Narrating from his own perspective once again, Joe states that the rainy weather that greets him upon his leaving the apartment seems to intensify as he walks past Jed Parry. As he walks, leaving Parry far behind in his hurry, he remembers a “quarter-memory”—a faint and decontextualized recollection of the word “curtain” that might somehow help him in his current situation. Joe attempts to tease out this fragment of memory and pictures “a grand house” with “some kind of military presence.” Yet he can get no further in his recollection and soon sets the memory aside.
Once again, the use of curtains in these paragraphs is highly symbolic. Here, they represent the incompleteness of Joe’s memory and his inability to summon facts at the exact moment in which they are needed. To the extent that Joe’s commitment to reason is factual, then, that commitment will always be limited by the imperfect working of Joe’s very human brain.
As Joe continues walking swiftly, he feels a pleasurable disdain for the wealthy homes he’s passing, recalling only after several minutes the fact of his own “half-million-pound apartment.” Joe briefly considers the word “curtain” again before sensing Jed Parry coming up behind him.
Joe’s ability to condemn the rich without condemning himself reveals the power of selective thinking. No matter his inclinations, Joe cannot escape the biases and blind spots that mar all human thought.
Parry is sobbing, and he accuses Joe of “playing games” and “pretending” not to return his love. Joe moves quickly away, “almost running,” and Parry is briefly trapped “in the center of [a] road,” a circumstance that causes Joe to daydream about “the redeeming possibility of a bus crushing him.” Parry continues to shout accusations at Joe through the rain and traffic, and his “rage” is so “compelling” that Joe can’t stop looking at him. As Joe listens, Parry grows increasingly hysterical, shouting obscenities at Joe and accusing Joe of “want[ing] to destroy” him. Parry frantically asserts that Joe will one day “crawl on [his] stomach” and beg Parry for forgiveness.
Once again, Jed Parry reveals himself in these paragraphs to be impervious to reason. If Joe were to return his love, such a gesture would be “true” in Parry’s thinking, yet any gesture in which Joe denies that love must, by definition, be false. Joe is compelled by Parry’s delusions in part because Parry’s way of thinking is so different from his own. Meanwhile, Parry’s prediction about Joe’s future groveling is another early hint about his violent character.
Losing Parry’s words in the blare of a passing siren, Joe realizes that he feels toward Parry a kind of pity, even as he is simultaneously revolted. Once again, he comes to the conclusion that Parry is too deranged to “harm” anyone. Parry “needed help,” Joe reflects, “but not from me.”
Joe attempts to bring reason to bear in his thoughts about Parry. If Parry is insane, Joe hypothesizes, he cannot simultaneously be dangerous. This attempt at a rational diagnosis will not ultimately hold up.
Allowing his thoughts to continue wandering, Joe considers the word “signals,” which Parry has twice accused him of “sending” during their confrontation. The word “signals” again brings to Joe’s mind the idea of a “curtain,” and Joe puts the two together to realize that his “quarter-memory” is of “a curtain used as a signal,” while the “grand house” in his recollection is “a famous residence in London.”
Joe’s further thinking about the curtains reveals his desire to overcome the lack of knowledge that is a fundamental feature of human existence. Interesting, too, is the fact that Joe is unable to concentrate on Parry alone, even at the peak of Parry’s insanity.
Following this line of thinking, Joe reflects upon his own curtains in his apartment and the massive collection of files in his study. Somewhere in that collection, Joe knows, is the specific information that he is partially remembering. To access it, and because he senses that he needs to set right his relationship with Clarissa, Joe loses Parry in the traffic and begins to jog home.
Joe’s changeable mind is on further display in these paragraphs—another illustration of his incompletely rational thinking, whatever his inclinations. Though Clarissa is not present in this moment, merely recalling his apartment sends Joe whirling in her direction.