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Authors: Florence Dugas

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BOOK: Dolorosa Soror
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Notes

1.It appears that the brain was not conceived to memorize pain. A perfume, yes, or a pleasant sensation, but not pain. That would explain why some women claim not to remember the pain of childbirth. In spite of this, Florence wants us to believe she can convoke on her skin the physical memory of all the cries of her beaten, mistreated, plundered flesh.

2.The nightgown, and all of Louis's clothes, were impregnated with an odor I didn't identify right away. When I asked, he told me it was Habit rouge. Decidedly, Guerlain never left me (Florence's note).

3.At the beginning of his career, Freud believed hysterics were talking about actual paternal fondlings. Then his Viennese puritanism took over and he finally concluded that these scenes were fantasies. The funniest, or most tragic, consequence of this is that thousands of psychoanalysts have taken for fantasies what were? actually real events. As far as Florence is concerned, I learned that the latent, though inadmissible, homosexuality of her father had become

for her an aspiration to masculine homosexuality, impossible to experience in a woman's body. From this perhaps came her diffuse feelings of guilt, later exteriorized in epiphanies of pain.

 

Chapter XIII

February,

End

 

I entered, and right away there was the odor, dull and ferrous, of blood. I called out, "Nathalie?" My voice reverberated against the walls; then there was silence. All the lights were on in my room. I took two steps.

How much blood does the human body contain? Ten pints? Well, it was all there. An enormous pool of blood surrounded Nathalie, slumped nude in the middle of the room, her hair filled with blood, her body a vivid blue—completely bloodless.

I leaned over her, all the while holding on to the partition, keeping myself above the red lake. Her eyes were closed, her lips curled into the half-smile that I loved so much and yet also irritated me. It looked as if she had been waiting for me, and wanted to welcome me, but was also making fun of me. It was her face as it looked before our first kiss, because she grew serious again when in love. I lowered my head and saw my reflection in the pool of blood.

She had died in my place. Something in me had died with her—that something that was bound to the horrors of my child- hood and early adolescence. She had killed herself because she wanted me to live—and I was just asking yesterday, again, if she loved me! Oh! Of course, there is always egotism in the purest altruism: she had also abolished, in dying, the monsters that
wallowed in her, the unthinkable pain she tried to conjure in masochism, without deluding herself that a love of suffering could not be, and never was, an end in itself.

She had gone farther than I had in the ascesis in which J. P had initiated me. Farther than I would ever go, since she went there for me. Her suicide left me with only one exit—to be born and to be. At last, to be born without a mother's intervention, to be the womb from which I had emerged, to be the cock that had filled that womb, subject to neither father nor law, mother nor faith.

What had she tried to destroy? The little girl who believed herself responsible for her father's death? The adolescent who had tried to control her mother's alcoholism—and who reproached herself for not loving her enough? The one-hundred-franc tricks to pay for her sister's schooling? Happy, happy are those who are orphaned from birth, happy to have their accounts already settled, their culpability extinguished in the cradle, their pain limited to a single primal cry.

She had carved deeply into her flesh, cut the muscles and tendons. Human arteries he deeper than you'd think. She had slashed her left arm, but had not been able to grasp the razor sufficiently with her left hand to slash her right wrist. Dead hand, nearly severed, and the white, hard flash of bone, now that all the blood had run out of it.

Fallen from her bluish fingers, the razor shone in the middle of the pool like a sardonic mirror.
1

I noticed the stereo was on. I would discover later she had died while listening to Mozart's
Requiem.

A theatrical production. Confusedly, I wanted for her to have indulged in this absurdity.

Christianity bases itself primarily on transgression and redemption. What I had before me, this statue slumped in the middle of a red mantle, was a lay crucifixion, the redemption of graver faults. Those we had not committed.

Suddenly dizzy, I dropped to my knees, my hands falling
forward into the blood congealed on the surface of the lake. I was on my knees, my eyes looking into the eyes that mirrored my own.

My arms buckled, and I slid into the pool, flat on my chest. Nathalie's blood, colder than the coldness of the white floor, soaked my red dress. The room I had wanted to be a laboratory had become a slaughterhouse. The slimy cold covered my breasts like an immense hand with diffuse fingers.

Sobbing or shouting, I didn't know which anymore, I slithered across that lake of blood to her, a marble island with closed eyes. Her lips. Her neck. Her breasts. My lips on her parted lips, pulp without life, without vigor. My eyes on her dead eyelids. I crushed her to me.

Much later, I found the strength to get up again. I went to the bathroom; I wanted to avoid my reflection in the mirror. It couldn't be done; my face was streaked with blood as if I had pulled strips of skin from it. I undressed; my dress was terribly heavy. I stepped into the shower without even thinking of regulating the water temperature.

I don't know how long the cold water ran over me. I watched the reddish strands slide down the drain and the water change from red to pinkish, just as when first one rinses a newborn, crumpled up and covered with bloody membranes.

I stayed there a good while, exhausted. And then the cold water little by little brought me back to life.

I returned to the room, and suddenly everything became easier. Telephone a doctor I knew—he would know what to do. Put on a pair of underpants, jeans, a sweater. I found nothing to put on my feet but blue pumps. My everyday shoes were soaked with blood and I had left red footprints everywhere.

While waiting, I looked at Nathalie. Who would have thought a corpse could be so pale? She appeared nearly luminous. By contrast, the s,cars on her buttocks, shaved sex, hips, and breasts appeared more marked than they had a week

I had seen her. We had joked about the fact that the marks seemed to heal more quickly each time, and that I would have to hit her progressively harder. Harder!

The scars from the razor cuts were even more white.

A word came to me: palimpsest. The traces of all our furies rose to the surface. -

The gold rings piercing her face, breasts, and sex, made visible as she lay in the pose of a broken doll, caught the violent glare of the track lights.

The doctor made no comment. He took care of me, in particular.

"Would I be all right?" I said yes.
And I was. Deep inside, everything was even fine. It's not
every day that one is reborn at twenty. I telephoned J. P. He wasn't there. I simply left a message that he should call me back. My voice was calm, poised. Then I called Nathalie's house; her mother was not there. I told the whole story to Clara, who thought it wise to burst into sobs. That left me perfectly cold.

Detached, rather. Akidia, as the Greeks said. The indifference of grief. I felt as if I were watching myself from the outside.

When I think of it today, now that all the words I use to disguise my mourning cannot efface it, I tell myself that this indifference was a momentary means of survival. A refusal with all my being that looked like rationality. Her death had taken her away, and joined me to her side, definitively.

Palimpsest, as I was saying. I too was a collection of scars, and one does not efface scars with new gashes. New marks just make the old ones reappear. Scars are in the head, all of them. And so? One can't efface pain with pain—nor with caresses, besides. One must live with pain, not construct a whole story around it. I thought of some militant masochists I had met once in an SM support group. Specialists in "leathersex," in whipping,
play-piercing. Who looked no further than the first drop of blood! Poor women!

I ended up having to answer questions—and the interrogation lasted interminably because Nathalie was, as they say, "known" by the police. I forced myself not to hear the comments, mezzo voce, of the cops and paramedics. They took away the body. Then everyone left, leaving me alone in a room trampled with footprints. In the middle was a lake of congealed blood, where one could still see, in the hollow, the mark of her body. Where her hand had been. Her hip. Several blond strands of hair were still stuck in the blood.

And since I had nothing better to do, I started to clean up the mess.

Notes

'It was only afterwards that we remarked upon the unusual aspect of the suicide, in which a left-handed girl became right-handed only in order to kill herself. We remembered what Nathalie had told me, what Clara had said to Florence of her strange "business" relationships, and the considerable sums of money we had seen in her hands. The police, whether asked to do so or not, had already ruled it a suicide, and quickly at that. But had Nathalie wanted to leave us with this uncertainty?

 

About the Author

Since the publication of
Dolorosa Soror
in 1996, Florence Dugas has been recognized as one of the most gifted eroticists writing in France today. She is the author of a second novel,
L'Evangile d'Eros,
and several short stories, all published by Editions Blanche, Paris.
Dolorosa Soror
has been translated into Dutch and German.

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