Chapter 1

  2. CHAPTER 1
  3. CHAPTER 1 - Environment
  4. CHAPTER 10
  5. CHAPTER 11
  6. CHAPTER 12

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?

That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach.

And the Beatles. And me. Once, when she specifically Jumped me with those

musical types, I asked her what the order was, and she replied, smiling,

"Alphabetical." At the time I smiled too. But now I sit and wonder whether

she was listing me by my first name-in which case I would trail Mozart-or by

my last name, in which case I would edge n there between Bach and the

Beatles. Either way I don't come first, which for some stupid reason bothers

hell out of me, having grown up with the notion that I always had to be

number one. Family heritage, don't you know?

In the fall of my senior year, I got into the habit of studying at the

Radcliffe library. Not just to eye the cheese, although I admit that I liked

to look. The place was quiet, nobody knew me, and the reserve books were

less in demand. The day before one of my history hour exams, I still hadn't

gotten around to reading the first book on the list, an endemic Harvard

disease. I ambled over to the reserve desk to get one of the tomes that

would bail me out on the morrow. There were two girls working there. One a

tall tennis-anyone type, the other a bespectacled mouse type. I opted for

Minnie Four-Eyes.

"Do you have The Waning of the Middle Ages?"

She shot a glance up at me.

"Do you have your own library?" she asked.

"Listen, Harvard is allowed to use the Radcliffe library."

"I'm not talking legality, Preppie, I'm talking ethics. You guys have

five million books. We have a few lousy thousand."

Christ, a superior-being type! The kind who think since the ratio of

Radcliffe to Harvard is five to one, the girls must be five times as smart.

I normally cut these types to ribbons, but just then I badly needed that

goddamn book.

"Listen, I need that goddamn book."

"Wouldja please watch your profanity, Preppie?"

"What makes you so sure I went to prep school?"

"You look stupid and rich," she said, removing her glasses.

"You're wrong," I protested. "I'm actually smart and poor.

"Oh, no, Preppie. i'm smart and poor."

She was staring straight at me. Her eyes were brown. Okay, maybe I look

rich, but I wouldn't let some 'Cliffie-even one with pretty eyes-call me


"What the hell makes you so smart?" I asked.

"I wouldn't go for coffee with you," she answered. "Listen-I wouldn't

ask you."

"That," she replied, "is what makes you stupid."

Let me explain why I took her for coffee. By shrewdly capitulating at

the crucial moment-i.e., by pretending that I suddenly wanted to-I got my

book. And since she couldn't leave until the library closed, I had plenty of

time to absorb some pithy phrases about the shift of royal dependence from

cleric to lawyer in the late eleventh century. I got an A minus on the exam,

coincidentally the same grade I assigned to Jenny's legs when she first

walked from behind that desk. I can't say I gave her costume an honor grade,

however; it was a bit too Boho for my taste. I especially ~gthed that Indian

thing she carried for a handbag. Fortunately I didn't mention this, as I

later discovered it was of her own design.

We went to the Midget Restaurant, a nearby sandwich joint which,

despite its name, is not restricted to people of small stature. I ordered

two coffees and a brownie with ice cream (for her).

"I'm Jennifer Cavilleri," she said, "an American of Italian descent."

As if I wouldn't have known. "And a music major," she added.

"My name is Oliver," I said.

"First or last?" she asked.

"First," I answered, and then confessed that my entire name was Oliver

Barrett. (I mean, that's most of

"Oh," she said. "Barrett, like the poet?"

"Yes," I said. "No relation."

In the pause that ensued, I gave thanks that she hadn't come up with

the usual distressing question:

"Barrett, like the hall?" For it is my special albatross to be related

to the guy that built Barrett Hall, the largest and ugliest structure in

Harvard Yard, a colossal monument to my family's money, vanity and flagrant


After that, she was pretty quiet. Could we have run out of conversation

so quickly? Had I turned her off by not being related to the poet? What? She

simply sat there, semi-smiling at me. For something to do, I checked out her

notebooks. Her handwriting was curious-small sharp little letters with no

capitals (who did she think she was, e. e. cummings?). And she was taking

some pretty snowy courses: Comp. Lit. 105, Music 150, Music

201- "Music 201? Isn't that a graduate course?"

She nodded yes, and was not very good at masking her pride.

"Renaissance polyphony."

"What's polyphony?"

"Nothing sexual, Preppie."

Why was I putting up with this? Doesn't she read the Crimson? Doesn't

she know who I am?

"Hey, don't you know who I am?"

"Yeah," she answered with kind of disdain. "You're the guy that owns

Barrett Hall."

She didn't know who I was.

"I don't own Barrett Hall," I quibbled. "My great- grandfather happened

to give it to Harvard."

"So his not-so-great grandson would be sure to get

That was the limit.

"Jenny, if you're so convinced I'm a loser, why did you bulldoze me

into buying you coffee?"

She looked me straight in the eye and smiled. "I like your body," she


Part of being a big winner is the ability to be a good loser. There's

no paradox involved. It's a distinctly Harvard thing to be able to turn any

defeat into victory.

"Tough luck, Barrett. You played a helluva game." "Really, i'm so glad

you fellows took it. I mean, you people need to win so badly."

Of course, an out-and-out triumph is better. I mean, if you have the

option, the last-minute score is preferable. And as I walked Jenny back to

her dorm, I had not despaired of ultimate victory over this snotty Radcliffe


"Listen, you snotty Radcliffe bitch, Friday night is the Dartmouth

hockey game"


"So I'd like you to come."

She replied with the usual Radcliffe reverence for sport:

"Why the hell should I come to a lousy hockey game?"

I answered casually:

"Because I'm playing."

There was a brief silence. I think I heard snow falling.

"For which side?" she asked.


Эрик Сигл. История любви | CHAPTER 2


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