The movie theater was so quiet that whenever the dialogue went silent we could hear the clicking of the projector. I guess it was also because some of us were concentrating on the subtitles
I was 16 and had never seen a foreign film before. My cousin, Mary, from Chicago had flown into town for the weekend. She was in college and watched "those kind of movies" all the time. She was a "little radical" according to my mother (this translated to real cool to everyone my age).
She said she knew some people who had seen this movie (I forgot the title) and she was able to sneak me in, even though it was rated R. (I told Mary that I thought ALL French movies were unrated, what did I know?).
So, there we were, watching the deep, somber glances between the couple on the screen. They had been having rough, break furniture sex in the scene before, but now they were talking as if one of them was coming down with a terminal disease. I leaned over and as quiet as I could, asked Mary what it meant when Etienne started talking about the little death.
"Is someone dying?" She giggled and ran out into the lobby.
Later, on the drive back to the 'burbs, she tried to tactfully explain about orgasms and la petite morte. "You aren't still a virgin are you?" she asked, without looking my way. I lied gracefully.
Some seven years later now-fast forward to a quiet February evening in my newest girlfriend's apartment. The soft light of a desk lamp and all of the energy that comes from four weeks of unfulfilled passion. When at last push had come to shove the moment grabbed us and everything disappeared. There were no walls, no ceiling, no music no lights - nothing. Unknowable seconds of black.
"I was so gone" she whispered. I closed my eyes against the light that came back to us too sharply. "Like death" she said - still grabbing for breath.
la petite mort, is what I thought, but said nothing.