Mahmoud Chokrollahi translated by Kazim Ali

La Maladie de la vie

The Malady of Life

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“It’s always almost dawn. These are the hours vast as the sky.”
—Marguerite Duras,
The Malady of Death












1.






He fixes his gaze on you and says, “You are already afflicted and you are going to die.” You try to act casual when you ask him, “When?” He says, “That’s not important. It could happen at any moment, tonight, tomorrow, whenever…”

You leave. Sad, disappointed. You start walking with no end point in mind. You light a cigarette and abandon yourself to the madness that fills the streets until perhaps…

You light another cigarette. This time in front of a bar. You order a glass. You drink it down in one go. Another glass, a third, a fourth.

You think about her. As usual. You imagine yourself in that suspended moment before her arrival. As usual. You leave the bar and find yourself in the empty street, no revelers in sight. Without any particular destination, you wander. Suddenly you find yourself in a busy street, lit up and bustling. The scent of life comes back into you. You stop in front of a woman and hire her for an hour. You follow her to her room. You undress. She does too. You ask her to take off her bra. She wants more money. You give her more. She takes off her bra…

You feel heavy. Sick. You start to wander again. You don’t know where you are. You don’t want to know where you are. You look at your watch. You take it off your wrist and toss it in the gutter. Your head is spinning. You lean against a tree. You want to throw up. You throw up. Not far from there you find a bench. You sit there. Your head spinning. Rain begins to fall. The drops feels good on your face.

Two strangers approach…

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2.






You are in your bed. It is beautiful outside. You have a headache. You stay in bed. You stay in bed all day. Night falls. You get out of bed. You look at yourself in the mirror. You stare into the glass. Frightened, you pull back. You smash the mirror. Blood pools on your hand. You don’t care.

Full moon. You go out on the terrace. You fall back into a lounge chair. It’s spring air, quite pleasant. Sky full of stars. In spite of yourself, you begin counting them. You keep counting. Your eyelids grow heavy. You keep counting…

You feel two hands on your shoulders. You do not move. You feel a finger brushing along your bare skin. You shiver. You open your eyes. You turn your head. You see her. Naked. Standing right there. Fixing her gaze upon you. You want to ask her something. She tells you to be quiet. She walks away. You follow her.

There is fog everywhere. You walk the streets and uncharted alleyways. You don’t feel like a stranger here. You feel like you have lived here for years. You leave the city. You walk through a field of wheat. Their ears brush against your bare skin. You continue on. You follow her without hesitation. You do not feel heavy anymore. You do not even feel the ground under your feet. Time feels like it is slowing down. Stopping.

You stop in front of an old cottage. You listen to the waves. This place doesn’t surprise you. You know this cottage. You have this feeling that have been here before.

She turns to look at you. You ask her, “When?”

She disappears into the fog.

Your doorbell rings. You leave the terrace and find yourself at the door. You have a little vertigo. Your eyes wander. You open the door. She comes in. You know her. You have a feeling you know her. The sound of the waves. You turn back to the terrance. You lie fown on the lounge chair. Fog.

That feeling of two hands on your shoulders. You do not move. A finger brushing your bare skin. You shiver. Your eyes are still closed. She takes you to the bed. You do not resist. She lays you back on the white sheets. You feel the softness of the sheets. She lies down next to you. Your breathing is light. She rests her head on your heart. Silence, calm. She presses her naked body up against yours. You are also naked. Her body is cold. You meet her eyes. You are afraid. You close your eyes.

With your right hand you touch her face in the darkness. You can feel the change in her expression. She presses even closer against you. You caress her mouth. She trembles a little. You pull her close. The desire to make love. Your eyes still closed. She takes your hand. She puts it on her breasts. You caress her breasts. Her body begins to warm up. You want to make love to her. She does not resist. You climb on top of her. She opens her legs. You put your hand between her thighs. You once more feel that heat of life. You start breathing stronger again. You recognize that scent. You feel her heart beating. Your eyes are still closed. You want to take refuge inside her. Alone, in this dark and familiar room. Your heart beats faster and faster.

You penetrate her…

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3.






You are in your bed. It is beautiful outside. You feel light. Some streaks of dried blood on the white sheets. You examine them. You heart feels closed and tight. You want to get up but you can’t. You try to get up. You can’t. You give up. You turn back into the sheets. You close your eyes. Fleeting images. You are afraid. You open your eyes. The broken mirror. You look at your hand. Dried blood. You look at the sheets. Your head is spinning.

You close your eyes. Fleeting images. You do not open your eyes. Fleeting images. You focus. You try to concentrate. Two eyes. A gaze. Cold. Soulless.

You dress quickly. Fog everywhere. You find yourself once more in the familiar streets and alleyways. You feel light. You walk fast. You do not feel the ground under your feet. You leave the city. The field of wheat. Their ears brushing against you.

You walk faster.

Noise of the waves announce the sea. You turn toward the sound. Fog. You see the cottage far off. You stop cold. You tremble a little. You turn back. Everything has vanished into the fog. You feel lost. In spite of yourself you take a couple of steps. You stop. You listen to the waves. The sea is hidden by fog. You cannot see it. You close your eyes. You open your eyes. You close them again. Two eyes. A gaze. Cold. Soulless. You have vertigo. Your head spins. You look for something to lean against. There is nothing to lean against. You turn back. You start running. In fear, you stop. The cottage is in front of you. To the left. To the right. Before you. Behind you.

You hear the sound of the waves. The fog. You feel like throwing up. You throw up. You feel light. Dizzy.

Two shadows approach…

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4.






You are in your bed. It is beautiful outside. You are tired. You can smell the sea. You decide to get up. You get up. You look in the mirror. You stare into the mirror. You turn away from the mirror. You look at the bed. Some streaks of dried blood. On the white sheets. You look at your hand. You don’t want to, but you go out on the terrace.

You feel the sea around your feet. You lean on the railing. You look out at the sea. The sea is calm.

You stare out at the horizon. Everything appears light. Suddenly you sense a presence behind you. You turn. Her. Naked. Standing there. She is staring out at the horizon. You know her. You think you have seen her before. Two eyes. That gaze. Cold. Soulless.

You want to ask her something. You can’t. You ask by gesturing. She does not answer. You try again. Once more. Her eyes leave the horizon and fix on you. She says something you don’t understand. Her voice has no gravity. You want her to repeat herself. She repeats herself. Once more. The sea groans. You feel light.

You take her hand and lead her toward the bed. You lay her back on the white sheets. You listen to the groaning waves. You turn toward the terrace. You light a cigarette. You sit back in the lounge chair. You stare at the horizon. Some deep draws on the cigarette. You close your eyes. Hazy images. Sound of the waves. Whiteness of the sheets. Some streaks of blood. You open your eyes. Fog. You close your eyes once more. You keep them closed. Some time passes. You are cold. You go back into the room. You find her on the white sheets. She is sleeping. Her face, pale like the whiteness of the sheets. You look at the wall. For the first time. The wall is white. Same color as her face. You go to the mirror. You stare at the mirror. You go back to the bed. You sit beside her. Her body is cold. She breathes deeply. You shift closer to her. She trembles lightly. Slowly you rise. You look around the room. The wall. The sheets. The mirror. Her. You listen to the waves. Night has fallen.

You stay in the dark. You sit on the bed. Slight movement of her left foot. You stare at her body. The movement of her lips. You read the movement of her lips. You want her to repeat herself. She repeats herself. Once more, again, once more. You rise. You feel dizzy. You go out onto the terrace. Full moon. Sky full of stars. You sit on the lounge chair. You begin counting the stars. You continue counting stars. Your eyes never grow heavy. You feel it come to nothing. You go back inside the room.

The place is empty. The imprint of her body on the sheets. You look around. You don’t see her. You throw yourself down on the bed. The sheets are cold. You try to detect her perfume but you smell nothing. You get up. You go to the window. Look outside. You turn back. Go out on the terrace. You see her. From behind. She is leaning against the railing. The shadow of the moon covers her back. You look at her without moving. You feel light. Full light of the moon on her. She is in the light of the moon. An image of a ghost. Once more you feel her beauty. You close your eyes. You listen to the waves. You open your eyes. The ghost is fading. Fear pierces you. You run toward her. She stands still, looking out at the sea. You take her in your arms and hold her against you. She does not move. You kiss her. Her body gets warmer. You go toward the bed. You lay her down on the bed. You lie down beside her. You want to caress her. She moves your hand away. You listen to the waves. You try again to touch her. Again she moves your hand away. You try once more. Once more she moves your hand. Again, again. A game. It pleases you. You try again. Once more she moves your hand. You want to laugh. You laugh. At first quietly. Then louder. Louder. And even louder. Your laugh echoes through the cold room. A hysterical laugh. Your laugh changes to tears. You weep. You weep with a hue and cry. You cry. She does not move. You cry harder. You throw yourself on top of her. You bury your face in her breasts.

She moves slightly. Your tears collect between her breasts. You cry. You cry even harder. She strokes your hair. You feel yourself calming down. You fall silent. She takes you in her arms. You can’t move. You are afraid. You want to cry now but you can’t. She opens her legs. She guides you inside her. You feel heat. Fog. The room fills with fog. You want to move but she keeps you inside her. You close your eyes. Wild images. The sea swells. You hear the roaring waves. You feel suffocated. You try to move. You can’t. She pulls you closer and closer. You can feel her heart. Beating faster. Faster. You hear her shortness of breath. Shallow. You focus on her face. In the dark. Her eyes. That gaze. Cold. Without life. The mouth half open. Breath labored. Heavier, deeper and then deeper still. A cry, a shout, her body becomes cold. Her heart. You listen for her heart. You cannot hear it. You try to save yourself. You can’t. You try once more. Once more.

Frightened, you pull away, you rise. You stop two paces from the bed. You are shaking. Break into a cold sweat. Streaks of blood. Dried blood on the white sheets. You go to the window. You breathe heavily. Deeply. You turn back. You smoke a cigarette. You sit down on the bed. You look at her. You take a deep pull on the cigarette. Smoke envelopes her body. Her face is calm. You study her face. You try to contemplate it. You cannot. You try again. You repeat to yourself, she was, she is no more. She was. She is no more. She was. She is no more. You do not see the difference. You repeat yourself. She was. She is no more. She was. She is no more. The waves. You rise. You walk aimlessly through the room. You sit. You rise. You walk. You smoke your cigarette. Bitter taste of the filter of the cigarette. You crush the cigarette on the floor. You sit. You look at her. You raise your hand toward her. You pull it back. You are cold. You look at her face. You detect a smile at the corners of her mouth. You shake. From fear. You feel heavy. A thought crosses your mind. An idea. You go closer to her. You try to lift her. You can’t. You try again. You can’t. You take a hold of her ankles. You pull her to the ground. You pull her to the terrace. The sea is calm. You pull her to the railing.

You close your eyes. You let her go.

You listen to her fall into the water. The sea groans. You do not open your eyes. You stay there a while, your eyes closed. You are cold. Fog everywhere. The sea grows rougher and rougher. You are afraid. You open your eyes. You turn back to the room. You close the window. You draw the curtain. You throw yourself down on the bed. You are dizzy. Head spinning. You close your eyes. You try to focus. She was. She is no more. She was. She is no more.

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5.






You are in your bed. It is beautiful outside. Your head is clear. You look around. The wall. The mirror. The window. The sheets. You feel calm. You decide to get up. You get up and go out onto the terrace. A familiar voice. Your ears prick up. The voice is coming from a long way off. You light a cigarette. You sit down on the lounge chair. It is pleasant out. You feel it. You feel happy. For no reason. You close your eyes. The sky. The pleasant air. The familiar voice. You draw on your cigarette. A soft breeze blows. The wind carries the voice to you. The voice is calling to you. You do not move.

You abandon yourself to the sun. The heat comes over you. You crack open your eyes. Light of the sun. You close your eyes. The voice is closer now. You listen. You concentrate. A voice from a long way off is calling to you. You are not afraid. You don’t want to, but you get up. You go into the room. You dress yourself. You descend the staircase. You know the way. You go down the familiar streets and alleyways. You speed up. You leave the city. A field of wheat. Ears of wheat. You stop. You focus on the ears of wheat. You breathe deeply. You again feel their beauty. You breathe in again.

The voice is calling you to it. You resume your walk. The voice is getting closer. You continue on. The sea. You smell the sea. You speed up. The cottage. You know it. The sun grows brighter. You stop. Her. The voice. On the terrace. Naked. Standing there. Eyes. A gaze. A smile. Calm. You feel happy. You go out onto the terrace. She gestures to you. You stop. Stunned. You think. You try to focus. You can’t get there. Her. Naked, happy, standing there on the terrace, staring at you. The distance. You don’t understand the distance.

A sliver of dark cloud. The sun disappears. Flashes of lightning. You are afraid. You shiver. The voice disappears. The terrace is empty. You listen to the sea. You are dizzy. Head spinning. You want to throw up. You throw up. You feel light. You close your eyes. You feel two hands resting on your shoulders.

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original text: ©Le Soupirail, 2014, France.
www.editionslesoupirail.com



6.






You are in your bed. It is beautiful outside. You have a headache. You feel lazy. You do not want to get up. You do not get up. You look around. The mirror. The wall. The sheets. The window. The distance. You close your eyes. Images flash before you. Distance between your skin and the waving ears of wheat. You shiver. The distance that separates you from her. You bury your head in your hands. Distance between your skin and the ears. The gap. The mystery. You close your eyes. The eyes. The gaze. The field of wheat. A fruit tree. You shiver. That sin. A cold sweat. You get up. You light a cigarette. The tree, its fruit. You go to the mirror. You stare into it. You look into the mirror. From close. From far off. The left. The right. You are afraid. You step back. Frightened. You are cold. You shiver. You turn back to the mirror. You stare at yourself. You touch your face. You are afraid. The fog is everywhere. The air is heavy. You can’t breathe. Your heart hurts. You throw yourself down on the bed. You close your eyes. The room spins around you. Images flash by. The mirror. Her. You. Her. You open your eyes. You are dizzy. Head spinning. You feel like you are going to throw up. You throw up. You throw up on the mirror. You stare into the mirror. You want to laugh. You cry. You look once more into the mirror. The mirror is not broken. Once more you look into the mirror. The mirror is not broken. You are afraid. Some streaks of blood on the wall behind the mirror. The mirror fixes you in its gaze and says, “You are already afflicted and you are going to die.” You try to be very casual when you ask, “When?”—

It tells you, “That doesn’t matter. It could happen at any minute—tonight, tomorrow, or…”

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