catherine's corner

initium sapientiae: outtakes

It is far too late at night and I'm far too drunk to be sitting in a cafe. I should be home pretending I'm a good boy, a good student, which I'm not and I've never been. Instead, I'm watching him. He's done arguing for the night; a mortal blow from our fair Enjolras wounded his pride, and it has bled to death. By tomorrow it will have recuperated, but until then Pontmercy does his translations by lamplight, lips forming every word in the barbarous tongue of English. I can't help but watch him and remember how those soft lips felt against mine, how his voice sounded in my ear.

I'm steeped in my own vices. Well-drowned in wine, I can't keep the worse ones at bay. Thoughts of dear, innocent Pontmercy come to tantalize me with the only memories I have of any of these men, my friends. Thoughts of flesh, carnality, that wasn't Pontmercy, wasn't Marius, just a boy who looked like him, never mind my vivid memories; it was not the boy who sits two tables away, immersed in his work. Marius would never do such a thing, even with the loosening influence of Bacchus. He's as soft and sweet and untouched as the first time I saw him. I can't remember what I thought of him then. I'd swear that I never dreamed of the way his skin feels before I touched it. Would that make me less mad? Now when I see him and I'm not sober enough to stop myself, it's all I can think; when he pushes his hair away from his face, I'm there again, the one time I was allowed to tuck a stray curl behind his ear and he smiled at me for it.

I was too forward and too timid that night. If I had it to do over, I'd never offer him the wine. I'd never walk him home, never, ever kiss him. But if I were there again, I'd stint myself nothing. I'd tangle my fingers in his curling hair and wrap him in my arms as if the morning would never come, as if real life and real sin would never touch us.

I wish I never touched him. I wish I had spent the night in his bed and roused him with a kiss. I'm caught between the two, between knowing that he bears no mark of my hideous crime and wishing that somehow he did. If only he'd smile when he looked at me, so I'd know he hadn't forgotten. But I'm glad he doesn't remember, because he couldn't help but be scarred by that.

I want him to be safe and happy more than anything. He can't be safe or happy in my arms, much as I'd like to pretend that I could cradle him there and protect him from the harsh world. He has to be ignorant and forgetful. He must attribute it all to bad wine and bad dreams. Then he can be happy for both of us.

I will be so glad when he tells everyone that he has fallen in love. He is a boy who ought to be in love. I will be pleased for him. So pleased that I will drink until I cannot stop thinking of him, and then another bottle, until his beautiful features blur into nothingness, even in my mind, and I don't have to think of the lucky girl who may have him, the one whose presence will not poison his life.

I want to forget him; I want to remember him as he was that night, forever. More wine.

*   *   *

I wish I dared smile at him. He won't look me in the eye, now, and I can't blame him. He must be ashamed, as I am; he must still remember too clearly, as I do.

It would be better if I could look back with revulsion, if I could blame him for it all. If I didn't wake in the night remembering his hands in my hair, his mouth against my skin; if I were quicker to banish such thoughts, sweep them under the carpet where surely they belong. If I could believe in my own innocence. That would be preferable.

If it weren't for the image caught in my memory like a fly in amber: his hands on my shoulders, pushing at me gently, his soft rough apologetic voice, no, it's all right, I'm sorry-- And then myself, heedless, mindless, all hesitancy forgotten, pressing against him, whispering Please. Oh, God, please.

I am not innocent.

It is better not to look at him, to pretend not to know him at all. Perhaps in time, when I can look without blushing, when he can bring himself to speak to me, we can begin again. Perhaps we can be friends, and forget that we were ever anything else.

Let it be soon. I don't want this ache, this shame, this sneaking longing, this mocking memory. Let me forget.