A Love Story

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Walker Evans had women troubles too.

“A Love Story” perhaps reveals a bit too much about his attitudes

A Love Story

I once took my meals at a boarding-house in a foreign country. That was one of the ways to learn the language. In this case it was a mistake, because everyone else came there for that purpose.

Besides a Scotch girl there were at table: a Pole who was all right, and his wife; a Dane who had no flavor at all; an English boy for when I was embarrassed; three English girls with perfect table manners; the fat and vulgar lady of the place; her daughter-in-law. There was also an unborn child, carried by the daughter-in-law, and getting along swimmingly, I thought.

All of these people were unimportant to me and to themselves.

Often I sat next to the Scotch girl. It was clear from the start that she was courageous and big and “genuine” and a communist. Her English was very Scotch and not always correct. But for this misfortune she might have been perfectly charming. I pretended she was. This fraudulent wish-fulfillment damaged my summer.

Every noon and evening we ate that terrible food. I thought about fried pork and the unborn child.

The Scotch girl came to my place and I showed her my mysterious wall. It was at the end of the garden, and in all that stone expanse there was only one small iron-barred window, high up. Some nights there was a light. At various times there were different noises, usually bells. It was a fine wall. On Sunday mornings a violin and a voice played and sang behind it. The girl said something about smashing through to get at the human suffering. That was the first I had heard of it. But she had to say that. I attempted to smile inwardly and say to myself that we were different: I liked the mystery and she liked the human suffering; and that de gustibus, and so forth.

It was a madhouse, I think.

At the end of the summer the Scotch girl planned to go to the coast for a week or so. I said I’d meet her there, at a fishing village. The mayor of this village was a communist, of course, and here too, for having lead the big strike of the fishermen some years ago and got shot in the eye by the government. The Scotch girl wrote to this mayor and said she was a comrade and that she was coming with another comrade and wanted cheap, clean rooms in the town for that purpose. He wrote back: all right. I had to go first somewhere else to see someone about something. Then at the appointed date I got a place in a motor car with some nice Canadian ladies who were traveling abroad. My hat saved me from the ladies, except that they took a snapshot of me and the driver because of it.

I got to the fishing village late at night. The next day the famous mayor was out. The place was very good, with no tourists nor resorters. I walked around and came upon the market place. There was the Scotch girl with a basket. She was buying staple commodities. I leaned against a post and she saw me. She said she hadn’t thought I’d come.

A few miles above the village there was a good beach. We went there with the food for the day. On the way we separated and then made no effort to come together again. I went on along the sand about a mile, without looking back. The situation was serious. I asked God some sharp questions. Nothing happened.

I sat down and thought that something ought to happen. I deserved a vision or a revelation because if I had seen something dubious in nature at that moment I should not have been at all surprised. An apparition would have appreciated me, too, because I should have treated it as an equal. I had sardine sandwiches and should have offered one; I should have sat there calmly eating had the earth opened before me. I might have had a foresight of a thing that happened a little while after this so that when it did happen I could pretend to be surprised. But instead of seeing something peculiar or foreseeing that thing that happened later, I just lay there and imagined things of different shapes and colors and thought about what they would do and what I would do.

When I got back to the city I found the boarding-house deflated and subdued. Everybody looked thinner. The unborn child had miscarried.

I haven’t done any traveling since.

[Walker Evans, Typescript ,September 1926- July 1928]

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This page contains a single entry by Jeff Ward published on June 28, 2002 5:07 PM.

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