I would like to know what "I wasn’t even sure why I’d come." means in the following sentences:

‘No,’ I said to the man’s stony face. ‘I don’t have any names.’

It wasn’t easy – he was determined to get what was his. But I knew to persist, knew to take his mounting threats as a sign of progress. I ignored him when he said I would never leave the country in my life and never find a job if I didn’t comply. I ignored him when he turned aggressive and called me a pervert and a sick fuck. To my own surprise, I was unable to accept the shame he wanted me to feel. It was too familiar to be imposed: I had produced it myself for such a long time that, right then, I found I had no space left for it any more. Instead, I used the truth. I said that I’d been drugged the week before and that my mind was addled, the past like a blur. I don’t know whether he believed me. But finally, I can’t be sure why, he told me I had two days. Two days to come up with names. Before he released me, he put his hands on his desk and said, with a voice measured and sharp like a scalpel, that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t turn up. I nodded and walked out, feeling nothing. Outside, night had fallen. I breathed in the winter air. I knew where I had to go.

The tram rumbled across the bridge. The trees lining the banks of the river were naked, their leaves having fallen into the water, swept away by the current. The Madonna in the courtyard was covered with a layer of frost, the yellow gladiolas gone. Every step on the staircase was an effort. Every creaking one, I thought, would alert you to my presence. There were no children playing, no people outside – just me and the dark old wood of the house. I knocked on your door, my body a mere shell. My heart beating as if I’d climbed the Tatras range. I wasn’t even sure why I’d come.

You opened the door and a ripple passed over your face. As if it didn’t know what to express. Right then it showed nothing but determined strength. You looked at me. I looked back, trying to gauge the moment, feeling out of control. You seemed so much taller then, standing above me, looking down.

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 went to the Passport Bureau to get his passport. But the officer at the Bureau blackmailed him with the fact that he was a homosexual and refused to give him his passport unless he provided names of other homosexuals he knew. But Ludwik refused to give names despite the threats. So he was given two days to come up with the names and left the Bureau. He knew "where I had to go," and went to the flat of his lover Janusz. But, arriving at the flat, he "wasn’t even sure why I’d come."

In this part, I wonder what the boldfaced sentence means. I thought that he knew where to go because of the italicized sentence in the preceding paragraph, but then, at the next paragraph, he was wondering why he had come to his lover's flat, so I think I am missing something here.

By "I wasn’t even sure why I’d come," would it be alright to understand that he did not know the reason that he came to Janusz's flat, even though he knew where he had to go, which was Janusz's flat?

I am struggling to follow the logic here.

1 Answer 1


The sentence:

I wasn’t even sure why I’d come

Means that the narrator (who I suppose is Ludwik ) is unsure of his own motives. In that moment, he isn't sure why he decided to go to the place where he is at that moment, presumably the flat of his lover Janusz. Probably he is unsure whether what is is doing or trying to do will work, or what will happen. Perhaps he is not sure, at this moment of great stress, what he actually wants. In any case, he is unsure of his own reasons.

At the moment he leaves the Bureau he thinks that he knows -where he had to go. But by the time he arrives at the flat, he is unsure why he had gone there. Perhaps he felt that he had to be there, but is unsure what he was going to do or say. Perhaps he is questioning his own earlier decision.

The passage is highly descriptive, and makes significant use of figurative and atmospheric language to produce an impression in the reader. It is trying to show the narrator's thoughts and feelings, when he is stressed and unsure. This can make for problems in understanding.

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