On Tuesday, the second of August, Marlene and I were doing the dullest thing, sitting outside a Pret-a-Manger in Saint Christopher’s Place, eating potato chips and drinking diet coke. Marlene was visiting London, having recently moved back to Pakistan where she goes to work in a bulletproof car. We were having a wonderful time.
Marlene is a dramatic person to know — rash, brilliant, beautiful, patriotic (which is why she is back in Pakistan), and uncompromising and constantly conflicted at the same time. Since I believe that all you really need to know about a person is what they read and what they eat, Marlene’s favorite authors are Dostoevsky, Cortobar, and Sebald. She is the only person that I know who has tried to read Thus Spake Zarathustra on a Kindle. (She confessed she didn’t get very far.) She also likes Agatha Christie and Haruki Murakami and PG Wodehouse, which is the only reason why we get along. Incidentally, Marlene is a very good cook who doesn’t enjoy cooking. This, I think, befits a Sebald fan. Instead of braising a rump roast, she’d rather be doing something either more elevated or perverse.
Also, I call her Marlene because she reminds me of Dietrich. Most of the time she stomps around with her long legs, looking sultry.
“You know,” Marlene said, “It’s so nice to be able to sit outside without the sound of guns.”
I replied, “The minute you said that, I expected a gun to go off. Perhaps it is not your country, it’s you.”
“That’s exactly what it is, isn’t it? Disaster just follows me. Like a…puppy.”
Sometimes when Marlene and I are together, our humor is inappropriate. Occasionally it is badly timed.