Mary was sitting on her bedroom floor. Her hair undone, she was only wearing a tee-shirt and knickers. The harmonious curves of her body revealed a slim figure in the shadow. She was hiding her freckled face but the sun reached through and set her greenish eyes ablaze. As she often walked barefoot, the soles of her feet were greyish. She had raw-boned wrists, frail shoulders and long brown curls covering up her body; she had her head on her knees. Her skin was clear and soft, and her features were delicate and regular. In the cool bedroom, you could feel the warmth of a particular, though fragile being.
She was standing there, dejected. She was remembering all the passers-by she had met. Those who had avoided looking her in the eyes and had ignored her; in particular men, who looked away when she noticed them. Mary could not figure it out. She may not have been appealing. She may just have aroused indifference. As a matter of fact, Mary was peculiarly beautiful. One of those girls for whom men felt utter admiration as well as a feeling of awe and powerlessness.
It’s true that exceptional beauty is often dangerous; that made her sad and she felt hopelessly lonely.
She was lingering in that room. The record was playing. The wind was rushing into the room through the window and was blowing in the curtains strongly but calmly. She could stay there until beads of sweat streamed down her temples. Let the watercolours on her desk fly away, let the rain leak into her room or let the silence of the night stop her meditations....
I saw her in that moving streetcar for the first time. She was sitting upright and still. I was standing near the door until she attracted my attention. She immediately felt observed since she turned her head and looked at me. Our eyes met. Time stopped. The floor gave way beneath my feet and an electrical and slow shiver went up my back.
It was my turn to feel paralysed, sucked up by those huge blazing eyes.
Some stations later, she escaped from the train.
As usual, once she arrived home, she put the black record on. She undressed and opened the white bag. She emptied its contents on the small table, bolted the door and sat on the blood-red pillow. With no hesitation, she swallowed the magical mushroom. She munched delicately in order to free the toxins into her saliva. Quietly she waited for the veil hiding reality to collapse and leave way to a fantastic and coloured world.
It was not the first time she was undertaking such a trip. No, she was not, in loneliness and grief. Mary was using the straw to reach the other side and forget about her dull life. Within minutes, water started rushing into the room through the entrance door. The flood continued until it moved the objects and bumped into the furniture .A bartender, who was wearing rubber boots ran from the kitchen and offered her a cocktail on a silver tray. She laughed in euphoria. Colours became more and more brilliant; the leaves of the palm tree opposite her bedroom were no longer green but a fluorescent magenta. The white walls became ochre and sometimes purple. The light was fading and milky haloes blossomed everywhere. The paintings were coming to life; the characters were moving and chatting. Some of them talked to her. The designs of the carpet became alive and tentacles were starting to move and meandering on the surface. In the bathroom, the lines of the tiles were intermingling and diluting into the water.
Now cold, now hot, the wind was stroking her face and her legs and was muttering comforting words to her. Life outside no longer had any meaning. The arches of the square seemed made out of cardboard; the fire no longer was three-coloured but purple, turquoise or pink. Cars no longer smashed into but through one another. A man was rolling forward to move on while another was flying with a propeller set on his cap. A little boy dressed in overalls was playing a too huge xylophone. The wooden keys were as wide as he and the mallets were falling down at the pace of the sounds. A clown accompanied him on his organ.
During these delirious spells, she even lived her memories again. A friend would turn up and she took her usual seat. They both resumed a conversation they had already had before until her voice was distorted as if coming from a cold room. Then Mary understood she had already lived that moment, she turned her head and the vision disappeared.
In spite of the turmoil of these surrealistic scenes, Mary suddenly got to sleep. The following day, when she woke up, she had calmed down. Everything had disappeared. Only the wind was still getting in through the window and was stroking her skin.
When she expected it the least, she used to see that familiar look. She would be surprised at her seeing it again. Her mind was in a mess. She had a lump in her stomach and she lost her balance so that she walked in an unusual way. She moved extremely slowly and any thought that happened to cross her mind would disappear straight away. Standing statically, she felt dizzy and disturbed the traffic.
I repeatedly lived those scenes when I leaned against a wall at university, when I climbed the stairs of the library and that she walked them down. Or when I walked along downtown streets. I particularly remember one of them in Parliament square.
I was sitting at a café when she came and sat outside the opposite café, she was with an old woman. Our eyes met; from then on we glanced at each other on a regular basis. This game lasted an hour, maybe two, until without further notice or sign she left the table to walk away towards Camille Jullian square.
While walking, she wondered whether what she had seen was real indeed. This young man, the one she met everywhere she went, was he an illusion? Or an invention of her brain still under the evasive spell of the straw? Was this an apparition to erase melancholy? To all these questions, Mary had no answer.
During the following evening, she would remember those moments. She then brought again to mind those emotions she felt during those games. She was invaded with a brand new satisfaction and an exciting and uncontrollable agitation. Mary was discovering an unsuspected happiness, which was to exist in people’s eyes. The utter sadness she had felt so far disappeared. She could see her face in the windows.
From then on, Marie interested people and this created a compulsive shyness. Now, she reddened when she was looked at and dared not move. This made her ill-at-ease because she felt vulnerable. Nothing to compare with the herd of feelings she was the victim of when she saw him in the crowd or in a shop window. She would turn round quickly and try to catch him up even if she would not have known what to say or how. She would simply have grasped his arm and the whirl of their glances would have carried the away once more. But each of those apparitions would vanish into thin air. Then she would simply go home.
At home, she forgot about reality in order to experience that dreamlike feeling again. Where beings have no sense of reality and give their hearts to the other. Where each colour feels good and each sense develops until it explodes. Where Marie hopes something will happen while others have given up and that is, love.
When I want to get into this world, I smell Marie’s brown locks. A mesmerizing, intoxicating, paralysing smell...
Special Thanks to Brigitte Arnaud and Kelli Billstein for the translation of my novel.