from the notes of the Castratus

Decadence has spread throughout the city. In the cafes the cuffs of the waiters are stained black; upon the banks of the river the uniforms of the officers are shiny and smooth and bald with age. The war has had its toll, even here, so far away from the blood & tumult of the front. The women have suffered most, I feel. The bright joy of their clothes has fled from the streets, never perhaps to return. Everyone’s clothes are grey now, the colour of greasy dishwater, the colour of the overcast skies, the colour of survival.

We huddle together on the patios and in the parks, and our eyes slide away from each other, afraid to look into each other’s face and see the Fear there reflected. Joy is mechanical now, biological, uninspired, if one can speak of joy being uninspired in a meaningful way. The noise of lovers that used to hum through all the long twilights is, if anything, louder now, and more desperate. I do not walk in the evenings any longer. To hear the war always in the conversation of strangers on the ‘buses is one thing; to hear it in the rattling cries of love is beyond endurance.

We are all wiser now. To look back into the days before the war is to review childhood, such that everything then seems brighter, nobler, greater of spirit. I do not think it was so — looking through these notes tells me that it was not so — but it is hard not to let the nostalgia bear one along. It is a pleasant drug.