Crown of Thorns
by Douglas Glover
When Tobin was eight, he fell in love with his babysitter Aganetha, the awkward one with the large, damp eyes, floppy, uncontrollable bosoms and a soot-coloured hair-wing she kept pulled down over her face to hide her acne. One night, waking up to pee, Tobin spied Aganetha and his father embracing in the rose arbour at the back gate. Aganetha’s sweatshirt was rucked up at her throat, her bra askew, one breast dislodged and bright as a second moon. The scene was enveloped in silence, lit by a real moon hanging over the garden like a Japanese lantern or a breast. Dormant, dither, delft, dreadful, death and dalliance—d-words from his book droned through Tobin’s head. Seeing the breast flattened against his father’s hand, Aganetha’s pale flesh bulging like putty between the rough, muscular fingers, Tobin thought, She must be cold. Then his mother was standing just behind him, in his bedroom by the back window, her fingernails chill talons digging into his shoulder. He thought, he made a connection, never to be obliterated from memory, My mother’s hand on my shoulder is just like my father’s hand on Aganetha’s breast. He wet his pajamas right down to the floor.
Aganetha disappeared from Tobin’s life. He thought of her as a kite, but the string had snapped and she was floating away from him. His parents never mentioned her. He thought, She is the only person I ever loved. She is my beginning and my end. His mother, if anything, seemed warmer, more attentive, toward his father, but in an anxious, frenzied, hysterical manner which he later described to his therapist as a theatre of martyrdom. See, she seemed to say, I am the perfect one for you because I will bear anything, tolerate every betrayal and vice. To Tobin, his father seemed ineffably distant, cruel, cold, powerful and perverse. Both his parents were so involved in their private drama that they had no emotion to spare for Tobin. He thought, he told the therapist, he was having a happy childhood.
Read the rest of the story here: Crown of Thorns – The Brooklyn Rail.