"Usually temperature was a battle," but every once in a while one gets smug. One finds "the particular ecstacy in greeting" the perfect temperature. Then again, is it the knowledge that one is in perfect temperature--the posession of which is smugness--that gives such ecstacy, or the lost time of not knowing, of not being aware of temperature at all? Irina is witnessing--always, happily, worryingly, a bit too late--the dissolution of both consciousness and control. It's perfect and it's a bit frightening.
The same could be said of food. I'm constantly wondering if I've eaten enough to stave off hunger hours later, and this worrying feels a great deal like hunger, if it isn't in fact the feeling itself. I say hours, but I think of it as forever. The point of eating becomes to create an infinite duration of not worrying about eating. Perfection is quite a load to burden eating with, making it something to worry about, and such heavy expectations tend to make the act itself awfully light, hardly noticable.
Once in a while, though, I'm overcome (or rather, I just barely perceive that something is barely perceptable) with smugness. Too exhausted to worry about eating, the hours in retrospect seem not to have been counted. I did not interpret the restless gnawing an hour after a large meal as hunger, as I tend to.
Of course, I have to say that when I was thinking "I'm not hungry" with an air of accomplishment, I was sitting down to a snack. This was not a contradiction, in part because the snack was inedible. Yet I was eating it. Are samosas gross, or were these gross samosas? Old, greasy pastry thick with dry chickpea mash. Their disgustingness was more comforting than off-putting, though. I only felt compelled to eat them out of a pointless, neurotic aversion to waste. But the fact that they were nasty was so--what? Undemanding? Time did not expand or "stop"; it was already more than one could ever need. It was inconceivable that it ever wouldn't.
Which is why I missed reading Lionel Shriver, I think. We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World are different in form, but they share a pervasive distaste. It's like the astringency of tea at the back of the throat, absolving one's mouth from consuming food. It's not that Shriver's irritable characters don't swallow, so to speak, but things come back up and don't go down easily. The nausea is an oddly permeable prophylactic.
Irina's discovery of her lack of appetite for a better temperature comes when she's getting what she wants, even if she didn't know she wanted it. My moment of equanimity seems at first not to involve such crisscrossing of appetites, but then, I had given up on the day being useful or productive in any way, and not as a decision. Irina gave up on her non-marriage of nine years, and, indeed, the whole lifestyle that surrounds it, without intending to. Reading her "go wobbly" with slice after slice of chocolate-cappucino cake from Tesco, brandy, "a secret packet of cigarettes" and blasting Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes is an unattainable wish-fulfillment, not because any of these things sound particularly pleasurable themselves, but because she has so much rigidity--"trout and broccoli"--to make a mess of.
My attempts to impose rigidity on my life (no, I'm not saying I'm free; I'm saying I'm lazy) can only be endured with constant snacking, or rather, constant worrying. Otherwise, the thread of the next thing and the next thing is lost, and I suddenly realize how exhausting it all is. The drain seems to have come to the same realization; it has stopped draining. The stagnant water festers. But finally--finally--it has stopped stoppping-draining-stopping-draining. No more gurgling in the middle of the night.