Le Papillon de Vingt-Quatre Heures
By Roman Payne
Ô, Muse of the Heart’s Passion,
let me relive my Love’s memory,
to remember her body, so brave and so free.
and the sound of my Wanderess singing to me,
and the scent of my Wanderess sleeping by me,
Ô, sing, sweet Muse, my soliloquy!
WHEN I TOUCHED HER BODY, I believed she was God. In the curves of her form I found the birth of Man, the creation of the world, and the origin of all life.
She was Woman and I was Man; and our bodies lay naked on the bed, panting like two beaten and worn animals after a battle. Our passionate combat had lasted for two beautiful days and nights in that wasted bedroom of hers on the rue de Turbigo in Paris. During forty hours we made love, ceasing only momentarily to drink the necessary water and eat when our bodies required it; as our sexual battle exhausted our fuel supplies and our organs needed to be replenished to continue their feast.
It was still dark when we finished. Four o’clock at the end of a night in spring, and Mademoiselle d’Odessa and I finally surrendered to the fatigue of our flesh; and feeling comfort in our nourished sexual appetites, we lay entwined to let sweet sleep overtake us. As we lay, we caressed each other languidly on the bed: thighs and limbs, taught abdomens, my hard chest, her soft breasts. She said, “Look…” and pointed from her petite “lit de jeune fille,” across her bedroom to where a moth was flying upwards and bouncing off the yellow plaster.
“Un papillon de vingt-quatre heures,” she told me.
I had never heard of a twenty-four-hour moth before and I asked her about it. She said she once read a curious book about moths and butterflies and explained to me with great certainty that the species of moth on her wall had a lifespan of exactly twenty-four hours—that it had been born to her house for only one day and one night, so as to fly and to reproduce before dying. She went on to talk of this moth and I was thoroughly enchanted. I stroked her wonderful tummy as I watched that curious twenty-four hour moth; and what I did above all was to admire the luck of that creature.
“Why is it lucky?!” she asked, pounding me on the chest.
“Because,” I told her, “billions of its kind are born every season to live out their short lives in an empty basement or attic somewhere, down in the métro, or in a bank, or a ceramic factory or in a preschool. But this lucky devil has lived every moment of its life in the aura of our naked bodies… two passionate human beings making love.”
She kissed me. “I adore you.”
“I mean, can you imagine a creature who spends his entire life watching pornography?!”
I laughed through my nose at what I’d just said, but she just frowned and slapped my cheek. She then rolled over and went to sleep, the funny girl. I was so enlivened and inspired by our two days of lovemaking, however, that I thought of sleep as a great waste of time at that moment. I had to write! For writing is the only way to come down euphorically from love-making of such splendour and grandeur.
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 Ô, MUSE […] MY SOLILOQUY: As Payne is so greatly inspired by Homer, he begins this book, like some of his other books and stories, with a “Proem.” A proem contains the introductory lines of a Homeric epic where the writer invokes the Muse to ask for the inspiration to write the epic. The mortal writer then reciprocates payment to the Muse in return for this inspiration by giving all credit to the Muse for having (literally) written the book for him or her. In the Iliad, the first line reads: ‘Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles.’ In the Odyssey, Homer writes: ‘Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of the man.’ Likewise, Payne’s first line, ‘Ô, sing me, sweet Muse, my soliloquy’ implies that his soliloquy [this novel] was conceived not by him, but by his Muse. [Editor]
 LIT DE JEUNE FILLE: (fr) ‘Young girl’s bed.’ The childhood bed of a women that is often preserved in its juvenile form in her parent’s house after she is grown.
 UN PAPILLON DE VINGT-QUATRES HEURES: (fr) ‘A 24-hour butterfly’ is the literal translation. This is a play on the term ‘papillon de nuit’ (‘butterfly of the night,’ which is a moth. It is interesting (and disturbing) how living things are degraded when we add the suffix ‘of the night.’ A butterfly becomes a moth. And while a ‘girl’ is valuable. A ‘girl of the night’ is shameful. Why is it so dishonorable to be nocturnal? Cannot some prefer the moon to the sun? [Payne]