[For immediate background, see this with Narcisse.]
I thought I was in love with him.
I was in love with the man he says he has seduced.
And I thought I knew them both, God help me. I thought they were my friends, or at least I thought Enjolras was my friend. I thought I knew him; I thought I had spent enough endless months studying his habits. He has never taken a lover before this, I am sure of that, at least not in the years I have known him, and he has never shown the slightest inclination to seek one out.
Why this? Why now, when I was nearly happy, when I was nearly in love with Narcisse, when I had learned that any affection for Camille beyond simple friendship was madness? How could I have failed to notice that he wanted someone?
I understand none of it. It makes me sick at heart, mad with jealousy -- of both of them. I cannot blame Narcisse for what he has done; God knows that I would have done the same, given the chance. But I do not know why Camille would turn to him, when he has always seemed less than fond of Narcisse's company. Am I not his friend, then, or -- God forbid -- has this been going on longer than Narcisse would tell me, and Camille has been pretending to dislike him in order to cover stronger emotions?
I doubt the latter. It is far more likely that I have been forcing myself to pay less attention to Camille recently, so that I would not spend so much time thinking about him, and all the while Narcisse has been acting as fond as he ever has. When something changed in Camille's heart, I was not there. I had studiously made myself unavailable, and Narcisse was waiting. I chose this pain, then. I could have been as kind to Camille as I have long wanted to be, and when whatever it was that happened occured, I would have been close to him.
But I was not brave enough or strong enough to bear my loneliness anymore, and I was so far from him that I did not even notice the change, I did not notice when he took a lover. A year ago I would have known the day after and ached with jealousy. I would not have had to listen to the man I thought I loved confess it, to hear him say that it should have been me.
Thank you, Narcisse. I know that.
A year ago perhaps I could have teased Camille about it, gently, and perhaps I could have listened to him tell me how happy he was and been glad for him.
In my weakness, in my inability to wait and believe that he could change, I took a lover. And when Camille was too alone to bear it anymore, something made him turn to that same man, as I had done. God, if it was anyone else, I would not feel so tormented. If Camille had fallen in love with anyone else in the city, I could have been glad for him and forgotten my jealousy in Narcisse's arms.
Damn the fates that decided to torture me, to destroy my hope and my solace from them in one blow.
I have changed so much that I miss Narcisse almost as much as I envy him. Such is the serpent around my heart. If it was anyone but him, I could kiss him and for a few moments we would not have to care that Camille was neither alone nor with one of us. With Narcisse, there would be times when I would not feel this unceasing ache in my chest nor the burning of my eyes that comes when I am too tired to weep. What we had was never love, but it was comfort of a sort.
Instead I am alone, and it is my fault. If I had never kissed Narcisse, I would not be alone now, for surely Camille would have noticed how dearly I love him. I cannot fathom what has happened to change him; I could not bear to ask him and hear him tell me, if he would tell me. It is hell enough that I can see them together, that I can imagine what they do with each other all too clearly -- the kisses, the caresses, how it feels when they embrace.
I do not want to imagine them embracing, but in this damnation that I have crafted for myself, I can think of little else. My punishment for daring to love Camille is that he does not and will never love me. And my punishment for turning away from him, for seeking refuge in Narcisse's arms, is that I know too well and too intimately what happens between them.
The sound of their voices echoes through my dreams; I cannot close my eyes without seeing them making love, their hands on each other's bodies. I know Narcisse's habits as well as my own, now, and though I have tried not to imagine Camille's I have too much knowledge of him to prevent the speculations. Something in me deserves this pain. Let these visions haunt me, then; I cannot help but imagine them together in ecstasy. Perhaps it will cure me of any desire, though it has not yet had that effect. Would that I did not wake in the middle of the night from a dream of them and know all too clearly how much I want them. Would that I could imagine finding someone, anyone else who could blot these pictures from my mind for an hour.
Cowardice, Denis. This is my penance for cowardice once over, that I cannot have what I wanted most, that I must see my friends in my mind, that when I see Camille in the flesh I cannot help but see signs of the change in him and imagine him in Narcisse's bed. And all the time I must act as though I notice nothing, as though nothing has happened out of the ordinary, as though my heart is not burning with agony. If I should seek someone else's arms, I dare not contemplate the price of that. The only punishment greater than this would be the death of someone I love, and whatever agency has brought me this fate would surely not hesitate at such measures.
I thought I did not love Camille anymore, save as a friend. I was wrong. I love him as much as I ever did, and I feel his loss as keenly as if he had been in love with me. I was distracting myself with Narcisse, nothing more, and I made the fatal mistake of caring for him.
What I wouldn't give to hold him --
Either of them.
Part of me hopes that Camille will tell me about this liaison. It would be terrible to listen to him confess such a thing, worse if he told me that it is going well. I do not know whether I could resist the temptation to tell him my story in return, to surprise him and terrify him and frighten him away from Narcisse -- and myself. When Narcisse told me, I wanted to go to Camille then and explain everything, whatever that would accomplish. I did not, but only because I was too exhausted, too surprised to contemplate explaining something so complicated.
I see now that I have never truly loved either of them. If I did, I would be glad that they can make each other happy. Instead I want to hurt them both. I am no lover, no friend at all, and they were well advised by conscience and instinct to forgo my company.
I could have made him so happy.
It could have been beautiful. Perfect.
I am sure that Narcisse has forgotten me already, that having confessed -- how long did he wait to tell me? -- he is free to enjoy himself. It would be a greater tragedy if he wasted a moment in pitying me, for I doubt I would spare a thought for him if I had his luck and he had my agony.
It is easier to miss him than wish for Camille, though I have more practice at the latter. I have gotten out of the habit of wanting my friend and into the habit of having a lover. I want him back; I want them both.
I wish to God that I could leave them behind and go somewhere else among men who do not know me, whose habits and secrets I do not know. But it is more than routine that draws me back to watch them forlornly, for they would seek me out if I tried to abandon them. I could not lie well enough to fashion an explanation for Camille. The truth would come out and destroy his opinion of me and of Narcisse.
Perhaps there is some hope for me; I would rather know that they are together and that they please each other than that they had been together and had ended it because of me. That is the only part of this that is not selfish self-pity, but it is there. I would not want to explain the truth to Camille and watch his idea of me and his trust in his lover dissolve. And so I accept the flagellation of my dying desire. I sit in the same café as always and I listen to my friends talk. I try not to watch Camille. I try to forget that Narcisse is there.
Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in the pain of this.
It will pass.
I cannot have Camille. I have known that for years.
Narcisse does not want me, but then he never really did.
Nothing has changed from the way it has always been, fundamentally. There is no reason that my heart should be broken. It will heal.
I can learn not to want them, not to wish that I could hold Camille, not to imagine Narcisse's body against mine. Those desires do nothing but hurt me, and therefore I need to let them go, or at least to ignore them. If I had never wanted anything from them, their happiness would be my happiness and I would smile to myself that my friends had found love. I am smiling for them now, though I am not happy. I can curve my lips and let my expression inform my heart. It may take some time, but I have nothing but time, now.
I will pretend that I do not want them until it becomes the truth. That should be easy enough, for they will do nothing to encourage my mistaken belief that I could embrace either of them.
Perhaps I will be able to look Camille in the eyes again soon. I have missed being his friend while I was too busy being the lover he never had.
He is happier than he was before, I can see that. If I could have been what he needed, it would have happened before this. But he is content. That is what is important.
Narcisse must be overjoyed, and that hurts more than Camille's contentment because I know in his place, I would be just as rapturous.
I am happy for them.
If I tell myself that enough, perhaps I will believe it. If I believe it, perhaps it will be true.
<< Back to Bookfic
<< Back to Main