A Case of Erotomania
At his mother’s request, Christian Cass was on his way to visit his friend, Caley, in the hospital. It wasn’t something he particularly wanted to do, but that is exactly why his mother had promised him his favorite dinner dishes if he agreed to it. Her reasoning - that it was impolite not to visit Caley – didn’t make much sense to Christian, who sometimes experienced a mild case of blood phobia when he was anywhere around doctors. Also, it was a well-known fact in their high society circle that Christian and Caley, having been friends for so many years, had always forgiven each other such minor discourtesies. Nevertheless, Christian had agreed to go because he did care about his friend, and also because he wanted to make Mrs. Cass happy. The promise of his favorite food for dinner had played a big role in his decision, too.
He pulled up his Porsche in one of the vacant spots in the huge parking lot in front of the hospital, grabbed the wooden that had been casually thrown in the passenger seat by his steward, activated the car’s alarm, and started walking toward the visitors’ entrance. He wondered if Caley would be caught smoking the Cuban cigars that had been carefully placed in the box he carried so openly in one hand. And if he was caught, then what? He laughed to himself. They were not the people to worry about the consequences of their actions.
He got to the elevators and waited patiently, while people gathered around him, getting so close that he could hear their uninteresting and annoying conversations. When an elevator finally arrived, Christian allowed everyone else to get on first, as he always did. He loathed being boxed in by doctors and nurses carrying cups of hot coffee that could be easily spilled. He actually loathed being so close to people that he could feel their breaths on his neck. The elevator ride could not be over soon enough for him. As the doors were closing, he saw a young woman running toward him. He realized she wanted to get on too, and decided to hold the elevator for her. As soon as she was standing beside him, Christian could smell her perfume, and since it reminded him of one of his old girlfriends, he quickly glanced to his left to take a look.
She was wearing an ugly yellow uniform, but he could still notice the jeans underneath and the slender figure in them. Her short brown hair was barely covering her ears, but was disheveled enough to cover her face. As if feeling his eyes on her, the woman turned around. She looked right into his blue eyes, noticed the little scar on his left eyebrow and the dimple in his chin, and then gave him the biggest smile he had ever seen. He felt compelled to smile back, but just then the elevator doors were opening again and the woman was walking out of it and out of his life.
Christian forgot all about her by the time he got to his friend’s private room. He knocked and went in without waiting for an invitation. Caley, in his blue silk pajamas, was browsing dog magazines while lying comfortably on his bed.
“Anything interesting in there?” Christian asked while putting the wooden box on the TV table.
“Hey, buddy, you finally made it,” Caley smiled at him. “Sorry I can’t get up, my operation still hurts. You know how much I hate pain,” he said while shaking Christian’s hand.
“So how bad was it?”
Even though he didn’t like hospitals, Christian was genuinely interested in his friend’s health. Unlike everyone else in their circle, Caley could actually keep a secret, a little something Christian had always appreciated. The secret - the fact that Christian had accidentally burnt down his mother’s winter lodge - was what had made them become really close after quite a few years of partying together. At the time, Caley had provided an alibi for Christian, and so the matter had remained unresolved. Their friendship had grown and, among other things, accounted for Christian’s genuine interest.
“Oh, it was fine. I’m glad they caught it in time. They’re saying it could have killed me,” he started laughing.
“I really doubt appendicitis could kill a man like you,” Christian said, all the while hoping that he wouldn’t have to see blood anywhere.
Their conversation continued like that for another hour or so, and when Christian got home that night his mother was waiting for him with his favorite dishes on the dinner table.
A few weeks later, on a warm spring morning, Mona was walking fast toward the café. She was already 30 minutes late, and she knew the manager wouldn’t let it slide this time. She knew she had to time her activities better, but it was just too hard when she had such a beautiful thing to think about. She walked in, looked around to see how busy the place was, then went behind the counter where Jeanne, her friend and co-worker, was counting money.
“Hey, you’re late again, he’s not very happy about it,” she whispered.
“I know, I know. I’ll make it up, I just had something I really needed to do today, that’s all,” Mona answered, not really worried about her work. “When did he get here?” she asked while putting on the ugly yellow uniform that was an absolute requirement for the job.
“Oh, about fifteen minutes ago. He’s in the back now but he’ll be out any minute, so just keep your mouth shut if he says something,” Jeanne was now pouring a fresh cup of coffee for the guy who had been in there every day for the past two weeks, just to see her.
Mona knew it was a good idea to just apologize. What she didn’t know was if she could do it while holding back her anger over being scolded every time she was a few minutes late. As if he ever was there on time, or ever did anything that could fit his own job description. Eventually, the manager came out from his small room in the back, but he didn’t say anything. Apparently, he was on his way to the bank to file papers for a new loan. In view of that, the fact that Mona had been late again was no biggie. Relieved, she went about her usual tasks.
When she got home that night, she took her place on the roof of the two-story house she had recently rented with the money she had made selling all her father’s sculptures. Although she had promised not to, she hadn’t hesitated for one moment, as it was imperative to be as close to her love as possible. She had everything she needed up there, even a bed for those nights when Christian was coming home late. She wanted to make sure she didn’t miss anything. She imagined that the situation in his house must be very strained - because he was about to give up everything to be with her - so she just felt she needed to be there for him, even if he wasn’t aware of it.
She sat down on the couch, took out a pen and notepad, and started writing him another letter. He hadn’t replied to her previous ones, but she knew his mother was probably reading his mail. She had to keep trying. Until they could be together, that was the only way to communicate with him, to assure him of her undying love and devotion, to offer her support in his future attempt to break away from his domineering mother.
From time to time, she would look up to see if anything was going on. It was almost time for him to come back from his late rehearsal, and she was growing restless. Suddenly, she saw his car pull up in the driveway. She stood up and took the binoculars from the table next to the couch, happy at the thought she was going to see him, even if it was for just one moment. She watched him getting out of the car, taking his things from the back seat, and going in. That was enough to fill her with heavenly joy. A few minutes later, as it started to rain, she wondered what Christian would think when getting her present the next day. She uttered a few curse words, while thinking that even nature was against them. Unwillingly, she went inside, changed her clothes, and went to bed.
Mrs. Cass went into her son’s room and pulled back the heavy blue velvet curtains. It was time for him to get up, and get ready for the meeting with the lawyer. They were going to donate money for the building of a new library in town, and Christian needed to be there.
“Rise and shine, pumpkin,” she almost yelled, while Christian was already opening his eyes, obviously bothered by the light flooding his otherwise very dark room.
“Mom, how many times have I told you not to call me that? I’m not a kid anymore…” Obviously frustrated, he was wondering when his mother was going to realize he was a grown-up, a 23-year-old who could very well do without such blatant displays of affection.
“You’ll always be my little baby, and you know that. Besides, I’m your mother and I have the right to call you anything I want. Be glad I’m not doing it in public, like dear Carol does,” Mrs. Cass said as she sat on his bed, marveling again at what a handsome young man she had produced.
“You’re right, I have to admit,” he said, suddenly remembering the embarrassment his friend Caley went through every time his mother called him “my little tuna fish” in front of everyone who had ears to hear. But then again, “pumpkin” was not that flattering, either.
“Ok, mom, you can go now, I’m wide awake. We can have breakfast in 20 minutes,” he said, and after kissing her good-morning, he disappeared into the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, as promised, he took his place at the table, opposite his mother, hoping she wouldn’t lecture him again about his choice of career. All he wanted was to be a great musician, to play on the greatest stages in Europe, where he believed people still appreciated classical music. Ever since Mrs. Cass had found out about his decision, she had tried everything possible to make him give up; bribery, threats, nothing had worked with her stubborn son. However, he knew Mrs. Cass wouldn’t give up and so he had to be prepared for an argument all the time.
They started eating, and he was enjoying a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice when the butler came in, carrying what seemed to be a very big frame. Mother and son looked at each other, wondering what that was about.
“Well, John, are you going to tell us what this is?” Mrs. Cass asked, obviously as frustrated as she ever was when a meal was intruded upon.
“I don’t know what it is, ma’am. It was by the door this morning. I think there’s a card,” John said, and left after having received the usual cue from his employer.
Christian stood up, took the present and started tearing the common brown wrapping paper into small pieces. When he was done, he looked shocked. From the big frame, his own face was staring back at him. It looked like one of those photos private detectives take when they are on a case and have to catch someone doing something they’re not supposed to. In black and white, his head turned a little to the right, it was obvious he didn’t know he was being photographed. The picture had been taken the day before, when he was leaving the Conservatory after a morning class. He turned the frame for his mother to see, and she was as shocked as him.
“What do you think is the meaning of this?” he asked her.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it. I’m calling the police.”
“Mom, don’t do that. It’s just a …big photo of me. And there’s a card. Let me see what it says first, ok?”
He opened the card and read out loud: My life started when we fell in love. They can’t do anything to keep us apart. Our love will conquer all. Until then, you’re always on my mind, always in my dreams, always…Love, M.
They were both stunned. The mother because she immediately suspected her son had a girlfriend she wasn’t supposed to know about; the son because he had no idea where that was coming from or who had sent it.
“Is there something I should know about?” she said inquisitively, looking at him as if trying to read his mind.
“No, mom, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. My friend Michael is the only one I know with the initial M. I doubt he’s in love with me. I really don’t know anything about this,” he answered immediately, and she knew he was telling the truth. She had always been able to tell.
Satisfied that it was a complete mystery, they finished breakfast in silence for once, and left the comfort of their house for another one of those days when they had to decide how many millions went where.
Mona’s day had started very well. She had woken up at five in the morning, to make sure she saw when John found her present by the front door. She watched him coming outside, picking up the big frame, looking around as if he expected to see a trace of whoever had left it there, and then going back inside.
For the first time in a month she got to work in time. Still, Jeanne had been the first to arrive this time, too. They smiled at each other while preparing the cappuccino machines for that day.
“So, how’s it going with Christian?” Jeanne suddenly asked, really curious, and very happy that her friend was finally experiencing love. Something she was experiencing herself every week, but still, something beautiful.
“It’s going great. It’s the first time I’ve been happy since my dad died last year,” Mona admitted in a sad voice, but still smiling. “You know, I don’t think his mother likes me, though,” she said, becoming even sadder.
“Why do you say that?” Jeanne inquired. From her point of view, Mona was the kind of girlfriend any man would have been proud to bring home to his mother. She couldn’t believe that someone didn’t like her.
“Well, I think…actually, I’m pretty sure she’s reading his mail, and…I think she doesn’t give him my letters when she can get away with it.”
“How do you know? What makes you think that?” Jeanne could not believe her ears.
“He didn’t answer any of my letters so far. What other explanation could there be? “
“Well, when did you last see him?” Jeanne asked.
“Oh,last night. I would have brought it up, but I was too happy to see him.”
Jeanne thought to herself that it certainly made sense, and still she couldn’t imagine someone not liking her friend. She was very pretty, in an odd sort of way, and she could have used a hair stylist once in a while. But she was sweet, and giving, and wouldn’t have hurt a fly if her life depended on it. Every time she thought she had this puzzle solved, she realized it never was. Weren’t mothers supposed to just be grateful for their sons’ happiness? What more did this mother want? She decided to focus on her job and forget all about men and their mothers for a while.
The morning passed faster than usual, probably because of how many clients they had. When they sat down to have lunch, they were both already tired, and wondering how they were going to last through the after-noon.
“So, tell me again how you two met,” Jeanne said while flooding her salad with Italian white sauce.
“Oh, come on, Jeanne…I’ve told you the story a hundred times,” Mona replied, fully aware that she would tell the story again.
“Just this time, and I promise to leave you alone…for the rest of the day,” Jeanne laughed, showing her beautiful white teeth.
“Well, you know I volunteer at the hospital every Monday afternoon. It was on one of those days…as usual, I was running to catch the elevator, and this unbelievably handsome young man held it for me. As soon as I got in, he started staring at me. I didn’t know why, but I could feel his eyes all over me. I turned around and…there he was, the man of my dreams. I was gonna tell him not to look at me like that, but I changed my mind. He was so…I can’t even explain it, Jeanne…you know, I just felt he was meant to be there just so we could meet. Anyway, by the time I got to my floor, he was smiling so big... I knew he wanted to say something, but I had to get off. When I left, he was waiting for me downstairs, and he gave me a ride home. We talked and we talked, and I knew we were in love. Simple as that…”
A week later, after a long day at work, Mona couldn’t wait to get home and spend at least an hour in her huge bathtub, surrounded by millions of sparkling bubbles. She was wondering when she would see Christian again. She was going to get up on the roof, but still, it wasn’t the same thing.
As she passed by his house, she couldn’t help looking through the bars of the heavy iron gate, expecting to see, as always, the seven stone steps leading to the main entrance. Instead, she saw a car, one that she had never seen before. A two-door convertible BMW was parked in front of the house, obstructing half of her view of the door.
She started to panic. Who could that be? she wondered, while trying hard to think back. Maybe she had seen it before, and she just couldn’t recall. She closed her eyes, thinking about the cars she did know. Christian had a Porsche, Mrs. Cass a Mercedes, the family lawyer drove a Cadillac, and so on. By the time she got inside her house, she remembered the photos the private investigator had taken for her and forgot all about her bath.
She went straight upstairs, to the roof. She took the pictures from the file labeled “C.C.” and frantically started looking for one, just one, of the mysterious car. If she had one photo, it meant there was nothing to worry about, because she had information on everyone who had been at the Cass residence since she had moved in next door.
She didn’t find anything in her file, so she threw it down, grabbed her binoculars and started spying. She had to find out whose car that was, because a very bad feeling was slowly taking over her, and she didn’t like it one bit.
She couldn’t see anything at first. The curtains in the living room were drawn, Christian’s room and the library were both in the dark. She kept looking, and suddenly she thought she saw a light right above the library. She directed the binoculars towards it, while trying to think if she had ever noticed anything up there.
She zoomed in, looked carefully for a moment, and then found herself gasping for air. Christian was there and he wasn’t alone. He was very busy hugging and kissing a tall blond girl, with nice long legs, who was responding with a great deal of affection.
Mona was devastated. She started crying and when she couldn’t watch anymore, she fell to the floor. Her whole world was destroyed, her hopes and dreams were shattered, her faith in love had just taken an unbelievable blow. She tried to tell herself that maybe her eyes were lying to her. She got up and looked again. Christian and the girl were now on the sofa, half naked.
She knew what that meant. She went inside, then down the stairs to the ground floor, and opened the door to her bedroom. She had chosen the biggest room in the house, one with blank white walls that were now covered with photographs of Christian. In all sizes, the photos taken by the PI were offering a view that was pure heaven to her. The bed, rather small, was in the middle of the room, surrounded by countless candles, one for every thought of Christian she had.
Crying silently, she sat down on the bed, grabbed a heart-shaped pillow and held it to her chest. Her mind was confused again, it seemed like hundreds of thoughts were trying to surface, but none made any sense. Broken fragments of ideas reminded her of all the nights she had spent on that roof, and of all the letters she had written. She remembered flashes of her therapy sessions at the hospital, every Monday, when her psychiatrist was trying to put her on medication because talk therapy had never been enough to bring her back from the fantasy world she lived in. She remembered endless conversations about the men before Christian, about how none of them even knew her.
This time she couldn’t take it anymore. Nothing anyone said was true. What was true was her love for Christian, a love so deep, so intense, and so real that she believed nothing could destroy it. It didn’t matter that he was up there, in that attic, making love to a beautiful girl who was not herself. She knew she could make him be sorry. He was going to be sorry when he found out she had died for him.
Suddenly, she got up from the bed and went to the kitchen. She found one of the notepads scattered all over the house, and wrote a note for Christian: "I don’t want to die before telling you how much I love you. I forgive you for everything you did and I will be waiting for you. In eternity, we will be together. Love, M."
She left the note on the table - where it could be easily seen - turned on the gas, lay down on the floor and placed her head inside the oven. It didn’t take long for her to lose consciousness, not even long enough for her to think about Christian one more time.
The next morning, while Mrs. Cass was trying to enjoy her breakfast, her good disposition was suddenly disturbed by loud sounds of ambulance sirens and police cars. She stood up from the table and approached the window, while her son was entering the room, accompanied by his new girlfriend.
“Mom, what’s going on?” he asked, while walking over to where his mother was.
“I don’t know. It looks like something happened next door. I didn’t even know someone was living there. I’ll send John to see. I don’t think I’ve ever seen police cars in this neighborhood before.”
She left the room, and came back two minutes later. “Let’s have breakfast, my darlings,” she said, as if nothing had happened.
John went outside and talked at length with anyone who was willing to volunteer any information. When he was satisfied with the answers, he picked up the mail, removed all the blank envelopes - as he had always been instructed to do - and went back to report and deliver the rest of the correspondence.
“John, did you find out what happened next door?” Mrs. Cass asked in a neutral voice, when he came in.
“Yes, it seems a young lady took her own life last night. She just turned on the gas, and…” he didn’t continue.
“Dear God, the house could have exploded,” Mrs. Cass said, obviously more worried about that than about the death of a human being. “Well, I guess some people are just like that,” she added and continued her breakfast, accompanied by her son and a tall blond girl.