|Dita Parlo as Juliette in L'Atalante (dir. Jean Vigo, 1934).|
In sleep she dreamed her way back on the barge, where the sounds of the city were as distant as an echo and where one drifted off to the lapping of the water on the hull of the boat and the yowling of the cats mating in the night. In these dreams she found herself pressed tight against Jean’s wiry chest, his arms holding her close to him as they lay dozing fitfully in their cabin, drenched in the sweat of late July, Père Jules’ snores quaking through the wall. She dreamed that she was sleeping—or rather forgot where she was sleeping and imagined herself in that other bed with the smell of unwashed men and mangy cats and bilge water pressing upon her like a fever. She dreamed of her own memories: of the press of Jean’s lean frame against her back, his hands lightly clasped around her waist. They would lay like that until the light of the dawn made its way into the cabin and woke her and she would peel herself out of Jean’s embrace (he was a sound sleeper; he never woke up) and slip out of bed, through the cabin door and into the lair of Père Jules, who lay sleeping like a beast or an ogre in a book of fairy tales. She would crouch down beside him as he lay snoring and farting, his fleshy lips parted to reveal a mouth of rotten teeth like black gumdrops, just watching him (like Jean, he was a sound sleeper); and then, with one eye always peering back at him over her shoulder, she would wander to his vast pile of treasures (the grotesque marionette with the face like a wizened apple, the Chinese fan, the elephant tusk, the music boxes and the mechanical toys, the cloudy glass jar in which the severed hands of his late friend had been pickled), running her hands over them lightly and with the wonder of an enchanted child while the men slept and the water lapped the sides of the boat and the cats sunned themselves in the sharp light of the morning.