The interviewer is coming today. So. Here is the simple part: choosing what to wear. I’ve told my little assistant buzzing downstairs—no, that isn’t fair of me, she isn’t little, she looms over my life, in fact, and she’s more than an assistant, she’s almost a kind of nurse, at times—I’ve told Maia to leave me alone for a bit, to let me be quiet, so I can get ready for my time with him, and then for my birthday celebration to follow; because I need a rest after having spent the whole morning in my study, organizing my documents and letters, the private papers that will sum me up, in my eighty-third year—work that has been the easier part of this day, now that I think of it, at least compared to what’s going to come later on, compared to what is coming on now.
I hope I can manage it all. I don’t tire easily, thank goodness. For my age I’m still fairly sound—apart, that is, from the slight deafness in my left ear, the result of being left lying in the mud at Belsen. Of course, no one knows I’ve ever been there. But this much is true: I’ve never needed or wanted much rest, since then.
I’ve kept moving fairly well into my so-called golden years. I think I could have been an athlete, given the chance. An Olympic swimmer. That would have been lovely! Or an ice skater. But I would have to lose weight… Recently, I’ve had a terrible feeling I’ve been carrying too much fat on me. I hate it. Extra pounds. Those horrible millstones of age. I don’t hunch, though. I’m no beauty, and never have been, but there’s one thing I have to be proud of and that’s my hair, which yesterday in the village I had dyed a dark, soft brown and shaped into a rounded, helmeted style, like the Queen of England’s. For several weeks now this will need very little attention, thanks to twenty-first-century chemicals. It’s a good thing. There will be a great deal of media attention, soon.
No, I don’t need much outward preparation, really, for being judged by a doctoral student. I don’t have to worry about looking any older than I should, and if I ever did, that was a long time ago. I have my clothes picked out from the closet and lying on their cushioned hangers on the bed: the white silken blouse and matching skirt, and the red-slashed scarf, all in one ensemble. Like a bride. And I will say one other thing for me: Once I know something is going to happen, I do try to see it through. And I am going to see this through. Even though it’s going to be hard, perhaps even nearly impossible. To make this Scottish boy believe I am who I say I am.
On my dresser are the matching pearls and earrings, and on the chintz-covered chair are my pantyhose, at their ghostly feet the deep, wine-red pumps. It’s important to be prepared. It’s important to stay quick and alert, especially as one gets older. Although, when I was still very young, right after the war, I did get into some trouble, and made other people anxious and unhappy, by not seeming to be quick and alert enough. Instead, I would wander around the kibbutz in a daze, with a mop pail over my head, pretending to myself I was lying at the bottom of the ocean, the metal tub over my ears making for both a real and imagined pressure, and the hollowness underneath leaving me quivering all over, but silent, as though I were a piece of twine knocking against a bell. Hidden under my hot, shiny helmet I would walk round and round in the dirt, circling the chicken coops and the vegetable gardens and the trampled goat yard, in complete silence, watching my untied shoe laces drag over the flat, whitened stones. That part I have always remembered, if not understood. It is the rest of my memory that has come as a surprise, and that is going to be hard for others to understand. Because there have been so many people pretending to be Annes or Annas or Anastasias across history. A certain lack of trust has developed around the name. If you tramp to a well too many times, it becomes a ditch. That is understandable.