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
The most surprising thing over the next few days was how extremely kind Anne was to Elsa. Even with all of the various stupid things Elsa said, Anne never once picked her up on it with one of these short comebacks which she had the secret to, which would have really ridiculed the poor woman. I silently thanked her for her patience and generosity, not realising how it was closely mixed with a kind of manipulation. My dad would have quickly tired of such stupid little games, and instead he was grateful, and he would say ‘I don’t quite know how to thank you’, but I bet he was starting to have an idea. I thought he’d probably start talking to her like a well respected friend, like a second mother to me – and then use this gratitude as a constant excuse to put me under Anne’s care, to make her a bit more responsible for who I was, to bring her closer to him, link her to us more strongly. He had that gaze, and was behaving towards her like you’d do to someone who you didn’t yet know, but would like to. I mean know in the biblical sense. Like, fucking. The same kind of glance I sometimes caught Salil giving me, which made half made me want to run away, half made me want to tease him. I must have been at a further point than Anne, where I was more easily influenced – she was still reacting to his stare with indifference, with a calm kindness that made me feel a bit better. I began to think that I had just tricked myself in her room on the first day. What I didn’t see was that this unambiguous kindness just got him going. Just like her silences… Natural and elegant, they were the exact opposite of Elsa’s twittering. It was like day and night. Poor Elsa. She didn’t expect anything, she remained enthusiastic and restless, always just as hassled by the sun.Continue reading
The following morning a sharp, hot ray of sunlight woke me up, flooding my bed and drawing me from the weird, confused dreams where I struggled. I drowsily tried to shield my face against the heat with my arm but soon gave up. It was ten o’clock. I went down to the terrace in my pajamas and found Anne leafing through the morning’s papers, checking her work phone – her makeup was light and perfectly done. She never let herself have a real holiday. Since she was ignoring me I sat quietly on a step with a coffee and a cold orange, and focused on the joys of the morning. I bit into the orange, its sweet juices rushing into my mouth, then straight away took a gulp of the steaming black coffee, and then again the coolness of the fruit. The morning sun made my hair hot, and smoothed out the marks of the sheets on my arm. In five minutes I would head down to swim. Then Anne’s voice made me jump.Continue reading
Anne wouldn’t arrive for a week, so I made the most of my last days of real holiday. We’d rented the villa for two months, sure, but I knew that once Anne arrived I wouldn’t be able to properly relax. Anne gave things an edge, and gave words meanings that me and dad would happily ignore. She set down the law of good taste, of good things, and we couldn’t help noticing it in her sudden changes, her wounded silences, her expressions. It could be interesting, but also tiring and humiliating since in the end she often had a point.Continue reading