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Age of Reason

Denis Emorine

Translated from the French into English by Phillip John Usher

 

On my seventh birthday, my father asked me to step into his office.

“Listen, son,” he began, “today you’ve reached the age of reason. It’s time to teach you about life. I know that, for a certain time now, you’ve been thinking about certain things, these things have often obsessed you. No, no need to protest, it’s really quite normal and there’s no need to be ashamed. Also, I’ll introduce you to life, she’s yours. Don’t frighten her away, learn to control your impulses. It just takes time, then you can learn anything, including in that domain. Oh, I forgot, whatever you do, don’t tell your mother. She wouldn’t understand. It’s a secret between you and me.

The first time, my father came with me. He showed her to me from afar, then quickly introduced us, then left us alone.

 

I would visit her everyday. We would always organize to meet up at her house, outside the village. To start with, I was intimidated. I didn’t dare get close to her nor look at her, except perhaps the odd quick glance on the sly. She was perfectly aware of all this, not fooled.

After a few days, I got braver: she seemed to be consenting. After all, she was there to help with my education. My father had offered her to me, she was my gift. She was stretched out on the grass, completely motionless. I knelt down next to her, brushed her with a finger, showing utmost respect. I hadn’t forgotten my father’s advice. I then caressed her with my hand. She didn’t say anything, but I was sure she approved my behavior. At moments, I believe I even heard her sigh with yearning.

My father never asked me questions. I admired his discretion. He always showed me great kindness. I really liked the complicity I had with him.

 

One day, however, I could hear shouting. My mother had found out―I’d never know how. As I approached making sure I couldn’t be seen, I could hear her distinctly. She was shouting at my father: “How dare you do something like that? Upsetting our little boy with things like that! Dirty obscene things for which he’s not old enough! Aren’t you ashamed? He’s got plenty of time for that stuff, he’s still a child.” That was all. My father didn’t make the least reply. My mother never referred to it again, but I could tell that something, that day, had broken in the harmony of their marriage.

As for me, I was getting braver. The first time I got undressed in front of her, I didn’t dare go any further. I didn’t want to ruin everything by going too fast. I was worried.

The following day, after taking my clothes off, I led down softly on top of her. I grabbed firmly hold of her. It was a new feeling for me. I wanted to sink into her for the rest of time. What a great present my father had given me.

 

From that moment on, my life really changed. As my father kept telling me, I’d become a man. I’d spend many hours in her delicious company. One time, I could have stayed there for days and days if it hadn’t suddenly started raining, dozing and tenderly entwined in the grass.

However, my mother and I now had a new relationship. She’d become a stranger for me. I suspected she was jealous of my happiness. She’d often glance at me, silently, with a painful look on her face. There were even times when she’d gently clasp my head and pull in towards her, murmuring: “My poor boy, my poor little boy.”

I would pull away with a jolt. What did she have to be interfering for? What could she possibly understand about the close relationship we had?

My father had given her to me, she was my gift. She would be with me my whole life through to help be become a man. What could my mother understand about this metamorphosis?

 

No one would take her away from me. She was destined for me, and me alone. Every day, at the edge of the village, she would wait in the cemetery, stretched out in the grass, her nudity spun of simplicity and benevolence. She was, after all, my tomb.

 

Denis Emorine was born in 1956 near Paris.  He studied Modern Letters at the Sorbonne (Paris IV). He has an emotional relationship with English because his mother taught that language. He is of distant Russian ancestry on the paternal side. His favorite themes are the search for identity, the theme of the double and the flight of time. Emorine is fascinated by Eastern Europe. Poet, essayist, short story writer and playwright, his theater has been performed in France, Greece, Canada (Quebec) and Russia. Several of his books are translated and published in Greece, Romania, India and the United States. He regularly contributes to the literature review Les Cahiers du sens. In 2004, Denis Emorine received the first prize for poetry (French) at the International Competition Féile Filiochta .
The Académie du Var awarded him the “2009 poetry prize” for Letters to Saïda .
Bouria, des mots dans la tormente (poems) won first prize at the 2015 Antonio Filoteo Omodei international competition
In 2015, Denis Emorine received the “Honorary Prize for Complete Works” from the Naji Naaman Foundation (Lebanon)