Here is the next excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Still Life with Figures:
“Yesterday’s sunshine has turned to still another day of rain, no longer a strong, no-nonsense rain, but a thin, desultory one that stops every once in awhile as if it had run out of energy and then starts in again as if it couldn’t make up its mind what to do. Like me. I wish it would stop so I could go out and walk. I feel the need of a fresh salt breeze to clear away the murkiness in my mind. I’m tired of reading. I feel both restless and apathetic. I wander around from window to window, staring out in hopes of seeing some sign of human life, but not even a dog has gone by to take a drink out of the birdbath. I had intended to catch up on all unanswered letters today but my mind feels sodden. Now it’s mid-afternoon and all I’ve accomplished today is to write one dull letter.
I thought I’d overcome the desire to smoke long before I got here. But it’s hard not to give in to the urge to go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. I always used to smoke a lot when I was angry or depressed. I’m depressed now but I don’t know why. Should I adopt an amateur psychoanalytic attitude or a philosophical one? Call it ‘repressed anger’ or ‘existential despair?’ I don’t know. I can’t think. I don’t want to think. I crave a cigarette.
Why did I use to smoke? I enjoyed it most (as opposed to craving it) when sitting down with congenial friends at a cocktail hour after a productively busy day.
There were two situations in which I smoked as a means to an end: when I was concentrating with all my might to clarify a thought, e.g., in choreographing a dance; and when on the contrary I couldn’t concentrate on anything and felt mentally scattered. As I write that, a possible explanation occurs to me, the same in both instances. There is a kind of pun involved: by the breathing in of smoke, i.e., the physical inspiration of it, I was really seeking mental inspiration. Sometimes it worked. The mental block dissolved with the first inhalation or so; and less often, but sometimes, a cigarette pulled me together and started me on some activity or interest when I felt unfocused. The trouble with that kind of inspiration, I finally had to acknowledge, is that while it may pick you up in the beginning, with each succeeding cigarette it lets you down. Nevertheless, right now, if there were a cigarette in the house…
It’s lovely to pose as a woman who is always serene, perceptive, wise. But whenever I have begun to admire myself in that role or even to think it’s the real me, I have caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and seen a Gorgon’s head.”