Doris Lessing

“But she did have a sulky bursting prowling sort of energy, because she was in that state so many young girls go through―a state of sexual obsession that can be like a sort of trance. When I was fifteen, still living in Baker Street with my father, I spent some months in that state, so that now I can't walk through that area without remembering, half amused, half embarrassed, an emotional condition which was so strong it had the power to absorb into it pavements, houses, shop windows. What was interesting about June was this: surely nature should have arranged matters so that the men she met must be aware of what afflicted her. Not at all. That first evening Maryrose and I involuntarily exchanged glances and nearly laughed out loud from recognition and amused pity. We did not, because we also understood that the so obvious fact was not obvious to the men and we wanted to protect her from their laughter. All the women in the place were aware of June. I remember sitting one morning on the verandah with Mrs. Lattimer, the pretty red-haired woman who flirted with young Stanley Lett, and June came into sight prowling blindly under the gum-trees by the railway lines. It was like watching a sleepwalker. She would take half a dozen steps, staring across the valley at the piled blue mountains, lift her hands to her hair, so that her body, tightly outlined in bright red cotton, showed every straining line and the sweat patches dark under the armpits―then drop her arms, her fists clenched at her sides. She would stand motionless, then walk on again, pause, seem to dream, kick at the cinders with the toe of high white sandal, and so on, slowly, till she was out of sight beyond the sun-glittering gum-trees. Mrs. Lattimore let out a deep rich sigh, laughed her weak indulgent laugh, and said: 'My God, I wouldn't be a girl again for a million pounds. My God, to go through all that again, not for a million million.' And Maryrose and I agreed. Yet, although to us every appearance of this girl was so powerfully embarrassing, the men did not see it and we took care not to betray her. There is a female chivalry, woman for woman, as strong as any other kind of loyalty. Or perhaps it was we didn't want brought home to us the deficiencies of imagination of our own men.”


Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
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The Golden Notebook The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
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