Friday, 5 February 2010

Class struggle and class reconciliation - a scene in Márai

I looked him over carefully out of the side of my eye. You could see he was at the end of the road. Old clothes, a shirt he’d clearly been wearing for days, and those glassy eyes behind the glasses. It didn’t need careful examination to see that this man, who had to be addressed as doctor – that’s what I remember – who after the siege on the Danube embankment had left her standing there, as if she weren’t the woman he’d gone crazy over, but someone who once worked for him that he had no more use for - this man was now strictly lower class. And he still thinks he’s superior? I could feel the gorge rising in my throat and had to keep swallowing. I was all worked up inside like I’d never been. If this big shot left the bar now without confessing that the game was up and that it was me who had come out on top… You understand? I was afraid there’d be trouble. He gave me the Lincoln.

‘It’s for three,’ he said. He took his glasses off and polished them. He stared straight ahead in that shortsighted way. The bill said three-sixty. I handed back one-forty. He waved me away.

‘Keep it, Ede. It’s yours.’

This was it. The flashpoint! But he wasn’t looking at me - he was trying to stand up. That wasn’t too easy for him and he had to clutch at the counter. I looked at the one-forty in my palm and wondered whether to throw it in his face. But I couldn’t speak. Eventually, after a good deal of trouble, he managed to straighten up.

‘You parked far away, doctor?’ I asked.

He shook his head and gave a smoker’s cough.

‘I don’t have a car. I’ll use the subway.’

I answered him as firmly as I could.

‘Mine’s parked nearby. It’s new. I’ll drive you home.’

No,’ he hiccupped. ‘The subway is fine. Takes me right home.’

‘Now you listen to me, buddy!’ I bellowed at him. ‘I’ll drive you home in my new car! Me, the stinking prole.’

I came out from behind the counter and took a step towards him. If he refuses, I thought, I’ll knock his teeth out. Because, in the end, you just have to.

It was like the cat got his tongue. He squinted up at me.

‘OK,’ he said and nodded. ‘Take me home, you stinking prole.’

I put my arms around him and helped him through the door, the comradely way only men know, the kind of men who’ve slept with the same woman. Now that’s real democracy for you.

He got out at Hundredth, just before the Arab quarter. He disappeared, like concrete in the river. I never saw him again.


That's exactly the way I see John Terry and Wayne Bridge walking off, arms round each other. Now that's real democracy for you.

I have read two female columnists saying exactly the opposite thing. One says men have too much sympathy for JT, the thick bastards, the other says she admires JT's metaphorical balls. What both see - what everybody sees - is the suffering of JT's wife. Wayne Bridge gets no mention there, or anywhere much, except for three of the foreign players at Manchester City who wear T-shirts with his name on, but otherwise he's left blank. As for 'the other woman' - I can't be bothered to check her name - she gets no mention at all. Did she have any idea what she was doing? Was she in no way to blame? It doesn't seem so. No-one is saying so. Case dismissed.

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