Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Episode 96 | Motherless mother

Catherine felt her heart sink, when with one last beep her mobile shut off.

She knew exactly how oversensitive her child was – from a small boy, Laurent was feeling hurt and crying at the smallest things. When he was a three or four years old child, she had asked Carlo to kill a spider, and the boy had cried in desperation as the creature was chased and smashed in a corner of the chalet. And then, begged his father to promote a proper burial for the torn insect. Catherine had been dumbfounded. He would either avert his eyes or sob, when fishes were being brought onto the beach by the canoes that had been out fishing. He would have nightmares if he saw the fishes flouncing and struggling in the nets or baskets, helplessly gasping for air. Of course, he wouldn't eat them, nor anything that resembled an animal. He had been that kind of adolescent passing around petitions to save the whales and panda bears. Lately, Laurent's nonsense had found justification in Buddhist practices of equanimity, that proposed all beings were equal -- to Catherine's exasperation. But she couldn't do much, since mother and son hadn't cohabited for more than a decade. 

Just like Carlo, from early childhood she had realized Laurent had many artistic talents – but Catherine believed in artists being determined, disciplined and obsessive to achieve success, and those were the values she had wanted to instill in Laurent – while Carlo, soft by nature, had only encouraged Laurent’s sensitive and intuitive qualities. 

She believed that artists had to skilfully learn how to be strong and thick-skinned, more than just naturally develop their sensibility. She had been stupefied that, instead of hard work and dedication, a single shot of luck had finally launched Carlo’s career, a career he had almost given up along the years, simply because he had always lacked self-confidence and determination. Being a disciplined hard worker herself -- even in Russia, she was often being called 'workaholic', an awful word she despised --, she had not quite understood how nor why Carlo's weakness and cowardice should be rewarded. And she feared that his effortless success had had the wrong kind of impact on Laurent’s personality.

Observing her teenager son, she feared the damage had already happened. Despite the years away from Carlo, Laurent had consolidated his melancholy into an almost permanent depressive state, with that susceptibility she considered a flaw at his core. Catherine could imagine him bursting into angry tears (like too often, when he was a child and a teenager) at the sudden end of their call, melodramatically wandering around the hotel room in Vice City, with his shoulders bent, his whole body shaken by sobs, punching and throwing things, and with screams protesting against the injustice of life.

But Laurent -- feeling that the world conspired against him -- himself was so unjust with her. His oversensitivity had the downside of making him insecure – and all their common life, mother and son had struggled with Laurent’s inclination for emotional dependency, and Catherine’s intent to uproot it.

Catherine had herself endured and survived Celeste who, from an early age, taught her daughter to avoid calling her 'mother'. Celeste had disliked and at all occasions evaded being seen with Catherine when she was a little girl -- but as she grew up and became a lovely, attractive teenager, Celeste loved to be mistaken for Catherine’s sister. 

Catherine had often felt like a motherless child, being taken care either by nannies or the maids in the Parisian apartment, many of them immigrants who captivated and dumbfounded her with their foreign habits and their not the least accurate French.

Opposed to Celeste, who had never called Catherine 'daughter', she had always addressed Laurent with tenderness -- 'my son', 'my dear', 'darling'. But Laurent, of course, took it for granted, unable to recognize her love expressed in words, that were so meaningful to her. She had never heard any of them coming from her own mother. And he had always demanded, even begged for more from her. 

Realizing that, Catherine had permanently tried to motivate the opposite attitude in her son – often leaving Laurent to himself so that he could make his own decisions and grow out of his sick dependency, that Carlo had disastrously encouraged. Laurent’s training was short-lived, though, because only two years after Carlo had left, at fifteen years old Laurent had met Angelo and gladly handed the other boy power over him.

Catherine had preferred to risk being taken for a distant, careless mother – rather than play the role of the overprotective parent who would hinder her son’s emotional growth into a healthy maturity.

But at the thought that, probably, instead of abandoning himself to anger and despair, Laurent might have engaged in sex with the guy – or guys – he had mentioned that was – were – in his hotel room, a smile brightened Catherine’s face.


The hungry termites had transformed the apartment into an eighteenth century precursor of the lofts, consisting of one long room that integrated the office and library, the tea and conversation rooms, the living room and the dining room, once the wooden panels between them had been removed. Only the bedroom and the bathroom had still kept some privacy. The windows giving to the Neva river conferred the rhythm and unity to the ambients. There was no kitchen, what suited Catherine perfectly -- she would have eaten out every day anyways, and she was generously paying and elder neighbor to bring her le petit déjeneur

"You smell delicious, Katerina..." Upon seeing his lover standing pensively by the dining table, quiet and immobile, looking distant, her head charmingly tilted as if she was trying to hear a faint song, Vlad had purposely put on his socks to silently sneak along the squeaking floor. He tiptoed on the antique rugs -- a single one of them worth more than all his possessions --, and when he was just a dozen steps away from Catherine, knowing the wood boards on the living room were tremendously noisy, he took impulse to glide swiftly and then jumped on her from behind, grabbing the startled woman by the waist. Catherine had an impossibly beautiful waistline that made the curves of her buttocks and breasts stand like the creations of a master sculptor -- that desirable when she was so old already, and Vlad could only imagine what wonders they would have been when she was young. Mistaking her inner smile for an approval of his assault, he squeezed her tight against his naked torso, in a haste starting to undress her, to the urgency of his hard-on.

"Not now, Vlad." She said coldly, but not moving apart an inch. Because her blasé reaction hadn't stopped him, Catherine had to slap his intrusive hand and push him away harder than she normally would like to, almost losing her balance -- and her elegance. Of all her recent lovers, Vladimir was distinctly the one to make her lose the temper the more often. "You don't smell so delicious, yourself." The scent of vodka that permanently tinged his outbreath and sweat often disgusted her, and until she had drank something herself, it was rather nauseating.

He sucked in a breath, unable to find the words to retort, so big was his surprise -- yet smaller than the rejection he immediately felt. "Your bad son spoiled your morning humor, Katerina?" He said, sarcastically and still breathless.

"There is nothing bad about Laurent, Vlad. Stop picking on my son!" She clapped her hands to drop the subject.

"Yes there is. He is a sinner. Next time I want to talk to him!"

"My son, a sinner? He is not even religious!" Catherine braced herself for yet another medieval duel with Vladimir. "How can he be a sinner?"

"You know very well, Catherine. Sleeping with other men is so wrong. That’s a sin."  

Her young lover was so fixated in Laurent that she sometimes wondered if, in some wicked and devious way, he hadn't already fallen in love for her son and was struggling with feelings he rejected himself. She had spotted his erection, that he almost proudly displayed under his old fashioned underwear, and instead of attributing the cause to herself, thought Vlad was clearly aroused at the subject of Laurent's sexuality.

"Are you aware that 'sin' is a word that cannot be translated into every language, since in several of them there is no equivalent for it? Sin is a concept that doesn't exist in several cultures, Vlad! Sin doesn't exist everywhere on this planet. Sin is not universal, Vlad!" She glanced at him, reproachfully. She thought men who wore underwear and socks always looked ridiculous -- and she knew Laurent loathed it, too. Especially Vlad, who was wearing black socks and white underwear. She could have laughed at him, but she had realized the young man was having a hard time dealing with his imperious morning lust, and with her dismissal of it.

"Only because these cultures must be a sin in themselves, altogether! Their core is sin, Catherine. Just like some people who are so sinful won't even realize how deep plunged into it they are..." Instead of an statement, it sounded to Catherine that Vlad had posed a question. But she knew it was due to his difficulties with the French language. She didn't feel confident herself to speak Russian, though she could read it perfectly, and was almost thankful that the young man at least bothered trying to speak to her in French. "You will never cure your son if you keep defending him from his… faults, if the word sin is the problem here!"

Cure? What reply was there to that? Deliberately, Catherine decided to lose her patience with her stubborn companion. At what age do young people grow up and leave the idiotic arrogance of adolescence behind?, she thought, and decided to give Vlad a push. 

"Don’t you think that your father beating you and your stepmother is much worse a fault, Vlad?" She had found out that hideous detail about Vlad’s household by chance, told as gossip by a colleague teacher, who wanted to see Vlad thrown out of her bed to get into it himself. She hadn't talked openly about that yet with Vlad, but she had learned it had been his main reason to leave the village of his birthplace. "And the fact that he cheats on her, too?"

Vladimir gulped and grew pale, or even more pale than his beautiful white marble complexion already was. He had been stroking his goatee with one hand and the tip of his hard-on with the other -- and he froze. 

"Leave my family out of this, Katerina!" He stomped a foot. "My father sleeping with other women is a natural weakness from men." He went on, hissing, his eyebrows arching towards the top of his forehead, his eyes burning like green coals. "And he only beats her when he is too drunk."

"But that’s gasthly!" Catherine moaned. "Natural weakness? And how 'weak' are you Vlad?" She did not wait for his answer. "He only beats her when he is 'too drunk'?! From the way that you keep drinking yourself... Am I being warned?" From the perplexed look on his face, Catherine knew he had lost the thread of her reasoning. "Your arguments are medieval, Vladimir! How can you accept that? You should be ashamed of yourself!" She then turned her back on him, since he had resumed stroking his chin and the erect organ, and she could no longer stand neither.

Vlad thought she was teasing him further, turning her buttocks to him, their deliciously soft curves outlined under her tar black dress -- since Edoardo's death Catherine had decided to wear only black, since it suited her best than all other colors -- gently swaying as she shifted from one high heel to the other. "Nobody is perfect, Katerina!" 

Upon seeing him retreating so defensively, just then did she ponder that Vlad's need to constantly reinforce his masculinity and his aggressiveness must have been side effects from his helplessness and frustration at his brutish father's abuses. She was disappointed with herself. Had her lover been a character in one of her books, she would have read him better, already. And how far would those maltreats have gone, she wondered, at what age had they started and how long would they have lasted, to have made Vlad so grossly homophobic?

"Still, I think you could – and should -- do better than that, Vlad. Especially if you want to emigrate." Catherine did appreciate his writings, so poetically elusive, and she was agitating what she considered his best novel to be properly translated and published in France. That could be a lengthy process, however, and she did not expect them to be still together as a couple by the end of it. Vlad would have the autograph’s night in Paris he dreamed of; she would have been responsible for making it happen, and that’s all that actually mattered -- not whether she would be there with him or not. Since her investigations about the Rostoff family had just begun, she wasn't planning to return to France any time soon, while Vlad was in a hurry to leave Russia.

"I certainly do better than other people I know. Or even than people you know, for that matter, Katerina." With a gesture towards the dead mobile phone lying over Catherine’s writing desk, he seemed to imply he was closing the circle and again talking about Laurent.

"If you think so, Vlad." That very moment, Catherine simply gave up debating with her lover, for the rest of the morning.

It was a pity that, despite being so lyrical in his writings, he could be such a moron in the everyday life. But at least he also enjoyed drinking, and had taken to himself the task of keeping the apartment she had rented in St. Petersburg stocked with liquor – that he would go out to buy with her money, of course.

Catherine poured herself some wine -- French, for sure, and yet not as good as she would have preferred. She had started wondering whether Vlad bought cheaper liquor to keep the rest of the money to himself, or if he really had no sophistication at all, deeply rooted still in his peasant origins that made him have quite coarse tastes. 

With her glass full, she sat to read what the translator had delivered on the documents she had found about the Rostoffs. And she smiled silently, like she had before the argument with Vlad had started. She had been defending Laurent, when her son had accused her their whole conversation through. She wondered if Laurent would have defended her against accusations coming from one of his lovers -- because she was certain that Celeste, her mother, would never have. 

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