She shrugged her shoulders. "Can't you stop working on that thing for just a few moments?"
"If you like." With a regretful look, he laid the scarf down beside him.
"What have you been doing?" she asked.
"Just what you saw me doing."
"And what about that play you promised me?"
"Ah! The play!" he said, and in an apologetic tone added, "I was hoping that things would turn out differently."
"What things? What prevents you from working on it?"
"You mean you don't want to."
"I can't. I wanted to help you but I can't. What have I got to say to people?"
"Writing a play isn't so terribly difficult," she said impatiently.
"It seems easy to you because you're a part of that world."
"Try! You haven't even set a single word down on paper."
"I'm trying," he said. "For a brief moment one of my characters begins to breathe, but then he fades out. They're born, they live, they die. That's all I can say about them."
"But you've loved women. You'd had friends, enemies."
"Yes, I have recollections. That's true. But it's not enough." He closed his eyes. He seemed to be desperately searching his mind for some lost remembrance. "It takes a lot of strength, a lot of pride, or a lot of love to believe that a man's acts have any importance, that life outweighs death."
She drew near to him. "Fosca, is my life really unimportant in your eyes?" In her throat, there was a painful tightness; she was afraid of the answer he might give.
"You shouldn't ask me that question."
"You shouldn't worry about what I think. That's a weakness."
"A weakness?" she said, perplexed. "Would you consider me more courageous if I buried my head in the sand?"
"I once knew a man," Fosca said. "He didn't bury his head in the sand. He looked me in the face, listened to what I had to say. But he made his own decisions."
"You speak of him with a great deal of respect." The thought of this unknown man caused a sudden pang of jealousy to sweep over her.
"Wasn't he also just another man trying in vain to exist?" she asked.
"He did exactly what he wanted and he hoped for nothing."
"Is that what's important, then —to do what you want to do?"
"It was important to him."
"And for you?"
"He didn't worry about me."
"But was he right or wrong?"
"I can't answer for him."
"It sounds as though you admire him."
He shook his head. "I'm incapable of feeling admiration."
Regina took a few steps across the room. She did not know what to do with herself. "And me?" she asked.
"Am I just another woman to you?"
"You think too much about yourself. That's not good."
"What should I think about?"
"Ah! that I don't know," he said.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 57