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Dust by Lucie Bonvalet | Word Riot
Creative Nonfiction

August 22, 2016      

Dust by Lucie Bonvalet

Dust. White dust. White concrete dust in my hair, on the palms of my hands, on my black cotton trousers. I see that I have two legs, though I cannot feel them. I do not see, from the ankle to the knee of the light fabric of my trousers, the tear by the blast along the seams. Dancers in bright yellow outfits are still dancing, the incense is still burning and its smoke is melting with the smell of concrete dust, of the swollen yellow waters of the Ganges, of the burned smell of the bomb, the smell of human fear, a blue smell.
      Just before the bomb exploded, three little girls distracted me from the contemplation of the dances. They had silky black hair and the authoritative voices of soft creatures. They demanded to tattoo the inside of my left wrist with complicated patterns. The youngest one, who could not have been older than seven, chose two tiny bottles of paint, one silver, the other blood red. Very slowly she proceeded in painting what could have been a sun, but silver. I protested, for I wanted to walk further along the Ganges to watch the river, to watch the dancers above the crowd leading the religious ceremony. But the little girl’s will was imperious. She would not let go of my wrist before she had finished her silver sun. Her touch was so soft and her hair so black and silky she hypnotized me. When finally she switched brushes and painted a drop of blood at the hollow center of the sun on my wrist, there was a first explosion. I mistook it for loud fireworks and was angry.
      But the second explosion I heard as a silence. A silence which at its core held a whisper, a tenderness, the sound of my right eardrum bursting. White concrete dust covered me. So did the warm bodies of little girls, girls with silky black hair and the peacefulness of sleep that is not sleep. I woke up a first time to feel the little girls trampling my body like large kittens, and running away. Then I heard a beloved voice calling my name. It woke me a second time and I opened my eyes reluctantly. Voices and music I could hear, and the constant throbbing of the river. But sounds reached me now as if through glass, as if through water, as if I were trapped in a dream undersea. And I did not know now whether the music, the throbbing, the voices, were coming for me or from inside me, or covering me from above, from behind, like a blanket of dust.

Photo Word Riot - BonvaletAbout the author:

Lucie Bonvalet is a writer, a visual artist, and an MFA candidate in nonfiction at Portland State University. She is a frequent participant in Portland’s OuLiPo reading series, 1000 words, and her writing appears in Women in Clothes (edited by Sheila Heti, Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits) and Café Globulot, a French art & culture zine. Her drawings and paintings can be found at:

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