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Tropic of Cancer[北回归线][En/Cn]




We're like a herd of wild horses with blinders over our eyes. On the rampage. Stampede. Over the precipice. Bango! Anything that nourishes violence and confusion. On! On! No matter where. And foaming at the lips all the while. Shouting Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Why? God knows. It's in the blood. It's the climate. It's a lot of things. It's the end, too. We're pulling the whole world down about our ears. We don't know why. It's our destiny. The rest is plain shit…



At the Palais Royal I suggested that we stop and have a drink. He hesitated a moment. I saw that he was worrying about her, about the lunch, about the bawling out he'd get.



"For Christ's sake," I said, "forget about her for a while. I'm going to order something to drink and I want you to drink it. Don't worry, I'm going to get you out of this fucking mess." I ordered two stiff whiskies.



When he saw the whiskies coming he smiled at me just like a child again.



"Down it!" I said, "and let's have another. This is going to do you good. I don't care what the doctor says – this time it'll be all right. Come on, down with it!"



He put it down all right and while the garçon disappeared to fetch another round he looked at me with brimming eyes, as though I were the last friend in the world. His lips were twitching a bit, too. There was something he wanted to say to me and he didn't quite know how to begin. I looked at him easily, as though ignoring the appeal and, shoving the saucers aside, I leaned over on my elbow and I said to him earnestly: "Look here, Fillmore, what is it you'd really like to do? Tell me!"



With that the tears gushed up and he blurted out: "I'd like to be Home with my people. I'd like to hear English spoken." The tears were streaming down his face. He made no effort to brush them away. He just let everything gush forth. Jesus, I thought to myself, that's fine to have a release like that. Fine to be a complete coward at least once in your life. To let go that way. Great! Great! It did me so much good to see him break down that way that I felt as though I could solve any problem. I felt courageous and resolute. I had a thousand ideas in my head at once.



"Listen," I said, bending still closer to him, "if you mean what you said why don't you do it… why don't you go? Do you know what I would do, if I were in your shoes? I'd go today. Yes, by Jesus, I mean it… I'd go right away, without even saying good bye to her. As a matter of fact that's the only way you can go – she'd never let you say good bye. You know that."



The garçon came with the whiskies. I saw him reach forward with a desperate eagerness and raise the glass to his lips. I saw a glint of hope in his eyes – far off, wild, desperate. He probably saw himself swimming across the Atlantic. To me it looked easy, simple as rolling off a log. The whole thing was working itself out rapidly in my mind. I knew just what each step would be. Clear as a bell, I was.




"Whose money is that in the bank?" I asked. "Is it her father's or is it yours?"


"It's mine!" he exclaimed. "My mother sent it to me. I don't want any of her goddamned money."



"That's swell!" I said. "Listen, suppose we hop a cab and go back there. Draw out every cent. Then we'll go to the British Consulate and get a visa. You're going to hop the train this afternoon for London. From London you'll take the first boat to America. I'm saying that because then you won't be worried about her trailing you. She'll never suspect that you went via London. If she goes searching for you she'll naturally go to Le Havre first, or Cherbourg… And here's another thing – you're not going back to get your things. You're going to leave everything here. Let her keep them. With that French mind of hers she'll never dream that you scooted off without bag or baggage. It's incredible. A Frenchman would never dream of doing a thing like that… unless he was as cracked as you are."



"You're right!" he exclaimed. "I never thought of that. Besides, you might send them to me later on – if she'll surrender them! But that doesn't matter now. Jesus, though, I haven't even got a hat!"



"What do you need a hat for? When you get to London you can buy everything you need. All you need now is to hurry. We've got to find out when the train leaves."



"Listen," he said, reaching for his wallet, "I'm going to leave everything to you. Here, take this and do whatever's necessary. I'm too weak… I'm dizzy."



I took the wallet and emptied it of the bills he had just drawn from the bank. A cab was standing at the curb. We hopped in. There was a train leaving the Gare du Nord at four o'clock, or thereabouts. I was figuring it our the bank, the Consulate, the American Express, the station. Fine! Just about make it.



"Now buck up!" I said, "and keep your shirt on! Shit! in a few hours you'll be crossing the Channel. Tonight you'll be walking around in London and you'll get a good bellyful of English. Tomorrow you'll be on the open sea – and then, by Jesus, you're a free man and you needn't give a fuck what happens. By the time you get to New York this'll be nothing more than a bad dream."



This got him so excited that his feet were moving convulsively, as if he were trying to run inside the cab. At the bank his hand was trembling so that he could hardly sign his name. That was one thing I couldn't do for him – sign his name. But I think, had it been necessary, I could have sat him on the toilet and wiped his ass. I was determined to ship him off, even if I had to fold him up and put him in a valise.



It was lunch hour when we got to the British Consulate, and the place was closed. That meant waiting until two o'clock. I couldn't think of anything better to do, by way of killing time, than to eat. Fillmore, of course, wasn't hungry. He was for eating a sandwich. "Fuck that!" I said. "You're going to blow me to a good lunch. It's the last square meal you're going to have over here – maybe for a long while." I steered him to a cosy little restaurant and ordered a good spread. I ordered the best wine on the menu, regardless of price or taste. I had all his money in my pocket – oodles of it, it seemed to me. Certainly never before had I had so much in my fist at one time. It was a treat to break a thousand franc note. I held it up to the light first to look at the beautiful watermark. Beautiful money! One of the few things the French make on a grand scale. Artistically done, too, as if they cherished a deep affection even for the symbol.



The meal over, we went to a café. I ordered Chartreuse with the Coffee. Why not? And I broke another bill – a five-hundred franc note this time. It was a clean, new, crisp bill. A pleasure to handle such money. The waiter handed me back a lot of dirty old bills that had been patched up with strips of gummed paper; I had a stack of five and ten franc notes and a bagful of chicken feed. Chinese money, with holes in it. I didn't know in which pocket to stuff the money any more. My trousers were bursting with coins and bills. It made me slightly uncomfortable also, hauling all that dough out in public. I was afraid we might be taken for a couple of crooks.



When we got to the American Express there wasn't a devil of a lot of time left. The British, in their usual fumbling farting way, had kept us on pins and needles. Here everybody was sliding around on castors. They were so speedy that everything had to be done twice. After all the checks were signed and clipped in a neat little holder, it was discovered that he had signed in the wrong place. Nothing to do but start all over again. I stood over him, with one eye on the clock, and watched every stroke of the pen. It hurt to hand over the dough. Not all of it, thank God – but a good part of it. I had roughly about 2,500 francs in my pocket. Roughly, I say. I wasn't counting by francs any more. A hundred, or two hundred, more or less – it didn't mean a goddamned thing to me. As for him, he was going through the whole transaction in a daze. He didn't know how much money he had. All he knew was that he had to keep something aside for Ginette. He wasn't certain yet how much – we were going to figure that out on the way to the station.



In the excitement we had forgotten to change all the money. We were already in the cab, however, and there wasn't any time to be lost. The thing was to find out how we stood. We emptied our pockets quickly and began to whack it up. Some of it was lying on the floor, some of it was on the seat. It was bewildering. There was French, American and English money. And all that chicken feed besides. I felt like picking up the coins and chucking them out of the window – just to simplify matters. Finally we sifted it all out; he held on to the English and American money, and I held on to the French money.



We had to decide quickly now what to do about Ginette – how much to give her, what to tell her, etc. He was trying to fix up a yarn for me to hand her – didn't want her to break her heart and so forth. I had to cut him short.



"Never mind what to tell her," I said. "Leave that to me. How much are you going to give her, that's the thing? Why give her anything?"



That was like setting a bomb under his ass. He burst into tears. Such tears! It was worse than before. I thought he was going to collapse on my hands. Without stopping to think, I said: "All right, let's give her all this French money. That ought to last her for a while."



"How much is it?" he asked feebly.



"I don't know – about 2,000 francs or so. More than she deserves anyway."



"Christ! Don't say that!" he begged. "After all, it's a rotten break I'm giving her. Her folks'll never take her back now. No, give it to her. Give her the whole damned Business… I don't care what it is."



He pulled a handkerchief out to wipe the tears away. "I can't help it," he said. "It's too much for me." I said nothing. Suddenly he sprawled himself out full length – I thought he was taking a fit or something – and he said: "Jesus, I think I ought to go back. I ought to go back and face the music. If anything should happen to her I'd never forgive myself."



That was a rude jolt for me. "Christ!" I shouted, "you can't do that! Not now. It's too late. You're going to take the train and I'm going to tend to her myself. I'll go see her just as soon as I leave you. Why, you poor boob, if she ever thought you had tried to run away from her she'd murder you, don't you realize that? You can't go back any more. It's settled."



Anyway, what could go wrong? I asked myself. Kill herself? Tant mieux.

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