It was clear to me from the very first day that they were married, he being nearly fifty and she slightly younger, not yet forty. The nicest thing about them was seeing how much they enjoyed each other's company. At an hour when almost no one is in the mood for anything, still less for fun and games, they talked non-stop, laughing and joking, as if they had only just met or met for the very first time, and not as if they had left the house together, dropped the kids off at school, having first got washed and dressed at the same timeperhaps in the same bathroomand woken up in the same bed, nor as if the first thing they'd seen had been the inevitable face of their spouse, and so on and on, day after day, for a fair number of years, because they had children, a boy and a girl, who came with them on a couple of occasions, the girl must have been about eight and the boy about four, and the boy looked incredibly like his father.
The husband dressed with a slightly old-fashioned elegance, although he never seemed in any way ridiculous or anachronistic. I mean that he was always smartly dressed and well coordinated, with made-to-measure shirts, expensive, sober ties, a handkerchief in his top jacket pocket, cufflinks, polished black lace-up shoesor else suede, although he only wore suede towards the end of spring, when he started wearing lighter-coloured suitsand his hands were carefully manicured. Despite all this, he didn't give the impression of being some vain executive or a dyed-in-the-wool rich kid. He seemed more like a man whose upbringing would not allow him to go out in the street dressed in any other way, not at least on a working day; such clothes seemed natural to him, as though his father had taught him that, after a certain age, this was the appropriate way to dress, regardless of any foolish and instantly outmoded fashions, and regardless, too, of the raggedy times in which we live, and that he need not be affected by these in the least. He dressed so traditionally that I never once detected a single eccentric detail; he wasn't interested in trying to look different, although he did stand out a little in the context of the café where I always saw him and even perhaps in the context of our rather scruffy city. This naturalness was matched by his undoubtedly cordial, cheery nature, almost hail-fellow-wellmet, you might say (although he addressed the waiters formally as usted and treated them with a kindness that never toppled over into cloying familiarity): his frequent outbursts of laughter were somewhat loud, it's true, but never irritatingly so. He laughed easily and with gusto, but he always did so sincerely and sympathetically, never in a flattering, sycophantic manner, but responding to things that genuinely amused him, as many things did, for he was a generous man, ready to see the funny side of the situation and to applaud other people 's jokes, at least the verbal variety. Perhaps it was his wife who mainly made him laugh, for there are people who can make us laugh even when they don't intend to, largely because their very presence pleases us, and so it's easy enough to set us off, simply seeing them and being in their company and hearing them is all it takes, even if they're not saying anything very extraordinary or are even deliberately spouting nonsense, which we nevertheless find funny. They seemed to fulfil that role for each other; and although they were clearly married, I never caught one of them putting on an artificial or studiedly soppy expression, like some couples who have lived together for years and make a point of showing how much in love they still are, as if that somehow increased their value or embellished them. No, it was more as if they were determined to get on together and make a good impression on each other with a view to possible courtship; or as if they had been so drawn to each other before they were married or lived together that, in any circumstance, they would have spontaneously chosen each othernot out of conjugal duty or convenience or habit or even loyaltyas companion or partner, friend, conversationalist or accomplice, in the knowledge that, whatever happened, whatever transpired, whatever there was to tell or to hear, it would always be less interesting or amusing with someone else. Without her in his case, without him in her case. There was a camaraderie between them and, above all, a certainty.
Excerpted from The Infatuations by Javier Marias. Copyright © 2013 by Javier Marias. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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