Philosopher's niceness of love breeds mistrust.

from Les Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir fiction ~6 min read

I didn't answer. I was exhausted, but I was still crying. It's astounding the quantity of tears a woman's eyes can hold. Lewis sat down at his desk, the typewriter began clacking. 'He wouldn't let a dog suffer,' I thought. 'And I'm crying because of him and he won't make a move.' I clenched my teeth. I had promised myself never to hate him, that man who had opened his heart to me without reserve. 'But it isn't he any more,' I repeated to myself. My teeth were chattering; I was on the very edge of hysterics. I made an effort which rent me from head to foot; I opened my eyes, I stared at the wall.

'What do you want me to do?’ I shouted. 'I'm here, shut in, shut in with you. I can't go and lie down in a ditch.'

'My God!' he said in a somewhat more friendly voice. 'How you make yourself suffer!'

'It's you,' I said. 'You don't even try to help me.'.

'What can you do about a woman who cries?'

'No matter who else it was, you'd try to help.'

'I hate to see you lose your head.'

'Do you think I do it on purpose? Do you think it's easy to live with someone you love and who doesn't love you?'

He remained seated in his chair, he didn't attempt to flee any more, but I knew he wouldn't speak the words we needed to conclude that scene; it was up to me to contrive an ending. I tossed out words at random: 'I'm here only for you; all I have is you! When I feel I'm being a burden on you, what can I do?'

'There's no reason to burst into tears because I don't feel like talking just when you get an urge to,' he said. 'Do I have to give in to your every whim?'

'Oh, you're being completely unfair!' I said, wiping my eyes. 'It was you who invited me to spend the summer here; you told me you were happy I was here. You shouldn't be so hostile.'

'I'm not hostile. When you start to cry, I feel like leaving, that's all.'

'I don't cry that often,' I said. I twisted my handkerchief in my hands. 'You may not be aware of it, but there are times when you act as if I'm an enemy, as if you mistrusted me. And that's horrible.'

Lewis smiled. 'I do mistrust you a bit,' he said.

'You have no right to!' I said. 'I know perfectly well you don't love me. I'll never ask you for anything that resembles love. I'm doing my best to make us get along together.'

'Yes, you're very nice,' Lewis said. 'But that's just it,' he added. 'That's why I mistrust you.' His voice rose a little. 'Your niceness is the most dangerous trap of all! That's how you got me last year. It seems ridiculous to defend yourself against someone who isn't attacking you. So you don't defend yourself. And then when you're alone once more, you find your heart's all upside-down again. No, I don't want any repetition of that.'

I got up. I took a few steps around the room, trying to calm myself. Reproaching me for being nice - that, that really was the limit!

'I can't be disagreeable on purpose!' I said. 'You're really not making things easy for me,' I added. 'If that's the way it is, I see only one solution. I'll leave.'

'But I don't want you to leave!' Lewis said. He shrugged his shoulders. 'Things aren't easy for me either.'

'I know,' I said.

I really couldn't get angry at him. He had hoped to keep me with him forever, and I had refused. If today his moods were capricious and his desires incoherent, I should not have let myself be surprised by this. You inevitably contradict yourself when you're forced to want something other than what you really want.

'I don't want to leave,' I said. 'Only you mustn't start hating me.'

He smiled. 'We haven't come to that!'

'A little while ago, you would have let me die where I was without lifting a finger.'

'That's true,' he said. 'I couldn't have lifted a finger. But it wasn't my fault: I was paralysed.'

I went over to him. For once, we had begun to speak out to each other. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.

'You're wrong to mistrust me,' I said. 'There's one thing you must know: I don't hold it against you, I've never held it against you that you no longer love me. There's no reason for it to be unpleasant for you to think about what I think of you. There's nothing in me that could be unpleasant to you.'

I cut myself off short; he was looking at me with a slightly worried look. He was afraid of words; so was I. I had seen too many women try to calm the regrets of their flesh with words: I had known too many who had dismally succeeded in leading back to their beds a man benumbed by words. It's a horrible thing, a woman who labours to lead a man's hands to her body by appealing to his mind.

I added only, 'We're friends, Lewis.'

'Of course!' He put his arms around me and whispered, 'I'm sorry I was so hard.

'I'm sorry I was so silly.'

'Yes! What a silly little fool! You did have a good idea though. Why didn't you go and lie down in a ditch?'

'Because you wouldn't have come to look for me.'

He laughed. 'The day after tomorrow, I'd have notified the police.'

'You'd win either way,' I said. 'It isn't fair. I could never make myself suffer for two whole days, or try to make you suffer for even an hour.'
'I know. There isn't much meanness in that poor heart of yours. And not much wisdom in that head!'

'That's why you have to be nice to me.'

'I'll try,' he said, giving me a playful hug.

After that, there was less distance between us. When we would go for walks on the beach, when we would lie in the sun, or in the evening, when we were listening to records, Lewis would talk to me without restraint. Our understanding was coming to life again. He was no longer afraid to take me in his arms, to kiss me; we even made love two or three times. When I felt his mouth find mine again, my heart began beating wildly; a kiss of desire is so much like a kiss of love! But my body would quickly regain its composure. It was only a matter of a brief conjugal coition, an act so insignificant that it's difficult to understand how the great concepts of pleasure and sin could ever be associated with it.

—Simone de Beauvoir, Les Mandarins, p. -1