Special tribute to...
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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.
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