He despised the officer. He kept on smiling, allowing himself to be lulled by the monstrous and ill-defined notion of “faggot” sweeping back and forth inside his head.
“Faggot, what’s a faggot? One who lets other guys screw him in the ass?” he thought. And gradually, while his smile faded, lines of disdain appeared at the corners of his mouth. Then again, another phrase drifted through his mind, inducing a vague feeling of torpor: “Me, I’m one too.” A thought he had difficulty focusing on, though he did not find it repulsive, but of whose sadness he was aware when he realized that he was pulling his buttocks in so tight (or so it seemed to him) that they no longer touched the seat of his trousers. And this fleeting, yet quite depressing thought generated, up his spine, an immediate and rapid series of vibrations which quickly spread out over the entire surface of his black shoulders and covered them with a shawl woven out of shivers. Querelle raised his arm, to smooth back his hair. The gesture was so beautiful, unveiling, as it did, the armpit as pale and taut as a trout’s belly, that the Lieutenant could not prevent his eyes from betraying how very weary he was of this state of unrequited passion. His eyes cried for mercy. Their expression made him look more humble, even, than if he had fallen on his knees. Querelle felt very strong. If he despised the Lieutenant, he felt no impulse to laugh at him, as on other days. It seemed unnecessary to him to exert his charm, as he had an inkling that his true power was of another kind. It rose from the depths of hell, yet from a certain region in hell where the bodies and the faces are beautiful. Querelle felt the coal dust on his body, as women feel, on their arms and hip, the folds of a material that transforms them into queens. It was a make-up that did not interfere with his nakedness, that turned him into a god.