Increasingly, though it’s Jenny and not me who has problems, I’m the one who calls Jenny, simply for the pleasure of hearing her speak. She goes to Ivan and his wife’s house every morning, when Ivan’s away, in what seems an implicit agreement between the two women. The wife lights a cigarette in front of Jenny, who, never having smoked in her life, having always looked on cigarettes with virtuous horror, can’t imagine that pleasure, and yet now she envies this gesture, and her own, her adorable way of pushing a lock of her hair back along one side of her head, now strikes her as trivial, inadequate. Her parents’ fears have come true: She’s losing a part of her dignity, but not for the reasons nor in the circumstances they imagine. She’s forgotten that she’s a woman adrift, alone and abandoned, that no one anywhere feels any need for her, that she was loyal to her profession and that her profession coldly rejected her—all that, which so consumes the two old people’s thoughts, she’s forgotten, and so she’s no longer ashamed. But before Ivan’s wife she’s tormented by the sort of disdain that she feels for herself, for her physical person, for her own insignificance. Ivan’s wife humbles her, not deliberately, unaware that she’s doing so—and if she did know it and want to, Jenny would never let it happen.
Marie NDiaye, “The Woman In Green”