|Mirrors 10 © A Serial Novel in Progress |
There were two men in the drawing room, both lost in separate contemplations: one seated with a blank stare on a couch, the other hunched awkwardly over a large instrument. Which one was Mantin? Teiu was taken aback by the similarity.
“Here you are, my boy!” said Mantin from the couch, pulling his eyes away from his thoughts.
The other turned around abruptly.
“Teiu?” he adjusted his monocle over a scrutinizing eye.
Mantin covered up the surprise in the other’s voice with a forced nonchalant air.
“Teiu, let me present you to my brother, your uncle, Matias Mantin.”
Teiu stretched out a feeble hand.
“I am glad to see you are so well, nephew. We were very worried.”
Teiu looked at them in disbelief.
“We are twins.” But Matias’s face was like something else he had seen.
“Haven’t I seen you on a bridge somewhere?”
“Ahem, no. What an odd idea.”
Pierre Mantin looked at his brother with an inquisitive air; his eyes seemed to demand something. Then he turned to Teiu.
“You must be remembering fragments of your past… inconsequential, I’m sure. Take a seat.”
Teiu wondered to the rectangular instrument occupying the wall by the window. The large wooden box into which Matias had been staring reached to his stomach. He bent down over it, like he had seen Matias do. Nothing.
“Teiu, your uncle is a doctor of the mind. He will help you get better.”
“Will he?” He didn’t know why, but the doubt was strong enough to enter his voice.
Matias approached Teiu and scrutinized him very closely. His face was like his father’s but his eyes had a depth that in the other had been replaced by a strange ironic smile, also sad. Teiu observed the man’s small, graying beard that gave him the appearance of being unkempt.
“It is strange,” his uncle said to Pierre, without taking his eyes off the boy. “There is no mark of trauma, as if nothing had happened.”
“We did our best.”
“No, but, I mean, nothing. No reaction. Absolute serenity.”
Teiu stared back deeper into the other’s eyes, to impose there his presence which he felt the other was overlooking.
“I feel on the surface of things.” Matias nodded, understanding. “Do you feel happy?”
“It is strange but I think I do. Yes…” He had a feeling of elation. It was making his stomach turn, as if he was in love, or falling into a precipice.
“I have no idea why.” Teiu smiled uncomfortably under the other’s scrutiny.
“You should stop saying that, Matias, and tell the boy what you will do for him.”
“I thought we could go for a walk. I help people who suffer from mental problems, like you; they tell me about their feelings, their dreams, what they remember.”
“A walk? Wouldn’t I have to lay on a couch with you hovering over me?” Teiu remembered, from a past, or future life. Matias gave a start.
“Couldn’t we talk here?”
“Of course you could,” said Pierre. “I thought you might want to see the city, go to terrace for something to drink. Why stay indoors when the day is so beautiful outside?”
“Won’t you come?”
“No. The light bothers me.”
“The servant told me that about you. It is very odd!”
“No.” Pierre smiled. “It is just an eye condition.”
Teiu couldn’t help but feel disappointed that his father, on this first day of his recovery, did not feel the need to spend time with him. Pierre seemed to understand his thoughts.
“It will be well. We can spend all evening together.”
He started walking them to the door when Teiu remembered suddenly and turned.
“What was it that you were looking at before I came in?”
Teiu’s eyes widened.
“Images in the kinetoscope. Would you like to see?”
“Leave him, now, Matias.”
“He wants to see. Why not?”
Mantin switched on a light from behind the large box. The machine came to life.
“You look in the peephole…” Teiu bent over again, this time a photograph of a woman could be seen. Her face was not visible. She was covered in veils that spiraled out of proportion around her body.
“Why keep the photograph in there?”
Pierre was amused by this.
“Hold on a moment. You have to turn the lever.”
He bent next to his son, a warm, paternal presence like nothing Teiu could remember or relate to. He looked again only this time the 47 frames started to move before his eyes and the woman inside flew. Her yellow and pink veils, hand colored awkwardly, serpentined around her invisible body and face; she could have been anyone. No, he knew it was Olympia. The film was over.
“Do you have more?”
Matias pulled out another film. The woman’s motions were now faster, not as ample. To her arms were attached sticks that extended the length of her body and elongated into the space with veils. The feeling of volume also filled his heart as the material, colored in red, rotated and exploded in rotund shapes like clouds, like whipped cream of endless proportions. He took hold of the handle and started again the series, he knew not how many times, until he lost all consciousness of exterior space. He was inside the show of the kinetoscope. She was gigantic, a universe of moving fabric.
“Is she a show-girl, then?”
“A show-girl?!” exclaimed his father with wounded pride. “She is the toast of Paris! The most desired woman in the world!!”
“The most desired woman in the world? How can you be so sure?”
Pierre’s eyes gave a wild flicker.
“I made personally sure of it.”
“Isn’t that a bit … unusual for a father?”
“Your father,” put in Matias, “is very passionate on the subject. Go on, Pierre, explain to the boy.”
“I love Olympia as a daughter; I discovered her. I made her, since she was an infant. I am her father.”
“Then she is not my sister!” this came with some relief.
“In a manner of speaking…”
“Then why did the servant insist on it when I asked?”
“What did he say?”
“Well, I said that I didn’t think she was my sister.”
“So, you remembered something.” His father did not seem completely pleased.
“Then he said with a very authoritative tone ‘no, she is your sister!’”
“I think he was responding to something in you tone. Spiridon is very sensitive that way,” said Matias.
“What in my tone?”
“We never said this to you but it had become very evident that you were falling in love with her,” said Matias.
“That is understandable. Everybody who sees Olympia wants her,” added Pierre.
“Except for you, of course?”
“I take a purely experimental interest in her welfare.”
Pierre was silent for a moment. He had said too much.
“I made her; her success is also mine.” He took a pause to check himself. He was becoming too haughty.
“But you can understand, we are all uncomfortable with that sort of thing… I mean, feelings between people who live under the same roof… You grew up together, for goodness’ sakes. So, naturally, Spiridon’s spirit of propriety…”
“I see.” But he didn’t feel any moral imperative in that regard. No, nothing at all. On this also he might have to speak to Matias. Was he hollow? Something told him that this wasn’t the case. His content was, simply, of another kind and it was becoming colored by his faint recollection of her.
He grabbed the bowler hat handed him by a servant woman.
“See to it,” he ordered, “that my bath is drawn by the time I get back.”
“Wonderful!” exclaimed Matias.
“You are fitting in already!”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
© Iulia David, Mirrors 2012. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.
Iulia David 10/28/2012