There was no need to be so thoroughly sincere as to tell Laurent about my fear -- that of the baby being doomed because I had violated a sacred island. Anyway, it was sacred for the locals only, not for me, and much less for Catherine, with whom I never shared anything on the legends of the Île du Blanchomme.
If there was indeed any curse for that violation, I invoked it to befall on me. Though, intimately I knew it would be impossible to prevent it from befalling upon us, Catherine and me, as the couple who had disturbed and stirred those energies. But not on Laurent -- that would have been the worst disgrace of all.
At that point in the narrative, at the Île du Blanchomme, Laurent had only been an apparition that I had not yet deciphered -- I hadn't been even considering his birth. And all the time he proved to be a blessing in my life -- so, why raise some sinister suspicion of a curse on him, who had proved over-sensitive to this kind of mystical tales since his childhood? He had already cried that evening, fearing for his mother's health. Why break his heart once again, rather than wait until it would necessarily shatter, at the end of this story?
I never became smaller nor thinner, nor Catherine became looser -- we simply adjusted to the pain that was our pleasure. Many partners lose sexual interest for one another along the long years, but between us, it was the only thing left, until the eve of my departure. I was to her more of a gigolo than a husband for fourteen years, she had said it herself.
And there was our power play, all along.
At first, Catherine justified being on top explaining to me that her skin was still burning and my weight was hurting her.
And even when her skin did not hurt anymore, my subservience was to last -- fourteen years.
Topping me, Catherine controlled and wore me as she wanted to -- I just had to remain hard and hold back my ejaculation, as she commanded me to, and when I came it was with abandonment and relief, while Catherine's orgasms were like the culmination of a power and control exercises -- her pelvic talents included, haha.
I did tell Laurent that it was the happiest time of our lives as a couple -- the couple we never got to be. We ate whenever we had the will, and we surely were hungry because of our intense physical activity.
"You really are a disaster in the kitchen!" Catherine laughed at my confusion, and the filth I made trying to cook for the two of us.
In the early days of our mating we even bathed together, both out of necessity -- I managed on convincing Catherine about saving water -- and for pleasure.
But as soon as I resumed working in the garden and painting the house, while she was busy reading and writing at the small office that became her favorite corner in the house, and I started to smell to a mixture of sand, sweat and paint, Catherine dismissed our common baths.
She became more talkative, and we had long conversations. She told me she had come to the Indian Ocean at her mother's suggestion, on a journey of research and inspiration -- for many years she had applied herself exclusively to the Faculty of Literature, having stayed over the years solely in France. And now, before dedicating herself to the Master's degree, she had decided to take vacations and a change of scenery.
Having found in me an attentive listener, Catherine was able to talk for hours about Literature and her greatest passion -- the Russian writers, especially Dostoyevsky. Her Master's degree would be on Russian poetry, about a woman poet I had never heard of -- Anna Akhmatova, for whom she was preparing a personal, very thoughtful translation.
But she was also on the verge of making a major discovery, with repercussions that would boost her academic career, and she might even change the subject of her Master's thesis.
"I think I can tell you about it, since I doubt my secret will leave this island..." After a few weeks on the Île Blanchomme, Catherine had begun to share with me that same sense of isolation and disconnection from the rest of the world.
In the eleventh century, she explained, there had been an Orthodox Russian monk with beautiful mystical writings... that she believed to have been a woman, having pretended to be a monk only to be able to study and write. She was expecting monetary support in order to carry out her field trip to Russia -- and despite being already in the East, she might have to return to France to arrange the details for that trip.
Catherine's refined intellectualism, paired with her wealthy sophistication, gave me somewhat of an inferiority complex. I could follow her musings and even encourage them in new ways -- but it could never have been enough to compensate the loss of her academic career, when she'd find herself stuck with me in that tropical and barren part of the world, as in exile from the University.
Over time, she came to detest any mention of her academic past. Sometimes, she was annoyed just at my company -- even if I never brought the issue up, I was the only person by her side to know about the glorious expectations she had cultivated, and that never came to be.
But no matter how much Catherine spoke, she always remained in the discourses and intellectual militancy realms. There was nothing personal, never. She could not -- or would not -- speak of herself. I learned to read between the lines her preferences and emotions when she defended or attacked some author -- but not even about her favorite color or food did she speak, nor of her feelings, or her family, or her former love affairs -- her favourite couturier Yves Saint-Laurent being the only thing close to something personal I knew about her.
And all the time, she stated clearly that she was only on holidays in the Indian Ocean, and that she wished to return to France as soon as she could... I felt sad, but not so much hurt when I imagined the reason for her delay in going back home were the good things we were cultivating together.
Conversely, although in bed our relationship held no barriers and could not be any more intimate, out of bed we acted like passengers on a cruise, that knew they were going to disembark at different destinations, and move further towards distinct lives. Therefore, there was some warmth in our conviviality, but not tenderness nor complicity, and in bed there was passion, but never any love. We acted as if nothing was supposed to last between us.
In a relationship with expiration date like ours, we went deep into the kind of freedom of those who would never meet again, but also coping with the resulting indifference for the consequence of our acts. We could entangle our bodies in acrobatic positions, but our souls kept their distance, independent and detached from one another.
After that start when we had been like an intellectual locomotive attached to a sexual rocket, I think we could never have made the necessary corrections to a slower and more delicate couple's life, not without frustration -- and even anger, mainly coming from Catherine, when we moved on to a family configuration and routine, which resembled more to traveling on a precarious cart dragged by a sole mule, on a dirty road full of bumps.
I realized Catherine's annoyance in helping with household chores, and immediately I knew she had no interest nor gifts for a housewife, and wouldn't engage in learning them -- she couldn't and wouldn't cook, nor clean or tidy the rooms she used. She couldn't even wash properly her own clothes. While I had been brought up helping Tarso in everything concerning our daily life on the farm, including our stone house, she was used to being tended to, and she wished to remain being served -- be it a waiter or a chambermaid, or her boyfriend or lover or whatever she considered me to be. When the bathroom plumbing broke, I had to yell at her to make her come out of bed and mop the floor... She felt humiliated. But it was her only miserable moment during those happy weeks, when she momentarily lost a lightness and good humor I was never again going to find in her, away from the Île.
And for fourteen years I was to continue acting like her employee, providing her room service and continuously taking care of our homes, in the two houses that we would have together around the world.