I would like to know what "anything that wasn’t that moment – no, not even that – was beyond me" means in the following sentences:

I sat in the hallway and tried not to cry. I wanted to cease existing. I wanted to un-be. I sat in the hallway and tried not to think of you and me. I tried not to think of us, under the covers of your bed. I tried not to think of your arms or your hands or your eyes. I tried not to think of all the things I had imagined we’d do together – return to our lake next summer, move in together someday. I tried not to think of Hania, and your fingers on her sequinned dress. I tried not to think of Maksio or his eyes when he saw us in the forest. I tried not to think of Granny, or Professor Mielewicz.

I tried to imagine my life in the future, in a year or so. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see anything because anything that wasn’t that moment – no, not even that – was beyond me. I started rocking my legs and feet, just to feel something. And then the office closed before my number was called. I left with nothing to show for my time except the flimsy piece of paper whose handwritten number had smudged from my holding it for too long.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he decided to leave the country after trying hard to stay in the country. And he sat at the Passport Bureau to get his passport and began to think about his future.

In this part, I would like to know the meaning of the underlined sentence.

(1) By "anything" in "anything that wasn’t that moment", does he mean "any moment other than that moment"? Or does he mean literally everything (including people, things, time etc) except that moment?

(2) And, by "that" in "no, not even that", does he mean "that moment"?

(3) Also, I would like to know what it means to be "beyond me." Does it mean it was beyond his reach, perhaps...?

1 Answer 1


In this context, the phrase

anything that wasn’t that moment – no, not even that – was beyond me.

means primarily that the narrator feels unable to imagine any part of the future. It also implies that the narrator is unable to make any mental effort.

The narrator is depressed and desperate. He says " I wanted to cease existing." He is unable to focus on anything but the present moment, and is not really able to deal even with that present moment. "Anything" here means at least "any future time" but probably also means "any idea at all". "Beyond me" here means beyond his ability to think of or imagine, or beyond his current mental reach, I think. "Beyond me" is a common fixed phrase generally meaning "more than I can do". It can be applied in a variety of ways. The exact intent of the author here is not fully clear to me, but the author is attempting to convey the impression of despair, and the mental blur or blankness that often goes with it, I think. "no, not even that" extends what is "beyond me" to include even the pre4sent moment, I think, so any action, any thogi8ht, is more than the narrator can do at that moment. Or that is what he thinks of himself, at least.

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