Chapter 11

Sunday, August 19th
I touched her mouth. Things will never be the same again. It happened yesterday. She tilts her head sideways. My lips close in. I can see lights in the distance. Their reflection on the lake. The city’s just a murmur. I can see it beyond the curve of her chin. A slight breeze. I want to catch it all. Every little thing. The distance between her lips and mine. So huge. Getting smaller and smaller. Her lips open, blossom. She closes her eyes, monitoring the slightest change in our feelings. Giving the rhythm, dictating the approach. Without a word. There’s no room for words. I can feel her breathing. Now. Her breath. Her scent. Our noses touch gently and slip past one another. My lips touch hers and then leave, waiting to be invited back. Our breathing stops. Silence. She lodges her slim curve around the edge of my mouth. I don’t move. I’d like the moment to be suspended in time. I’d like life to stop for a while, as my lips travel across her dampness, kissing her delicate skin. Sucking. Biting. Our tongues still longing. Neither of us interrupted our first kiss. It lasted a time I can’t define. Nor did we cross the frontiers of our intimacy. That first instant said it all. And we knew it. It was profoundly intense. There was no need for words. For a long time. Long after the night had swallowed everything else, leaving us with the feeling of having flirted with the universe.

There’s a note in Jack’s handwriting, scribbled in the margin. Words he must have added afterwards. The writing is less cursive, wilder. Still today, that kiss, to me, is like an initiation, a spell, when things shift, the first second of the rest of my life.

I wonder if I should continue reading. It’s like stealing someone’s intimacy, violating a land that isn’t mine. But it’s only by reading between the sentences that I’ll manage to understand how a man like Jack could have plunged from such love, to his death. But do I really need to dissect every scrap of writing, every confession of love. Do I really need to unravel the secrets that brought him to breaking point, to inspect every moment of happiness to find the pain underneath. The pain he didn’t survive. My thoughts clash. This isn’t a simple love story where the end is written from the start, from the moment a woman and a man meet. What he’s describing, how they meet, how he’s looking for the lady in the red coat, their first date, their first kiss… It’s so much more than a meeting, more like an accident that was inevitable.

Tuesday, August 22nd
We haven’t left each other’s side for two days. I left my eagle’s nest to live in No. 5 Dawn Street. Dawn? I can’t think straight anymore. Before that dawn, there were only nights. And even our nights together aren’t nights, stretched as they are along the edge of our bodies, our hearts open wide, our flesh turned inside out. It’s so difficult to write. It can’t be written. She’s gone for an hour. Only an hour… But the feverish longing for her began the moment she closed the door. And here I am trying to leave some sort of trace. In hiding. In a hurry. As though, even in her absence, I’m stealing time from her.

Our first kiss lasted for ages. When our lips parted, she led me to her room. She took my clothes off slowly, marking each part of my body as she discovered it. When she had finished, I saw her dress fall to the ground. A delicate white silk under which I had already guessed the slightness of her body. She was naked. Her skin seemed transparent. Her contours like those of a young girl’s. Her hips a supple swirl. Her butt between their brackets. And her breasts, so lovely, so small that I could have held them both in one hand. Her shoulders, exquisite. And a neck as frail as a comma, extending the spine and giving her a sort of haughty allure. And her legs… So long, and so white. She stood naked before me, and all I wanted was to look at her. It was as though I was unable to touch her perfect skin until I had mapped it like an ancient explorer. And it’s what I did. Until the break of dawn.

The sun stroked her body before my fingers did. But they soon followed. The tips of my fingers still remember the shape of her foot, its furrows, and her ankles, her unending legs, the firmness of her buttocks, the sun heating her skin, the curves, the shape of her spine, and the tips of my fingers going back from where they had come, teasing her crack. On her right shoulder blade, a tattoo, a string of tiny symbols I couldn’t make out. I didn’t ask what they meant. The tip of my finger just followed the line. Over and over again. She said it means sorry in Japanese, why, because I could leave you right now and all you’d remember is that, I don’t want to leave you, ever, I want you to be my wife, I want you to be my soul. She turned round and took me in her mouth.

Saturday, August 26th
Today, we got married. A small wedding. Me and her in a field, amidst tons of yarrows. I made her a braid, a ring, a necklace. She doesn’t talk much. My questions are left unanswered. I didn’t insist. She wanted to know everything about my parents, where they travelled to, how they disappeared. I told her, and sobbed. Not because they were dead, but because I wouldn’t see them anymore.

Wednesday, September 5th
Language is sexual. I’m learning. I’m discovering. The intimacy of a language when words rub against one another, before or after our bodies do, free or locked, falling into our emptiness, full, so full, her fingers running softly over my skin, her mouth sucking, absorbing, biting, touching until it hurts and the words she says, the words she demands, she comes with words when she opens her legs wide.

Sunday, October 1st
I tell her the story of the dragonfly and the dromedary. She laughs. I like your dromedary’s bump, especially when you get hard and slip inside me. I tell her to listen to me, to listen to my doubts. I’ve never felt out of my depth before and I wonder whether a dragonfly can love a dromedary. I tell her, and she laughs again. Kiss my little breasts the way you’d kiss limes is her only answer.
I think about it later, once she’s left the love-laden bed. Her perfume and her scent, everywhere. As long as I can feel her presence under my skin.

What I feel, is incongruity. Her elegance. Her light dresses. Her easiness. And me, in my worn trousers. For the first time in my life, I’m frightened. Frightened of seeing her wake up one day, and watch me move in my clumsy body with a hint of contempt in the corner of her eye. Frightened of seeing her leave without even looking back.

[from « Elle portait un manteau rouge », translation Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen]

Read Chapter 6