Bit by bit, I found myself relaxing into the conversation. Kitty had a
natural talent for drawing people out of themselves, and it was easy to fall
in with her, to feel comfortable in her presence. As Uncle Victor had once told me long ago, a conversation
is like having a catch with someone. A good partner tosses the ball directly into your glove, making it
almost impossible for you to miss it; when he is on the recelving end, he catches everything sent his way,
even the most errant and incompetent throws. That's what Kitty did. She kept lobbing the ball straight
into the pocket of my glove, and when I threw the ball back to her, she hauled in everything that was
even remotely in her area: jumping up to spear balls that soared above her head, diving nimbly to her
left or right, charging in to make tumbling, shoestring catches. More than that, her skill was such that
she always made me feel that I had made those bad throws on purpose, as if my only object had been to make
the game more amusing. She made me seem better than I was, and that strengthened my confidence, which in
turn helped to make my throws less difficult for her to handle. In other words, I started talking to her
rather than to myself, and the pleasure of it was greater than anything I had experlenced in a long time.
As we went on talking there in the October sunlight, I began trying to think of ways to prolong the
conversation. I was too exalted and happy to want it to end, and the fact that Kitty was carrying a
large shoulder bag with bits of dance paraphernalia sticking out from the top - a leotard sleeve, a
sweatshirt collar, the corner of a towel - made me worry that she was about to get up and rush off to
another appointment. There was a hint of chill in the air, and after twenty minutes of talking on the
bench, I noticed her shiver ever so slightly. Plucking up my courage, I made some remark about how it
was getting cold, and perhaps we should go back to Zimmer's apartment where I could make us some hot
coffee. Miraculously, Kitty nodded and said she thought that was a good idea.
I set about making the coffee. The living room was separated from the kitchen by the bedroorn, and
instead of waiting for me in the living room, Kitty sat down on the bed so that we could go on talking.
The shift to the indoors had changed the tone of the conversation, and both of us became more quiet
and tentative, as if searching for a way to interpret our lines. There was an eerie sense of anticipation
in the air, and I was glad to have the job of making coffee to mask the confusion that had suddenly
taken hold of me. Something was about to happen, but I was too afraid to dwell on it, feeling that if
I allowed myself to hope, the thing could be destroyed before it ever took shape. Then Kitty became
very silent, said nothing for twenty or thirty seconds. I continued puttering around the kitchen,
opening and closing the refrigerator, taking out cups and spoons, pouring milk into a pitcher, and so
on. For a brief moment, my back was turned to Kitty, and before I was fully aware of it, she had left
her seat on the bed and come into the kitchen. Without saying a word, she slid up
behind me, put her arms around my waist, and leaned her head against my back.
"Who's that?" I said, pretending I didn't know.
Source: Moon Palace by Paul Auster, Diesterweg Verlag 2001, pp. 113-115
tentative - uncertain, cautious
paraphernalia - different kinds of articles or equipment
leotard - tight-fitting clothing worn over the whole body by dancers when practising
eerie - strange, weird
to putter around - to busy yourself doing things
1. What has Marco (the first person narrator) learnt from his uncle Victor on the art of a conversation?
2. Do your friends or acquaintances stick to above rules of a conversation?
If not, criticize their ways of conducting a conversation.
3. The way how people are to hold conversations is described by figurative language. Explain.
4. How can you tell that Marco and Kitty have fallen in love with each other?