In an apartment – top floor, no lift – on rue Barbet du Jouy, a woman is kneeling on the floor. Her knees are chafing on the hardwood and her ankles are painfully stiff, but she doesn’t move. Every inch of space that surrounds her is covered with paper.
Outside, the hours are sinking into ever-deepening shades. A single, ornate lamp gives enough light to see by, and the fire that she lit earlier keeps her warm. In the dimness, words seem to glide in front of her eyes. Slowly, like treacle. She knows all of them intimately, knows how each of them touch her skin as they wind the story around her body. She has grown to crave that touch almost as much as the lover they whisper of, but she can see how they’re starting to smother her. Love, she knows, can be too much.
Flames dance beyond the metal guard – a tango, she thinks, sharp and fierce, the rhythm jarring and syncopated. On one of the off-beats her fingers snatch up a page, ball it tightly, and toss it over the guard into the fire. The spitting and crackling that follow hurt her ears, but another page follows. Another. She starts to crawl in the space she’s created, chasing the lines she wants like a wasp chasing sugar, tossing one after the other mercilessly to the flames until she can breathe again, until she’s burned through the tears and has reached the bones, until she has nowhere left to go. Only then does she stop. Love, she knows, always has a price.
Sated, exhausted, she gathers the survivors, no longer seductive but flimsy and trembling in her arms. She soothes them. Later – because even Jesus took three days to resurrect, and tonight she needs to mourn.
She pours herself a whisky, and watches the fire burn down to ashes.
Elodie Rose Barnes is an author and photographer based in Paris and the UK. Her work has been accepted in Burning House Press, Reflex Press, and Empty House Press, among others. Current projects include a chapbook of poetry & photography inspired by Paris, and a novel based on the life of modernist writer Djuna Barnes. She can be found online at elodierosebarnes.weebly.com.