C'étaient des femmes quelconques . . .She passes me on the street, unknown. She is standing still, deciding which way to go. She is squinting in the sun. For a moment I can see her. I can see that it was at least some months earlier she had written the word SCAR across her chest with a knife or perhaps the edge of a broken bar glass. The SCAR is permanent.
I could see the letters A and R through the opening of her blouse, but as the blouse was partially transparent I could make out, through the fabric, the other letters as well, reading SCAR in their entirety. I was left standing there as she walked away.
The word arched across her chest from the top of her right breast to the top of her left. It seems it was written with both fury and precision: the SCAR is deep, yet its letters are in proportion; the marks stand out in a rich rose color.
But she is not the type to have such a scar. Her blouse is rather fine to be framing it, and her age is perhaps 29. Her hair is long and auburn, her look calm and educated.
I find the scar irresistible on her--especially now that the perplexity of reading it has worn off and I have let her walk away to who knows where.
Why didn't I begin to talk with her? Had I, I know I would have been wise enough to talk of anything but the word there on her breast.
But even as I spoke it would have been the scar leading me to do so. It would have been evident there below her mouth even as she responded to me. Her mouth would have responded with words inevitably colored by this scar, colored rose red as my words also would have been inevitably colored.
To have an affair with such a woman, never asking about or even mentioning the word before you.
That I've been mesmerized by the sight of her becomes quite amusing when I contrast it with the fact that just before walking out onto the street where I saw her I'd been in the café reading the last pages of "Noms de pays: le nom." These are the pages in which Marcel dwells on the new generation of women, the elegance of whose manners and dress he cannot himself believe in. The contrast of two such texts read both during the same hour of a summer afternoon leads me to wonder: Can I believe both in the beauty of Proust's writing and in the beauty of the writing glimpsed on this woman's breast?
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