Outside it’s the end of the day, you can tell by the sound of the voices, the sound of more and more passers-by, more and more miscellaneous. It’s a city of pleasure that reaches its peak at night. And night is beginning now, with the setting sun.
The bed is seperated from the city by those slatted shutters, that cotton blind. There’s nothing solid seperating us from other people. They don’t know of our existence. We glimpse something of theirs, the sum of their voices, of their movements, like the intermittent hoot of a siren, mournful, dim.
Whiffs of burnt sugar drift into the room, the smell of roasted peanuts, Chinese soups, roast meat, herbs, jasmine, dust incence, charcoal fires, they carry fire about in baskets here, it’s sold in the street, the smell of the city is the smell of the villages upcountry, of the forest.
I suddenly saw him in a black bathrobe. He was sitting drinking a whiskey, smoking.
He said I’d been asleep, he’d taken a shower. I’d fallen asleep almost unawares. He’d switched on a lamp on a low table.
He’s a man of habit - I suddenly think of him - he must come to this room quite often, he’s a man who must make love a lot, a man who’s afraid, he must make love a lot to fight against fear. I tell him I like the idea of his having many women, the idea of my being one of them, indistinguishable. We look at each other. He understands what I’ve just said. Our expressions are suddenly changed, false, caught in evil and death.
I tell him to come over to me, tell him he must possess me again. He comes over. He smells pleasantly of English cigarettes, expensive perfume, honey, his skin has taken on the scent of silk, the fruity smell of silk tussore, the smell of gold, he’s desirable. I tell him of this desire. He tells me to wait awhile. Talks to me, says he knew right away, when we were crossing the river, that I’d be like this after my first lover, that I’d love love, he says he knows now I’ll deceive him and deceive all the men I’m ever with. He says as for him he’s been the cause of his own unhappiness. I’m pleased with all he’s foretold, and say so. He becomes rough, desperate, he throws himself on me, devours the childish breasts, shouts, insults. I close my eyes on the intense pleasure. I think, he’s used to it, this is his occupation in life, love, nothing else. His hands are expert, marvelous, perfect. I’m very lucky, obviously, it’s as if it were his profession, as if unwittingly he knew exactly what to do and what to say. He calls me a whore, a slut, he says I’m his only love, and that’s what he ought to say, and what you do say when you just let things say themselves, when you let the body alone, to seek and find and take what it likes, and then everything is right, and nothing is wasted, the waste is covered over and all is swept away in the torrent, in the force of desire.
The sound of the city is so near, so close, you can hear it brushing against the wood of the shutters. It sounds as if they’re all going through the room. I caress his body amid the sound, the passers-by. The sea, the immensity, gathering, receding, returning.
I asked him to do it again and again. Do it to me. And he did, did it in the unctuousness of blood. And it really was unto death. It has been unto death.
He lit a cigarette and gave it to me. And very quietly, close to my lips, he talked to me.
And I talked to him too, very quietly.
Because he doesn’t know for himself, I say it for him, in his stead. Because he doesn’t know he carries within him supreme elegance, I say it for him.
Now evening comes. He tells me I’ll remember this afternoon all my life, even when I’ve forgotten his face and name. I wonder if I’ll remember the house. He says, take a good look at it. I do. I say it’s like everywhere else. He says yes, yes, it’s always the same.
I can still see the face, and I do remember the name. I see the whitewashed walls still, the canvas blind between us and the oven outside, the other door, arched, leading to the other room and to an open garden-the plants are dead from the heat-surrounded by blue balustrades like those at the big villa in Sadec with its tiers of terraces overlooking the Mekong.