There’s a new DeLillo story in The New Yorker. It’s called “The Itch” and I started itching terribly about halfway through. First three sections (and yeah, the story starts with “But”):
But nobody showed up, so he sat awhile looking at the wall. It was one of those Saturdays that feel like Sunday. He didn’t know how to explain this. It happened intermittently, more often in the warmer months, and it was probably normal, although he’d never discussed it with anyone.•
After the divorce he felt an odd numbness, mental and physical. He looked in the mirror, studying the face that looked back. At night he kept to his half of the bed with his back to the other half. Over time a life slithered out. He talked to people, took long walks. He bought a pair of shoes but only after testing them rigorously, both shoes, not just one. He walked from one end of the shoe store to the other, four times at various speeds, then sat and looked down at the shoes. He took one shoe off and handled it, pressing the instep, placing his hand inside the shoe, nodding at it, tapping with the fingers of his free hand on the rigid sole and heel.
The salesman stood in the near distance, watching and waiting, whoever he was, whatever he said and did when he wasn’t there.•
In the office his desk was set alongside a window and he spent time looking at a building across the street, where nothing was visible inside the rows of windows. There were times when he could not stop looking.
He looks and scratches, semi-surreptitiously. Certain days it’s the left wrist. Upper arms at home in the evening. Thighs and shins most likely at night. When he’s out walking, it happens now and then, mostly forearms.
He was forty-four years old, trapped in his body. Arms, legs, torso. Face did not itch. Scalp developed something that a doctor gave a name to, but it itched only rarely, then not at all, so the name didn’t matter.
His eyes swept the windows across the street horizontally, never vertically. He did not try to imagine the lives inside.