For those of you who remain with me, we are now just beginning “Dance,” the first section of volume 2 of Javier Marias’ long book (schedule here). As was probably not a surprise to most people, we discover that the young woman following Deza into his apartment at the end of vol. 1 was in fact Perez Nuix, who has an intriguing request to make of him.
I was struck here at how Marias sets up this request with the whole story of the Gypsy woman that Deza’s wife, Luisa, tells to begin “Dance.” Essentially, there’s a heavy kind of synchrony between the two of them, even a sort of doubling. Luisa’s story is one about how performing a favor for another person (in this case, buying a cake for the young boy of a destitute mother) puts you into a relationship with that person, whether you want to be or not. Of course it was nothing for a woman like Luisa to buy a small cake from a bakery–this was never the issue with the favor. Rather, the thing about this story that makes it worth telling is how Luisa navigates the space between a request and its granting. She has to see the Gypsy woman as a fellow human, to sympathize with why she wants the cake for just a moment, in order to be able to grant the request. The fact that Luisa has entered into a relationship that can’t be so easily broken is seen in this exchange with Deza:
“And now that you’ve done what she asked, won’t she always be asking you for more things?” I said.
“No, I don’t think she’s the sort to take advantage. I’ve seen her several times since I bought her baby wipes, and this was the first time that she’s expressly asked me for something else . . .” 
And then, roughly 10 pages later, Deza begins a beautiful discussion of the process by which Perez Nuix comes to ask his favor; that is, the way she forms the question, the power relations inherent in the act, what it all means for them.
If I let her continue, I will already be involved; afterwards, possibly caught and even entangled. It’s always the same, even if I refuse her the favour and do nothing, there is always some bond. How does she know that it’s less of a favour for me? That is something no one can know, neither she nor I, until the favour has been granted and time has passed and accounts have been drawn up or time has ended. But with that one phrase she has involved me . . . 
Also noteworthy in this discussion is the state of Perez Nuix’s stockings (which are covering legs that Deza makes no secret of his admiration for throughout the conversation). Recall that earlier I noted how peculiar it was that Deza kept noticing Wheeler’s socks during a similar conversation at the end of vol 1. And now it is women’s stockings.
This is one of the ephemeral powers of the person doing the granting or refusing, the most immediate compensation for finding oneself involved, but one pays the price for this too, later on. And this is why, often in order to make that power last, the reply or decision are delayed, and sometimes never even arrive at all. She uncrossed her legs and crossed them again the other way, I saw the run in her stockings begin on one thigh, she would not discover it for quite some time, I thought (she was not looking where I was looking), and by then the size of the run might make her blush. 
And the, finally, we find ourselves in a disco, with Deza, Tupra, a couple of their work associates, some big-time Italian they’re interpreting for a client, and his wife. Frankly, I found hilarious Deza’s somewhat mean-spirited thoughts on the wife’s refurbished breasts, and I thought she was a brilliantly evoked minor character. (And I’ll add that so many minor characters in this book seem a well-built as the major ones.)
And speaking of minor characters, was I the only one to not be terribly disappointed to see the return of Rafita, the idiot, Bushesque son of a Spanish politician destined for greatness? There’s something endearing in how bothered Deza gets when he’s around, and Deza’s rather insulting description of his club get-up (think of a real douchy guy trying to look like a rapper) was fantastic. (I particularly enjoyed the scorn he lavished on his hair-net.)
To close here, I want to bring up this passage toward the end of our first segment that brings together a couple of central metaphors from vol 1:
All of you and all of us are just like snow on somebody’s shoulders, slippery and docile, and the snow always stops. Neither you nor we are like a drop of blood or a bloodstain, with its resistant rim that sticks so obstinately to the porcelain or to the floor . . . 
I can’t find precisely where Deza first mentions the snow (perhaps someone will help me track it down), but I recall that it’s something of a metaphor for the way the weight of words slowly slides off our shoulders as they are forgotten. The bloodstain, I’m sure, everyone will remember from Deza’s night in Wheeler’s house, and is something along the lines of the opposite: that one persistent memory that will not fade. Interesting to see him evoking them together here (I believe this is the first time he does it). And it makes me wonder, will Marias ever return to what that blood was doing there in the first place?
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