It was never what he had done, but always what he could do. (6)
Air. Fresh air. Clarity for the mind. A pause. Another view. Many things. Many things can be found in a white landscape. The snow hides many secrets. The beginning and the end of everything, there, on the top of Kilimanjaro. Harry knows it now. A little too late.
Wait, it is never too late, you say? Nonsense. Sometimes it is
A couple, Harry and Helen. They are in Africa. He is dying of gangrene; she is by his side, taking care of him. This is my first Hemingway and I really enjoyed it. His writing—at least in this short story—has the ability of conveying the inner process of one conflicted soul. He described feelings and memories with such beauty and acuity that I felt completely captivated. I do not care so much about the plot if you let me see what is inside somebody's mind by following the inextricably fascinating rhythm of your prose. Hemingway wrote. I followed. I got hurt, then healed while staring at the ceiling with that dreadful book next to me.
I did not know what to expect, to be honest. I do not know if this was the best short story to start my journey with this writer (whose work has also been described as... “painful”; I am officially afraid of his novels now). But I saw it. I felt it. During the whole time I was reading this story, I felt the air getting heavier. It was filled with nostalgia and regret: powerful things that can choke you to death. Death. It does not sound so scary when you start thinking about regret. The story you could have written. The call you should have made. The kiss you should have given. The confession you could have shared. The vulnerability you should not have hidden. The words you could have said; the words you should have swallowed. The life you should have lived. To the fullest. Whatever that is.
Death cannot be avoided. But regret... that unbearable weight upon your chest. That stubborn attitude of waiting for tomorrow knowing there are limits. Unforgivable. I have no excuse to justify mine. No good excuse, at least.
“Never look back.” “I don't regret anything”. Is that possible? Is that even human? We are swinging between the avoidable and our humanity.
Some riddles cannot be answered.
You kept from thinking and it was all marvellous. You were equipped with good insides so that you did not go to pieces that way, the way most of them had, and you made an attitude that you cared nothing for the work you used to do, now that you could no longer do it. But, in yourself, you said that you would write about these people... But he would never do it, because each day of not writing, of comfort, of being that which he despised, dulled his ability and softened his will to work so that, finally, he did no work at all. (5)
You cannot stop death. He kindly stops for you, a poet once wrote. He awaits by your side, resting his head on the foot of your bed while contemplating the setting sun. A bicycle policeman. A bird. A hyena.
But regret chokes. Slowly. Inexorably. Taking away all trace of existence while you are still breathing. The hunger for living. The desire of doing. Stillness.
A bundle of miserable contradictions. There are few things so human as regret.