A bad habit, viewing so early in the morning. Logging off, forgetting to renew her membership, Daphne quickly gathered her things and left the apartment. Driving over the bridge, she gripped the steering wheel to keep her little energy-saving car from veering into the wrong lane and a head-on collision. Conceivably a hurricane-force wind could tumble her car off the road, over the parapet and into the rocky waters below. In her college office, the window rattled as the wind moaned, whorled and whistled. Simmering still after a sudden argument in the corridor, Daphne worked on her charts and diagrams with arrows pointing to indisputable conclusions she wanted her students to reach.
Andrew had accused her of relying upon "simplistic categories which only a teacher of literature would make." Of course he mocked her theories because his own hadn't evolved since the Jurassic age. He dismissed background as mere sociology, as if the slave trade hadn't supported Jane Austen and the slaughter of whales hadn't created Herman Melville! Speedily word-processing on her office computer, Daphne summarized ideas in columns: authors of the forties depicted women this way; that way because they wrote in the sixties.
Pictures of her son crowding her thoughts, she reminded herself to pay the fee as soon as possible. Her class enjoyed discussions about sex and portrayals of women by authors unaware of the misogynistic, racist, homophobic or capitalist subtexts implicit in their metaphors. Andrew was a lumbering brontosaurus, clumsily pulling his redundant weight on land, indifferent to winds of change as he munched vegetable matter while archaeopteryx flapped over his tiny head, doomed to extinction.
Daphne finished charting the major changes in western culture since World War II. Too close to the first decade of the 21st century to determine what the wind of change was, but it too would blow over the land. She deleted the word "wind" and substituted "ring." Mass media was contemporary history, she wrote in a side bar. For her students born in the cyber generation, all news and current events were virtual and not real. If her own generation had been journalistically labeled baby boomers, she defined her students as cyber babies. She disliked the term millennials because it gave young people too much significance and had about it an eschatological whiff like the scent of pig manure from a distant farm carried through an open window by a strong wind.
Wind splattered her ill-fitting window with dust and dead leaves. A strong draft blew into the cubicle administration was pleased to call an office. Daphne wondered if unrelenting wind could drive a sane person mad. Her concentration scattered, she typed an entire entry about the 90's on the wrong row of keys, rendering her message gobbledygook.
After printing out forty copies of neatly organized exercise, Daphne stepped out of her office and bumped into one of the new teachers, a young man who wore black T-shirts to display his biceps. Much closer in age to her cyber babies than she, no more than a few years younger than her own son Noah, his face as smooth as an avatar, Emile had incorporated blogging and You Tube in his introductory literature course.
"Hey, good morning, Daphne. Fierce wind today, isn't it? A hurricane off the eastern sea coast hammering Myrtle Beach at the moment."
"Perhaps it will die down by the afternoon. Well, I have to rush to class, I'm late."
She always found an excuse not to talk long with Emile because his youth reminded her too much of her own aging, and her son whom she hadn't seen off a computer screen in five years. She had tried to steer him in the right direction: all those extracurricular classes in music and art, the sports, the discussions over supper about law or medicine, the extra French lessons. Every day she had hugged him at the door before he left the house, but when he entered high school, Noah began to resist her display of affection.
Noah exploited his muscular body for quick and easy profit. Telling her colleagues and friends that her son worked in the technical end of the Quebec movie industry, Daphne failed to divulge that he produced and participated in a pornographic website. The first shock of watching her son fuck on the world wide web pierced like a nail hammered right through the brain. She had remained riveted in front of the monitor and couldn't press the exit key until the streaming video stopped. Whether or not any of her colleagues and friends or students ever saw randy Noah in the buff, she didn't care to know. Some among them must have. Perhaps Emile himself was a secret aficionado of sex streaming on his computer. Being a teacher guaranteed neither unsullied morality nor exemption from hypocrisy.
Pornography didn't feature in her columns of culture. Smut and repressed desires surely had influenced the cultural views of her students, influenced their psychology. Didn't they spend countless hours surfing the Net? Daphne scrawled a few key words on the white board. She promised herself to avoid Emile as much as possible, just as Noah had succeeded in avoiding his own mother. At least his father was not alive to see what had become of his only child.
The class went well, the students attentive. She ignored several yawns and two or three sleeping heads in the back row. Unable to suppress unsavoury thoughts, she dismissed the class early. Once inside her office again, she retrieved her personal lap top from her satchel after locking the door, and logged on to the website which featured her son in several videos. She had fallen into the habit of holding her breath before his first appearance.
Ah, there he was in vivid motion: her darling, beautiful Noah with a splendidly developed body, naked as the day he had told her not to bathe him anymore. He was old enough to do it himself, and demanded that she leave the washroom. She had waited outside the door, digging the finger nails of one hand so hard into an upper arm that they split the skin. Noah talked to himself and splashed in the tub, the thrill of soaping his perfect arms and legs, his smooth back no longer hers. No, his body was equal to Emile’s, perhaps more muscular: oh, she had always adored his black curly hair, admired the hard lines of his body, and glowed with pride watching him eat dinner, or lift weights in the basement.
"I want to live my own life, Mom, leave me alone," he had shouted the day he moved out, as if expressing her love and protesting against his bad choices had somehow put her in the wrong. When she tried to embrace him, hoping he'd see reason, Noah had shaken her off, a frightening glare in his eyes. He squealed out of the driveway. She had stood in the doorway, unable to scream out her despair, shivering in the chilly breeze long after her son disappeared.
Perhaps this was the pornographic decade, except every decade had been since the beginning of time; her son could well have been depicted on a classical Greek urn. She could look at nymphs and satyrs disporting themselves in the static beauty of a vase without so much as flinching, not even a slight coloring of her cheeks. There was nothing static about Noah and his buxomy nymph grunting on the screen, although she had been careful to turn down the volume. The nymph climbed on top of her son whose cock, achingly prominent, disappeared in her body. Noah redoubled his efforts with an unsmiling, sweaty, stunning face. She had given birth to beauty.
Touching her cheeks, Daphne felt burning on her finger tips, her heart picking up speed as Noah's electronic body worked vigorously for several minutes. When the camera zoomed in on the woman shaking her head like a pony, keeping rhythm with Noah's frantic bucking, Daphne looked up. She heard the wind which had not died down. A calendar depicting the ruins of Athens caught her attention and she reminded herself to renew her $19.95 monthly subscription fee to the website.
Usually she viewed the website at night in the privacy of her own home, but lately the desire for her son's company had intensified. Every day Daphne wanted to spend more and more time with Noah because she didn't know when she would ever see him again in the flesh. "Noah, Noah, my beloved son," she whispered. The burning increased. Just as she reached out to caress her son's body, the camera jumped to focus on Noah's contorted face as both he and his mother cried out together.
© Kenneth Radu