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Jury Selection

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My metro pass is not working. I don’t understand why. Dozens of possible explanations run through my head. I think you can demagnetise it if you leave it next to your credit card or something like that in your wallet, or else the transport company guy, that brainbox in charge of my file, has spilled his glass of beer on my file and thrown it away, without so much as a word, I’m confusing you now. Whatever’s happened, I’m going to have to jump the barrier.

There’s always that little rush of adrenalin, caused partly by the fear of an inspector hidden behind the one-way glass opposite the turnstile, just waiting for me to cross it, with that mocking, sadistic expression of his, and partly because of my ego: how was I going to cross the barrier? I’ve never managed to get it right. Every time my bag gets caught on some lever or other, or else I don’t have enough flexibility to lift my leg over the bar, or, shame of shame, my backside is too big to slide between the little door and the side of the turnstile. Anyway. After a whole minute of crappy climbing activity, I find myself safe and sound on the other side. A little girl has been watching the scene and is staring at me with a little fixed grin. I assume at once she’s on my side and smile back at her. I’m so wrong! She couldn’t give a shit about me.

The metro arrives. It’s packed. I wait for the next one. A second one shows its metallic nose. Full to bursting. I still don’t dare press myself onto that compressed crowd. Other people don’t hesitate. I hate them for it. But when the doors close again, I start to respect them. They have given me confidence in my own abilities. When the next one comes, I plunge into the mass! And just manage it! The third train opens its doors and right in front of me is a dense crowd of people! My pharmacological biology classes come into my head. Fat is a lot more elastic and less dense than muscle. This is my chance. Like a child in a bouncy castle, I throw myself into this giant fat cell. It is soft, and almost pleasant. For an instant, it feels like I am back in bed, which I left scarcely an hour ago... and where I was very comfortable. The doors close. All the passengers in the carriage stare at me and hate me for having reduced their space a little bit more. I don’t give a toss. At the next station, the newcomer will be everyone’s enemy. And mine as well.

Four, five stations in oozing heat and in human effluvia of every sort. A stiletto heel on my toe brings me out of my semi-coma. I look up. She was there. THE girl, the chick, the “bit of skirt” that I’d been waiting for for ever. Dark, with short hair and big blue eyes like two Viagra pills. That’s all the description I can give. We were too close for me to see the rest. She stares at me, I look away. I sneak a look back again. She is still staring at me. I attempt a smile but give up almost at once as my fixed grin makes me look constipated. Running out of ideas, I start to look down at my shoes, to calm my vision, but almost immediately think better of it. If I look down, she is bound to think I am checking her out! No choice, then. Looking straight ahead, embarrassed, I reject anything that might help me find the composure that is proving elusive. I can’t help looking at her. I realize she is smiling at me. I have the impression she has moved a bit closer.

Now I can feel a breath on my neck, her chest against mine. I have gone way past my station and there is now not even a square centimetre free in this mobile sauna. I couldn’t care less. I am just thinking how late I will be when I feel her hand move up my thigh.

We could not be any closer. She looks at me, I give in. What should I say? What should I do? I am afraid of spoiling everything. It’s her who has been leading this dance from the beginning, she might as well carry on.

We must have been close enough for her to hear my thoughts, because at that moment her hand resting on my hip began to slide up my back. Her other hand, till now discreet and modest, followed the first. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead, slid down my cheeks and abseiled down my neck, on the right hand side. Her lips placed themselves on the other side. Why was my skin shivering despite the drops of sweat.

Her lips detached themselves. Now she was moving away from me. As if she had not enjoyed the kiss. As if my flesh was not to her taste. One step backwards, then another. Having satisfied herself she had seen everything, she moved away from me, turned round and hastily got off the train, disappearing into the crowd of sweaty, sticky and contemptible morons... Excuse me! What utter frustration.
Half the carriage got off with her but I just stayed there, watching. The carriage was almost empty, and my body was less constricted. My throat, however, felt tighter than ever.

I will never see her again... never ever.

I put my hand on my hip as if to feel again the sensation of her hand. That ephemeral heat that had seemed to last ten years. No, it wasn’t like that, more like this… like… th… The bitch! My wallet! Oh, the little bitch! She’s got my wallet, the scumbag!

It was all a scam... I was just a dupe... Yet despite my disappointment, there was one idea I could not shake off. A pathetic and totally unrealistic idea: now she now had my number... I might see her again after all…

Translated by Wendy Cross


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