Thérèse dreaming, Balthus, 1938.
© Balthus. «Thérèse dreaming», 1938.

I keep a crystal-clear memory from the day it began. I go back to it often. Remembrance is more of a matter of exerting will than memory, a decision made on the very instant, as it elapses. I had spent the entire afternoon trying to break my own record for straight skips with the old jump rope and was exhausted. I went into the kitchen for a glass of cool lemonade and then went on to my room to rest before the shower. Mom used to warn that one should never bathe with a heated body and also to never attempt to give the cat a bath. I could feel my legs burning. I stretched out facing the window and took a deep breath. I remember the still sweet smell of my sweat. I recall the awareness of my body, how alive every inch felt as the blood galloped down into a canter. The sunlight bathing and pacifying me—like a hand or a tongue. And then, within a heartbeat, nothing but an instant, all of the volts produced by the one thousand six hundred and twenty jumps I had amassed that afternoon ran suddenly through my nerves, across my stomach and burst out on the mushy little lump that showed on my panties.


I could swear that, at that very moment, Otilio—the little rascal!—let out a purring meow.



Thérèse Joncour