The pubs were open, oozing sour whiffs of beer. People were trickling by ones and twos into the picture-houses. Gordon halted outside a great garish picture-house, under the weary eye of the commissionaire, to examine the photographs. Greta Garbo in The Painted Veil. He yearned to go inside, not for Greta’s sake, but just for the warmth and the softness of the velvet seat. He hated pictures, of course, seldom went there even when he could afford it. Why encourage the art that is destined to replace literature? But still, there is a kind of soggy attraction about it. To sit on the padded seat in the warm smoke-scented darkness, letting the flickering drivel on the screen gradually overwhelm you—feeling the waves of its silliness lap you round till you seem to drown, intoxicated, in a viscous sea—after all, it’s the kind of drug we need. The right drug for friendless people. As he approached the Palace Theatre a tart on sentry-go under the porch marked him down, stepped forward and stood in his path. A short, stocky Italian girl, very young, with big black eyes. She looked agreeable, and, what tarts so seldom are, merry. For a moment he checked his step, even allowed himself to catch her eye. She looked up at him, ready to break out in a broad-lipped smile. Why not stop and talk to her? She looked as though she might understand him. But no! No money! He looked away and side-stepped her with the cold haste of a man whom poverty makes virtuous. How furious she’d be if he stopped and then she found out he had no money! He pressed on. Even to talk costs money.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying
George Orwell 1936