Appassionata by Eva Hoffman

Book: Appassionata by Eva Hoffman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Eva Hoffman
Tags: Fiction, Literary
or so, the disheveled boys, traveled on the pure raw lines of their songs as if she were at one with them. The guitarist threw his head back, and his pale, pasty face opened up to the music as to a fresh large wind across a large sky. The others joined in as if they were carried on the same vast, gusty breezes, the same galloping horses, the same rolling, spacious melody.
    She continues to wander through the placid streets without particular aim, finds herself somehow in another old quarter where men with linked arms walk along the echoing cobblestones, their expressions hardening slightly as they pass her. Women with covered faces appear in high windows, only their eyes visible, and unreadable. Quiet, it is very quiet here; a veiled, puzzling hush, different from the calm of Brussels’s burgher heart. She begins to feel nervous. She is the alien here, shecannot read any of the signals; and she retraces her steps to get back to the more familiar regions.
    It is as she pauses at a street crossing that she sees him, waiting on the other side for the light to change. This time there’s no doubt: it is Anzor. He sees her too, and waves at her, signaling that she should stay where she is; he’ll come toward her. She stops, doubly disoriented because, in a way, he’s been present in her mind. She feels as if she has conjured him out of her thoughts, or the air; out of what she now recognizes as her wishes. She keeps him in the line of her sight as he crosses the street with a light, long stride. She has always been moved by human beauty. She takes in his unstrained movements, his well-defined face, with a sort of inward assent.
    “Isabel,” he says simply, having reached her, “I am so glad to see you.” There is nothing desultory or playful about his tone, no formal bow this time, or concession to the improbability, the sheer capriciousness of their meeting. His earnestness adds to her confusion.
    “How did this happen?” she nevertheless asks, and then realizing that even this holds too much of an assumption, rephrases: “I mean, what are you doing in Brussels?”
    “Oh, it is my job,” he says dismissively, as if this were irrelevant. “There’s a conference we’ve been invited to by the European Union …” Then he interrupts himself and says, with a quiet emphasis, “I was thinking about you very much.”
    She is taken aback by the directness of it. What is he assuming? But the pressure of his words carries its own conviction; and she says, “I thought of you too.” He asks whether he could accompany her to wherever she’s going, and she feels a background tremolo of anxiety. What is going to happen next? She could pull back; perhaps she should. But after the restless morning in an alien city, Anzor seems very vivid to her; very alive. She says she’s going to her hotel, not very far from wherethey are. He accompanies her, talking inconsequentially. Their strides adjust easily to each other as they walk. The tremolo strengthens into a steadier excitement as she takes in the pleasure of his presence; his unqualified presentness.
    At the hotel, he asks her if she would like to come to a reception which caps off the conference he is attending. It is on the minorities in Europe, or something of the sort. “But that’s not the point,” he says. “I just don’t want to say good-bye yet. To be truthful, I was hoping we would meet again. In our travels.” This time, the pressure of his words seems less incongruous. She says yes, she will come. “Good,” he says, and nods, as if something has been confirmed. He grasps her by both shoulders and pauses to look at her, into her. She looks back. Anzor Islikhanov is as arbitrary as all the other people she brushes up against in her nomadic drifts; but somehow, he is gaining a kind of inevitability. Like a Chopin motif, she silently thinks, starting with a mere wisp of suggestion … She sighs, and relaxes more deeply into his gaze. They stay still for a moment,

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