Section 134 is playing the glad game
Vernon woke up feeling pleased with himself. On reflection that in itself was remarkable, not just because he was by nature melancholic and pessimistic, but because his philosophical reading, tinged as it was with a curiosity about neuroscience, had alerted him to the observation made by Proust that awakening generally entails the gradual reassembly of self from the oblivion of sleep. Nevertheless, and despite his recent setbacks, Vernon awoke this morning knowing who he was and knowing that he was lucky.
He turned and looked at Nsansa lying next to him, breathing in as he did so the rich scent of the oils with which she conditioned her coffee-toned skin. He stroked her back in appreciation and from somewhere beneath the pillow heard a murmur of approval. Further reasons to be cheerful in three parts were that his mother and sister approved his trip to Thailand, his research proposal had been accepted by Dr van der Floot and he had survived the walk across hot coals that his India visa required. Things were looking up.
Most of all, Vernon reflected drowsily, his feeling of self-satisfaction was derived from the news story of the previous day, the one that had unnerved him profoundly, and the subsequent text on his phone that had woken him up this morning. The text was from Jean Luc. Five words gave him hope. ‘Tarkey has handed himself in’.
Tarkey, by doing so had confirmed the link between Mudrock’s losses and his own actions. It was a short step from there to suppose it was a guilty link. Snug in his thinking-nest, though somewhat distracted by the lazy hand that was exploring his left thigh, Vernon doubted that this turn of events was merely because of the newspaper reporting which was in the public domain. He didn’t know yet, but he considered it likely, Tarkey had been ‘lent on’.
Later that morning, as the sun took control of the day and they cleared away the breakfasting debris, Nsansa and Vernon considered going to church. Both admitted their sense of hypocrisy. They were, as Nsansa put it guiltily, ‘living in sin’. Their response to that burden was not the same however. Nsansa declared that she was preparing for marriage, and Vernon already knew how seriously her culture held that obligation. He was pretty certain she believed it and did not therefore see it as insincerity on her part. Vernon on the other hand was still undecided about their compatibility and was striving for integrity of a different sort, though he doubted his mother would see it that way; the analogy he used to convince himself, in those more critical moments of self-doubt, was that he was endeavouring to ‘occupy every room in his house’. Too long he had felt his childhood beliefs had curtailed this or that form of self-development. Now as an imminently divorced adult who had long ago left innocence behind, he wanted to find what it was really that ‘the landlord’ allowed. Let him turn up on Vernon’s existential threshold and make it clear. This was not so much an act of defiance, but rather an ‘an experiment of living’. Of course, Vernon’s upbringing had furnished him with plenty of scriptural awareness; the human heart, he knew only too well, was deceitfully wicked. And so, although his sunny mood had not entirely been forgotten, it was through a broiling sea of conflicting emotions that Vernon eased the cabriolet out of the alley and set off mid-morning with Nsansa for her Liberated Church of the Pentecost.