In the Dark

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He asks me where I want to sit. The most ordinary of questions. I am thrown by it. I choose a seat, partly at random, partly out of habit. Slowly, I sit down, my legs trembling slightly. I remove some of my clothes; I try to put myself at ease.

That’s it, I am next to him, motionless, in the dark. I do not know what to do. I am paralyzed. Although it’s not the first time. I dare not move. I am afraid of our legs touching, our arms brushing against each other. I should never have come; it was a terrible idea.

My sighs of discomfort are drowned out by the music. Although it should relax me, it has the opposite effect. Emotions and memories rise up; I have to struggle against them and this is really not the time. Let’s focus on the present moment.

I take a breath. I am here now, there is nothing I can do about it. I will have to stay for at least two hours. I think, I hesitate, I go over various possibilities. I cannot concentrate. I can’t run away. I could kiss him passionately. But I don’t want to make a bad impression. I will hold his hand discreetly. That’s a good idea. I move my arm towards him, very slowly. My heart beats faster. I give up.

In the end I decide to do nothing. To wait for him to make the first move. Or, if he does nothing, I will force myself to forgetthis moment of intimacy over the coming weeks. Which might not even really be one. Was he also ill at ease? That isn’t possible. Only I could put so much feeling into a situation like this.

I watch him. I listen to him breathing close to me. He doesn’t see me watching him. I shouldn’t do it, but he is so vulnerable that I can’t help myself. He could not be more naked. I observe his reactions; I study every area of his skin. He turns, looks at me, smiles at me. He leans over and kisses me, softly, on the lips. Without giving me time to understand. A timid kiss, but full of desire. He does it without hesitating, quite naturally.

But that is not the end of it. We still have everything to do. I get flustered. I look in front of me. Straight ahead. Don’t turn your head. They are managing very well, those two. From their first look. With no hesitation and no fumbling. As if they wanted to reflect back to us the immediate image of our own failure.

My brain is not working any more. My leg suddenly seems to have a life of its own and is the victim of an uncontrollable urge. It moves close to his. The game begins. It will go on for a long time. We feel for each other, brush against each other, withdraw, advance. In the end, we get there. But our movements are still timid and clumsy, as if we always had to learn everything all over again.

It’s over. Silence again, stillness. The lights go back on. We put our outer clothes back on and stand up, still not speaking. We will have to look at each other, and cope with the daylight. The silence is broken by a shy “Did you like the film?”

Translated by Wendy Cross

179

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