He left the office where he’d taken up a trivial, poorly paid job
(eight pounds a month, including bonuses)—
left at the end of the dreary work that kept him bent all afternoon, came out at seven and walked off slowly, idling his way down the street. Good-looking; and interesting: showing as he did that he’d reached his full sensual capacity.
He’d turned twenty-nine the month before.
He idled his way down the main street and the poor side-streets that led to his home.
Passing in front of a small shop that sold cheap and flimsy things for workers, he saw a face inside there, saw a figure that compelled him to go in, and he pretended he wanted to look at some colored handkerchiefs.
He asked about the quality of the handkerchiefs and how much they cost, his voice choking, almost silenced by desire.
And the answers came back the same way, distracted, the voice hushed, offering hidden consent.
They kept on talking about the merchandise—but the only purpose: that their hands might touch over the handkerchiefs, that their faces, their lips, might move close together as though by chance— a moment’s meeting of limb against limb.
Quickly, secretly, so the shopowner sitting at the back wouldn’t realize what was going on.