Autograph (The Little Green Glove)
No-one would connect me with a romance; yet I had one
1 The novella opens with the discovery of a glove in an abandoned seventeenth-century armoire. ‘An undefinable fragrance, so faint that it seemed almost to be the ghost of an odour, flew from the mysterious drawer.’
2 Vestigial (adjective). From the Latin word meaning ‘footprint, trace’.
- Forming a very small remnant of something that was once greater and more noticeable.
- Remaining in a form that is small or imperfectly developed and not able to function.
- Used to describe something, especially a part of the body, that has not developed properly; degenerate.
3 I discovered your autograph in the most unexpected places. Each page felt like a love letter – the most exquisite of collaborations. It was winter when you first slipped your gloved hand between the buttons of my coat. Next to you I was a tiny train exhaling anxious vapour –
‘I am afraid I shall wake
up and find it all a dream’
4 The word ‘enchantment’ was applied to evenings when long opera gloves, buttoned to the elbow, made an appearance in doorways or the surface of distracted mirrors. For garden parties, the matinée was preferred, often fastened at the wrist with a single button.
I never before thought our cosy rooms lonely and dreary; they had lost their charm
5 From a Portuguese word meaning enchantment or sorcery. Also referring to a form of vessel.
6 A collection of written keepsakes. The more unusual entries, which could include small pieces of embroidery, paper silhouettes, locks of hair, and pressed leaves and flowers, convey the impression of a milieu.
7 If I was drowning in someone else’s story, would you offer me your hand? Could I trust you to pull me towards the surface, the way certain emotions have the power to tug us from dreams? The best of you was in the details. They were an excuse to linger, to put off the moment when I’d wake and find you gone.
she pulled off her gloves
8 ‘The hand is skilled at all the ways of exiting a glove, viz. to shed, slip out, unpeel, shuck off, withdraw.’
C.f. Gertrude to Hamlet: ‘Cast they nightly colour off.’
9 We’d made a cult out of the opposable thumb, as if it were a reason why the rest of the world could be allowed to disappear. Yet I could still admire your dexterity. The possibility of a pleasure that offered no resistance to its own extinction –
10 Fourchette (noun)
- A dessert fork.
- The piece of fabric between two fingers of a glove. Also known as fogett, the latter usually pronounced ‘forgets’.
- A thin fold of skin at the back of the vulva. 4. The wishbone of a bird.
I seemed to live in the past
11 I was haunted by a memory of the arcades. The mannequins with their gloved hands in graceful attitudes. Your face pressed to the glass, our reflected gazes.
12 ‘Memory is like a glove; it longs for the hand that once filled it.’
I put away the treasure, my only souvenir.
13 In response to increasing demand, publishers began issuing small decorated books with blank pages. These are said to have symbolised the conviction that memory passes from hand to hand.
14 Souvenir. From a French word, meaning ‘to remember’.
- A keepsake, usually carried by a traveller, to guard against memory loss. Said to measure the distance from the object of longing.
- A small folding map, of the kind favoured by travellers. Regarded as an aid to lingering.
- A form of close reading that involves an obsessional focus on a single detail or object. The method eventually fell into disfavour, due to its perceived violence.
- To rescue or plunder.
Here was the very spot where I found that little glove
15 I was losing sensation in my hands, one fingertip at a time. When I picked up the glove, it was crusted with ice – a frozen souvenir. Or was that the outline of your hand, left behind in the snow?
16 This style, which fell out of fashion around the time of the Great War, has no name.
my grasp upon
the glove I lost
17 I numbered the pages to remind me of my place. I was afraid of joining the ranks of distracted lovers from whom nothing is safe: coats, velvet dresses, hair ribbons, gloves. At night I whispered the word amanuensis, as if it would make me less of a thief.
18 Quirk (noun)
- A peculiar aspect of a person’s character or behaviour.
- An acute hollow between convex and other mouldings.
- An obsession or fad.
- Part of a glove.
I have never been there since
19 You were packing your suitcase for the Baltic. The word ‘departure’ hovered in the space between us.
I began to unbutton my coat