Home page


Denis Emorine




Short stories



Special tribute to...

Recent work


copyright © by Denis Emorine and Phillip John Usher

The Virgin and the Shadow

by Denis Emorine
translated by Phillip John Usher

That evening when he phoned me, he told me in a frightened, anxious voice that we had to meet up. It was important, vital that we do so.
All of a sudden, he would stop, letting the conversation break off; I could feel he was defenseless, tormented by growing anguish.
I ended up inviting him over to my place when he warned me with reticence that he could not go into any more detail on such a delicate topic.
While waiting for him to arrive, I kept on wondering about this unexpected turn of events: I had known G... for three years. We first met quite regularly. Eighteen months later, we were meeting up less and less often, rarely even. Why, all of a sudden, did he want us to meet up? And why this need for silence that caused him to hesitate as he spoke even though his sentences had obviously been carefully prepared? Three years ago, he had been such an orator. What other changes were afoot for him, for me...


The doorbell rang, shrill, almost nosy, putting an end to my confusing thoughts. He had arrived. Physically, he hadn’t changed: slim, with straight brown out-of-control hair of which a lock fell and broke up his high forehead, falling right down to his glasses which rarely moved from the very end of his nose.
We were opposite each other, awkward, in an uneasy silence; we didn’t dare look each other in the eyes. In a hand that -I think- was shaking, he took my hand and weakly squeezed it.
“So, this is where you live...” The blandness of his remarks was probably aimed at opening channels of communication. He was obviously waiting for me to open fire, but waiting is one of the things I do best: I can hide my impatience behind a mask and remain unruffled when circumstances so require it of me.
I looked on at him like a cat staring out a mouse. I had the upper hand. How could someone who used to be so relaxed in conversation shut himself up in this monkish silence?
He gave in, and he started looked at me, at me who was looking at him; his eyes followed mine.
“For a while now, a strange and penetrating dream...” he started, alluding to his favorite poet. I recognized he was still a big reader of French literature. “...has become an obsession, shutting me inside myself. Or maybe I shut myself inside the dream, I don’t know. This dream directly concerns you, directly; you are implicated in the dream...”
There was the attack. I had been expecting it, I knew he wouldn’t stay long trampled down into his defeated and imploring attitude. He was now more relaxed and started walking around the room; although still somewhat awkward, he was starting to speak with his former confidence. G... was becoming the person I’d known before, his magnetism that was due to a quiet and justified intellectual superiority that he would parade when striking a pose.
Once again I was carried gently along by his well-constructed sentences, as articulate as they were intelligent. Didn’t he always say: “You can’t be articulate without being smart! The question, then, is whether to speak like a fool or a wiseman!”.

His speech was as well-oiled as the first days I had known him. All of a sudden, he fell silent, as if he felt awkward. An essential revelation took his breath away: “It’s something quite unexpected; every time I dream, I see myself giving a kind of show in front of you, and you’re the only witness to it, silent and approving.”
I heard the creaking again. Snap. I looked at him kindly, encouraging him to carry on.
“It’s a kind of revelation... Yes, that’s what it is, for I keep making revelations to you, again and again, and each time it’s the same place, in this apartment...”
I couldn’t understand, or maybe I was afraid to understand. Eventually, he ended up putting the cord around his neck: “Perhaps you’d understand this better if I were a woman... Moreover, you have to take into account moral, intellectual (and thus social) prejudices.”
The door was ajar and opening further onto the truth contained within, onto his obsession even, but I wanted him to admit it outright, even if I have to provoke him with some subtle game of weaved questions and answers.
“So, I’m the spectator?”
“Yes, you’re watching a play, my play, which I’ve planned out in all the details, including the decor and the costumes...”
He stopped again, confusion on the edge of his lips and covering his cheeks. G... had stumbled over the pronunciation of the word “costumes”, as if this term had walked him too close to some personal system of references which now loaded him with guilt.
I wasn’t sure what to do, but decided to finish: “So, let’s get to the conclusion.”
Then, clearly, articulating each syllable, he admitted his dream to me: “I often dream, then, that I’m getting undressed in front of you; it is possible that this physical stripping hides or symbolizes the need for some deeper revelation, but I’m sure that I need to satisfy this desire to be rid of it and reassured.” He was becoming more verbose. “I’m not trying to explain the reasons for this desire; but I need to satisfy it...”
“Would you accept... ?”
How could I not have accepted? I was, I admit, somewhat intrigued, curious even to attend this “theater play” that was closer to a striptease in a cabaret than to anything else, or at least that is how it seemed.
My heart was beating somewhat. I let G... direct the scene, chose the setting, organize the elements of the decor.
All of a sudden, he stared at me again:
“We need some background music.”
“Do I get to chose?”
I thought about it... Sensual, light music, something unreal would certainly be suitable.
Jeux and the Prelude to Après-midi d’un faune by Debussy.”
I settled myself into my armchair, the only couch in my whole apartment. I felt like I was at the theater, waiting for “what was to come next”.
The music surprised me, shook me out of my thoughts. I let myself be carried along by Debussy’s graceful arabesques. I was tempted to shut my eyes, but the show was also visual.
He turned towards me: “Make yourself as absent as possible; I don’t want to hear or see you, just know that you’re somehow present.”

Following this last piece of advice, I kept quiet though remained anxious. He took off his jacket, his pullover, his movements followed on smoothly from each other, gracious, airy, in an unexpected choreography.
Finally, I saw his torso, his shirt slipping over white, smooth skin that reflected the spot-light that shone down on him.
His gestures became more definite, his hands slid over his body, sometimes gently brushing it; he turned around on the spot very slowly, offering this body to my attentive being. His skin played with the light in a game of shadows and moving reflections, strange, surreal, like accomplices to each other.
Very slowly he removed his trousers, turning around to face me. At certain moments, G... would shut his eyes in ecstasy. His clothes, like dead silent leaves, fell off, or rather were piled up, dried up and inanimate as soon as they were no longer twirling around his body.


G... was now just wearing his briefs, rocking slightly, first with his back to me, then facing me, gently touching his thighs, his buttocks, his lower abdomen, pretending to take off that which stopped his revelation from being complete.
Then his briefs slightly revealed his buttocks, just the top of his buttocks, or rather the curve of the small of his back. His hands seemed to hesitate, climbed again to the base of his neck, towards his shoulders that he caressed before going down again to his hips. The briefs fell a little lower.
The music unfurled in convolutions suddenly loaded with significant meaning. G... illustrated it by giving to the music its sacral and sensual function.
His hands crept between the forms hidden by the unwelcome piece of cloth which would finally have to disappear. The bulging skin was becoming clearer, surrounded by his nudity that was increasing little by little as the protective envelope was opening.
All of a sudden, his buttocks popped out, very white, exaggeratedly curved and saturated by the light, dazzling with light.
He directed them towards me, gently bent forward, then slowly turned around on the spot. His gestures which had appeared to be hesitant, started to become more definite, and were making him look like the master of his craft.
A kind of black moss appeared a couple of inches below his bellybutton, who knows how it had washed up on this rock that was his body? It seemed to grow with each breath, with each movement. I couldn’t take my eyes of it, it fascinated me. He was in front of me, his skin trembling, his briefs slightly lowered were molded around his lower abdomen. G... spread his legs, arched his back in order to give to his movements their full power, and to emphasize a nascent secret, dark , lost in mystery and shadow.
The form of his member was more or less clear depending on his mobile and capricious bending movements; he was showing more and more of this intimate receptacle. This black shadow, curly, was growing, undulating, independent of the whiteness that surrounded it, interrogating it.
Finally, little by little, in small movements, almost as if oiled, his briefs fell down, set free from his crotch and his thighs and, when this Adonis finally revealed his member, finally in the open, free, offered towards me, directed by the light, when he opened his legs while bending backwards, his arms and the tips of his fingers reaching to the floor, ready to take off for a supreme flight, I realized that I wanted him.

<< Back to top