ME AND MY CAT
Not getting to the stove until hunger became unsufferable, I drank beer, within reason, smoked and sweated.
Bibi my cat, with her large frame and her flabby belly and her dress that made her look like an old fashioned feline emcee, was spending most of the day in the obscurity of a closet in search of milder temperatures, and came out only to satisfy her basic needs, depriving me of the sight of her.
Maybe she felt my anxiety, or it was because she ate less at each meal, but instead of letting me sleep and forget my troubles, she would wake me up around three or four in the morning to eat.
I was so disillusioned with human beings that I almost came to like the cockroaches, and my affection for my cat grew. I did anything in my power to make her happy. I developed my ability to understand what she wanted from the way she said "Meow" and where she sat. With a brushing of her head I couldn't be wrong, but I had to be careful not to get her too excited, otherwise she would start to grab my wrist in her jaws or her paws and I would remeber the Comtesse de Segur's stories about the Model Little Girls where they would be reprimanded if they had cat marks on their bodies. Me, nobody ever seemed to have noticed when my skin was broken by falls or mosquito bites.
A deep stroking of her pliant ears was another treat. If I went deep enough with my index finger and held her ear between index and thumb, she would start kicking but my index would come up waxy.
Around 10:30 every night she jumped on my bed and intimated me to get ready to sleep.
Something else I enjoyed during these hard times was the natural perfume of the Lily of the Valley. I had a German-made bar of soap with this perfume, and as it was getting too thin, instead of throwing it away I put it close to my bed. The perfume was the real thing. It transported me back thirty-three years, when my father would take us to the mountain just two miles behind where we lived, and around May we would look for these flowers that meant "Spring is Here", filling me with renewed hope. The beauty of the forest enraptured me all over again and I could spend a good forty-five minutes renewing myself and drawing strength from this memory.
The business at hand, though, soon resurfaced among sensuous pleasures, and I still didn't know what to do.
YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN, BABY
I screened everybody I had known in New York and they had all blacklisted me. Even people who had said they would help me had in fact only tried to make me feel I could count on them, and had let me down in time of need.
Not a single man or woman could I find, of whom I wouldn't think "No, he did this or that to me. She's not on my side. She would take money." And I couldn't either come up to some stranger with my burden and expect him to make it all right for me. I would expose myself again to treachery. My mind was racing like a desperate mouse in a labyrinth. If I wasn't even safe from them here, what was the use of enduring all the hardship? It made the suffering purposeless. All I could do was write. I wanted to relate what was going on, thinking that if I should die, by my own hand or otherwise, the account of the events preceding my death would compromise all those who had conspired against me.
BACK TO FRANCE?
From the fact that my creative attempts were ruined in New York, and that if I wanted a regular job I didn't have the right to work, and also from the awareness that I had so little legal protection, I concluded that I shoud move back to France.
After all, there I would be a legit French citizen and have more rights. If I had to work as a secretary to survive, at least I had the right to work. This would save my dignity, or at least shreds of it. Employers wouldn't be able to dismiss me without an acceptable reason, unless it was during the probationary period.If I were in France, at least I would have more power.
Another good point about returning to France was that I would be closer to the affair of my father's estate, and would be able to better check what my mother's notaries said against reality, without incurring astronomical phone bills. Also I would be able to live rent-free in one of the apartments in my father's building.
But over all was the fact that I had experienced the proverbial "She can run but she can't hide". I had thought that by putting the Atlantic between me and family, I would be safer, and I hadn't considered that some of its members would follow me in the shadow, and engineer unsuspected traps for me to fall in.
I remembered the succession of events since I had come here ten years ago, and looked at each of them applying the working hypothesis that people involved in my work and housing, and even my emotional and sex life, had been bribed to disrupt it, leaving me no energy to pursue my life-goals. Every time I applied it, the hypothesis stuck. With a ten years hindsight I saw a pattern: I started to work, I found lodging, I lost the work, I lost lodgings. Decision makers at work had been paid to dismiss me after I had secured the job, how I didn't know, with money, threat or both? Thereby forcing me out of my quarters to then fall into the lodging trap of sharing rooms with people who had been placed on my way. Sick.
The down side was that I would be surrounded by family, and that I wouldn't be able to turn down all invitations to family gatherings. I would have to change the lock first thing before moving in, and have the apartment and telephone bug-checked, and in general take extraordinary and expensive measures to ensure my safety and privacy. I would have to be firm, not let them in under any circumstances, not even my mother. I would fight back. I would assert my rights. I wouldn't let them walk all over me like before.
With this new resolve, I started to make plans to return to France. I called up an international freight company and inquired about their rates. As I proceeded mentally in the new plan, a feeling of despair was rising in me. ,then I got angry. My mother was keeping money that belonged to me. Since february of 93, $7,500 were owed me as my share of an apartment building's revenues. But every time I asked for my money, she made it a wrenching experience. She always tried to extort some signature from me in exchange for the money and the prospect of going through the ex- perience discouraged me from asking. However I couldn't spend another two weeks like this, waiting for the French Francs check to clear and as a last resort I called her up in Brittany.
She interrupted our conversation shortly after it began. I heard her say "Come on, Youri, fight back! You'll see worse in your life, you know". I asked what was going on. She explained that she was with two of her grandchildren, Agnes'daughter Gabrielle, 6 years old, and Fran‡ois's son Youri, 9 years old. There was also a boy from Chernobyl, 11 years old and an au-pair girl. Right now, the boy from Chernobyl was harassing Youri, that's why she had encouraged him to fight back. Then she added, as if she had second thoughts "Maybe he's too young to fight with an 11 years old boy." Obviously, this thought had never entered her mind when my older sisters had harassed me when we were children. Or she had thought that I wasn't worth protecting. Was she saying this on purpose? I asked if the boy from Chernobyl had been irradiated. She exclaimed with an insane pride in her voice that no, this boy was from the intelligentsia, meaning I suppose that he didn't live in the vicinity of the power plant like the blue-collars did. Then she explained that the City of Evreux, near which she lived, had organized for 50 children to spend vacations in France and she had volunteered to take one. Finally I could speak about the reason why I was calling, which was to request that she send me the money she owed me. It would be difficult she said, she didn't have that much with her. Then she asked me to hold on and returned to say that she had three bonds with her, totalling three fourth of what was owed me. She could cash them and send me the money the next day by wire transfer. I explained that I had decided to return to France and asked if any apartment was vacant in the building in the south of Paris where other family members lived. She said one tenant would leave at the end of july and she could hold the apartment for me. "After all, why pay rent if you don't have to?" she asked. "Besides, it's your right. As a family member, you take precedence over other tenants". She was trying to make me forget how my father had evicted me eleven years earlier with the threat of having his strong arms forcibly remove my belongings from the apartment I was occupying. So it was agreed she would send the money the next day and I would receive it within four days. She had made it look like I was asking a lot of her, but that, being a good mother, she would go out of her way to oblige me. I had been forced to explain that I was in a difficult situation. I hung up with a sense of relief although I felt humiliated and angry at her. She was not being generous, it was MY money, six months overdue.
CALL TO MOM
On Monday July the 19th I sent a fax to Me. Laurent confirming my agreement with my mother on the following points:
- immediate transfer of the rent money owed me since last February; (FF40,000)
- sending me a check for the amount of my share of the house in Brittany (FF120,000)
- putting at my disposal an apartment in the building in Paris 13eme.
That night I dreamed it was the first day I was back in Paris, walking the streets in an old and fashionable district, in search of people and places I could relate to. I engaged conversation with a woman who led me into a house. There were only women inside, beautiful, cheerful, nicely dressed, and one after another made me visit the floors of the house. There was an inside staircase. Everywhere was luxury, delicate food, costly furnishings, carpets and bibelots. Women looked happy as if under the influence of a mild drug. They treated me like the guest of honor, grabbed me by the hand to show me a dance studio, a library, a music romm, all kinds of places where I would like to spend time.
They said that they would like it if I came to live with them. When we reached the highest floor, I understood that they were all lesbian and that I would have to perform sexually with women if I wanted to enjoy all the good things. Then I returned downstairs and saw a group of young girls coming out of a room. They and the young women who supervised them looked fresh, clean and innocent. I entered the room they were leaving, and saw that it was a room with a shallow pool where other girls were still splashing around. Floating in the pool were what at first sight looked like dolls, but when I took a closer look, I saw they were dead fetuses in various stages of development, some tiny, some big, that the little girls had been playing with.
As I was going through the process, which entailed some heart- wrenching decisions, my apartment was becoming more and more chaotic and when I returned for the last trip I realized that if I didn't straighten out everything right now I would lose control of myself, start yelling and throwing things, go berserk. So I started putting the books I had kept, back into the shelves. The activity calmed me. I felt the survival instinct was making me do it. Early in the afternoon everything was back to normal in the room. Yes, the problem with a home-made job would be either the bad view if I slit my wrists in the bath tub, or the cockroaches which would invade my body as soon as I stopped breathing, if I od'd on my bed. I really didn't like the idea either way. And what would become of my cat? What I would do, I would bring her to the vet and have her put to sleep before I would kill myself, so that she would die a happy cat.
I didn't know who spooked me the most: the Slavits working at my undoing, or the landlord with this evil look I had caught on his face. I wanted to ask him to cease an desist. "Don't do it!" I wanted to beseech him. But I felt I had no bargaining power. "Do what?" he would ask. "What my mother told you to do." He would tell me I was nuts but I knew he was following her orders. But I didn't want to let him know that I knew, and arguing my case on the basis of humanitarian consideration would be a waste of time with him.
With the newly arrived money, I would be able to die in style. I would reserve a room at the Plaza, dress like a star and drink champagne to celebrate my doom. After a few champagne bottles from room service, I would inflict upon myself the good-bye blow, leaving behind a diskette that explained it all. My story would boil down to this: Woman kills self to avoid murder. They would find me the next day. That looked better already. So getting rid of my books looked like a step in the right direction whatever I did next. If I committed suicide, my story would boil down to this: "Woman Kills Self To Avoid Murder.
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