For my Mother, who tried to murder me…

October 17, 2015

Lipstick and Bubblegum (2014)Jonathan Lanis

Today you seem not quite real to me. You’ve become this complex construct called mother, the beginning of an evening of illusions, a discordant note somewhere between domesticity and open eroticism. Tall, slim and dark, I have this memory of you in a waist-cinching corset, black with flame-red bows, and a pair of fishnet stockings, also black. In my mind’s eye I see you bending forward, your derriere framed in lush black velvet.

How old would I have been? Five, six? A little older? An unfortunate witness to your polymorphously perverse sexual experiences. I remember a man on his knees between your spread legs. You were sitting on the chaise longue (late Louis XV) in your “boudoir” – your private inner sanctum, where secrets were made and then kept under lock and key. I was privileged to be allowed in there at all, you said.

Many times you were there in company with other women. S for example. Both of you often half-undressed…

But then the past evaporates under this cloud heavy sky. I have to cook you up again, but only half-trust the recipe.

However, once again, I hear your panting moans. What can he be doing to you, that man? I felt so perplexed at the time. His face in your lap – which later, I recall, you told me never to speak of again. Never. Not to anyone. But I believed he was hurting you.

‘The mind’s not a violin to be tuned,’ you once told me. That was much later, I’m sure. ‘Although it is a fine instrument…’

Your words return to me often, weave their way across the fabric of my days…So many words like bits of paper blown in the wind.

‘I tried to get rid of you,’ you said on another occasion. ‘Unfortunately abortion was still illegal at the time. So I took this medicine S obtained for me, but it didn’t work. Purgatives. And hot baths that scalded. Nothing would dislodge you from my womb. Eventually, in desperation, I hurled myself from a moving double decker bus in Shepherds Bush. I was six months pregnant and landed on my belly. On you. I thought that would do it…But I was wrong. It wasn’t enough. And I had a broken ankle for my troubles.’

Why did you tell me this?

To hurt me?

Or to assuage your own guilt?

I was around eight or nine years of age at the time of this confession.

‘Why,’ I asked you. ‘Why did you do that?’

‘I didn’t want you. You were a part of the everyday. It’s where people live who are trapped. I did not wish to be trapped…But then there was your sister, also, to consider.’

So you used my sixteen year old sister as an excuse for your attempts to abort me: she wanted nothing more to do with you, her mother; you were too old to have a child; she didn’t want to share her life with a baby brother. And, anyway, your body would look obscene.

You recited the reasons like some priest or shaman chanting Samoyedic curses. You wore your self-justification with such breathtaking ease. Your intelligence and restlessness provided the bridge between narcissism and self-defense.

Your own father took photographs of you in the nude. You were aged nine or ten – or so you told me. You had some of those photographs in the white suitcase above your wardrobe, and you took them out to show me. I remember one of you sitting on a table, one leg drawn up to your chest, and another in the bathtub covered in soap. You told me you’d had over a thousand lovers in your life.

One time S put her hand in my shorts while you watched. Her ministrations led to erection. S always had a supply of cognac in her silver flash. You sipped from the flask and told jokes. P was with us, too. You kissed her on the mouth, I recall. Her fingernails were so very long and red. S continued, almost absent-mindedly, to kneed my little stiffy.

‘Like all good soldiers,’ you said, ‘he stands to attention.’

The three of you laughed but my eyes filled with tears and I felt that I might faint, the feelings were so incredibly intense.

You were disinterested in motherhood. You made that very clear, and at an early age. Our relationship involved much verbal abuse and belittlement. You would have happily murdered me in your womb – you told me so often enough. Even as an older child, you saw me as nothing but trouble. A problem to be dealt with. I think at times you hated me.

But on occasion there was closeness – Christmas time, for example. The exchanging of gifts in bright wrapping paper. Laughter. Food and drink. And, of course, your birthdays when gifts of perfume thrilled you to the core.

Growing up, I took your friends in their various stages of undress as a normal fact of life. Father was more often away than not, so you indulged your taste for the outré and barbaric. And why not…?

Now, here, years on, I feel a sense of despair. Unraveling the dichotomy that was you, has released this despair in me. We are, I realise, essentially just sexuality and hunger. This is the essence of the human animal, the bald ape that runs amok around this world. We must fuck, we must eat. But can we live by this music alone?

I can of course make Gods for you, mother. But then, I believe, you made enough of those for yourself, didn’t you? Gods and Goddesses. I shall never forget those heavily cosmeticised “Goddesses” in your boudoir, superior beings with jiggly breasts, endowing us with their laughter and light kisses to cheek or forehead. Brilliant “Goddesses” who kissed us to sleep, and whose mouths tasted of lipstick and peppermint and cognac. They, mother, are your legacy to me.

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