(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As the narrator sits at a café watching people pass, he falls into a guilt-stricken sense of loneliness. A solitary, brooding character quick to revert to memories of the past, he has suffered for years from delusions and remorse, but now he merely wishes to maintain his self-control and observe as life goes on all around him. This is one of the simple pleasures of his life, although at times it leaves bitter aftertastes. He wishes he were more astute or clever as, for example, women are in justifying their actions even to themselves.

On this particular morning, the narrator is amused by two café customers who are playing a trick on the young woman at the cash register. He is suddenly reminded of his own stupidity in certain situations and that when he reacts against other people, it is usually in a cruel fashion. These thoughts recall memories of Carlotta.

It has been a year since Carlotta died, but the narrator is constantly reminded of her. Carlotta was a simple person who worked as a cashier and lived in a little two-room apartment. He went to her house one evening, made love to her, told her he wished to be alone afterward, and went away for three days. On his return, he treated her coldly and spoke to her very little. When he first met Carlotta, he had just been humiliated by another woman, a bitter blow that had almost driven him to suicide. He understood that he was taking his revenge for one woman’s cruel and unjust treatment on another woman, but continued to see Carlotta and leave her in the evenings after indulging his passion. He liked to walk the deserted streets at night; they reminded him of his youth, and allowed him to feel the resentment he harbored against women at its fullest. He thought that Carlotta was naïve and because she was separated from her husband, merely turned to him for some comfort.

One evening, however, they went to...

(The entire section is 774 words.)