"In the broad silence, I could hear the girl vomiting in the bathroom. And also crying, angrily, and I think even cursing... She kept flushing the toilet, repeatedly, and I thought I should have warned her about how it was crucial to save water on the island..." And I realized that Carlo had, without warning, returned to the Île du Blanchomme, to the evening of Catherine's arrival. "I waited for everything to become again quiet, and as she did not return to the beach, I went upstairs to look for her in the house."
I found her sitting at one of the tables that Armand had placed on the veranda, around a small lounge which he called the Music Room, where he kept his guitar and the stereo. It was the only room in the house that actually resembled a hostel, with the four tables creating a small eating environment, a bit like a charming Parisian bistro -- and it was there that the girl had sat. She should have found the matches, because she had lit a candle, and under that gentle light, for the first time I thought she looked beautiful in her fancy dress, which bared her back.
I brought her some juice I had prepared that afternoon, thinking she might like to drink something to get rid of the vomit's taste in her mouth -- I didn't mention that to her, of course -- and as an apology for my previous rudeness.
"Merci." she said, when I handed her the glass with juice. Inadvertently I glanced at her generous décolleté dress, and I caught a glimpse of her breasts under the loose fabric. But luckily, she seemed oblivious at my indiscretion. "I hate boats!" And then she was telling me how sick she had been since coming to the islands, having to use boats to get around, and I realized that she too was trying to apologize for her bad temper. "I have once been on a cruise ship, and I also felt sick, but these tiny little boats here... They are dreadful! And worst of all was travelling to this island!"
I tried to tell her the probable reason for the sea being rougher around the Île du Blanchomme were the dangerous currents encircling it, but she did not seem to want to listen to it, and just cut me off.
"Juice?" she grinned, having drunk half a glass until finally realizing what she was drinking. "Don't you have anything stronger?" And she clarified it as I looked at her blankly. "Are you sure that you understand French? Have you ever been to France?" But she did not want to hear my reply. "Don't you have wine? Or anything alcoholic? I need to recharge my energies..."
I laughed. Not at the request properly, and of course not at the fact that she was feeling weak, but at the absurdity of thinking that there could be wine on a tiny island lost in the Indian Ocean.
"Sure!" I told her wryly. "I'll bring you our wine list..." I added.
But she didn't listen to the irony in my remark -- it seemed my Italian accent was affecting her understanding of my French --, and I saw she took me seriously, for she was happy with the offer. She only understood it was a joke when I did not leave her side. I laughed again.
She was immediately offended, and again I saw her mood worsen.
She was furious at me as she jumped from the chair, her anger exploding.
The girl had a delicate constitution and looked fragile, her figure so slim and petite -- her arms were so thin that it looked like they could break with that emotional burst. In contrast to her round breasts, that I found myself watching, and which were not too full but so well made, like those from a Greek classical statue. In her outbursts, her frailty transformed into recklessness.
It is her way of imposing herself, I thought.
"How rude you are!" she cried, full of scorn. "If you intend to host civilized beings, how can you not have wine? What kind of hole is this hostel? Mon Dieu, how long will I have to wait to get out of here?" She snorted.
"Maybe a week..." I replied calmly, without stepping into her anger. "...at least!" I confess I felt a certain pleasure in torturing her with that disheartening information. "I'm not sure how often the boat comes around the island, but I think it never takes more than ten days to return..."
"How come you don't know? Don't you live here?" She moaned. "Ten days? You must be kidding! I need to wait that long for that damn boat? At this hole... with you?" She emphasized the 'you', making it clear that my company was worse than the uncivilized island and the dreadful boat. "Where are the other guests? Is there anyone more educated here that I can talk to?"
"No guests! I've said it before... this is not a hostel..." I said it gently, but it was as if I had punched the girl, who leaned over her own body, moaning, and walked towards the couch at the Music Room, where she collapsed.
"Can I help you? Do you want more juice?" I did not know what to do, I did not know what to say, I did not know how to behave in such a situation, but I guessed I should try. "Haven't you been overexposed to the sun on the beach, this afternoon?" I had noticed her skin was so pale and delicate, and it seemed to me to be overly pinkish, as if she had been assaulted by an army of sun rays. "It could be a heatstroke, and drinking water probably helps..."
"No!" She groaned, and gestured me to back away from her. "I want to be alone!" She fidgeted on the couch, restlessly. "Is the ground of the island moving?"
"No, of course not..." Her ideas were so ridiculous, but I tried not to laugh, and instead empathize with her suffering. "You could still be feeling the rocking of the boat..."
"Damned boats..." she whispered, and it seemed to me that in a couple more minutes she fell deeply asleep.
I went to the kitchen to wash the dishes of the day, and I had to smile as I saw the lipstick mark on the girl's glass. Did I place my own lips on it, before washing the glass? I don't remember if I did it that first night already, but I certainly did it afterwards...
When I returned to the Music Room, she was sound asleep. Against my will, against my education, I again glanced at her breasts... and more intently this time, since I knew I wasn't being observed. From the way her body was twisted, I could see the edge of one of her nipples appearing under the fabric -- and I almost felt vertigo from the overwhelming wave of desire that invaded and dominated me. I had to run away from the room, confused, not to act brutally against the asleep, helpless girl.
I went down to the beach, as far as I could from that girl. What was that?!? Lust burst in me more violently than anything else I had ever felt, an urge like nothing I had experienced before... If I had stayed a moment longer beside that couch, watching the sleeping girl, I could not have stopped my hand from touching her... and not only grabbing her breasts, feeling her nipples... Next, I could have thrown myself on top of her, and maybe...
Maybe... I would had been conceived! I could not help but think.
I was a little embarrassed from the way Carlo was telling me his story, including such intimate confessions. But at the same time I was fascinated with the possibility to acknowledge my own conception... I guess many children have that curiosity about the occasion of their conception, and as a teenager I had once asked Catherine about it. Shamelessly, she had told me a story I now discovered had been thoroughly made up, about their romantic encounter in a fancy resort in Punaouilo -- and I was about to discover the truth.
"There haven't been many women in my life..." Carlo pondered. "From my mother, I remember very little. And when I moved in with my grandfather, he was already a widower. I think I took from him a certain asceticism, and my celibacy never bothered me. In my teenage years in the Apennines there was nothing sexually exciting -- the animals having intercourse and procreating, yes, but that did not arouse any desire in me, to try it myself. Moreover, sometimes we had some guys helping on the farm, but until Armand's heartfelt confession I had never thought of having sex with another man."
Parisian women astounded me, and I simply dismissed, them thinking they were meant for guys like Armand. To my eyes, they were voluptuous, sophisticated, intellectual, all full of attitudes and style -- even the waitresses and shop assistants seemed like untouchable queens to me. I could blush when I recalled them, especially at the Cinematéque, engaging in long, passionate kisses with their boyfriends. And I never considered having one for me -- I had to struggle to survive in Paris, make good use of my time to get the best training possible, and try to somehow establish myself in the city. Most of the times, despite Armand's generosity and hospitality, I felt like a transplanted tree striving to grow roots, against all odds, in foreign soil.
Returning to the house, I thought I'd take a cold shower to calm myself. But that was not what happened at the bathroom, and for the first time since coming to the island, I jerked off. Not even the smell of her vomit still lingering in the bathroom turned me off. I stroked myself feeling a guilty pleasure all the time -- for I was finally wasting the sexual energy I had been diligently accumulating and transforming into vital and spiritual energy, like I had studied in that book about Indian philosophies. And I felt even more guilty for being so aware of the girl's presence in the house... and in my mind... and the fact that she was the reason why I was wildly touching myself like that... and when I came, I was thinking of her bared nipple and how it would have tasted in my mouth...
I had not known how to deal with women, and less did I know how to deal with my own lust.
I had learned from the masters of India that lust was the chief enslaver of human beings -- and since I had never really felt it before, I had considered myself naturally free of it. I took myself for the one remarkable exception to all beings.
Until that evening on the Île du Blanchomme.
It was a tremendous explosion, or as if the walls of a huge dam had collapsed -- and I could no longer contain the force of the waters of my desire. Neither wanted I.
"I went to sleep, and after having fidgeted in my bed for a few minutes, again I masturbated..." Carlo suddenly looked at me, as if returning from the Île du Blanchomme. "Am I embarrassing you, son? You know, I was in my early twenties, and a virgin... Now that I am older this seems so far away... almost a curiosity... and so unlikely to have happened. That strong lust... I was guiltily masturbating in my room, aware of being separated only by a tiny wall from the girl sleeping on the couch, whom I evoked in my wild fantasies... Was she real, or was she just an image? Her presence was real, but what she performed in my mind..." Carlo shrugged, dismissing those recollections. "That girl, Laurent, was not yet your mother... And as I furiously jerked off I was thinking of Armand, too, and equally feeling guilty, and confused..."
Carlo gulped, and the continued. "I was as tormented as I had been the previous night, but it was a different kind of suffering -- instead of nightmares, I was fully awake and aroused by an imperative lust, which I did not seem to want to get rid of... In my mind, I could understand how enslaving it was, but those bodily sensations were so addictive good, so intensely pleasurable... And I gave in, again I gave in to it and masturbated until I exploded and was left drained..."
I eventually fell asleep, exhausted.
I woke up a few hours later, before dawn, again with a hard-on -- and needing to go to the bathroom to pee.
Since Armand had been gone, instead of using the corridor, I had taken to crossing his room, which was next to mine, to get to the bathroom, adjoining his.
I stopped halfway.
The girl must have woken up in the middle of the night, and having left the Music Room, wandered through the house without my noticing it -- but had she seen me, lying naked and hard on my bed? She had found Armand's bedroom and taken hold of his big, comfortable bed.
For a moment I was just confused and baffled. But next I was furious with her, for she had occupied my friend's bed with such ease, something that I had been unable to do even in his absence. I almost kicked her out of that room, such was my indignation at her disrespecting the bed where I had experienced so many emotions and special feelings and sensations with Armand. Of course, to her it had been just an available bed in the hostel, not a love nest...
But I did not wake her up in my rage, only because my demanding hard-on humiliated me... and I cautiously turned back, returning to my room.
Once back there, though separated by a single wall, my fury and indignation quickly vanished to give in to lust -- and while servicing my raging hard-on and watching dawn breaking, I fantasized about both Armand and Catherine, and I was now inside him, then I was in her, and in my thoughts I could not distinguish whom I was with, riding that bed that now united and mingled their bodies into one gender-less body, confusing them in my mind.
I saluted dawn with another big spurt in several ropes that I aimed at my body, so that I didn't have to clean the room afterwards. And all covered with sperm I went down to the beach to bathe in the sea, so as to cleanse myself and to calm down.
For another day in a row I did not meditate in the morning. I did try to sit, but the problem was no longer just calming my mind... since my thoughts kept going back to the girl, my body was no longer like a safe and stable mountain to which I'd bring back my wandering mind. The solid mountain had turned into a blazing volcano.
So I just sat there, feeling the breeze on my naked body, watching the sun rise, and then I swam as long as I could, against the currents, trying to tire myself and pacify my desire.
I felt I was losing it... but what was it? My freedom, probably. My privacy, surely. My peace of mind, of course. I was finally, essentially losing myself, as painful and pleasurable and definite as it could be!
Author's note: having been imported from a former version of the story, some of the comments below are dated previous to this post. Once the plot has not been altered, just the pagination, I am keeping them since they are very dear and precious to me.