Fiction

Le nu féminin en mouvement

Péter Nádas

If the taxi hadn’t swerved a second time, in their embarrassment they probably would have leaned back on the seat and continued their chatter in an entirely different direction; it had strayed into dangerous territories and times.

The cabbie swore quietly to himself; the women heard only his muffled grumbling, not the innocent curse.

The swerve made them fall on each other, and they couldn’t have said whether it was by accident or whether their instincts, quickly and almost shamelessly, took advantage of the moment. And once in this situation, they would have liked to touch each other’s faces with their lips, lightly and fleetingly, to put an end, as it were, to the painful comedy that could not have been avoided. But this, too, turned out differently because of the taxi’s slipping and swerving. Lady Erna’s soft, lipstick-covered lips did encounter Gyöngyvér’s firm, perhaps too firm, dry lips—not directly, but as if the edge of one mouth enclosed the corner of the other. And each of them felt the other was the initiator, and deliberately so. That was horrible. Before one mouth could slip over the other completely, they both recoiled and restrained themselves. The swerve, the inevitable pleasure, the jostling, their fitful protestations, the entire turmoil was enough for Gyöngyvér’s hard little forehead to push Lady Erna’s wide-brimmed hat off her head.

Gyöngyvér reached for it carelessly. She did not catch it but managed to knock the silver box out of Lady Erna’s hand. Both women squealed, one after the other; and the large black hat adorned with a shiny cluster of ribbons landed gracefully on the front seat next to the cabbie, while the silver box snapped open and the blindingly white pills scattered on the ribbed rubber floor mat.

Relieved and squealing, they laughed simultaneously. The cabbie, steadying his vehicle, was unable to help them. They fell silent in almost the same instant.

They were both gripped by the fright they had caused each other.

The residual sensation of the other’s lips clung to their own like a painful mark that brands rather than rewards. But it was not so easy to dismiss the whole thing. To arrive at the bedside of a dying man with one’s loins swelling with blood, squealing and laughing, as they were doing now, was a bit much. Sane persons do not behave like this; they expect better of themselves. In their confusion they froze for a few moments, the silence turning icy between them.

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