How long after that was the evening the police came to his apartment? Two uniformed men, who apologized to Kafka, but said they had come to inform him that Anna was found drowned in the river and if he wouldn't mind they had just a few questions to ask.
After completing their investigations, the police notified Kafka that the drowning had been an accident. But at the funeral, Kafka noticed a man weeping copiously. He approached the grieving man, introduced himself, and asked if he weren't a cousin of Anna's. The man composed himself, seemed embarrassed, and stammered that he was a salesman of pharmaceuticals and knew Anna from his monthly visits to the hospital.
Kafka knew that a passing acquaintance would not be so agitated, no matter how tragic the death. In the absence of a reason for the drowning, Kafka now constructed one: Anna had begun an affair with the pharmaceuticals man and had fallen in love with him. Feeling remorse over having to hurt either this man or Kafka, unable to choose between them and equally unable to bear the deception, she had one final, perfect night with each, and drowned herself.
Kafka winced at the memory. Sometimes this explanation was as painful as the void it was meant to fill. But here was Anna's mouth again -- on Gretchen's face. Kafka smiled at this provisional restoration.
By the end of the meal the second carafe was nearly done. In the thickening haze of smoke, the edges separating Kafka's senses were becoming dulled and he was becoming certain he was in the presence of his two lost loves. Watching Gretchen, he saw Anna's face. But Gretchen's increasingly direct and suggestive questions belonged to Berta. He heard his own voice shift, as he spoke now to one, now to the other.
Each object is merely a configuration of molecules that, in another arrangement, would constitute a completely different object, Kafka thought. Here is Gretchen: A smile. A laugh. A way of throwing her head back, then looking at him with profound and carnal interest. He had seen each of these elements before. I have analyzed this woman into atoms, he thought.
This fascinated him. Like at a seance, like a dream, he was able to commune with those he lost while in the presence of this woman, who suggested aspects of each but did not embody either in totality.
As he walked with Gretchen down the cobblestone streets in the Old Town, Kafka noticed that whereas her body had earlier suggested Berta's slender lines, it now seemed more like Anna's, with her round belly and thick hips. This transformation unnerved Kafka, but Gretchen broke his reverie as she clutched him unsteadily. ``Now I understand,'' she exclaimed.
``What do you understand?''
"I know why you said that restaurant was so mysterious. A woman walks in and, poof! She walks out wanting you.''
Eager as Isaiah, Kafka led the giddy girl toward his apartment. When they reached his door, Gretchen laughed hoarsely as Berta might have done during one of their all-night discussions about the length of the perfect paragraph.
"I know this address from the information on your bank account,'' she said, tracing the numbers on the doorpost with her finger.
"You've got me at a disadvantage,'' Kafka said, ``knowing where I live, how much money I make and how much I spend. All rather personal. Demystifying.''
"It's the essence of a person,'' Gretchen agreed. ``Everything one needs to know.''
"And it's exactly what I don't know about you.''
She shivered. ``It's cold. I'll answer any questions inside.''
But once the door was shut behind them, her communication consisted mainly of strenuous appeals to loose her from the moorings of her clothing.
Leaning over her in the near-dark, exploring, testing, memorizing her, Kafka found Gretchen again. Unique in form, an expression on her face he could not call up from the past, her words untasted wine. Only once during their lovemaking did she disturb him with memory. Tracing a line with his tongue along the inside of her arm, she moaned in a pitch that Kafka immediately recognized as belonging to his former wife, Leni.
Later, after she had fallen asleep, Kafka saw that her face had gone slack and a prominent double chin had appeared -- Anna's look of bland contentment. He took her hand -- the finger nails were bitten almost bloody as Berta's had been. He drifted away unsure of who he was -- perhaps a different man to each woman. He came awake when she shut the bathroom door.
Kafka hopes it is Gretchen who will emerge: the shy,
clever bank clerk, her body wrapped in a clean towel and
smelling warm and damp. In a succession of images she
enters as Berta, Anna, Leni. Kafka is seized each time
not with the anticipation of beginning, but with the
dread of separation. He confronts not a suggestion as
before, but an entire woman -- brought to life by
nightmares still unquiet within him -- and now, in the
realm of daylight, with Kafka mute as Noah, about to
leave him again.
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