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“不般配”的恋人

更新时间:2017-3-2 11:48:56 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship
“不般配”的恋人

“Is this your grandson?” people sometimes ask Austin when she’s out with me.

“这是你的孙子吗?”奧斯汀(Austin)跟我一起出去时,人们有时会这样问她。

I love watching her vanity prick up, the way she serenely tilts her small white head and refurbishes her Southern accent to correct them. “No, honey. He’s my friend.”

我喜欢看她虚荣心作祟,平静地偏过鬓发如霜的小脑袋,操着经过刻意修饰的南方口音纠正他们的样子。“不,亲爱的,他是我的朋友。”

At this point, folks usually smile tightly and turn away, perhaps worried there is more than friendship going on between the old lady and the younger man seated at the bar or strolling through the supermarket, giggling like teenagers.

此时,人们常常挤出一个微笑,转身走开,也许是担心在酒吧里闲坐或在超市里逛悠、像青少年一样情不自禁笑出声的这位老妇人,和这名年轻一些的男子之间存在超越友谊的关系。

Why we’re giggling, I couldn’t tell you. Often our mirth seems fueled by some deep-celled delight at being together. Friendship, like its flashier cousin, love, can be wildly chemical and, like love, can happen in an instant.

至于为什么情不自禁笑出声,我无法说清楚。让我们欢笑的似乎常常是共处时的某种深层次的喜悦。友谊可以像它那更为熠熠生辉的表亲爱情一样,是一种难以控制的化学反应,也可以像爱情一样,在一瞬间发生。

When I met Austin, I was in my early 40s and not looking for a friend. I had come alone to this small Oregon town to finish a book. So when a bony, blue-eyed stranger knocked on my door, introducing herself as the lady from across the way and wondering if I might like to come over and see her garden — maybe have a gin and tonic — I politely declined.

遇到奧斯汀的时候,我40出头,并没有在寻觅新朋友。我孤身来到俄勒冈的这个小镇上,是为了写完一本书。因此,当一位瘦骨嶙峋、长着蓝色眼睛的女士敲开门,自我介绍说就住在对面,想知道我是否愿意过去看看她的花园——或许还可以来一杯加奎宁水的杜松子酒时,我礼貌地拒绝了。

Watching her walk away, though, in her velvet slip-ons and wrinkled blouse, I felt a strange pang, a slow pin of sadness that I suppose could best be described as loneliness. Suddenly I was dashing into the dirt road to say that I was sorry, that she had caught me in the middle of work, but that, yes, I would enjoy seeing her garden.

不过,目送她姗姗离去,我在她的丝绒便鞋和起皱的衬衫中感受到了一种奇怪的心痛,一丝幽幽的悲伤,我觉得最好称之为孤独。我猛地冲到土路上,告诉她我很抱歉,她来之前我正在工作,但我很愿意参观她的花园。

“Not the gin and tonic?” she said.

“不要加奎宁水的杜松子酒?”她说。

“Sure, that too,” I answered, blushing. And before I could suggest a visit the next week, she said: “So I’ll see you in a few hours, then. Shall we say 4:30?”

“当然也要,”我红着脸回答。接着,还没等我提议把拜访时间定在下周,她便说道:“那我们过会儿见,4点30分怎么样?”

I had to admire her sense of time. Next week is for someone who can afford to put things off. Austin, in her 80s, surely felt no such luxury.

我必须对她的时间观念表示称道。有本钱把事情往后推的人才会跟人约在下周。已至耄耋之年的奧斯汀显然不会这样奢侈。

“I liked your face,” she admitted later, telling me she had spotted me at the mailbox.

“我喜欢你的脸,”她后来承认,告诉我她看到过信箱旁的我。

As she poured the gin, I told her I had seen her at the mailbox, as well, and liked her face, too.

当她倒杜松子酒的时候,我告诉她我也看到过信箱旁的她,也喜欢她的脸。

“I wish I had better eyebrows,” she said. “They used to be fabulous.”

“要是我的眉毛再漂亮一点就好了,”她说。“它们从前可是又浓又密。”

Her garden was astounding, like something dreamed rather than planted, a mad-hatter gothic in which a lawless grace prevailed.

她的花园令人惊叹,不像侍弄出来的,倒像梦想出来的,有一种哥特式的狂野,一种不拘定法的优美。

At dusk, the deer arrived, nibbling the crab apple blossoms. We had been talking for hours, slightly tipsy, and then we were in the kitchen cooking dinner. A retired psychologist, Austin had traveled extensively, spoke terrible Spanish and worse French, and was a painter now. She had had two husbands, the second of whom died in this house, in a small bed in the living room.

黄昏时分,来了一只鹿,吃着酸苹果树的花。我们已经聊了几个小时,有些微醺,随后走进厨房准备晚餐。奥斯汀是一名退休的心理学家,游历过很多地方,能说糟糕的西班牙语和更糟的法语,现在是一名画家。她有过两任丈夫,第二任是在这所房子里离世的,确切地说是在起居室内的一张小床上。

“That’s what I’ll do,” Austin told me. “This room gets the best light.”

“我将来也要这样离开,”奥斯汀告诉我。“这个房间的光线最好。”

We turned to the windows, but the light was already gone. That we could be quiet together so soon, and without strain, felt auspicious.

我们转向窗户,但阳光已经消逝。我们这么快就能自然而然、安安静静地坐在一起,这种感觉预示着好兆头。

“So you’ve run away from home?” she said at one point.

“所以你是从家里逃出来的?”有一刻她说道。

From the beginning, there was something about our interaction that reminded me of friendships from childhood, in which no question was off limits. On religion, she claimed to be an atheist. I admitted to being haunted by the ghosts of a Roman Catholic upbringing. She said her sisters believed in hell and worried about her soul. Austin, though, seemed afraid of nothing, least of all death. I said I was still afraid of the dark.

从一开始,我们的互动所具有的某种特质,就让我联想起童年时代那种可以百无禁忌地提问的友谊。谈及宗教,她自称是一名无神论者。我则承认一直被自己天主教家庭成长经历的幽灵纠缠着。她说她的姐妹相信有地狱,并为她的灵魂感到担忧。但奧斯汀似乎无所畏惧,最不怕的就是死亡。我说我仍然害怕黑暗。

“Living alone,” she said. “It can make you funny.”

“独自居住,”她说,“会让你变得有点奇怪。”

I laughed but changed the subject, telling her I would like to see her paintings.

我笑了,但转换了话题,告诉她想看看她的画作。

Later, crossing the road back to my Craigslist sublet, I wondered what I was doing. I reminded myself of my plan: hiding out, staying in the dream of the book. I wasn’t here to socialize. After years of work on a single project, I was in the final stretch. I could finish a draft in a few months and head back home.

后来,往路对面走、返回那个在Craigslist网站上从别人手中转租的房子时,我不禁纳闷我这是在干什么。我提醒自己别忘了原先的计划:躲起来,沉浸在那本书制造的梦境里。我来这儿不是为了与人交际。多年间我一直在忙活同一本书,当时处于最后冲刺阶段。我可以在几个月内写完草稿,然后打道回府。

Besides, if I wanted a friend during my retreat, I would find someone my age to throw back beers with. Gin and tonics with an old lady in her garden? That wasn’t in the plan.

此外,如果在闭关期间想要有个朋友,我会找跟我年龄相仿的人一块儿喝啤酒。和一位老妇人在她家花园里喝加奎宁水的杜松子酒?这可不在计划之中。

But there I was the next weekend having dinner with her, and then it was every weekend. Sometimes we went out to a restaurant or hiked in the mountains. Austin’s older friends seemed confused.

但下一个周末我跟她共进了晚餐,然后每个周末都是如此。有时候我们会出门下馆子或者在山间漫步。奥斯汀的那些上了年纪的朋友似乎很困惑。

“Is he helping you with the computer?” one asked.

“他是在帮你修电脑吗?”一个朋友问。

When I first started talking about Austin to my own out-of-town friends, they assumed I had found a new boyfriend.

当我第一次跟外地的朋友谈起奥斯汀时,他们以为我交了新男友。

“Austin’s a woman,” I would say. “Besides, she’s in her 80s. She’s just a pal.”

“奧斯汀是女人,”我会告诉他们。“而且她已经80多了。她只是一个朋友。”

Even as they replied, “That’s cool,” I could almost hear them thinking: “Must be slim pickings out in Oregon.”

“真酷。”即便他们这样如此回答,我还是几乎能听到他们内心的声音:“在俄勒冈那边肯定是没什么选择的余地。”

What was perplexing, I suppose, was not that two people of such different ages had become friends, but that we had essentially become best friends. Others regarded our devotion as either strange or quaint, like one of those unlikely animal friendships: a monkey and a pigeon, perhaps.

我想,令人困惑的不是两个年龄相差如此悬殊的人成了朋友,而是我们俩实际上成了最好的朋友。其他人都认为我们这段友情有些古怪或者离奇,就像看似不可能成为朋友的两种动物之间的友情:也许是一只猴子和一只鸽子。

Admittedly, when I would spot us in a mirror, I saw how peculiar we were. This vivacious white-haired imp in her bright colors and chunk-style jewelry sitting with the dark-haired man in his drab earth-tone sweaters and Clark Kent glasses. Maybe I looked like some nerdy gigolo or this elegant woman’s attentive secretary. If we made no sense from the outside, it didn’t matter. We were mostly looking at each other.

的确,当我在镜中看我们俩时,看到的是非常奇特的一对儿。一位活泼的白发女郎着装色彩明艳,戴着硕大的首饰,和一名身穿乏味的大地色调毛衣、戴着克拉克·肯特(Clark Kent)式眼镜的黑发男子坐在一起。或许我看上去就像一个书呆子气十足的小白脸儿,或者这位优雅女士的贴心秘书。如果我们看上去完全不合常理,那没有关系。我们大多数时间都在注视彼此。

One night, Austin chatted about her life as a middle-aged wife in academia. “I completely missed out on the wildness of the ’60s,” she said.

一天晚上,奥斯汀谈及了她还是学术界的一名中年人妻时的生活。“我完全错失了1960年代的狂野,”她说。

I told her I had missed out, too.

我告诉她我也错过了。

“You weren’t born yet,” she said. “Or hardly.”

“你那时还没出生呢,”她说。“或者刚刚出生。”

Often we cooked together, as we had that first night, after which she would show me whatever painting she was working on. At her request, I also started reading to her from my book-in-progress. We gave each other feedback; our work improved.

我们常常一起下厨,就像第一天晚上那样,随后奥斯汀会把自己正在画的画拿给我看。应她的要求,我也开始把自己正在写的书读给她听。我们相互给出反馈意见;各自的工作都有了改善。

When my six-month lease was up, I renewed it. The novel wasn’t finished. Plus, I couldn’t imagine a better neighbor.

六个月的租约到期时,我续租了。小说尚未写完。此外,我觉得自己不可能遇到更好的邻居。

Before I knew it, three years had passed. I was writing seven days a week and spending most evenings with Austin. Sometimes she had spells of vertigo now, and when we walked together she held my arm. Often she couldn’t find the right word for something. When she wanted to keep away visitors so she could paint, she hung a sign on her studio door: “Do not destroy.”

不知不觉间,三年过去了。我一周写作七天,大多数晚上都与奧斯汀共度。她有时会感到一阵头晕,和我一起走路时会挽着我的胳膊。她常常词不达意。当她想要拒绝外人来访,以便专心作画时,会在工作室的门上挂了一个牌子:请勿“破坏”。

Soon the headaches came, and more jumbled language. “I need to screw my calls,” she said, meaning she needed to screen them.

很快她开始头疼,词不达意的情况变得更为严重。“我需要‘扭曲’来电,”她说,意思是她需要筛选来电(“扭曲”[screw]和“筛选”[screen]音近——编注)。

We laughed, then sobered. Tests were scheduled.

我们大笑,然后变得严肃起来。她预约了做检查的时间。

Now she is eight months into what the doctors say is a quick-ravaging illness deep in her brain. They say there is no stopping it. A year more, if she’s lucky. Even as I refuse to believe this, I prepare for it.

现在,她得上医生所说的那种在颅内快速肆虐的疾病已有八个月。他们说病情会不断恶化。如果幸运的话,她还有一年的时间。虽然不愿相信这一事实,我还是做着准备。

How? By keeping my promise to her.

怎么准备?信守我对她的承诺。

A few months before her diagnosis, Austin had attended a wedding. She showed me a copy of the vows, which had been distributed at the ceremony — a detailed list. I read it carefully, at Austin’s bidding. We were sitting in a car, waiting for our favorite Thai restaurant to open.

奥斯汀在病症得到确诊的几个月前参加了一场婚礼。她向我展示了新人在婚礼上分发的结婚誓约,那是一份详细的清单。我按照奥斯汀的吩咐细细阅读了一番。我们当时正坐在车里,等着我们喜爱的泰国餐厅开门营业。

“I never had anything like that with the men in my life,” she said, pointing to the vows. “We loved each other, but we didn’t have that.” She was crying now, something she rarely did.

“我这一生从未和男人有过这样的东西,”她指的是誓约。“我们彼此相爱,但我们没有这个,”她哭了起来。她以前很少哭的。

I took her hand and said, “Well, you have it with me. Everything but the sex.”

我握住她的手说,“好吧,你可以和我有这个。除了性,什么都行。”

At which point, the monkey kissed the pigeon.

此刻,猴子亲吻了鸽子。

That night, I had an odd realization: Some of the greatest romances of my life have been friendships. And these friendships have been, in many ways, more mysterious than erotic love: more subtle, less selfish, more attuned to kindness.

那天晚上,我有了一种古怪的认知:我生命中某些最棒的罗曼史其实是一段段友情。它们在很多方面比情欲之爱更不可思议:更细腻,更无私,与友善更契合。

Of course, Austin was going to die long before I did. That’s not what this is about. This, I have come to understand, is a love story.

当然了,奥斯丁会早我很多年离世。但重点不在于此。我意识到这是一个爱情故事。

Austin continued to paint for several months more, fractured, psychedelic self-portraits in scorching colors. Her best work. Lately, though, she is tired and hardly leaves the couch. I sit with her, at the opposite end, our legs intertwined.

奥斯汀又画了几个月,用炽烈的色彩画着些飘忽迷幻的自画像。那是她最好的作品。不过后来她累了,很少离开沙发。我陪她面对面坐着,我们的腿缠绕在一起。

“Read to me,” she says.

“读书给我听,”她说。

When I tell her the book is finished, she tells me to read her something new. But whenever I do, she promptly falls asleep.

当我跟她说那本书已经写完的时候,她让我为她读些新东西。但每次我这样做,她很快就会睡着。

I don’t leave, though. I stare out the window. Austin was right. This room does get the best light.

而我不会离开。我凝视着窗外。奥斯汀说的没错。这个房间的光线最好。

Recently her hair has thinned, but she has a shock of white up front that a friend’s daughter has dyed with a streak of fuchsia. She looks like some punk girl I might have dated in high school.

最近,她的头发变得稀疏了,但前面的白发被朋友的女儿挑染成了紫红色,颇具视觉冲击力。她看上去就像我上高中时也许会约会的某个朋克女孩。

She had a bit more energy the last time I came to visit and said: “Oh, Victor, I had the most wonderful dessert yesterday. Peaches and Connecticut. Have you ever had it?”

我最近一次前去探望时,她变得精神了一些,说道:“哦,维克多,我昨天尝了最棒的甜点。”桃子和康涅狄格。你尝过吗?

“No,” I said, smiling.

“没有,”我笑着说。

I loved the idea of it. Two things that don’t seem to go together. Monkeys and pigeons. Peaches and Connecticut. Unlikely, yes — but delicious beyond measure.

我喜欢这个创意。两样看似不可能在一起的东西。猴子和鸽子。桃子和康涅狄格。没错,看似不可能在一起——但那滋味美妙异常。

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