48 • pearls around the neck
started depicting herself in her paintings, much like Frida Kahlo. She poured all her energy into it. It
was a terrible thing to witness, something impossible to understand. Her paintings piled up in a corner
of her parlor, one more grotesque than the other – nightmarish visions of herself.
A few months after her mother died, she took a turn for the worse and had me called in to her.
As I sat by her side, she took my hand in hers and with a sad, but hard smile, she said:
“At last, my mother is no longer here, roaming in the halls of my house… Her presence has always been
unbearable to me! Well, do you remember the book that I never managed to dictate to you? I am going
to tell you the rest of the story.”
Let’s go back to the piano teacher.
I loved him the way one falls in love when one is sixteen. I don’t even remember whether he was
handsome, whether his hair was curly, or whether his eyes were green or blue but I know that he was
the very first man who made me aware of my femininity. His fingers brushed against the piano keys
softly and nimbly to produce a piece by Chopin that I would probably find soppy today but which in
the blossoming spring of my youth seemed the pinnacle of sensuality. In my dreams, I was the piano
whose chords were quivering under his touch. My amorous fantasies had no limits and my curiosity
was quite unsatisfied.
Once, my parents were called away for the entire day.
As usual, my teacher came to give his piano lesson.
I was quite out of sorts. I believe my eyes must have thrown flames of passion and that every single
movement I made betrayed me, because when he looked at me, he suddenly took me in his arms and
I was a gift of prey.
He didn’t play any Chopin that day, but a few weeks later, I realized that I was pregnant. I didn’t tell
anyone. Silence had always been my best ally and our family’s best advisor. I resolved to fully conquer
him. As far as I was concerned, things couldn’t have been clearer. Things were going well between us:
he was madly in love with me. Soon, I would tell him that I was expecting and he would marry me. I
had never felt so happy in my whole life. In spite of my condition, I was glowing, and happy as a lark.
This was short-lived.
One day, as I arrived home from school, my mother dressed in a large white apron greeted me. She
slowly directed me to my room, where a doctor was waiting. I didn’t even have the time to understand;
he immediately placed a chloroform pad against my mouth. When I came to, all my dreams were
flowing away in a large puddle of blood. I never found it in me to forgive her. Never.
Since that day, I have beheld the world through different eyes.
Yet I did get married years later; and I had children. But the wound never healed.”
After this painful confession, she visibly felt better. I was trying to hide my distress and my pity.
“Thank you,” was all I was able to say.
She died tragically.
When her husband passed away, five years later, I helped their daughter and their son empty the house.
We found her self-portraits meticulously put away in the attic.
While looking at them, her daughter broke into tears.
“Since you were her confidant, do you happen to know why my mother hated my grandmother so?