“La chair est triste hélas et j’ai lu tous les livres”

At first I thought it meant there is no escape from the spiral of life’s endless quest for entertainment, and I recited it, in my youngest adulthood, so young it could barely be called that, in a town called Villedieu—it means God’s town—of which, in France, there are too many to keep track, to my best friend’s comparatively ancient boyfriend François and his uncle whose name I never learned—we only called him Tonton as is the local custom—to great applause or the French version of that (mild smirks of approval) and they all laughed as we drank more red wine, the farmer Bernard saying in his patois we couldn’t understand that he often wants to kill himself because his sleep apnea prevents him from sleeping or he sleeps suddenly behind the wheel of his moving tractor—or was it that he said he wants to throw himself in front of his tractor while it is moving?—I can’t be certain because my best friend and I understood only the French we were used to, and so we tittered throughout, oblivious, until later. Later we understood.

Bernard dipped his finger into a short glass of eau de vie, which means water of life. He held it up to us and lit it on fire.

Hard to say for certain (even though I was there), but I’d wager we were not harmed in God’s town, that we made it out, away, and then on, to the who-knows-where we exist in now, which may not be an “out” exactly—out is too relative to pin down, a slippery worm that evades the sharp end of the specimen stick—yet one day I realized, post–autumn equinox of my youth: more slippery worms, this weakened flesh, it was after all simply an old pervert’s cry, the sound of his endless desire to devour us, me, my best friend, whose name is the same as mine, and the rest of us, all named the same to them, until we are no more, just like the books made up, all of them, of letters, the same letters every time—churning churning, in and out, a spiral from which there is no escape. Except one.

SARA VAN BONN is a British-American writer currently based in Berlin. Her work can be found in/on Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HobartWNPR, the Rumpus, LUMINA, South Asia Journal, Prism International, and elsewhere. sarahvanbonn.com