‘You’re a whore!’
Your voice resonates through the stillness. I stare into your apartment. You’re facing to the right by the aspidistra; she’s in profile directly opposite you. The slender windows mirror my own. They’re thrown wide-open. Three floors below it’s just another side street.
Her eyes widen; she backs away from you, ‘I don’t understand. Why are you speaking to me like this? You’re not making sense.’
It’s almost noon. The sun advances along the tarmac from the direction of Rue Saint-Paul. It soaks into the weathered stone and fingers paintwork that curls to expose the bareness beneath. Soon there’ll be nowhere to hide. The nearby church clock strikes. The woman from the boulangerie winds down an awning, shades her eyes against the cloudless sky and, as she often does, mops her brow. The street is deserted.
You stand there, in the shade to one side of the window. The sun – confident now – inches across the parquet in your direction. Harsh rays occupy each corner in turn, fade a Miro print, then surround a Wassily chair until they possess the entire room. Your forehead starts to glisten with sweat; the heat tightening around your throat. A vase contains white lilies that submit to the hot air.
These mid-summer shadows can’t hide you. The modest window box, which you water every evening, reaches to your hips. You stare at her, stock-still. Your accent American, your face younger than your expression.
She falters, then frustration spills out, ‘You’ve changed – since we arrived in Paris. What’s happening to you?’
Your response is measured, each word accentuated, ‘I said: you are no more than a fucking whore!’
The sun slashes across you, burning your skin, heating your blood. Roused, you grab her hair and raise your hand ready to strike. She cowers, an arm shielding her cheek, just in time to block your blow. Then carefully you scoop her up and begin to embrace her.
She looks up at you, and I hear her laugh. Over her shoulder you turn to face me. You squint out of the window and across the street. For a moment we lock eyes. You smirk and then, not quite casually, slam the shutters closed, eradicating the sun.
I roll a glass of iced water across my forehead, and step back from the window.
© Martin Redfern 2013
Paris in August was first published in Ink, Sweat and Tears in December 2013.