spoke of it back homeâas if âthe worldâ 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 Newarkâor 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 foundâafter all, and so simplyâeverything that she might need or desire not only in a place that, like Port Jarvis, was single and measurable, but in a person , in Charlieâa 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 goâunnoticed and undesired.
Once, Martha made the mistake of mentioning something along these lines to Ginny, and Ginny, in her âlearn from meâ tone, had said, âYouâre always going to be capable of wanting more, Martha.â It had been one of their after-Al-bear specials. âThe trick,â Ginny had said, âis being satisfied with what youâve got.â
Ginny herself seemed satisfied just for saying it.
âFunny for you to sayâ is what Martha said. Her feelings were hurt even if she otherwise would have agreed. âIâve been being satisfied. Youâre the one who wants to be a Guggenheim.â
Ginny snorted through her nose. âItâs not like that ,â she told Martha. âItâs not about being some one , some thing . Itâs aboutââ she paused and looked at Martha, shaking her head, âhaving something to work toward ,â she said. âItâs about Art .â
Martha snorted, too. âItâs about nothing is what itâs about,â she said. And then, made brazen by argument and wine, she continued, pointedly: âAnd I donât like your art.â
Ginny was not offended. She rolled her eyes. âYou like pictures , Martha,â she said, and then, as if she were addressing an invisible audience beside them: âLetâs get one thing clear before this discussion goes any further. Martha doesnât like art , she likes â pictures .ââ
Martha liked Charlieâs art though, and Ginny knew it. And it wasnât 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. Heâd 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 didnât even really look like her.
âI just think there has to beâsome kind of story,â Martha said. Although more tentatively now.
â Martha ,â Ginny said, again in her âlearn from meâ tone, âdonât you see thatâs so limiting ?â
âAt least,â Martha said irritably, âitâs real. Limitations,â she said, âare real.â She was beginning to get upset but didnât 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 âpictures.â 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 husbandâa 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 husbandâs name