Friday, 14 June, 2024, Reg No- 06
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On Display

Published : Saturday, 18 May, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 769

I rented a room in the center of Brussels two floors above a butchers shop with half-boned carcasses and large hunks of marbled meat on display in the showcase, as in a Soutine painting. On warm days, the pungent stench of offal from the bins in the courtyard at the back would penetrate the entire house. Id been a vegetarian for years and it repelled me. Thats why Id never taken anyone upstairs until I met Océane, a photographer with big sparkling black eyes, small hard breasts, and a penchant for wigs.

Océane wasn her real name. I gave it to her, because her eyes mirrored the same depth and vastness as the sea. She didn tell me her name that first night and after, it felt improperly late to ask for it.

Océane was a lot older than me. She happened to me as an incurable disease does. I met her in a café which never closed, situated next to the stock market. We had been the only customers. She was sitting at the other end of the counter. Apart from her candy pink, seventies afro curls, she was dressed from head to toe in black. Taking the seat next to her, I noticed she was fiddling with what I had mistaken for a phone, but turned out to be a red Polaroid.
Without asking, she ordered us both a glass of Aperol Spritz.

After she emptied her glass and ordered another round, she handed me the camera. "Tu prends un photo de moi?"

"Me of you?"

"Oui. Jai un petit projet des selfies, enfin, anti-selfies. I ask everyone to take un photo de moi."

"Le fotographe fotographé."

Looking at me inquiringly, she smiled. "Exactement! Cest le regard de lautre qui compte."
While she talked, I took pictures. Océane with wine, Océane with puckered lips, Océane with her eyes half closed.
She suddenly fell silent and looked right into the lens. "But you, what are you doing here?"
"Life, love and misery," I said.

She laughed.

Her second glass was nearly empty, and she was about to leave, when she turned to me. "I have quand-même une small question…"

"Quand je viens, tu prends le photo."
I had my arms around her thighs, the Polaroid in my hands. For a moment, the butchers shop window appeared in front of my eyes, but then I surrendered. She tasted unexpectedly sweet, reminded me of game-wild boar, something I hadn eaten since childhood. She tilted and rotated her pelvis, guiding me as no other woman ever had, and when I thought she was about to come, I pressed the button. And shot, and shot. Over, and over.

Our affair lasted only briefly. She visited me when it suited her. Sometimes she rang my doorbell in the middle of the night; other times she would sit on the sill next to the shop front waiting for me, or shed run towards me-her heels like hooves, a promise of flesh.

She would set up the camera while I brushed my teeth. Then I would lie down, and she would undress, arrange her wig, and wrap her legs like arms around me, press her softness to my mouth as if she were entitled to it, and nothing could keep her from asserting her claim.

She disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared, and I felt more miserable than was reasonable.
A few months later, walking home one morning, I saw her again. I instantly recognized the photographs in the window of the small gallery. They were blurry, a tad grainy and nebulous like David Hamiltons, in black and white, but undeniably depicting her in the various states in which I had seen her through the camera lens. A shaking, primal creature escaped from mythology. The prints exuded the ecstasy she had experienced in the captured moments.

I had never climaxed when we were together. It felt as if I wasn allowed. She hadn said so explicitly, but it was clear what she expected of me.

While I had suppressed my desire before, her magnified image in the display case in front of me with her face torn by war and peace, aroused me. I let my hand slide behind the waistband of my trousers. Only then did I see the little plaque next to it:
La petite Mort- Luna Circe (1959-2023).

Shortly before she died, Luna Circe made this series of self-portraits, probing the mystery of life and death.
I stood there in front of the display, stunned, full of her flesh, with my hand in my boxers. The wigs hadn been a gimmick. While Id never watched anyone with such intense focus, I had never really seen her.

With a trembling voice, I told the butcher what I was looking for.
On top of my bed, I unfolded the checkered paper. The piece was a deep dark red, and smelled sweet. I knelt, licked and kissed the flesh with open eyes, as if seeing her for the first time, and finally, devoured it raw.

Courtesy: Flash Fiction Magazine

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