""What do you feel in New York?" he asked.
"Perhaps you feel," I told him, "all the time to come. There's such power there, everything is in such movement. You can't help wondering -- I can't help wondering -- what it will all be like -- many years from now."
"Many years from now? When we are dead and New York is old?"
"Yes," I said. "When everyone is tired, when the world -- for Americans -- is not so new."
"I don't see why the world is so new for Americans," said Giovanni. "After all, you are all merely emigrants. And you did not leave Europe so very long ago."
"The ocean is very wide," I said. "We have led different lives than you; things have happened to us there which have never happened here. Surely you can understand that this would make us a different people?"
"Ah! If it had only made you a different people!" he laughed. "But it seems to have turned you into another species. You are not, are you, on another planet? For I suppose that would explain everything."
"I admit," I said with some heat -- for I do not like to be laughed at -- "that we may sometimes give the impression that we think we are. But we are not on another planet, no. And neither, my friend, are you."
He grinned again. "I will not," he said, "argue that most unlucky fact."
We were silent for a moment. Giovanni moved to serve several people at either end of the bar. Guillaume and Jacques were still talking. Guillaume seemed to be recounting one of his interminable anecdotes, anecdotes which invariably pivoted on the hazards of business or the hazards of love, and Jacques' mouth was stretched in a rather painful grin. I knew that he was dying to get back to the bar.
Giovanni placed himself before me again and began wiping the bar with a damp cloth. "The Americans are funny. You have a funny sense of time -- or perhaps you have no sense of time at all, I can't tell. Time always sounds like a parade chez vous -- a triumphant parade, like armies with banners entering a town. As though, with enough time, and that would not need to be so very much for Americans, n'est-ce pas?" and he smiled, giving me a mocking look, but I said nothing. "Well then," he continued, "as though with enough time and all that fearful energy and virtue you people have, everything will be settled, solved, put in its place. And when I say everything," he added, grimly, "I mean all the serious, dreadful things, like pain and death and love, in which you Americans do not believe."
"What makes you think we don't? And what do you believe?"
"I don't believe in this nonsense about time. Time is just common, it's like water for a fish. Everybody's in this water, nobody gets out of it, or if he does the same thing happens to him that happens to the fish, he dies. And you know what happens in this water, time? The big fish eat the little fish. That's all. The big fish eat the little fish and the ocean doesn't care."
"Oh, please," I said. "I don't believe that. Time's not water and we're not fish and you can choose to be eaten and also not to eat -- not to eat," I added quickly, turning a little red before his delighted and sardonic smile, "the little fish, of course."
"To choose!" cried Giovanni, turning his face away from me and speaking, it appeared, to an invisible ally who had been eavesdropping on this conversation all along. "To choose!" He turned to me again. "Ah, you are really an American. J'adore votre enthousiasme!"
"I adore yours," I said, politely, "though it seems to be a blacker brand than mine."
"Anyway," he said mildly, "I don't see what you can do with little fish except eat them. What else are they good for?"
"In my country," I said, feeling a subtle war within me as I said it, "the little fish seem to have gotten together and are nibbling at the body of the whale."
"That will not make them whales," said Giovanni. "The only result of all that nibbling will be that there will no longer be any grandeur anywhere, not even at the bottom of the sea.""
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room