All that about the cigarettes wasn’t without consequences. Like some people who think a lot before acting, who are very sure of themselves, Anne wouldn’t tolerate being disobeyed, dishonoured. By doing the soft thing, by releasing her harsh hands from my face, she was going against that side of herself. She’d guessed that something was happening, and she would have made me own up to whatever it was, but at the last moment she gave in to pity or indifference. Because she had just as much trouble taking care of me, training me even, as she did admitting my weaknesses. The only thing that pushed her into this role as my tutor, my teacher, was a feeling of duty – that by marrying my dad, she was taking responsibility for me as well. I would have liked it if the constant disapproval, if I can call it that, could have improved to just annoyance. I would have liked it if I could have felt that she was just over-sensitive, because then it would have faded as she got used to me. It’s much easier to get used to someone’s behaviour if you don’t feel like it’s up to you to sort them out. In six months she would have been tired of me, but in an affectionate way, and that was exactly what I needed. But that wasn’t going to happen, because she felt responsible for me, and in a way she was, because I was still easily mouldable. That and stubborn.Continue reading
My father showed no other feelings, just surprise. The cleaner explained to him that Elsa had picked up her suitcases and left straight away. I don’t know why she didn’t mention Elsa and me meeting. She was a woman from the countryside, and very sweet. She must have known more or less exactly what was going on, especially since she’d changed all the rooms around. I felt suddenly very grateful to her.Continue reading
The next day, as I was walking down to Sal’s house, I felt a lot less sure of my thoughts. To celebrate the feeling of closure, I’d drunk a lot at dinner – I ended up pretty drunk. I explained to my dad how I was going to study literature, visit professors, that I would end up famous and boring. He would need to use all the techniques of advertising and probably a scandal to set off my caree. We were in hysterics, talking over our crazy ideas. Anne laughed too, less loudly – she was indulging us. From time to time she stopped laughing, when my ideas strayed from literature into simple decadence. But my dad was so obviously enjoying himself messing around with me that she said nothing. Eventually they put me to bed, tucking me in. I thanked them profusely, asked what I would do without them. My dad really didn’t know, and Anne seemed to have some pretty brutal ideas on the subject, but as I was begging her to tell me, as she leaned over, I fell asleep. In the middle of the night, I threw up a lot. Waking up in the morning taught me just how crappy waking up can be. It was worse than I’d ever had before. My thoughts fuzzy, my heart beating too fast, I headed towards the pine woods without noticing the sea at all, or probably the overexcited seagulls.Continue reading
Two days passed, I was treading water, tiring myself out. I couldn’t free myself, I was obsessed – Anne was going to trash our existence. I didn’t go looking for Salil, he reassured me and gave me happiness and I didn’t want that. I just collapsed into questioning myself with impossible questions, remembering the days before, fearing the days that would come. It was so hot – my room was shadowed, my shutters closed, but that wasn’t enough to drain away the heaviness, the stickiness in the air. It was unbearable. I stayed on my bed, head thrown back, eyes on the ceiling, barely moving and then only to find a bit of cold sheet. I didn’t really sleep, I put the digital radio on at the foot of the bed, found a synthwave channel, where they were playing their slow records, almost melody free, just a kind of beautiful rhythm. I smoked a lot, it was decadent, and I liked it. But all this playing couldn’t distract me, I was sad and disoriented.Continue reading
Intermission Montage Soundtrack – Sal sailing around the coast trying to catch a glimpse of her, partying with his friends, thinking about being with another girl who he knows, then turning away at her memory. Her lying on her bed losing her mind. The sun, the sun everywhere.
The clarity of my memories from that point onwards is really surprising. I took on a greater consciousness of others, of myself, I paid attention. Before that I was always quite spontaneous, in a selfish way – it was a luxury that came naturally to me, but those few days were problematic enough that I had to start thinking, had to watch myself live. I went through all this incredible pain of thinking my life, and still didn’t end up any more relaxed about my situation. This feeling, I thought, this feeling about Anne is stupid and simple, like this need to separate her from my dad is intense. But, in the end, why judge myself? I didn’t have to do anything, I was just me, I was just free to experience whatever happened. For the first time in my life, this ‘me’, my self, seemed split in two, and the existence of this two-facedness was a massive surprise. I found excuses, whispered them to myself, feeling sincere, only to have this other ‘me’ exploding my own arguments, crying to me that I was fooling myself, even though they looked true at first glance. But wasn’t it really this other ‘me’ who tricked me? Wasn’t this obvious response really the worst mistake? Sat in my room I debated for hours whether this fear, this anger that Anne made me feel was justified, or whether I was just a selfish little girl, spoiled, just lucky to have had a false independence.Continue reading
The following morning was painful. I woke up sprawled across my bed, in the darkness, mouth dry, limbs lost in sweaty sheets. A ray of sun seeped in between the slats of the blind, and dust particles floated up through it in tiny constellations. I couldn’t decide which was worse – staying in bed or trying to move. I wondered whether Elsa had come by yet, how Anne and my father would approach this morning. I tried to use them as motivation to get up, but it didn’t work. Eventually I managed, finding myself stood on the cool tiles of the room, dizzy and emotional. The mirror showed a sad reflection, and I leant my head on it. My pupils were massive, my mouth swollen. My own face looked like a complete stranger. I was suddenly struck with the thought that, since I was so weak and cowardly, it must have been down to my body, the horrible, random definition of my lips. The thought surprised me with its clearness among the wreck of my headache and myself in general. I morbidly entertained myself by hating my face. The bruise, and the shadowed eyes in the darkness reminded me of a Venetian carnevale mask, wrinkled and creased from debauchery. I began to repeat the word ‘debauched’, heavily, looking myself in the eyes, and I straightaway began to smile. All it was was a few evil drinks, a smack in the face and some tears. I cleaned my teeth and went downstairs.Continue reading
And then one day, it all came to an end. In the morning my dad decided that we should go to Cannes that evening to visit the casinos and dance. I remember how excited Elsa was. She thrived in casinos, and hoped to get back a bit of her sexiness, which was weakened by the sunburn and also see some other people for a change. I figured Anne would object to such a basic evening, but to my surprise she didn’t – she even seemed happy to be going. So I wasn’t particularly worried when I went to my room to get ready. I put on the evening dress I’d brought along. It was the only one I possessed, made of a quite strange, thin fabric. Probably a bit too exotic for me, but my dad chose it, and because he had a particular taste, or because he just thought that was what all women wore, he bought me these seductive clothes. I found him downstairs in a shiny new jacket, and draped my arm around his shoulder.Continue reading