Children’s stories are a source of wisdom. If not, why would they pass from one era to another? Cinderella will try to leave the ball before midnight; Little Red Riding Hood will distrust the wolf and her captivating voice; Sleeping Beauty will avoid putting her finger close to that spindle that attracts her irresistibly; Snow White will stay away from the hunters and in no case will she bite the apple, so red and appetizing, that fate offers her …
Warnings that any young person would do well to follow to the letter.
One of the first books I had was an anthology of Brothers Grimm stories. I read it ad nauseam, to the point where the seams were fraying under the thick cardboard cover, and the pages came off one by one. Losing it caused me inconsolable pain. Although those marvelous tales told me of eternal legends, the books were nothing more than mortal objects, destined to perish.
Before even knowing how to read and write, I made books with everything that fell into my hands: newspapers, magazines, cardboard, duct tape and string. As solid as possible. Object first. Interest in content would come later.
Today I look at you with distrust. A glass wall has risen between them and me. I know they can be poisonous. I know that what they contain can be toxic.
I have been hanging around in my cage for many years, harboring dreams of murder and revenge. Until the day the solution appears before my eyes as evidence: to catch the hunter in his own trap, to lock him up in a book.
1. The girl
Our wisdom begins where the author’s ends. We would like you to give us answers, when all you can do is give us wishes. (Marcel Proust, ‘On Reading’)
I am at the dawn of my life, a virgin of all experience, my name is V., and at the age of five I await love.
Parents are a wall for their daughters. Mine is just a stream of air. More than a physical presence, I remember the aroma of vetiver that permeates the bathroom in the morning; male objects here and there; tie; a wristwatch; a shirt; a Dupont lighter; a way to hold the cigarette, between the index and the heart, well away from the filter; an always ironic way of speaking, so much so that I never know if he is joking or not. She leaves early and returns late. He’s a busy man. And also very elegant. Your professional activities change too quickly for you to understand what they are. At school, when asked about his profession, I am unable to answer, although obviously, since the outside world attracts him more than domestic life, he is an important person. At least it is what I imagine. His suits are always impeccable.
My mother conceived me at the young age of twenty. She is pretty, with Scandinavian blond hair, a sweet face, light blue eyes, a slender figure with feminine curves, and a pretty voice. My adoration for her has no limits. It is my sunshine and my joy.
My parents make a good couple, my grandmother often repeats it alluding to her film physics. We should be happy, but the memories of our life together, in the flat where I briefly live the illusion of a united family, are a real nightmare.
At night, hiding under the covers, I hear my father yelling and calling my mother “slut” or “whore” without understanding why. At the slightest occasion, for a detail, a look or a simple word “out of place”, she gets a fit of jealousy. In a matter of seconds the walls begin to shake, dishes fly and I hear doors slamming. He is an obsessive maniac who does not tolerate that we move an object without his consent. One day he almost strangled my mother because he spilled a glass of wine on a white tablecloth that he just gave him. The frequency of these scenes quickly accelerates. It is an unchained machine and no one can stop it. Now my parents spend hours throwing the worst insults at each other’s faces. Until very late, when my mother comes to take refuge in my room and sobs silently, snuggled against me in my little child’s bed, and then goes alone to the double bed. The next day I see my father sleeping on the sofa in the living room. My mother has used up all her cartridges against that irrepressible rage and those spoiled child whims. For the madness of this man, who they say has character, there is no remedy. Their marriage is a war without end, a carnage whose origin everyone has forgotten. The conflict will soon be resolved unilaterally. It is only a matter of weeks.
However, those two must have loved each other once. His sexuality, at the end of an endless corridor, hidden by a bedroom door, seems to me like a blind spot in which a monster lurks, omnipresent (my father’s jealousy attacks show this daily) but absolutely incomprehensible ( I don’t remember the slightest hug, the slightest kiss or the slightest gesture of tenderness between my parents).
What I am already looking for above all else, without knowing it, is to decipher the mystery that manages to bring two people together behind the closed door of a bedroom, what happens between them. As in children’s stories, in which the wonderful suddenly breaks into the real, in my imagination sexuality is a magical process from which babies are miraculously born and which can arise unexpectedly in everyday life, in often indecipherable ways . The contact, both provoked and accidental, with that enigmatic force soon awakens in the girl that I am a persistent curiosity, and terrified.
On several occasions I show up in my parents’ room in the middle of the night and stand in the doorway crying or complaining that my belly or head hurts, probably with the unconscious aim of interrupting their romping and catching them with the sheet up to his chin and his expression stupid, strangely guilty. From the previous image, that of their intertwined bodies, I have not been left with a trace. As if it had been erased from my memory.
The school principal calls my parents one day. My father is not going to see her. It is my mother who listens, worried, the story of my daytime life.
“Your daughter falls asleep.” It seems that she does not sleep at night. I had to ask to have a cot set up for him at the back of the class. What’s going on? You have told me about very violent arguments between you and your father at night. In addition, a janitor told me that V. used to go to the children’s bathroom at recess. I asked V. what she was doing. She answered me quite naturally: “It’s to help David pee standing up. I hold her dick.” David had just been circumcised and he must have had a hard time… aiming. Don’t worry, at age five these types of games are very normal. I just wanted you to be informed.
One day, my mother makes an irrevocable decision. Taking advantage of my stay at a summer camp, which secretly planned to carry out our move, she leaves my father forever. It is the summer before elementary school begins. At night, a monitor, sitting on the edge of my bed, reads me the letters in which my mother describes our new apartment, my new room, my new school and my new neighborhood; in short, the new disposition of what will be our new life when I arrive in Paris. From the depths of the field to which she has sent me, among the cries of children who have gone wild in the absence of their parents, all this seems very abstract. The monitor’s eyes get wet many times and her voice cracks as she reads aloud those falsely cheerful letters from my mother. After that nightly ritual, I occasionally sleepwalking and find myself walking down the stairs on my back towards the exit door.