Vladimir nabokov. the vane sisters

1

I might never have heard of Cynthia’s death, had I not
Run, that night, into D., whom I had also lost track of for the
Last four years or so; and I might never have run into D. had I
Not got involved in a series of trivial investigations.
The day, a compunctious Sunday after a week of blizzards,
Had been part jewel, part mud. In the midst of my usual
Afternoon stroll through the small hilly town attached to the
Girls’ college where I taught French literature, I had stopped
To watch a family of brilliant icicles drip-dripping from the
Eaves of a frame house. So clear-cut were their pointed shadows
On the white boards behind them that I was sure the shadows of
The falling drops should be visible too. But they were not. The
Roof jutted too far out, perhaps, or the angle of vision was
Faulty, or, again, I did not chance to be watching the right
Icicle when the right drop fell. There was

a rhythm, an
Alternation in the dripping that I found as teasing as a coin
Trick. It led me to inspect the corners of several house
Blocks, and this brought me to Kelly Road, and right to the
House where D. used to live when he was instructor here. And as
I looked up at the eaves of the adjacent garage with its full
Display of transparent stalactites backed by their blue
Silhouettes, I was rewarded at last, upon choosing one, by the
Sight of what might be described as the dot of an exclamation
Mark leaving its ordinary position to glide down very fast – a
Jot faster than the thaw-drop it raced. This twinned twinkle
Was delightful but not completely satisfying; or rather it only
Sharpened my appetite for other tidbits of light and shade, and
I walked on in a state of raw awareness that seemed to
Transform the whole of my being into one big eyeball rolling in
The world’s socket.
Through peacocked lashes I saw the dazzling diamond
Reflection of the low sun on the round back of a parked
Automobile. To all kinds of things a vivid pictorial sense had
Been restored by the sponge of the thaw. Water in overlapping
Festoons flowed down one sloping street and turned gracefully
Into another. With ever so slight a note of meretricious
Appeal, narrow passages between buildings revealed treasures of
Brick and purple. I remarked for the first time the humble
Fluting – last echoes of grooves on the shafts of columns –
Ornamenting a garbage can, and I also saw the rippling upon its
Lid – circles diverging from a fantastically ancient center.
Erect, dark-headed shapes of dead snow (left by the blades of a
Bulldozer last Friday) were lined up like rudimentary penguins
Along the curbs, above the brilliant vibration of live gutters.
I walked up, and I walked down, and I walked straight into
A delicately dying sky, and finally the sequence of observed
And observant things brought me, at my usual eating time, to a
Street so distant from my usual eating place that I decided to
Try a restaurant which stood on the fringe of the town. Night
Had fallen without sound or ceremony when I came out again. The
Lean ghost, the elongated umbra cast by a parking meter upon
Some damp snow, had a strange ruddy tinge; this I made out to
Be due to the tawny red light of the restaurant sign above the
Sidewalk; and it was then – as I loitered there, wondering
Rather wearily if in the course of my return tramp I might be
Lucky enough to find the same in neon blue – it was then that a



Vladimir nabokov. the vane sisters