Sᴜɴʀɪsᴇ Oᴀᴛʜ

Epistemology 1999 | Issue 1

  1. Experimented and created.
  2. Know this, you know who robs you of sight.

There once was an older girl, a younger woman, who saved me.

On her good advice, I quit my job. I gave my notice at summer’s end, and Alain set me free from Génoise et Thé. “You can’t be kept, mon gars.” He patted my shoulder, and we shook hands, a parting between men. Waiting outside, Selene took off her sunglasses and dabbed her eyes.

I cleaned my room, fussing over details she fixed sooner and better. The curator was a lovely guest, bringing gifts and Charlotte. We were in bright humor from the change in the season, the shift in the wind. I did well as a host, as a man. I shaved my face, brushed my teeth, wore my shirt, and owned my life.

At the Old Port, we sat on a bench. She spoke, and I learned. I asked, she asked further. We leaned into mystery, and tackled the snake, fang and venom, as it was. 

The questions multiplied, as she said they would. Questions — at the café, a glum place for me as a customer; at ritzy establishments around the city, places where she sought secrets and traded la bise with socialites, a trace of summer fever in her fashion; in the metro, on the last train of the night; in the calm of our chaste slumber, as I lay awake with her dreaming at my side, mouth open but a sliver.

So terrifying were the answers, I should never fall to sleep with a drop of her insight. I was glad, so glad to not sleep. It was the longest September, the best of my life. I soon forgot my sunrise oath, the promise made in early July.

A day before she left, marking a sudden end, was the one time she stood us up. Charlotte and I mused on epistemology over Alain’s coffee, and parted on the hour.

Later, the curator came in without knocking. Her tone commanded: “The place around the corner, my tab.”

She dressed the same, yet seemed not herself. I stood, and warned her to look away. I changed, and her sad eyes looked not away. Ah — they were a new color. 

At Bar des Pins, sipping a gin and tonic, I regarded her, mentor and patron. She called the waiter in French, and touched my arm.

“Do you ever feel like life is so short, you might miss it? So short, I never knew it was over.” She noticed her slip, and drank from the glass bottle I pushed to her. Selene was a stranger from a distant land, unraveling traveler in our midst, her blouse revealing what the heart was ashamed to know.

I cleared my throat, and tried — failed — to pull away. “You’re acting off.”

“Right?” A drop of Perrier ran down her chin. She wiped, hiccuped, sniffed. “I am awake. Life is but a dream.”

I paid with her card, and the tall wanderer leaned on my shoulder. We hobbled to my un et demi, tidy as I left it. She twirled, and kicked off her Converse sneakers. “Home, Gale Jones. Let us be merry!” A cackle bubbled, escaping her beautiful wide mouth. “The night is young.”

I held her, inches from an edge. “Let’s calm down. Come, sit.”

Her embrace threw me off balance. On my bed, collapsed and tangled with me, her whisper betrayed: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

She was on top, captivating me with frost and fire. She held her ponytail in disdain, narrowing her eyes.

“It all crashes down.”

A tug and a flick — like that, her hair tumbled. Bleached strands framed the milk-rose mask, the royal portrait leaning in. I stared at dark roots, short lashes, perfect teeth.

“My word to your word, my heart to your heart, my lips . . .”

A shy kiss, a brush.

J’ai baisé ta bouche.” She hummed, opened her eyes, and let a drop fall. “So it is bitter, the taste of love.”

Is that how it was always meant to be? So halting, soft, and burning? Was that the perfect first I could not keep, the one I see anew in every dream? I looked away. “We should stop.”

“Should we?” She sounded sure, yet her legs quivered as I thought of Bambi, of fawn and doe, of Louise. I was aroused, and awake.

“I want to stop.”

“Please.” Her smile, seductive and mature; her eyes, when were they ever so young? Those brown gems, free of color contacts, more than the false blue jewels I knew, revealed a maiden pure and innocent.

“Selene.” I pleaded, and knew not for what. But then, she threw up, cupped her mouth, and wept: 

Meaningless, said the Preacher. Meaningless.

written by
Gale Jones

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