[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
001 002 Prologue 001-002 003 004 005 Chap 1 003-005
Chap 2 006 007 008 Chap 3 007-008 009 010 Chap 4 009-010 011 012 013 Chap 5 011-013 014 015 016 017
Chap 6 014-017 018 019 Chap 7 018-019 020 021 022 023 Chap 8 020-023 024 025 026 027 Chap 9 024-027
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 028
Chapter 10: The Family
Even if it had a ways to go before it would attain the clean and comfortable standards of European passenger rail, Amtrak would, I hoped, make it. I enjoyed riding the train. It snaked its way slowly out of the station, lurching through switches and clattering over cross tracks. I watched hundreds of dirty cars and freight yards march past my window as we picked up speed through small tunnels and overpasses covered with colorful graffiti. Urban decay gradually gave way to more rural vistas as the north-bound Valley Express picked up speed. I had a two-hour ride ahead of me before I arrived in the town where my parents, the Capes, lived. For a few days I would have a chance to escape the broiling heat that was stifling the city, and I could relax in a more rustic setting. I was looking forward to the visit for several reasons.
I had pulled out my Tacitus to while away the next couple of hours but after a few pages of distracted reading I dropped the book back in my tote bag and let my thinking roam. I could of course not get Yukiko out of my head, and this in itself disturbed me. She was already occupying too much emotional space and crowding my mental world. Even at this preliminary stage in our relationship I somehow knew that we would soon be more than just casual friends, and the idea simultaneously thrilled and agitated me. Could I possibly become another Su-Lien? And – for Heaven’s sake — where did this undeniable attraction (was that even a strong enough word?) for a woman, even a woman of such supernal loveliness as Yukiko, suddenly come from?
As the train sped through green fields and thick stands of trees lining rivers and lakes my desultory musings stumbled across the topic of my parents. Yes, I was glad I was going to see them for a few days. Although we stay pretty much in touch by phone and e-mail, it was several months since I had visited. Mom, whose name was Christy, doesn’t like the city and rarely comes down, and Dad (Crispin) is always busy enough for three men.
Over the years a lot of my clients had been curious about my childhood and upbringing, wanting, apparently, to believe in the explanatory stereotype of family abuse and dysfunction as requisite etiology for prostitution. In my case, nothing could be further from the truth.
How do we become what we are?
I come from a solid upper middle-class family of responsible and loving parents and achieving children. My older brother, Craig, is a corporate attorney in the city and my older sister, Valerie, is an anesthesiologist who lives in Oakland. I love my mother, who was my best friend; and I love my father without reserve. Not the way so many of the girls I knew at college did (“I love my Father but …”). In the privacy of my own thoughts I referred to them as ‘love-buts’. No, I loved my father period! No buts, ands or ors. I was a ‘love-period’. Nobody ever laid a hand on me in anger or discipline. All of us kids were encouraged by example, but never coerced by threat, to become readers and learners, and we all went to the best private schools and the colleges of our choice. Both Craig and Valerie had been supported financially as well as emotionally through college and professional school, as had I for both B.A. and M.A. I have nothing but happy memories of my childhood and my family. Take just one small example of what the family tone was like: after Craig came along Mom, who had done a minor in anthropological linguistics, said she was tired of all these velar plosives – Cape, Crispin, Christy, Craig. It was time to move forward in the mouth. “What we need are some labials!” And so big sis became Valerie and I got stuck with Mazarine. According to the story, Dad had merely remarked, “Cool!” “No,” Mom emended, “you mean ‘boss’, don’t you, honey?” He thought for a minute before coming back, “Bitchin’, mama baby!” And then, this urban family legend continues, true to their word they went off to bed and made Valerie.
In short, I was that unfashionable adult of the new century who was not a victim of priest, parent, pedagogue or police – except that in the bizarre social calculus of contemporary American life this very deficit ought no doubt ipso facto to constitute incontrovertible authentication of my status as victim: I am a victim because I am not a victim. Welcome to the whacky world of malice in blunderland.
Does my family know what I do for a living?
Yes. No. Maybe.
Mom certainly does. After I’d been in the life a few years I just blurted it out one night when she and I were chatting in her kitchen over glasses of good Chardonnay. She calls herself a Libertarian (“To the extent that I’ll put a label on myself!”), but this was bit de trop even for her.
“Are you serious, Mazarine?” she said. She looked not so much shocked as incredulous.
“I am, Mom. Very.”
For once she was speechless. “I … I don’t know what to say,” she confirmed.
“Then let me say something. I gave this a lot of thought before I got into it.”
She downed some Chardonnay and was all ears. “I imagine you did, dear,” she said.
“You know about my job situation after I finished the M.A., so I don’t need to fill in the background for you. As a way to make some decent money it was not going in the direction I would have liked. I’m sure you can appreciate that. Right?”
She nodded in agreement. “So, you mean you’re not a copy editor any longer?” Was there a hint of mockery there?
“Mom, puh-leaze!” I said, rolling my eyes.
I went to the refrigerator, took out the wine and filled up both our glasses. After returning the Chardonnay, I began.
“I want you to know that what I’m going to say is not something I dreamed up afterwards in order to justify taking the plunge. It was an entirely rational decision, and it was prompted by basic economics. Like anybody else, I sell a service.”
“Like ‘anybody else’?” she said. This time there was no mistaking a trace of puzzled amusement in her intonation.
“Look at it this way,” I went on. “People object in clichés. Exhausted clichés, I might add. Three of them: it’s immoral, it spreads disease, and – the most heated objection – it exploits women. Each one is so vacuous it always surprises me that otherwise intelligent people try to argue them with a straight face. They’re trivially true, bland statements of human realities valid in a lot of contexts.”
“Oh? And how exactly do you mean that?”
TO BE CONTINUED