What He Wants

“‘What do you want?’ he heard again.  Trexler knew what he wanted, and what, in general, all men wanted; and he was glad, in a way, that it was both inexpressible and unattainable, and that it wasn’t a wing [of a house].  He was satisfied to remember that it was deep, formless, enduring, and impossible of fulfillment, and that it made men sick, and that when you sauntered along Third Avenue and looked through the doorways into the dim saloons, you could sometimes pick out from the unregenerate ranks the ones who had not forgotten, gazing steadily into the bottoms of their glasses on the long chance that they could get another little peek of it.  Trexler found himself renewed by the remembrance that what he wanted was at once great and microscopic, and that although it borrowed from the nature of large deeds and of youthful love and of old songs and early intimations, it was not any one of these things, and that it had not been isolated or pinned down, and that a man who attempted to definite it in the privacy of a doctor’s office would fall flat on his face.

Trexler felt invigorated.  Suddenly his sickness seemed health, his dizziness stability.  A small tree, rising between him and the light, stood there saturated with the evening, each gilt-edged leaf perfectly drunk with excellence and delicacy.  Trexler’s spine registered an ever so slight tremor as it picked up this natural disturbance in the lovely scene.  ‘I want the second tree from the corner, just as it stands,’ he said, answering an imaginary question from an imaginary physician.  And he felt a slow pride in realizing that what he wanted none could bestow, and that what he had none could take away.  He felt content to be sick, unembarrassed at being afraid; and in the jungle of his fear he glimpsed (as he had so often glimpsed them before) the flashy tail feathers of the bird courage.”

-E.B. White

 

 

 

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