All his life he had a fondness for things — not the acquisition of wealth or beautiful objects, but a genuine love of worn objects: a coffee pot that had been his mother’s, a welcome mat from the door of a rooming house he had once lived in, a quilt from a Salvation Army store counter. It was as though his disdain of human contact had converted itself into a craving for things humans had touched. The residue of the human spirit smeared on inanimate objects was all he could withstand of humanity. To contemplate, for example, evidence of human footsteps on the mat — absorb the smell of the quilt and wallow in the sweet certainty that many bodies had sweated, slept, dreamed, made love, been ill, and even died under it. Wherever he went, he took along his things and was always searching for others. This thirst for worn things let to casual but habitual examinations of trash barrels in alleys and wastebaskets in public places. . . .
All in all, his personality was an arabesque: intricate, symmetrical, balanced, and tightly constructed — except for one flaw. The careful design was marred occasionally by rare but keen sexual cravings.
He could have been an active homosexual but lacked the courage. Bestiality did not occur to him, and sodomy was out of the question, for he did not experience sustained erections and could not endure the thought of somebody else’s. And besides, the one thing that disgusted him more than entering and caressing a woman was caressing and being caressed by a man. In any case, his cravings, although intense, never relished physical contact. He abhorred flesh on flesh. Body odor, breath odor, overwhelmed him. The sight of dried matter in the corner of the eye, decayed or missing teeth, ear wax, blackheads, moles, blisters, skin crusts — all the natural excretions and protections the body was capable of — disquieted him. His attention therefore gradually settled on those humans whose bodies were least offensive — children. And since he was too diffident to confront homosexuality, and since little boys were insulting, scary, and stubborn, he further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable and frequently seductive. His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man.