She leaves the room without explanation
and her heaving coughs are audible,
muted by a closed door.
She returns. “Look at me,” she says.
“No children, never a husband.
I reach this stage of my life, Mr. Gopal,
with the most comical realization: that
the only legacy is genetic material.
I always disdained those who made children.
It was the escape of the mediocre,
to substitute their own botched lives with fresh ones.
Yet today I rather wish I’d borne a life myself.
All I have is one niece, an officious girl
(I shouldn’t call her a girl–she’s going gray)
who looks at me as if through the wrong end of a telescope.
She comes in here every week with gallons of soup, soup, soup,
and an entourage of doctors and nurses and husbands
and children to look me over one last time.
You know, there’s that silly saying
‘We’re born alone and we die alone’–it’s nonsense.
We’re surrounded at birth and surrounded at death.
It is in between that we’re alone.”
Erzberger has veered so far off topic
that Arthur is unsure how to lead her back without appearing rude.
She herself, from the industry of her smoking, seems to sense
that this is not what he came for.