Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Scene from "The Bell Jar" (Conversation with the Dybbuk)


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Hilda moved like a mannequin the whole way.

"That's a lovely hat, did you make it?"

I half-expected Hilda to turn on me and say, "You sound sick," but she only extended and then retracted her swanny neck.

"Yes."

The night before I'd seen a play where the heroine was possessed by a dybbuk, and when the dybbuk spoke from her mouth its voice sounded so cavernous and deep you couldn't tell whether it was a man or a woman. Well Hilda's voice sounded just like the voice of that dybbuk.

She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop windows as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist. The silence between us was so profound I thought part of it must be my fault.

So I said, "Isn't it awful about the Rosenbergs?"

The Rosenbergs were to be electrocuted late that night.

"Yes!" Hilda said, and at last I felt I had touched a human string in the cat's cradle of her heart. It was only as the two of us waited for the others in the tomb-like morning gloom of the conference room that Hilda amplified that Yes of hers.

"It's awful such people should be alive."

She yawned then, and her pale orange mouth opened on a large darkness. Fascinated, I stared at the blind cave behind her face until the two lips met and moved and the dybbuk spoke out of its hiding place, "I'm so glad they're going to die."

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