Conversation: Julian Howard and Alleyn Wallace
Jul. 18th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm
"I think so, yes. Mr. Tyler may be a tasteless old fool when it comes to art, but he rather likes me."
He seems to be finished eating, and I am too, so I drop a few coins on the table and escort him back to my flat. I have him sit next to me on the sofa. "What went wrong at Oxford? Is that what's really haunting you?" I ask as gently as I can.
I nod a little but do not look at him. "Somewhat. I had to leave uni because I had an emotional breakdown. And it was not one of those fainting spell, 'bit of bed rest will do you good' emotional breakdowns you hear about ladies having when they receive a shock. I was close to going mad... or maybe I did, I don't really know anymore. But I do know I am scared to death of it happening again, and that it was not an isolated occurrence. I was not normal, emotionally, before hand, and I am not now... so, it is what bothers me, somewhat, but there's sort of a larger problem of which it is the most extreme case."
I run a hand through my hair and sigh, still not looking at him. This is not
something I like to tell people... this is not even anything I like to tell myself.
The poor boy. I find myself rubbing his back again. "This life cannot be good for you. I suppose the specialists fed you a load of rubbish, too."
"Of course. No one could quite seem to decide what was wrong with me, and I was not able to help them much. The doctor they brought in at Oxford said I was drunk, and then a day later he accused of being a malingerer. I only got worse after that and they had to call my parents to come up and fetch me. And then more doctors saw me... One of them said I was obviously an opium addict; another said I had been over-exerting myself, and then in private he told me to stop seeing women so often - he was convinced I was sexually exhausted. Finally one said it was neurasthenia, and they left it at that." I laugh under my breath. "I'm not convinced. Half the advice that doctor gave me was wrong. I think the best thing he did was convince my parents to let me go to Italy. He said art would be a good relaxation, or something."
"Was he at least right on that? Was it the art? Or was it simply getting out of this country to a place where you can breathe without fear?"
I sit back, leaning on him, and close my eyes. It helps to feel that someone is there when I delve into these things. "Some of both. Painting always helps; it makes me so much happier. And being somewhere full of color and light and life was good. And Bernardo, he helped greatly. Though I was already getting better when I met him, he managed to heal things I did not know needed to be healed. He was so Italian, and so pragmatic, always telling me to do what I loved, to find release where I could, whether it was painting or fucking, no matter if the painting was bad or the act was immoral. And yes, there I could breathe without fear, as you put it. That was one of the many things that broke me down when I was at uni - discovering my irrepressible desire, and then being so afraid both of what it caused in me and what it could cause outside of me."
I sigh and let myself relax a little; I am feeling tired again. It is a lot to say.
He is far more fragile than I had first thought, and yet there's a certain comfort in having him in my arms, knowing that at last he has someone he can trust. "My experience is really no help to you. Oh, I saw more specialists than I care to remember, trying to cure myself, but that was out of anger at myself for having given in to the desires, not out of fear of the desires themselves. I gave up when I went to Paris and could breathe at last. You've learned to breathe, but you're suffocating yourself again. I think that's what we need to cure you of, this avoiding what makes you happy. You're not happy being manipulated by two lovers; you're just more comfortable when someone else holds the strings, is that it? Falling back into what you are used to rather than what you need?"
I nod a little. "It's easier... But I don't like it any longer. It was good with Bernardo, but even he wouldn't approve of what I'm doing here." This is the first time I've realized that, and it is also the first time I have let myself admit that this business is making me unhappy. The thought makes my stomach drop out a little, and I burrow further into Alleyn's arms.
"It's not your job to fix me, Alleyn," I say after a moment of reflection on the things he has just said. "But I am glad you seem to want to do it, anyway. And I am sorry I've been such a child for you today - I am not normally like this."
I stroke his hair. He is a child, but I can't say that. "It's fine, really. Though if you were normally like this, I daresay it would solve the problem of Mr Lowell. I don't think he'd be terribly sympathetic to anything."
I smile at the soothing feeling of his fingers in my hair, and then I laugh. "You know, I think for all his faults August could be sympathetic if he cared to; the only problem is that he does not bother. But I think the 'problem of Mr. Lowell' has already been taken care of somewhat. He is still a terrible annoyance, and a bit of a danger to me, I suppose, but I do not think our involvement is going to go any further. He has other concerns now, and for all I know, he's found someone with whom he will be sympathetic."
"I hope that's true." Without thinking, I find myself murmuring Verlaine as I stroke his hair. "Il pleure dans mon coeur / Comme il pleut sur la ville ; / Quelle est cette langueur / Qui pénètre mon coeur ? / Ô bruit doux de la pluie / Par terre et sur les toits ! / Pour un coeur qui s'ennuie, / Ô le chant de la pluie ! / Il pleure sans raison / Dans ce coeur qui s'écoeure. / Quoi ! nulle trahison ?... / Ce deuil est sans raison. / C'est bien la pire peine / De ne savoir pourquoi / Sans amour et sans haine / Mon coeur a tant de peine !
"as Mme B
: If Julian should understand the French, I'll tack up a translation, just let me know.
I look up at him as he recites. My French has never been very good, but I recognize some of what he says, and even the parts that I don't comprehend sound very nice. "That's pretty," I say. "Who is it?"as eclectictastes
: That happens to be one of my absolute favorite poems. Good, good choice!
I feel my face grow hot. "Paul Verlaine. Part of the first set of poems he published after he met Rimbaud. One of my friends in Paris introduced me to their work." And David and I used some of it as foreplay.
I nod. "I thought I recognized it - 'It weeps in my heart / As it rains in the city,' correct? It's a beautiful poem, even in English. I have some of Verlaine's works in translation... Rimbaud, too. They were a pair, weren't they?" I look up at him and laugh, then poke his cheek lightly with my index finger. "You are blushing." I am instantly embarrassed, though I cannot pinpoint why, and I think my own face may turn a little red.