Diana is driving a hundred kilometers per hour, on a narrow road with tight corners, she is racing, yelling, thrashing about her arms. Her body is a grimace of pain, it is the embodiment of chaos, with tears in her eyes and a burning desire in her womb, blazing in flames of her own self-destructive rage.
Diana is actually my mother’s best friend—the one who changed my diapers when I was a baby and helped me with school work whenever my parents wanted to have a few hours for themselves. “We have to let them loosen up,” she used to say to my puberty self—thinking that I did not understand what she was talking about, while she explained math and grammar rules. Diana was a jack-of-all-trades, there was nothing she did not know. But the thing that had always impressed me was actually her drawback. “I carry the curse of a smarty pants,” she said during my graduation party, “because those who know everything do not have anything to focus on, they scatter in all directions and they break into a million pieces which, all together, do not make a whole.”
Diana’s personality has been shattered in a million of fragments that are flying right now in front of my eyes; for the first time this morning I understand what happened on prom night, when she was talking about the broken puzzle of her being, as I watch, fascinated, her skin dissolving and getting lost in the space between us, filled with hidden feelings.
I hate my life, Diana is shouting through the decomposing shroud of her bright red lips. I hate you, she is saying, as she is driving like a raging ox, grazed by a bullet that has only irritated her more, and I offer myself as the only target of that amplified rage knowing I will certainly get hurt. Diana is a fury on wheels with hatred as fuel, and at least part of this aggression is about me and her murderous gaze callously rips my skin off while my body is getting ready for the slaughter. I instinctively hold on to the seat even though I am not afraid, since deep down maybe I wish for death, I wish to die for a moment and then to be reborn, clean, with an amnesia that erases the adverse traces of the past and writes new stories on the white paper of conscience.
“Stop the car,” I say to Diana, but Diana is not listening to me. Diana has that crazy look of a wounded animal that is running away and has no place to go. “Stop the car, Di, please, we’ll talk.”
Diana is laughing, she is screaming and squealing. “You are too young,” she says, “a talk won’t help, a talk will only screw up things even more.”
In front of us, the road is empty, at the same time it is an expression of monotony and a glorious road sign to a new opportunity. There is almost nobody driving on this street and that’s the only fortune today, the fact that there are no potential victims of Diana’s anger and me as a passive participant of her crime and of our wild story. But the supporting role I chose for myself this morning is now slowly starting to annoy me, my lethargy begins to bother me and, because of it, I slowly start to seethe, to boil over, to rage; I am angry with myself because I stubbornly follow fate instead of resisting it, I am angry because I have decided to go on this trip and because I didn’t tell my mom the truth, because the truth is always hidden somewhere in between the lies, like in a game of detection that only the greatest minds, like Sherlock Holmes and doctor Watson, can afford to play—not my mother and me.
“I’m not in the mood to go without you,” these are the only words that I told her in the morning, and she answered “Oh, come on, you and Diana know how to have fun together, this headache is killing me and I really can’t go, I can’t, I have to take a nap, and when you two get back, I’ll feel fine and all the three of us will go out, we’ll have dinner somewhere, like the Rockefellers.”
“We’ll postpone it,” I said then, “come on, mom.”
“Life leaves no room for delays,” Diana interrupted my prayer and she gave me a look. I became silent. I put on my sneakers and went out, while my mother was waving from the window.
“We’ll be fine,” Diana said as I put on the seatbelt. “Last night you were fine, I know you were.”
Last night, my mom and me, we invited Diana for a talk, like we used to do. I came back from a student exchange program in Paris to stay in my hometown for a bit and I was full of experiences that I wanted to share with them. I am just a crazy artist, I know they both think of me in that way, because somebody who studies art history has to be a deadbeat, but, still, they thought I was interesting.
Diana arrived with two bottles of local wine, which we drank up in an hour and a half. We were sitting in the kitchen and we were sipping slowly, enjoying it, as if the world outside our window had stopped the time in our honor. I was telling them about the beauty of Parisian women, about their vanity, about the beautiful parks that bloom in spring, where I used to walk alone when I got caught up in nostalgia, about the streets where you can get lost and never run into anyone you know, somebody who will startle your mind and demand from you the stories from your personal life, which they will then sell to somebody else during a chat. I was telling them about the cafés and about the music, about the life that hums, about the French who first fuck and then decide whether to have a relationship or not, about their notion of ambiguïté, i.e. of the “vagueness,” which is considered a kind of philosophical topic, because if they feel the “vagueness” in a relationship between two persons—which is nothing other than attraction in every other country—then it has to mean an upcoming fuck that will define further actions and a possible hint of romance, and not a premature and unnecessary courtship.
Diana and my mom were listening to me with their eyes wide open—like a real storyteller. I was sitting at the head of the table and enjoying their attention, I felt so grown up, so powerful, and everything was perfect untill Diana asked the question “Have you fallen in love, finally?” and my mom fell silent, while the smile disappeared from her face and the atmosphere changed.
I did not know what to answer so I chose silence since my mother was not a fan of the truth, the truth is fucked up and sometimes you have to tell a lie, she taught me once and I remembered. It was her then, who after only a few seconds, as if she were ejecting a piece of food that stifled her, fired from the deepest layers of her being that terrible acid which will cost her grandsons, happiness, and a normal life in the future. “Eva is gay, Di. Eva likes girls.”
Mom got up from the table, she put our stained glasses in the sink. For the first time since I could remember, Diana remained speechless and she was just looking at me, while I kept avoiding her gaze since I knew what I would see in her eyes and what she would see in my eyes, now that all the cards were on the table, now that the cracks of everyday life were served on a silver platter; these things are just felt. I had suspected for a long time that Diana was gay, although she did not want to admit it to herself and she had a husband and a child, and she was faking all those things that somebody defined as normal. Therefore, she was looking at me with wonder, she was looking at me differently, as if I, with my presence, had finally allowed her something else, while, at the same time, I was not saying a thing. I did not want to believe that this woman wanted me, right there, on the spot, with my mother and her friend in the same room, even though she had been forbidding it to herself for a long time. Diana had in her life acted as my mom thought I would act, behaving as if it were only a phase, like my drumming or shaving my hair were a phase, or my fondness for spaghetti and self-harming. To my mom, everything in life is just a phase that passes and leaves space for something that may be called Eva’s identity, which remains fixed, immutable, and strong, with occasional wind drifts and air drafts.
“Yes, I am gay,” I said, finally, looking at her. “I can’t stand men, I can’t imagine them inside me.”
The truth is that I had tried to put up with men, to sacrifice myself or at least I wanted to give it a try, but that was when I was seventeen. I used to date guys, go to clubs, go out for a coffee, and sometimes I even managed to kiss them, but, when the time to have sex arrived, I used to say that I had my period, that I was bleeding as if somebody had cut my womb and my veins open. This led to the problem that I had my period constantly, it would last even for a month and anyone normal would suspect, everyone would know, that I was lying. Everyone would look for the excuses, that I was afraid, that I wasn’t ready, that it’s a bitch to do it for the first time. And when I would say to my mother that I couldn’t do it, she would only say that I hadn’t found the right one. You are not a lesbian, she used to tell me, you can’t be, you look normal! Drama, shouting, yelling, I had hardly confessed it to her and she wouldn’t believe me. She used to speak about it as if I didn’t know whether I wanted some mayonnaise or ketchup with my sandwich. But, then, Paris happened and a move away from my hometown helped, she missed me and, maybe because of that, she accepted me as I was, or maybe we were both faking it, and the only condition was not to bring anyone home, not to tell her about my relationships.
“Gay?” Diana asked yesterday evening, and the word had remained suspended in the air like a kind of label, a foreword to another promising product.
“Gay,” Diana is repeating even this morning, while she is driving fast and out of control and, at the same time, she is touching my legs, begging me a touch.
“I am a lesbian, too,” she yells now and then, as if she wants to assure herself of the veracity of these claims, “and I can’t stand it, Eva, I can’t stand that I want to take your clothes off and lick you like a teenage girl, I can’t stand it! I hunger for you, do you understand that? I long for your touch, you stupid little girl! Kiss me, kiss me, please!”
I do not push away her arms—I am trying to move them from myself with my mind and not to hurt her. “Stop,” I repeat like a broken record, “we will solve this.”
Stop, I even told her yesterday. However, I uttered it through my teeth, almost inaudibly, because I didn’t want her to stop, I didn’t want her to stop until Helene’s image was created in my mind, her hair in my mouth and her breath on my neck. “Stop,” I said, but Diana didn’t stop.
Mom was washing the dishes, she turned her back to us, while the conversation trailed off after the statement that I was a lesbian. Diana was looking at me with eyes overcome by hunger, in roles that were suddenly changed, as if she were on the path of discovery in her twenties, while I was like a reserved forty-five-year-old woman who is not old enough to stop longing but is also ashamed of it, since time flies and she has already been put into a box in which she still doesn’t belong, she is still young, a bit frivolous, as long as the rationality and the mirror do not stifle her imagination.
An awkward silence filled the kitchen. Lana Del Rey was wailing her Burning desire on the radio. I read Diana in a second and I was only thinking about moving away in time, let her talk to my mom, let them talk about my inconvenient truth and about everything that preceded the present situation, about the wrong DNA structure in my body. I left them and went to my room; I started looking at Helene’s photos on my phone while thinking about the things that I loved about her and how much I missed her.
“Hey,” Diana said after a few minutes, as she opened the door of my room. She was watching me for a few seconds from the doorstep, and then she came in and sat on the bed next to me, her arms embraced me. “I don’t care that you are gay,” she said then, caressing me on the shoulder.
“Di,” I started, “the fact is,” but Diana interrupted me with her lips. She plunged her tongue in my mouth and I opened my mouth wide, as if it were the only thing I had been waiting for. I grabbed her by her hair, I sat in her lap. Before I even realized it Di had was unbuttoning my pants and moving her fingers over my underwear. I sighed quietly and forgot that my mother was one floor below us and that she could barge into the room at any moment.
Wait, I said when Diana stopped kissing me, she threw me on the bed and she dropped to her knees—wait. But her tongue already started gliding over my panties and continued its sweet torture even when she moved them away. She was caressing my t-shirt with her hands – you’re not wearing your bra, love, she said, I like it, and she plunged her fingers into my mouth. Di, I tried to say, Diana...
Eva! My mother shouted, where are you two? Di!
But Diana did not react, Diana was watching me and her gaze turned me on even more, her lips, her buttocks that I wanted to grab, that relentless desire of mine to possess all around me as if I were still in puberty, because I matured late, so only a touch is enough to make me wet, when I just walk past an attractive woman, because of which my relationships last a week and not more, and because of which I wanted to satisfy Diana while she was satisfying me. I wanted to tell her that I would do everything her husband certainly didn’t do, I wanted to tell her everything that I would teach her, although it seemed that she already knew everything since she was pleasing me so well, my Diana; Diana was mine and I was hers, in that celebration of life that I missed so much in this house during the past few years, after my father’s death. I was sighing loudly and Diana silenced me, and I liked everything about her, her breasts, her arms, her tongue, until I saw Helene’s photo and remembered her words, “I love you, babe, but I’m afraid that you’ll cheat on me,” I remembered her jealousy. “I don’t understand you,” she used to say, “all the girls in the club want you, you attract them all, stop, stop, Eva, you’re breaking my heart.”
Stop! I shouted then, and Diana looked at me, wondering what was going on. Don’t go, she said, I know you want it, but I was already buckling my pants and running away as if I were followed by all the devils that had taken the day off in hell. I ran out of the house and, when I came back home, Diana wasn’t waiting for me, there was only my mom and her disturbing remark that the three of us were going on a trip the next day.
“It’s been two years, I’m not fucking my husband,” Diana is screaming and driving fast, she is speeding up and she is showing no signs of stopping, “and I’m not even thinking about it,” she says. “I don’t desire him, do you understand, I don’t! I’m as dry as wood, I’ve got no desire at all, none, and since yesterday I’ve been wet, wet, Eva, and I’ve been thinking about you all the time. I want to take your clothes off, I want to fuck you till there’s nothing left inside you. And I listen to myself while I’m saying these words and I can’t believe what I’m saying since you’re my child, you are my child, Eva!”
“Stop, Di, we’ll talk,” I say. “Just stop and we’ll resolve everything. The two of us are like this, we’re at our best when we are together.”
“We’re at our best when we are together,” Diana repeats. “Then give us a chance, Eva. I’ll go crazy, I’ll become crazy because of this!”
At that moment Diana slams on the brakes and my head is flying while the music is blaring, Ellie Goulding is screaming that anything could happen. Seconds are passing and I am slowly pulling myself together while Diana’s lips are not giving up and they are already looking for me but I am moving them away, I am getting out of the car.
“Wait for me,” Diana screams. “Eva, if you could only wait for me!”
I walk a few meters and then I stop to sit on a wall; I realize that the attempt to escape is in vain. Diana is running after me, she sits next to me and I can’t even look at her.
“Calm down, Di,” I finally say, “please.”
“I love you,” I say, “I really love you, but we can’t.”
“But why can’t we?” Diana asks. “Because I’m too old? Because I’m your mom’s friend? Because I’m ugly?”
“None of that, Di, trust me. I love Helene, that’s the thing. Helene is my love and I don’t want to spoil that, and I’ve already spoiled it with that thing yesterday, and it was wrong, Di. I don’t want to lose Helene, it’s her that I don’t want to lose, do you understand? I’m in love, I love for the first time and I feel big, really big, Di, as if I could do anything. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll try my best to make it last. I’ll try my best and you won’t spoil it... Leave, Diana, leave your husband and start a new life, you owe it to yourself, just leave.”
Diana is laughing, with that hysterical, I-am-crazy-for-electric-shocks-laughter. “You think you know everything, she says. “You’ve returned to this shithole town and you think you’ve comprehended the world, life, each universal truth? Nothing is simple, Eva, everything is complicated. It’s complicated that I have a husband I can’t stand and a son who’s getting harder to love each day. I can’t leave just like that. My child needs me and he doesn’t want me. He cannot stand me.”
“That boy will end up in prison one day; you don’t know the half of it. They call me from school constantly, they say that he pulls out his dick during class and he says that his teacher makes him horny, he doesn’t study at all, he curses, he quarrels, he fights, he hates everything around him, he hates me, he hates his father. Sometimes he doesn’t come back home all night, Eva, I’ll kill myself because of that! My life’s a nightmare, and your mom has no idea about that because I’m ashamed to say a word, she doesn’t know that things will end badly for my son and that it will finish me, that I don’t know what to do, and you’re telling me to leave. Where should I go? Where, tell me!”
But I am voiceless and I do not give answers. I make patterns in the sand like I used to do when I was little, and when the two of us went to the sea. I am drawing. Abstract forms. Vague figures. Her son is younger than me and I don’t know him well. I have never liked him much. Violent from the beginning, always ready for a fight, ready to prove something, to attract attention.
“He loves you,” I tell her anyway, and that is the truth, I know that, “but I don’t know what advice to give you, Di, I don’t know if love can save things.”
Diana is sitting next to me motionless, she is breathing slowly although she is crying. I want to hug her, but I don’t dare to. The car is a few meters away from us, it is wide open, people are watching it, they are watching us, but nobody is talking to us. We are sitting there for a while, I am drawing, Diana is shedding tears, and the sun is running away from us, it is retreating behind the clouds, indicating that it’s going to rain and that it is better to look for shelter, to run away in time.
“I hope I’ll never see you again,” Diana says suddenly and she gets up, adjusts her skirt, moves towards the car. I walk behind her silently, I follow her steps and she is not even looking at me anymore, she is just moving away, and she is not saying anything, she is calm, as if nothing has happened, neither tears nor anger nor madness nor desire, no delirium, no trouble, no fuss.
We are getting in the car and our drive back home is a bit calmer but gloomy. Silence weighs upon the words that we suppress and it is hard to breathe under its pressure, under the vow of silence, taken and unspoken. The radio is not playing; you can only hear the sound of the engine creating an uncomfortable tension.
In front of the apartment, I can’t wait to get out of the car, and Diana feels the same. Maybe that is why she is moving away even before I slam the door, then she rushes back, and for a moment it seems that she will rush into the wall. I watch the dust that she is leaving behind her, I feel it in my throat, I feel the heaviness.
Mom still has a headache and she is lying on the couch. “How was it?” she asks, but she is not interested in the answer, not really. I am getting a glass of wine in the kitchen, I turn on the radio, let it play quietly. When Florence starts to sing You’ve got the love, I let the music play on the radio as loud as it can go, till my mom starts screaming “What the fuck, Eva, turn that off, goddamn it!” OK, OK, I say to myself and I am walk to my room, thinking of calling Helene, in order to get rid of that pressure I feel on my chest, as if somebody has been trampling on it, in order to talk to her about Split, about my mother, about Diana, about life that is such a fucking mystery and how we will discover it together, but then I realize that I really don’t want that, I only want to be alone for a while, as if I had nobody, free, in order to think in peace about the anger that seethes inside me and pushes the boundaries of existence, that looks for alternative routes and counts defeats and then starts from the beginning, as if it could not get enough of the tears and blood that leak from every gap that hasn’t been patched properly.
Cover art by Jelena Nemet.