eighteen (what we do not wholly possess)

by nike, September 29, 2014

balcony-with-champagneMarcel Proust once wrote: One only loves that which one does not entirely possess*. And Proust, as you know, has often been mistaken for a philosopher. Or a relationship advisor. He was French, after all, and we often confused ‘being French’ with a capacity for understanding love.

We had thought that making love in Paris would bring us closer together. In the departure lounge, we drank champagne. I was delirious, a little mad. I had never believed it would happen, but there we were. Just the smell of your neck made me drunk.

It was a long flight, with a five-hour stopover in some godforsaken place where there was no relief from the glare of the fluorescent lights.

It took an hour to get out of the airport, and another to get from the airport to our hotel. But finally we had arrived in Paris. Paris!

We showered and put on our robes. From the window of our hotel we could see the École des Beaux-Arts. There was champagne, and cheese, and fruit. Figs, perhaps, or pears. You look tired, in the photograph, and so do I. But we were happy then.

We made love. Who wouldn’t? It was Paris, after all, and we had come so far.

I had not read Proust, then, and even if I had, I doubt I would have understood. I welcomed you into me the way a house–windows and doors thrown open–welcomes wind and light. You warmed the empty rooms. Lifted the curtains and let them fall. You possessed me, entirely. Every breath and every bone.

What love could have survived such furious and unforgiving light?


*The translation of Proust’s phrase is by Anne Carson, and is included in her poem, ‘The Albertine Workout’, published in the London Review of Books. It it from Volume 5, La Prisonnière (The Captive). It has also been translated, by Moncrieff and Hudson, as: [Love] survives only if some part remains for it to conquer. We love only what we do not wholly possess.

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