Letters from Zedelghem, an excerpt from Cloud Atlas

“Eva. Because her name is a synonym for temptation: what treads nearer to the core of man? Because her soul swims in her eyes. Because I dream of creeping through the velvet folds to her room, where I let myself in, hum her a tune so-so-so softly, she stands with her naked feet on mine, her ear to my heart, and we waltz like string puppets. After that kiss, she says ‘Vous embrassez comme un poisson rouge!’ and in moonlit mirrors we fall in love with our youth and beauty. Because all my life, sophisticated, idiotic women have taken it upon themselves to understand me, to cure me, but Eva knows I’m terra incognita and explores me unhurriedly, like you did. Because she’s lean as a boy. Because her scent is almonds, meadow grass. Because if I smile at her ambition to be an Egyptologist, she kicks my shin under the table. Because she makes me think about something other than myself. Because even when serious she shines. Because she prefers travelogues to Sir Walter Scott, prefers Mayerl to Mozart, and couldn’t tell C major from a sergeant major. Because I, only I, see her smile a fraction before it reaches her face. Because Emperor Robert is not a good man – his best part is commandeered by his unperformed music – but she gives me that rarest smile, anyway. Because we listened to nightjars. Because her laughter spurts through a blowhole in the top of her head and sprays all over the morning. Because a man like me has no business with this substance ‘beauty,’ yet here she is, in these soundproofed chambers of my heart.

Sincerely,

R.F.”

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