Another time, on the same route, during the crossing of the same ocean...

 '. . . she’d been there when it happened, the burst of Chopin under a sky lit up with brilliancies. There wasn’t a breath of wind and the music spread all over the dark boat, like a heavenly injunction whose import was unknown, like an order from God whose meaning was inscrutable.

And the girl started up as if to go and kill herself in turn, throw herself in her turn into the sea, and afterwards she wept because she thought of the man from Cholon and suddenly she wasn't sure she hadn't loved him with a love she hadn't seen because it had lost itself in the affair like water in sand and she rediscovered it only now, through this moment of music flung across the sea.' --Marguerite Duras

Most people would have said I was too young, when I encountered The Lover, to read a book like this. I was twelve, thirteen maybe. The slim volume slept at the foot of my narrow bed with a pile of other books. I read it until the cover fell off. That was the year I had gone away to boarding school. About a year after, I watched the film. My interior was ravaged again by sharp hunger--so strong was my desire and fascination and revulsion that the awakening didn't happen once, but over and over. One bird taking off again and again within in me. When no one was around, I watched the film, speeding up to the shot of the slim leg propped on a ship railing, to the shadowed room of sex and street sounds.

In college, I brought in the passage above, the one about Chopin. (You, the bird-who-flew-into-a-window, brought in--do you remember?--Bukowski, of all things.) Now, a lifetime and several countries past those days when my toes brushed the tattered pages as I slept, I have gone hunting the book down again. On a panel earlier this week, May-Lee mentioned L'Amant, and this afternoon I pulled my copy (a new one, with a cover still attached) down from the shelf, turned to this page, and underlined the lines again, which begin: 'Another time, on the same route, during the crossing of the same ocean, night had begun as before and in the lounge on the main deck there was a sudden burst of music, a Chopin waltz which she knew secretly, personally . . .'