A blast of music from a passing cab, Madonna again, "life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone..." Startled by the laughter at the table next to ours, I cock my head and hear someone admit, "Sometimes what you wear to the office makes all the difference," and then Jean says something and I ask her to repeat it.
"Haven't you ever wanted to make someone happy?" she asks.
"What?" I ask, trying to pay attention to her. "Jean?"
Shyly, she repeats herself. "Haven't you ever wanted to make someone happy?"
I stare at her, a cold, distant wave of fright washes over me, dousing something. I clear my throat again and, trying to speak with great purposefulness, tell her, "I was at Sugar Reef the other night... that Caribbean place on the Lower East Side... you know it-"
"Who were you with?" she interrupts.
Jeanette. "Evan McGlinn."
"Oh." She nods, silently relieved, believing me. "..Anyway..." I sigh, continuing, "I saw some guy in the men's room... a total... Wall Street guy... wearing a one-button viscose, wool and nylon suit by... Luciano Soprani... a cotton shirt by... Gitman Brothers... a silk tie by Ermenegildo Zegna and, I mean, I recognized the guy, a broker, named Eldridge... I've seen him at Harry's and Au Bar and DuPlex and Alex Goes to Camp... all the places, but... when I went in after him, I saw... he was writing... something on the wall above the... urinal he was standing at." I pause, take a swallow of her beer. "When he saw me come in... he stopped writing... put away the Mont Blanc pen... he zipped up his pants... said Hello, Henderson to me... checked his hair in the mirror, coughed... like he was nervous or... something and... left the room." I pause again, another swallow. "Anyway... I went over to use the... urinal and... I leaned over... to read what he... wrote."
Shuddering, I slowly wipe my forehead with a napkin. "Which was?" Jean asks cautiously.
I close my eyes, three words fall from my mouth, these lips: " 'Kill... All... Yuppies.' "
She doesn't say anything.
To break the uncomfortable silence that follows, I mention all I can come up with, which is, "Did you know that Ted Bundy's first dog, a collie, was named Lassie?" Pause. "Had you heard this?"
Jean looks at her dish as if it's confusing her, then back up at me. "Who's... Ted Bundy?"
"Forget it," I sigh.
"Listen, Patrick. We need to talk about something;" she says. "Or at least I need to talk about something."
...where there was nature and earth, life and water, I saw a desert landscape that was unending, resembling some sort of crater, so devoid of reason and light and spirit that the mind could not grasp it on any sort of conscious level and if you came close the mind would reel backward, unable to take it in. It was a vision so clear and real and vital to me that in its purity it was almost abstract. This was what I could understand, this was how I lived my life, what I constructed my movement around, how I dealt with the tangible. This was the geography around which my reality revolved: it did not occur to me, ever, that people were good or that a man was capable of change or that the world could be a better place through one's taking pleasure in a feeling or a look or a gesture, of receiving another person's love or kindness. Nothing was affirmative, the term "generosity of spirit" applied to nothing, was a clich?, was some kind of bad joke. Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason. Desire - meaningless. Intellect is not a cure. Justice is dead. Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one really felt anymore. Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in... this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged...
"...and I don't remember who it was you were talking to... it doesn't matter. What does is that you were very forceful, yet... very sweet and, I guess, I knew then that..." She places her spoon down, but I'm not watching her. I'm looking out at the taxis moving up Broadway, yet they can't stop things from unraveling, because Jean says the following: "A lot of people seem to have..." She stops, continues hesitantly, "lost touch with life and I don't want to be among them." After the waiter clears her dish, she adds, "I don't want to get... bruised."
I think I'm nodding.
"I've learned what it's like to be alone and... I think I'm in love with you." She says this last part quickly, forcing it out.
Almost superstitiously, I turn toward her, sipping an Evian water, then, without thinking, say, smiling, "I love someone else."
As if this film had speeded up she laughs immediately, looks quickly away, down, embarrassed. "I'm, well, sorry... gosh."
"But..." I add quietly, "you shouldn't be... afraid."
She looks back up at me, swollen with hope. "Something can be done about it," I say. Then, not knowing why I'd said that, I modify the statement, telling her straight on,"Maybe something can't. I don't know. I've thrown away a lot of time to be with you, so it's not like I don't care." She nods mutely.
"You should never mistake affection for... passion," I warn her. "It can be... not good. It can . .. . get you into, well, trouble."
She's not saying anything and I can suddenly sense her sadness, flat and calm, like a daydream. "What are you trying to say?" she asks lamely, blushing.
"Nothing. I'm just... letting you know that... appearances can be deceiving."
She stares at the Times stacked in heavy folds on the table. A breeze barely causes it to flutter. "Why... are you telling me this?"
Tactfully, almost touching her hand but stopping myself, I tell her, "I just want to avoid any future misconnections." A hardbody walks by. I notice her, then look back at Jean. "Oh come on, don't look that way. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"I'm not," she says, trying to act casual. "I just want to know if you're disappointed in me for admitting this."
How could she ever understand that there isn't any way I could be disappointed since I no longer find anything worth looking forward to?
"You don't know much about me, do you?" I ask teasingly. "I know enough," she says, her initial response, but then she shakes her head. "Oh let's just drop this. I made a mistake. I'm sorry." In the next instant she changes her mind. "I want to know more," she says, gravely.
I consider this before asking, "Are you sure?"
"Patrick," she says breathlessly, "I know my life would be... much emptier without you... in it."
I consider this too, nodding thoughtfully.
"And I just can't..." She stops, frustrated. "I can't pretend these feelings don't exist, can I?"
...there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingent human being. My personality is sketchy and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at Harvard) if they ever did exist. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. I still, though, hold on to one single bleak truth: no one is safe, nothing is redeemed. Yet I am blameless. Each model of human behavior must be assumed to have some validity. Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do? My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this - and I have, countless times, in just about every act I've committed - and coming face-to-face with these truths, there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing ....
About the book:
Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and works on Wall Street; he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath.
Now an acknowledged modern class and one of the most talked-about books of all time (due in part to its ambiguous and hazy storyline), American Psycho is a bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to confront, about a world where morality has been slaughtered by greed and depravity.
Snippet from A Fine Balance
- Rohinton Mistry
Snippet from All Our Names
- Dinaw Mengestu