This Will Be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories

This Will Be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories by Johanna Skibsrud

Book: This Will Be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories by Johanna Skibsrud Read Free Book Online
Authors: Johanna Skibsrud
Tags: Fiction, General
spoke of it back home—as if “the world” was a single, observable thing.
    It was a disappointment to have to realize that her own limited perspective had neither increased nor lessened in France, but had remained, instead, stubbornly, the same. The street disappeared against the limit of the horizon at a vanishing point no farther away than it had in Newark—or even in Port Jarvis. The sounds of the pedestrians and traffic were no clearer or more relevant to the ear.
    Overall, though, she was not dissatisfied, and it was this, perhaps, that was most bewildering. To realize that she had found—after all, and so simply—everything that she might need or desire not only in a place that, like Port Jarvis, was single and measurable, but in a person , in Charlie—a person who (she was beginning to suspect), much as she loved him, would turn out that way, too.
    It seemed that there would, after all, be much of the world that Martha would just let go—unnoticed and undesired.
    Once, Martha made the mistake of mentioning something along these lines to Ginny, and Ginny, in her “learn from me” tone, had said, “You’re always going to be capable of wanting more, Martha.” It had been one of their after-Al-bear specials. “The trick,” Ginny had said, “is being satisfied with what you’ve got.”
    Ginny herself seemed satisfied just for saying it.
    â€œFunny for you to say” is what Martha said. Her feelings were hurt even if she otherwise would have agreed. “I’ve been being satisfied. You’re the one who wants to be a Guggenheim.”
    Ginny snorted through her nose. “It’s not like that ,” she told Martha. “It’s not about being some one , some thing . It’s about—” she paused and looked at Martha, shaking her head, “having something to work toward ,” she said. “It’s about Art .”
    Martha snorted, too. “It’s about nothing is what it’s about,” she said. And then, made brazen by argument and wine, she continued, pointedly: “And I don’t like your art.”
    Ginny was not offended. She rolled her eyes. “You like pictures , Martha,” she said, and then, as if she were addressing an invisible audience beside them: “Let’s get one thing clear before this discussion goes any further. Martha doesn’t like art , she likes ‘ pictures .’”
    Martha liked Charlie’s art though, and Ginny knew it. And it wasn’t just because she liked Charlie. Even some of the more abstract things that he did, like a purplish splash, or a study of a red ball that looked like a badly drawn version of the Japanese flag. He’d given that one to Ginny, and Martha had even been a bit sore about it at the time. To Martha he had always given the simple landscapes, and one time a sketch of a girl who didn’t even really look like her.
    â€œI just think there has to be—some kind of story,” Martha said. Although more tentatively now.
    â€œ Martha ,” Ginny said, again in her “learn from me” tone, “don’t you see that’s so limiting ?”
    â€œAt least,” Martha said irritably, “it’s real. Limitations,” she said, “are real.” She was beginning to get upset but didn’t know why. Any other time she would have just let it go.
    IN TRUTH, MARTHA DID NOT know if she believed what she said, and she certainly did not only like “pictures.” She found this out one day while still living on the Left Bank with blind old Madame Bernard, when Madame had introduced her to the bookcase of Monsieur Bernard, her dead husband—a professor at the university. She and Madame had leafed together through the heavy pages of Signacs and Seurats, and then they came to a book that Monsieur himself had written. Madame traced her hand over the cover to find her husband’s name

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