well, sorry... gosh."
"But..." I add quietly, "you shouldn't be... afraid."
She looks back up at me, swollen with hope.
"Something can be done about it," I say. Then, not knowing why I'd said that, I modify the statement, telling her straight on,"Maybe something can't. I don't know. I've thrown away a lot of time to be with you, so it's not like I don't care."
She nods mutely.
"You should never mistake affection for... passion," I warn her. "It can be... not good. It can.... get you into, well, trouble."
She's not saying anything and I can suddenly sense her sadness, flat and calm, like a daydream. "What are you trying to say?" she asks lamely, blushing.
"Nothing. I'm just... letting you know that... appearances can be deceiving."
She stares at the Times stacked in heavy folds on the table. A breeze barely causes it to flutter. "Why... are you telling me this?"
Tactfully, almost touching her hand but stopping myself, I tell her, "I just want to avoid any future misconnections." A hardbody walks by. I notice her, then look back at Jean. "Oh come on, don't look that way. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"I'm not," she says, trying to act casual. "I just want to know if you're disappointed in me for admitting this."
How could she ever understand that there isn't any way I could be disappointed since I no longer find anything worth looking forward to?
"You don't know much about me, do you?" I ask teasingly.
"I know enough," she says, her initial response, but then she shakes her head. "Oh let's just drop this. I made a mistake. I'm sorry." In the next instant she changes her mind. "I want to know more," she says, gravely.
I consider this before asking, "Are you sure?"
"Patrick," she says breathlessly, "I know my life would be... much emptier without you... in it."
I consider this too, nodding thoughtfully.
"And I just can't..." She stops, frustrated. "I can't pretend these feelings don't exist, can I?"