“Because it’s money,” I says. “Somebody somewhere at some time went to–went through–I mean, money stands for too much hurt and grief somewhere to somebody that jest the money was never worth–I mean, that aint what I mean. . .”
—The Mansion, William Faulkner
At the bank, the female clerk does not make eye contact. Her eyes meet Jean’s for a second before fluttering away: to the computer screen, to the chained pen on the desk, to the gleam of the artificial light on the plastic countertop. Jean sees all of this because she follows the clerk’s eyes. It seems to her that people no longer even see each other any more; each social interaction becomes the chance to test this perception. What were others looking at? What diverted their attention away from the person in front of them? Jean was curious just how selectively oblivious the clerk could be. The girl showed no nervousness or shyness. Her hand remained on the money and the computer instead of smoothing back her hair. She made no small mindless chatter to fill the silence. She seemed content to ignore the person in front of her unless absolutely necessary. A quiet empty minute passed. A box spit out a receipt and the girl came to life as she tore it from the slit. “Have a nice day,” she said to Jean, her eyes bright, her smile warm. Their fingers shared a brief touch but the girl’s face betrayed no impression.