Dominique’s fondness of Roark

Late at night, often, she came to Roark’s room. She came unannounced, certain of finding him there and alone. In his room, there was no necessity to spare, lie, agree and erase herself out of being. Here she was free to resist, to see her resistance welcomed by an adversary too strong to fear a contest, strong enough to need it; she found a will granting her the recognition of her own entity, untouched and not to be touched except in clean battle, to win or to be defeated, but to be preserved in victory or defeat, not ground into the meaningless pulp of the impersonal.

When they lay in bed together it was–as it had to be, as the nature of the act demanded–an act of violence. It was surrender, made the more complete by the force of their resistance. It was an act of tension, as the great things on earth are things of tension. It was tense as electricity, the force fed on resistance, rushing through wires of metal stretched tight; it was tense as water made into power by the restraining violence of a dam. The touch of his skin against hers was not a caress, but a wave of pain, it became pain by being wanted too much, by releasing in fulfillment all the past hours of desire and denial. It was an act of clenched teeth and hatred, it was the unendurable, the agony, an act of passion–the word born to mean suffering–it was the moment made of hatred, tension, pain–the moment that broke its own elements, inverted them, triumphed, swept into a denial of all suffering, into its antithesis, into ecstasy.

She came to his room from a party, wearing an evening gown expensive and fragile like a coating of ice over her body–and she leaned against the wall, feeling the rough plaster under her skin, glancing slowly at every object around her, at the crude kitchen table loaded with sheets of paper, at the steel rulers, at the towels smudged by the black prints of five fingers, at the bare boards of the floor–and she let her glance slide down the length of her shining satin, down to the small triangle of a silver sandal, thinking of how she would be undressed here. She liked to wander about the room, to throw her gloves down among a litter of pencils, rubber erasers and rags, to put her small silver bag on a stained, discarded shirt, to snap open the catch of a diamond bracelet and drop it on a plate with the remnant of a sandwich, by an unfinished drawing. “Roark,” she said, standing behind his chair, her arms over his shoulders, her hand under his shirt, fingers spread and pressed flat against his chest, “I made Mr. Symons promise his job to Peter Keating today. Thirty-five floors, and anything he’ll wish to make it cost, money no objective, just art, free art.” She heard the sound of his soft chuckle, but he did not turn to look at her, only his fingers closed over her wrist and he pushed her hand farther down under his shirt, pressing it hard against his skin. Then she pulled his head back, and she bent down to cover his mouth with hers.

She came in and found a copy of the Banner spread out on his table, open at the page bearing “Your House” by Dominique Francon. Her column contained the line: “Howard Roark is the Marquis de Sade of architecture. He’s in love with his buildings–and look at them.” She knew that he disliked the Banner, that he put it there only for her sake, that he watched her noticing it, with the half-smile she dreaded on his face. She was angry; she wanted him to read everything she wrote, yet she would have preferred to think that it hurt him enough to make him avoid it. Later, lying across the bed, with his mouth on her breast, she looked past the orange tangle of his head, at that sheet of newspaper on the table, and he felt her trembling with pleasure.

She sat on the floor, at his feet, her head pressed to his knees, holding his hand, closing her fist in turn over each of his fingers, closing it tight and letting it slide slowly down the length of his finger, feeling the hard, small stops at the joints, and she asked softly: “Roark, you wanted to get the Colton factory? You wanted it very badly?”

“Yes, very badly,” he answered, without smiling and without pain. Then she raised his hand to her lips and held it there for a long time.

She got out of bed in the darkness, and walked naked across his room to take a cigarette from the table. She bent to the light of a match, her flat stomach rounded faintly in the movement. He said: “Light one for me,” and she put a cigarette between his lips; then she wandered through the dark room, smoking, while he lay in bed, propped up on his elbow, watching her.

Once she came in and found him working at his table. He said: “I’ve got to finish this. Sit down. Wait.” He did not look at her again. She waited silently, huddled in a chair at the farthest end of the room. She watched the straight lines of his eyebrows drawn in concentration, the set of his mouth, the vein beating under the tight skin of his neck, the sharp, surgical assurance of his hand. He did not look like an artist, he looked like the quarry worker, like a wrecker demolishing walls, and like a monk. Then she did not want him to stop or glance at her, because she wanted to watch the ascetic purity of his person, the absence of all sensuality; to watch that–and to think of what she remembered.

There were nights when he came to her apartment, as she came to his, without warning. If she had guests, he said: “Get rid of them,” and walked into the bedroom while she obeyed. They had a silent agreement, understood without mention, never to be seen together. Her bedroom was an exquisite place of glass and pale ice-green. He liked to come in wearing clothes stained by a day spent on the construction site. He liked to throw back the covers of her bed, then to sit talking quietly for an hour or two, not looking at the bed, not mentioning her writing or buildings or the latest commission she had obtained for Peter Keating, the simplicity of being at ease, here, like this, making the hours more sensual than the moments they delayed. 

There were evenings when they sat together in her living room, at the huge window high over the city. She liked to see him at that window. He would stand, half turned to her, smoking, looking at the city below. She would move away from him and sit down on the floor in the middle of the room and watch him. 

(The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand)


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