This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part LXXV

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done.  We are currently reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise.  This book will have 106 parts.

Wilson had another; Amory had several more.  They decided to sit down.  At ten o'clock Wilson was displaced by Carling, class of '15.  Amory, his head spinning gorgeously, layer upon layer of soft satisfaction setting over the bruised spots of his spirit, was discoursing volubly on the war.

"'S a mental was'e," he insisted with owl-like wisdom.  "Two years my life spent inalleshual vacuity.  Los' idealism, got be physcal anmal," he shook his fist expressively at Old King Cole, "got be Prussian 'bout ev'thing, women 'specially.  Use' be straight 'bout women college.  Now don'givadam."  He expressed his lack of principle by sweeping a seltzer bottle with a broad gesture to noisy extinction on the floor, but this did not interrupt his speech.  "Seek pleasure where find it for to-morrow die. 'At's philos'phy for me now on."

Carling yawned, but Amory, waxing brilliant, continued:

"Use' wonder 'bout things--people satisfied compromise, fif'y-fif'y att'tude on life.  Now don' wonder, don' wonder--" He became so emphatic in impressing on Carling the fact that he didn't wonder that he lost the thread of his discourse and concluded by announcing to the bar at large that he was a "physcal anmal."

"What are you celebrating, Amory?"

Amory leaned forward confidentially.

"Cel'brating blowmylife.  Great moment blow my life.  Can't tell you 'bout it--"

He heard Carling addressing a remark to the bartender:

"Give him a bromo-seltzer."

Amory shook his head indignantly.

"None that stuff!"

"But listen, Amory, you're making yourself sick.  You're white as a ghost."

Amory considered the question.  He tried to look at himself in the mirror but even by squinting up one eye could only see as far as the row of bottles behind the bar.

"Like som'n solid.  We go get some--some salad."

He settled his coat with an attempt at nonchalance, but letting go of the bar was too much for him, and he slumped against a chair.

"We'll go over to Shanley's," suggested Carling, offering an elbow.

With this assistance Amory managed to get his legs in motion enough to propel him across Forty-second Street.

Shanley's was very dim.  He was conscious that he was talking in a loud voice, very succinctly and convincingly, he thought, about a desire to crush people under his heel.  He consumed three club sandwiches, devouring each as though it were no larger than a chocolate-drop.  Then Rosalind began popping into his mind again, and he found his lips forming her name over and over.  Next he was sleepy, and he had a hazy, listless sense of people in dress suits, probably waiters, gathering around the table....

...  He was in a room and Carling was saying something about a knot in his shoe-lace.

"Nemmine," he managed to articulate drowsily.  "Sleep in 'em...."

*****

STILL ALCOHOLIC

He awoke laughing and his eyes lazily roamed his surroundings, evidently a bedroom and bath in a good hotel.  His head was whirring and picture after picture was forming and blurring and melting before his eyes, but beyond the desire to laugh he had no entirely conscious reaction.  He reached for the 'phone beside his bed.

"Hello--what hotel is this--?

"Knickerbocker?  All right, send up two rye high-balls--"

He lay for a moment and wondered idly whether they'd send up a bottle or just two of those little glass containers.  Then, with an effort, he struggled out of bed and ambled into the bathroom.

When he emerged, rubbing himself lazily with a towel, he found the bar boy with the drinks and had a sudden desire to kid him.  On reflection he decided that this would be undignified, so he waved him away.

As the new alcohol tumbled into his stomach and warmed him, the isolated pictures began slowly to form a cinema reel of the day before.  Again he saw Rosalind curled weeping among the pillows, again he felt her tears against his cheek.  Her words began ringing in his ears: "Don't ever forget me, Amory--don't ever forget me--"

"Hell!" he faltered aloud, and then he choked and collapsed on the bed in a shaken spasm of grief.  After a minute he opened his eyes and regarded the ceiling.

"Damned fool!" he exclaimed in disgust, and with a voluminous sigh rose and approached the bottle.  After another glass he gave way loosely to the luxury of tears.  Purposely he called up into his mind little incidents of the vanished spring, phrased to himself emotions that would make him react even more strongly to sorrow.

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.

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