Monday, August 9, 2010
The Conrad Complex
Now I like every member of this family and I am going to write bad things about them. It is because I like them that I am disappointed in them. I wanted my wife's mother and father and brothers to help me hold onto her, and instead it turns out they approve of her leaving me behind in search of more lucrative business.
First, the dog, by the name of Conrad. He is important to the story, because his character is easily drawn and, according to my wife, pretty much the same as my own. This fearsome beast is not affectionate and hardly notices attentions, he loves to eat, he sits drowsing on the porch before the house door, rousing himself to bark at the gypsy horse carriages when they pass by on the street. He is tricky: he loves to go out into the village streets. When you come home, he will placidly wait just inside the yard for you to swing open the gate, then leap into a run and be out on the street before you know what is happening. Deceptive, love of roaming, unaffectionate and distant except when there was a prospect of food. My wife thought all this about me, seriously and not seriously. More the list expressed her dissatisfaction with my character. But like the dog Conrad, I was part of the family, I belonged to the house. When in her rages she would throw me out, the family house would immediately seem empty, and she would want to call me back, and would do it too, if her other plans allowed.
Her love for Conrad was very strong. When the family all sat down to the table for dinner, she would ruffle my hair and shake me up. Her father would comment, "The Conrad Complex".
My wife was sensitive to betrayal of her affection by her dog, and had a similar story to tell about her father. When she was a young girl she was her father's favorite. She used to spend all her time with him, and even slept in the same bed. But when she was 12, he changed towards her. Her mother was jealous. He expelled her from his room, and it seemed from his heart too. It hurt her very much.
Despite this, they were very close. My wife told her father almost everything that happened in her life, holding back not the smallest personal detail. According to her, her father had taught her to use what power in the world she had to best advantage, and he approved of her marriage to the very much older billionaire first husband. According to her childhood friend Barna, he also seriously expected his child to take care of him in his old age with the proceeds of her liaisons with men. Also according to Barna, her internet computer expert brother Robbi's first web site offered escort services, and she was the first girl he listed.
When I recounted this to my Budapest Professor friend, he explained that I saw too much in these things. Sex was bought and sold, it was usual and ever-present. My wife's family was just more open and direct about it. He liked to have female companionship when he came to Hungary from England to do research, and he expected he would have to pay for it, in one way or another. In fact, those very words I had heard from the mouth of my wife's ex-boyfriend.
He had arrived one early evening at my wife's apartment, where she was holding a small kitchen knife and waving it about, demanding I return the dress and Ipod she said she knew I had stolen. This was really crazy, and I had been through its like before. The ex-boyfriend, whom I recognized from a dinner party at the country house not too distant in time, chased me down and cornered me, threw a punch at my chest, and demanded I give him my wallet. I reminded him I knew who he was, and handed it over. I said I would get it back soon, the police were on their way. He said he knew how to handle the police. And that if I wanted to live with his ex-girlfriend, I had to pay, "just like everyone else."
Later the truth came out. The missing articles had been taken by the ex-husband who had been visiting her. They were his gifts to her, payments if you will, he was taking back because she was undeserving. He had confessed. The professor too had been caught in a crisis of payment. A lover had had an abortion, and had gotten permission to take the fetus home from the hospital. It became, between the two of them, a symbol of his murderous selfish ungrateful unwillingness to marry his lover. She buried it in his front lawn. He dug it up, and reburied it in the nearby forest. Then dug it up again, when he worried it would be stumbled upon....