No, nothing hurts, nothing hurts. Nothing hurts with you beside me, when you let me lay my head on your knee, nothing hurts. Nothing hurts except breathing. Breathing hurts. And moving. Talking. Nothing hurts except dying, dying at your feet, your knee pressed to my forehead because you won't lean down or dirty your trousers to hold me as I die, you wouldn't, I wouldn't deserve it, but it would be so nice to have someone hold me again. I remember someone said you can see your whole life again when you start to die, but I only saw two things. Two things and your clean boots make four, and I am dying.

It was our old doll at first. It's silly, it's stupid, but when we were little Azelma and I had a doll, and we had to take turns hugging her at night, but in the winter when Maman moved our beds together for warmth and to share blankets Azelma held the doll and I held Azelma, threw an arm around her like she was a big, warm doll, and we were always happy like that. We both got what we wanted, wanted to hug something; little girls like to hug things in their sleep. I saw an urchin girl hugging an old barrel once. Azelma hugged the doll, and I hugged Azelma, but nobody hugged me.

The doll was cracked and broken and chipped. Chunks of hair were falling out of her wooden head and her paint was scuffed up and she looked bad. She used to be pretty but she looked bad.

It doesn't matter though, does it, my lovely? Looking bad, even though you used to be pretty, as long as you're something to hold on to?

Don't be silly. I'm not looking at you in the dark.

But then at night he slept with an arm around me, sweaty sheets twisting all over the place, straw if it was the loft, hugging onto me like I was the doll, and even though I had nothing to hold onto, I was happier then, because he was really just a good boy after all, holding me when he finished and went to sleep.

Do you hug the other girls? The pretty ones?

They have to go when we're through.

So I was special, wasn't I? I was special like the ugly doll, because I was his own, wasn't I?

Do you love them?

Don't be silly.

But you could be in love with them.

There is such thing as being a little bit in love, and it's silly. Don't be silly. Be quiet.

And a big love? Un grand amour—a true love? How do you know when it's that, and not a little bit?


I know what that means, don't I? When he says things that should be so mean, but his voice is good? When his voice is good, nice, that means he's happy. He doesn't smile and laugh when he's happy, but he isn't nice when he's being cruel, so he must be happy, here, with me, hugging me as he sleeps and I stare at the ceiling.

Dying is cold and alone. You won't hug me, will you? Even in the dark, I'm not enough. Even if the dark is just an excuse, an excuse when I ask why he doesn't mind that I'm ugly now. And I don't know what you mean when your voice is nice, because I know you aren't happy with me touching you, pawing at you, but your voice is nice. You won't even sit on the ground next to me, hold me in your arms, so I'm cold and it hurts when I breathe. The air is hot around me, but I'm cold on the ground. The ground is hard, and your knee is hard, and your boots are clean. I know when he's happy, because his voice is not mean. Your voice is never mean. You were such a nice boy, too, the kind who's always nice, so it's hard to know what you feel, but being nice is so good, and being pretty. You were a pretty boy, and nice to me even when he was mean, because he was only nice in the dark with no one else around to see, but when he was nice he held me, and that was the only time I was happy.

I did have a big, true love after all.

You know, Monsieur Marius, I think I was a little bit in love with you. And it's silly. Don't be silly. Be quiet.