THE SEXUAL LATENCY PERIOD OF CHILDHOOD AND ITS INTERRUPTIONS By Sigmund Freud

The extraordinary frequent discoveries of apparently abnormal and exceptional sexual manifestations in childhood, as well as the discovery of infantile reminiscences in neurotics, which were hitherto unconscious, allow us to sketch the following picture of the sexual behavior of childhood.[5]

It seems certain that the newborn child brings with it the germs of sexual feelings which continue to develop for some time and then succumb to a progressive suppression, which is in turn broken through by the proper advances of the sexual development and which can be checked by individual idiosyncrasies. Nothing is known concerning the laws and periodicity of this oscillating course of development. It seems, however, that the sexual life of the child mostly manifests itself in the third or fourth year in some form accessible to observation.[6]

The Sexual Inhibition.—It is during this period of total or at least partial latency that the psychic forces develop which later act as inhibitions on the sexual life, and narrow its direction like dams. These psychic forces are loathing, shame, and moral and esthetic ideal demands. We may gain the impression that the erection of these dams in the civilized child is the work of education; and surely education contributes much to it. In reality, however, this development is organically determined and can occasionally be produced without the help of education. Indeed education remains properly within its assigned realm only if it strictly follows the path of the organic determinant and impresses it somewhat cleaner and deeper.

Reaction Formation and Sublimation.—What are the means that accomplish these very important constructions so significant for the later personal culture and normality? They are probably brought about at the cost of the infantile sexuality itself, the influx of which has not stopped even in this latency period—the energy of which indeed has been turned away either wholly or partially from sexual utilization and conducted to other aims. The historians of civilization seem to be unanimous in the opinion that such deviation of sexual motive powers from sexual aims to new aims, a process which merits the name of sublimation, has furnished powerful components for all cultural accomplishments. We will therefore add that the same process acts in the development of every individual, and that it begins to act in the sexual latency period.[7]

We can also venture an opinion about the mechanisms of such sublimation. The sexual feelings of these infantile years on the one hand could not be utilizable, since the procreating functions are postponed,—this is the chief character of the latency period; on the other hand, they would in themselves be perverse, as they would emanate from erogenous zones and would be born of impulses which in the individual’s course of development could only evoke a feeling of displeasure. They therefore awaken contrary forces (feelings of reaction), which in order to suppress such displeasure, build up the above mentioned psychic dams: loathing, shame, and morality.[8]

The Interruptions of the Latency Period.—Without deluding ourselves as to the hypothetical nature and deficient clearness of our understanding regarding the infantile period of latency and delay, we will return to reality and state that such a utilization of the infantile sexuality represents an ideal bringing up from which the development of the individual usually deviates in some measure and often very considerably. A portion of the sexual manifestation which has withdrawn from sublimation occasionally breaks through, or a sexual activity remains throughout the whole duration of the latency period until the reinforced breaking through of the sexual impulse in puberty. In so far as they have paid any attention to infantile sexuality the educators behave as if they shared our views concerning the formation of the moral forces of defence at the cost of sexuality, and as if they knew that sexual activity makes the child uneducable; for the educators consider all sexual manifestations of the child as an “evil” in the face of which little can be accomplished. We have, however, every reason for directing our attention to those phenomena so much feared by the educators, for we expect to find in them the solution of the primitive formation of the sexual impulse.

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This is an extract from Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: II Infantile Sexuality http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14969/14969-h/14969-h.htm

The Triumph of the Family By Slava Mogutin

this dreadful gray constancy

replaces for me today all colors

green blue red—what other ones are there?

i don’t find a place for me here don’t know where to sit

what to drink and to eat

 

was it long ago that daddy amused himself with his sonny?

the triumph of the family happened

mother was entertaining herself with the daughter

opening her mouth in the vicinity of hers

 

saliva poured slowly from here into there

never before two related bodies

were as close as then

green blue red

gray constancy

 

the identical you will never write like the different one

you were gone gone and the heart was beating

into the armpit like an exploded point

here is this one and here’s another one completely different

you are getting used to signs of differentiation silly

are you getting completely assimilated?

 

while father was amusing himself

mother was entertaining herself

the triumph of the family happened

green blue red

 

the russian word for “family” comes from the word for “pig”

 

1990, Moscow

Translated from the Russian by Vitaly Chernetsky

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Guitar by Bruce Coker

 

I took my father’s guitar from the wall

where it had always brooded;

cradled the soot-black wood, hewn

from an oak that lost heart and died;

struck life into the brutal piano-wire

strings that stung my plump,

pink-fleshed fingers as I

strummed a fragile minor chord.

 

I picked a trembling, defiant arpeggio

that somehow scaled a forbidding rise.

The instrument opened its throat, swallowed once,

and sang again its unforgiving songs.

The booming bass crowed of Jay and his Rooks,

as sharpened accidentals, lacking sustain,

faded unresolved into the diminishing history

of a foreigner at home, a stranger to me.

 

It sang of piano-key teeth cracking

a syncopated smile, chewing

on a chicken-town sandwich. My father,

raising his ragged red flag over a broken castle;

laughing, uncomprehending,

at green Picasso beads. My father,

with my mother’s friends; slaking his thirst

with stagnant water,

and singing only of the past.

 

Extract From Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls by Quiet Riot Girl

 

‘The faults of husbands are often caused by the excess virtues of their wives’ S. G. Colette

1960 is a difficult year for Mr and Mrs Foucault. And also it is the year their daughter is born. They never admit it to themselves, but the arrival of a baby into their lives at this particular point in time is felt by both of them, especially Michel, to be  more than a minor inconvenience.

Michel is in the process of finishing Madness and Civilisation. It has taken its toll. How can you address the subject of Madness, and Civilisation, without facing up to your own demons? His wife is worried about him. But she is pregnant and he doesn’t seem that worried about her. Such is their marriage. As Colette, Madame Foucault’s favourite writer, once said: ‘a woman who thinks she is intelligent seeks equality with men; an intelligent woman gives up’. She gave up a long time ago.

But something about being pregnant has rekindled an old fire in Anne Foucault’s belly. Maybe the fire is the baby itself. There develops  an unspoken battle over which will be born first, the baby or the book. Neither has any choice in the matter of course, but the battle is on all the same. A psychic battle, the worst kind, between husband and wife. It seems like a long time since the pair had enough passion to fight. But now, they are fighting each other once more, not out of love or hate or desire, but simply over the things they are fighting for: Anne for her unborn child, Michel for his ‘great work’.

Mother and baby ‘win’ the battle, and their daughter is born in May 1960, a couple of months before Foucault finally finishes his masterpiece. He is not there at the birth, as he has work to do. He always does. His daughter will learn this soon enough.

But the philosopher is able to spare some energy for another battle: over their daughter’s name. He wanted to call her Eleanor, after Marx’s daughter. But his wife is tired of Marx. And she knows enough to know that Eleanor had not had a happy life. She wants to call their child Colette, after her favourite novelist. Colette had not had the easiest life either, but it had been long and full of self-expression, sensuality and such beautiful writing. Something clicks inside her and she will not give in. Foucault argues and cajoles her, but he only makes it worse. Lectures in Marxist history from your all but estranged husband are not much fun at the best of times. When you are exhausted from giving birth they are more than a woman can take. His last ditch attempt to spread the impact of power is to try and get her to compromise, by calling the baby Colette Eleanor. But that seems the worst option of all. It would be a constant reminder of the fact they couldn’t agree on such a basic l thing as their daughter’s name. The mother stands firm. She gets her way and Colette is born.

The first couple of months are hard. Foucault is preoccupied with finishing his book, and his wife is restless, tentative about looking after such a fragile thing as a new life. She feels alone. That is because she is.

The shadow that hangs over the couple is darker and bigger than either of them realise. This is the year that Paul Mirguet changes the law in France, and erodes the precious ‘Code Penal’. New legislation means that homosexuals are to be included in a list of ‘scourges’ against French society, which also includes ‘whores, alcoholism and transvestism’, and punished accordingly, if they dare express their perversion openly.

This will come to matter greatly to Foucault as he is a passionate defender of the principles of the republic. Well, the ones he agrees with anyway. Nothing is fundamental. But it will matter to him more, because, despite the image to the contrary given by his wife and sudden, beautiful baby girl, he too is a homosexual. His wife is well aware of this fact. How could she not be? It is written all over his sorry French ass.

Mirguet’s law doesn’t affect Foucault immediately in the direct sense. He is too busy with his book, and trying to maintain the facade of a marriage to be much of a pederaste in the active sense at this time.  But there is something about the repressive nature of it, the closing in of a regulatory discourse on sexuality, on people’s freedoms, that has a subconscious perverse effect on the man. You could put it down to a panic at becoming a father, or the coming to an end of his great project, but Foucault, without even realising it, reacts to Mirguet’s Law in quite an unexpected way.

One cool night, when his wife and baby are asleep, Michel leaves his books open on his desk and goes out. He does not have a plan, he just wants to breathe the night air. In the end he finds himself on one of his local haunts, a dingy bar on a side street near the river. He orders a cognac and sits by the window. He notices out of the corner of his eye, a young man coming into the bar, tall, thick set, a bit rough looking, possibly a labourer. The man looks at Michel and Michel looks back through his glasses, suddenly feeling very intellectual and fey. But the man does not seem concerned. He nods at Foucault and then walks past him in a very suggestive manner, clenching his buttocks. He sits at a table a little way from Michel, downs a biere and then leaves, passing Michel’s table again, doing his butt clenching thing. So Foucault takes the hint this time and follows the man out of the bar and down the street, keeping a few paces behind. He sees him turn right into a street, find a square, climb over the fence and into the bushes. Foucault follows, trying not to lose his glasses, his footing, his cool. He makes out the man in the shadows and approaches. But he is not sure what to do. Who will take the lead? Is it supposed to be him? The man decides for the both of them. He undoes his trousers and pushes Michel unceremoniously down onto his knees, guiding his head towards his cock.. Michel Foucault, philosopher, husband, father, kneels and sucks on an anonymous cock.. And, despite everything that suggests its opposite, he feels like this is a ceremony. He might be drinking communion wine, not a stranger’s spunk. Foucault swallows the sticky wordless substance silently. The man moans a little then does up his trousers and disappears into the night.

There is no going back now.

When he returns home, he  goes to his daughter’s room, and stands by her crib, watching her sleep. There is no shortage of love in his heart for this tiny bundle of bits of him and bits of his wife. He stands there and prays to a God he knows does not exist, prays that she will not suffer, not too much, in the coming years that he suddenly realises are going to be full of upheaval. For him, his wife, their daughter, and also the world beyond their little domestic sphere, for France.

The novelist, Colette, once said : ‘a happy childhood is poor preparation for human contacts’. This child, her namesake,  is going to be very well prepared indeed.

 —————————————————

Q: Assuming that we aren’t doomed, chained to sex as our destiny: and from childhood as they say…

MF: Exactly; look at what’s happening in the case of children. They say the life of children is their sexual life. From the bottle to puberty, that’s all they talk about. Behind the desire to learn to read or a liking for comic strips there is still, always, sexuality. Are you sure that this type of discourse is in fact a liberating one? Are you sure it doesn’t enclose children in a sort of sexual insularity? And what if after all they didn’t give a damn? What if the freedom of not being adult consisted precisely in not being subject to the law, the principle, the commonplace which ends up by being so boring, of sexuality? If there could be polymorphous relationships with things, people, bodies, wouldn’t that be childhood?  Adults call this polymorphousness perversity to reassure themselves, and in so doing colour it with the monotonous tint of their own sex[i].

‘The child had a wooden reel with a piece of string tied around it. It never occurred to him to pull it along the floor behind him, for instance, and play at its being a carriage. What he did was to hold the reel by the string and very skilfully throw it over the edge of his curtained cot, so that it disappeared into it, at the same time uttering his expressive “o-o-o-o.” He then pulled the reel again by the string and hailed its reappearance with a joyful “da” [there]. This, then, was the complete gameódisappearance and return. As a rule one only witnessed its first act, which was repeated untiringly as a game in itself, though there is no doubt that the greater pleasure was attached to the second act. The interpretation of the game then became obvious. It was related to the child’s great cultural achievement — the instinctual renunciation (that is, the renunciation of instinctual satisfaction) which he had made in allowing his mother to go away without protesting’ Sigmund Freud  “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (Standard Edition, Vol. 18, pp. 14-15)[ii]

One of Collette’s favourite things is a ball, a red, rubber ball. She plays with it, throwing it against the wall at the back of the house, and catching it. When her parents are arguing she goes out to the yard and throws the ball against the wall and counts in her head: ‘un, deux, trois’… to see how far she can get before she drops it. This repetitive action calms her, and drowns out the sound of the shouting and banging indoors. ‘Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq…’ She does not know what it is that has made her parents so angry at each other, as if they are enemies. Sometimes she worries it is her, that she has done something wrong that made everything go like this. That she is a bad girl and her parents are angry at her. She throws the ball and she counts in her head and she pretends that she is happy, that her maman and papa love each other and will call her in any moment, to tell her supper is ready, or that it is time to get ready to go out on a trip, to the park, or the zoo. They never call her. She just keeps throwing the ball and counting. ‘Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six…’

Once she lost the ball at nursery- she threw it too high and it got stuck on the roof of a shed. She was distraught. She could not contemplate life without her red ball. It made her feel sick to think about the loss. She screamed so piercingly and persistently that the caretaker was called from his day off specially to retrieve the ball and placate the child, a tiny hint of a smile peeking through her tears when he handed it to her. If Doctor Freud had have been there to witness this trauma, he may have concluded she was continuing to play the ‘fort-da’ game, where a baby throws something – perhaps out of its cot – and then delights in the fact that someone, a parent usually, retrieves it, before throwing the object again and thus repeating the process. This, argued Freud, could be a sign of how children learn to repeat traumatic experiences, to relive them, as if to take control, or to turn them into something which they can derive pleasure from, albeit perversely. It could also, said Sigmund, relate to the triumph the child feels at allowing its mother to leave the room without protesting. But Colette was born into a traumatic situation and her childhood was littered with separations and losses. She  has not learned to trust that if her mother or father leaves the room, they are ever going to re –appear. What evidence have they given her, that this is true? What reassurance of their consistency? In the absence of certainty she takes an unhealthy pleasure in those things she can count on, like a red ball obeying the laws of gravity. She throws the ball into the air, ‘Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit’….

It seems so young for a girl to have found a single activity that enables her to relax and forget her problems, the way adults say they do when they go swimming, or walk in the countryside, or have sex. She is a child. Her whole existence should be about joy and wonder and play, with the occasional moment of anxiety or upset. Not the other way round. Not isolated moments of sunshine, free from anxiety, throwing a ball against a wall. She doesn’t articulate this incongruity in her experience, not until much later, when she looks back on her early years with incredulity, and not a little contempt for her parents. But she knows at the time, deep in her heart, that something about her childhood is very wrong. She throws the ball, she throws herself out of her cot, waiting to see if anyone will catch her. She counts in her head, and inside the house her parents keep her subject to the law of sex. ‘Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix’.


[i] From an interview in Le Nouvel Observateur, 1977, Reprinted in translation in The Oxford Literary Review, vol 4, no.2 1980

[ii] http://www.ncspp.org/fortda/index.html

_________________________________

Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls at smashwords (Free!)

Curious Family By Slava Mogutin

In a tiny one-bedroom apartment there lived in misery one family. This family was far from ordinary: both father, mother, and daughter were all boys, and all of them were tough cookies. The boy-father would often send the boy-daughter to get salt: “My dear daughter, go get some salt from the third shelf!”

“But daddy,” the boy-daughter would say, “I have already gone twice to get salt today.” “And you will do so even three times if your father tells you to!” the father would say, irritated. And the obedient boy-daughter would get up on the stool trying to reach the salt. The boy-father and the boy-mother would then run up to the stool and kick it from under the boy-daughter’s feet and start beating her up, screaming, “You damn boy! We’ll tear your balls off!”

They beat her up frequently and brutally, because the daughter was a boy, and also because, due to the fact that the entire family was of the same gender, the government wouldn’t give them a new two-room apartment. But one fine day the boy-daughter realized she was a goose and flew away. It was right on time, because otherwise she would have been simply thrown out of the thirteenth floor window, where the poor family was residing.

1989, Moscow
Translated from the Russian by Vitaly Chernetsky

All rights reserved © Slava Mogutin, 2012

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Projection by Magda Sullivan

When they got back to the hotel and the drugs were safely packed away in the bottom of Susan’s suitcase, they screwed so hard he came close to blacking out. His dreams were laced with her, and when he came to he was still in her arms, her crooning voice soft in his ear while she sang him awake. They showered together, dressed, and she took him to dinner in a family restaurant in the Italian section of town, an area still decent despite the rest of the city. The entire time, that coquettish smile was on her ruby lips, and her lidded gaze only strayed from him when the waiter made his rare appearance. On the way out, he slipped his arm tight around her waist.

“What are you smiling about?”

“Can’t a girl be in a good mood?”

“Girls can. But you…anybody with half a brain in his head is worried when you’re in one.”

She chuckled as they dodged people taking advantage of the break in the winter onslaught to stock up on liquor for the night’s festivities. “I’m just pleased. It’s wonderful to be proven right about someone—you impressed me, you know.”

As he brushed his nose over the auburn mane so near he couldn’t resist, she turned off the car alarm. “I should have had you put together a portfolio of your work. Next time we’re in town, maybe.”

“Why is that?”

“Because our host tonight is a proprietor. She has a fair sense of art, and I’d like her to have you in mind so that when you’re ready to have your pieces in a show, she’ll know your name.”

Richard blinked, grinning against the cold. “You don’t say?”

“Not all my friends are involved in drugs.” She smirked as she shut the driver’s side door behind her. “Just some of them. The rest are more…cultured.”

Heart thrumming in his throat at Susan’s genuine interest in his creative future, Richard flipped down the sun visor to examine his reflection. Almost the entire way to the gallery he straightened the collar of his shirt and smoothed back his hair; at least, until Susan slapped his hand.

“You look fine. If you, didn’t I’d tell you. Keep staring in that mirror and you’ll see the devil.”

He chuckled, caught, and pushed the visor back up. “He’s damn handsome, I have to say.”

Susan squeezed the assaulted fingertips at a stoplight, then leaned to kiss the corner of his mouth. He caught her full on the lips and drew a low sigh from her, one of those husky ones that slid up through the hollow of her elegant throat and leaked against his tongue. Before he could escalate the kiss, she leaned away.

“Don’t get me excited, Richard, I want to enjoy the party for at least a little while.”

With a distraught sigh of the purest melodrama, he leaned his forehead against the icy window. “That’s not fair.”

“Oh?”

“I’m always excited when I’m around you. It’s only fair that you should have to suffer the same.”

Another low chuckle peeled from her lips She patted his thigh before she busied herself with the process of parking the car in Cleveland’s slimy snow. “That just means that I’m doing all the right things.” With a glance into her rear-view mirror and a few fingertips swept across her forehead to tuck back a stray hair, she climbed out. “Just be a good boy, and maybe we’ll see about leaving a bit early so it can be just you and I at midnight.”

That was enough to get him springing from the car, and his enthusiasm stirred a bit of fond laughter from her that brought only the purest satisfaction. It wasn’t hard to make her laugh, but it was challenging to get her to mean it—and she often meant it with him.

Her arm wove through his and she lead the way back down the street, watching the windows of tiny boutiques left dark for the holiday until they came to one glowing with activity, the light along with the people spilling out upon the street like vomit from the mouth of a drunk. Richard glanced up to the sign upon the awning and looked in through the glass; it was a small gallery, one that seemed more like it belonged in Columbus than some dying place like this, the floors dark wood and walls pure white, full of canvases framed and bare. People packed into it like cigarettes bursting from their box, but she steered him through without pause, using him as a shield to clear space in the bustle.

“I see Marie has finally learned how to throw a party.” Susan glanced past Richard’s shoulder to the table against the far wall, its surface lined with plastic cups full of wine and platters of already picked-over hors d’oeuvres

Once Richard helped her from her jacket, all the while leering down at the meager swell of breasts hidden by the neckline of her black dress, she headed straight for the wine. The only reason he could tear his gaze from that svelte figure was to glance over the pieces adorning the walls. Lowbrow work, and abstract; good, not great, but it was still a pleasure to be in a house of art.

Someday, he would be in a place like this. He was already better than a couple of the featured artists who did nothing more than mimic Pollock or produce crude, illustrative political pieces. Maybe it wouldn’t be much longer than a few years before he could offer notable competition. A few years, and people would buy his prints; know his name. They’d fawn over his work, take pieces home with them, and he’d work on commissions, churning out new paintings every week, each piece better than the last. In ten years he’d have a studio someplace like New York, or Boston, or Chicago. Twenty, and he’d be a household name in the world of upcoming artists. He’d have solo shows that attracted more people in one day than would ever see the artwork circulating through this place, popular though it may have been.

It was a future he’d never conceptualized in a complete way before—though, he’d never conceptualized any future before. There was always just the vague assumption that everyone was right: that, yes, someday he’d be in jail for something stupid. There was always the feeling in the back of his mind which he regarded as nothing more than a reasonable projection of the future, based on what he knew of himself and human psychology at large; the knowledge that crept over him when he was drunk, or furious, or bored. Especially when he was bored, rotting from the inside out, because the only real cures for that were the things that put cleverer men in prison cells.

But that was before. Now, he had her, and he watched nurse the wine in such a way that she managed to make the tiny plastic cup seem distinguished as her pale hand. She didn’t treat him like a lost cause whose only hope was damage control, the way Linus did even when he was at his kindest. She didn’t worry about him, didn’t tiptoe around him or look at him with the dumb fear and shame of an abused dog, the way his mother did.

No. Susan treated him the way nobody had since before he could remember. Not a problem to be solved, but a blade to be honed. When he looked at her, his heart swelled with respect; and, more than that, the desire to prove himself worthy of her attentions. It seemed natural now, that craving, not embarrassing or insulting the way it had before.

It was so strange, what she’d done to him.

Their eyes met and Richard glanced away. A grin curved her lips past her teeth, the lines around her eyes deepening like ornaments. “Now who’s smiling about something?”

Face warm to have been caught in the act of admiring her more than he could the pieces around them, he opened his mouth to grope for some excuse; before he could come up with something, a bright gasp cut through the murmur of the crowd around them.

“Susie!”

That exquisite head turned upon a throat made to tempt, her gaze piercing into their surroundings. “Marie! Oh, how are you, don’t you look wonderful.” Susan’s grin changed to a parody of itself, broad and warm: the leading lady’s opening monologue beam.

“I could say the very same.” A woman with olive skin and a distinguished Arabian nose leaned up to wrap her arms around Susan’s neck. She was pretty enough, he supposed, although she hadn’t made it to her forties with the same grace Susan had. “How long has it been?”

“Oh, goodness, ten years, maybe? I just moved back here a few months ago. It’s so good to see you, it sounds like you’ve been doing so well.” Susan pressed a kiss to the smaller woman’s cheek and leaned away. “This space is just marvelous, Marie. We haven’t gotten a chance to look around properly yet, but from what I’ve seen you’ve managed to find some impressive contributors.”

“Thank you, yes, they’re all wonderful artists. You’re going to make me feel bad about myself, you haven’t aged a day. And who’s this?” Marie leaned around her shoulder to look at him, her obsidian eyes bright with nymphish curiosity.

Susan glanced back, waving a hand in his direction. “This is my boy, Richard. He’s an artist, I thought he should get a chance to meet you so I brought him along, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Oh my goodness, of course I don’t mind. I had no idea you had a son, it’s so nice to meet you!”

Richard’s mouth opened to correct her, but before he could find the words he met with the acidic eyes that watched the two like those of a snake observing a pair of mice. For some reason, he didn’t feel the need to clarify the situation anymore—or he lost the ability to. Instead, he smiled back to Marie. “It’s so good to meet you.”

“You have her cheekbones, hopefully you’ll age the way she has, too.” The tiny woman laughed as she stepped away. “Are you a painter, then?”

It was difficult to talk with Susan just out of his focus, that vulpine smile curving her eyes even as she turned to take a pull from her wine. His ears sang with white noise. Why didn’t he correct her? He should have said something instead of just letting it go—but something about it made his heart slam so hard he couldn’t focus on the conversation and his mouth ran on autopilot. “Ah, I am, yes. Mostly acrylic, or watercolor, but I do a little with oil when I’m feeling industrious.”

“Oh, it takes so much patience, I know. Well come on in, enjoy the show, I have to go catch some people who just came in, but I’ll be back to talk to you later, Susan.” She turned to smile up at the figure of divinity who favored her with a nod. Richard didn’t catch any of what might have been said between them, too consumed in the sensation of his face and throat growing red as his shirt.

Once the petite proprietor strode past Richard and vanished into the crowd of people smothering the building, he took to avoiding eye contact with Susan with studious determination. It didn’t help him, though; she pressed to his arm to whisper in his ear, his lungs filling with lily, femininity: her.

“Why didn’t you correct her?”

A shiver tore down his spine. “Why didn’t you?”

She stepped back, her gaze flickering over every inch of him in an instant. His heart flew for that smile on her lips—he wanted to bend to kiss it from her, and almost did, until he realized such a thing wouldn’t do in light of the circumstances. Instead he diverted to kiss her cheek, and she tilted her head toward him with calculated disinterest before turning away to absorb herself in the art.

Every inch of his flesh snarled for her—just a hand in the small of her back, upon her shoulder, wrist, anything, and it settled upon her neck for an instant before she slipped aside to smile. “Now, Richard, is that any way to touch your mother?” She pointed without looking. “Look at this piece over here, isn’t that lovely.”

He did: and it was, he supposed, though he didn’t see it no matter how hard he looked. All there was to see was her, and it made him sick as it did excited, his stomach twisting up against his throbbing heart that pounded irresistible, painful adrenaline into every limb, desire traveling with it. Every hint of her classical profile in his periphery lit his nerves on fire, his body crippled by the majesty of her, of them, of the simple lie that seemed so natural it hardly qualified as a lie at all.

Now and then she would brush against him, touch his face, his hand; each time, his id roared like an animal rattling the bars of a rotting cage, now, now, now, drag her out, fuck her senseless in the alley around the corner, do it, fuck her, make her scream, sink your hands into her, bruise and bite and scratch, and it was so overwhelming that he trembled every step they took, every inhalation he had of the scent that marked her glorious presence.

There was something so different now, all because of one incorrect assumption, but it was funny because it didn’t change anything save for his libido. The charade shook him; it fit too well. Once or twice she stopped to talk to other acquaintances, introducing him as her son, the words coming with such each it was honoring as it was aggravating. To have her so close, but be forced to dance around for the sake of pretend propriety while she ground salt in the wound with little more than a word—it was agony.

After pausing by every piece before finally making it to the other side of the gallery, he felt as though he’d made it across a desert. Susan sniffed over her drink. “Modern art just gets worse and worse every year. Sure there’s a couple of pieces, but so many new artists are so— not themselves, don’t you think?”

Richard batted his eyes, struggling out of his stupor, out of impulses that were eating everything inside him and leaving nothing behind but a great chasm that craved only her. “Yeah, I…yeah.”

She laughed and patted his shoulder, her hand staying there long after it had really gone. “Eloquent tonight, aren’t we.”

“I’m— I—” His teeth clenched. He bent his head near hers, so near that neck, almost close enough to snap off that ear with his teeth. “I think we need to leave.”

“Oh, but Richard, we haven’t even—”

“Mother.” He leaned back, his hand finding her wrist, and when she met the intensity of his gaze and recognized all the things he was doing to her behind it, her eyes flickered around the room.

“Perhaps you’re right.” One slender hand slipped into his elbow; as he whisked her out, she paused only to wave to Marie and wiggle her fingers by her ear in the international sign for ‘call me’, and every part of him howled all the way to the parking lot, the beat of his pulse creeping up in his ears. The whole time Susan kept up with him in silence, her eyes glued to his face until the got to her car tucked away in the back of the parking lot, but before she could slide her key into the lock he pressed himself to her.

“Not in the front. In the back.”

Richard buried his mouth in her neck, hands finding her hips. She moaned, glancing over her shoulder. “Aren’t you a dirty little mommy’s boy.”

The beast inside him snarled and he found himself echoing it, sinking his teeth into her tender flesh: her cry brought him a shock of rapture all its own. Soon—not soon enough, God, never soon enough—the door was open and he shoved her in, his hands everywhere as he climbed in after her and pushed his mouth wherever he could get it. Her lips, her jaw, her neck, her breast, he’d even settle for her clothes as long as it was attached to her, part of her, Susan, sweet and vile Susan for whom he roared and who he adored in ways and intensities and reasons for which he’d never felt for Elaine, Elaine who was the mother in his veins but didn’t deserve to be, Elaine who was a pathetic old woman wrapped up in her depression, always trying to play a guilt that wasn’t there because it was the only weapon in her sad little arsenal. Not like Susan who taught him things he could use and saw that he was cared for and bought him whatever he liked and treated him just the way any mother should without even being one, and while she screamed in the back of the car and writhed beneath him in the periphery of his ecstasy, he realized to his horror that he adored her more than he could have if she was his own flesh, worshiped her so much it disgusted him—but this wasn’t the kind of weak adoration of a boy with a crush that lead to things like holding hands or picnics in the park or families and houses with white-picket fences.

No: this was far more. This was hypnotism, poison, enchantment mistaken for affection.

After, the two of them lie gasping in the back of the sealed car that re-circulated heat like an oven until Susan groped above her head to crack open the door. Frigid air swallowed the car’s interior and they both sighed. Richard turned his face toward it, still blind from the symphony of stars that had burst inside his skull. As her panting stilled, she laughed, her fingers smoothing back the hair plastered by sweat to his forehead.

“I thought for a moment that you were going to murder me.”

Richard chuckled without looking up. “So did I.”

Her tongue clicked, her voice lowered to that teasing coo that wrapped him up like a python. “Now, sweetheart, matricide is a terrible crime.” While he shivered, she chuckled and drew his face toward hers. Her expression stilled to one of odd tenderness, the waters of a lake finding peace after the tossing of a stone. She examined him, her lips parted, then lowered his forehead to her mouth to grace it with a gentle kiss.

“I’m so glad to know we’re on the same page, my wicked little boy.”

____________________

This is an extract from a forthcoming novel…

Embrace By Danni Antagonist

Eyes for the whole world, your mother’s every fear.

She sighs, and holds you near,

Would hold you closer if she could.

But you struggle as these reins embrace your burgeoning zeal

Blank canvas, clean slate, yearning for Experience’s seal.

 

You stretch for the out-of-sight and out of reach.

Pioneering ever outwards like spilt milk.

When the border from mischief into malevolence is breached

Swiftly forgiven is this face of spun silk.

 

But relentless years advance

And bombard your eager eyes

With experience.

Hardening the shell

And crossing it with lines.

 

Until you first smell your own sweat,

First puncture the skin,

First taste your own blood.

Toil dirty days, play filthy nights

And wash off the mud.

Faith’s broken and repaired,

Naïveté impaired

Never quite worn away.

Old enough to smoke, old enough to vote

Old enough to make your own mistakes.

 

Then you learn you’ll never be a rock star,

Not quite the Messiah,

And the best laid plans turn to dust.

And that you learn your lessons too late

But learn them you must.

Like how to listen to your gut,

When to trust your own instincts

And when to ignore advice.

And to break the rules sometimes,

That nothing is sacred,

And that every win has its price.

 

You step into the unknown less often these days

Than your younger self would.

You are still your mother’s every fear,

She will always clutch you near,

Closer if she could.

 

From Empty Threats (c) 2012

Danni Antagonist