...she slowed uncertainly; she could see down all the lighted paths, he couldn't have gone far.
He was gone, gone entirely, vanished.
She walked on toward the library, feeling an Alice feeling of having been put in the wrong by a being who didn't follow the laws of physics. Then she found she was walking right toward him: he stood before the library, and he was talking to a slim dark woman, or rather listening to her talk, she seemed distraught or upset somehow, she talked and shook her head and almost seemed to tremble: and then as Kit came close, almost too close, unable not to, the woman pressed her cheek against his coat.
Only one paragraph, and this woman never reappears in the story. But Crowley is not one to be sloppy about leaving threads dangling in his narrative.
Who is she?
The twisting shadow of the Cold War moves over the life of this little college campus. At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis Falin... vanishes. The manuscripts of his poems are mysteriously lost. But the world edges back away from war, and life persists.
Many years later Kit speaks to her father of it:
"I think that back then, when he came to this country, there was a struggle going on between the angels of the nations, his and ours; and that in their anger and their fear, those angels came to destroy the world...
"But no, of course it didn't happen," Kit said, and she rose up and went to the window, as though to release her thought or her soul that way. "It didn't, it should have but it didn't. Because the lesser angel of one nation interceded. On our behalf. He made an offer; he offered himself."
"The lesser angel," George said. "The lesser angel."...
"The lesser angel," she said. "Every nation has one: an angel who is all that the greater angel isn't. Who can weep if the nation's angel can't; or laugh if it never does; who is small and weak and powerless, like us. Except this once. Because the lesser angel could say: Take this as a sop to your anger. And it worked...
"It didn't have to be much. It wasn't much. It was only the thing most precious to him. What would destroy him to lose. His soul."
"They have souls?"
"His self. His life." A sheaf of papers, yellow American copy paper, the rough uneven lines of Russian words typed on the Undervud. "They couldn't refuse that."
"They couldn't. They can't. It's how they are."
And if Soviet Russia had a lesser angel, the animating spirit of what was not the gray empire of the Politburo and the KGB and the gulags; I take it that America had one as well.
And that she remains.
Thanks to Ibram Kendi for his article this week in The Atlantic, A Battle between the Two Souls of America, which brought this back to my mind.