Vivian was a recluse who loved going out, it was her torture, her masochism. Vivian’s mother died of pancreatic cancer 8 days before Vivian turned four and one-half. She was raised to never go outside by her father, a man who lost his wife and wasn’t about to let the same happen to his little girl. “The outside world is full of many different cancers my little mouse, the worst of them: people. People who could help but don’t and end up letting good people die.” he told her. She hated being called “little mouse” more than anything.
Seclusion wasn’t much of a problem for Vivian as a child, she liked to draw and paint and think about what ifs, she didn’t go outside much before her mother passed anyways. The thing that bothered the young Vivian wasn’t not being outside but not being allowed outside. This would spark into a rebellious attitude in her teenage years. An attitude that was only ever reactive and never proactive. Vivian never threw the first punch but nearly always threw the last.
One affair happened one day at school, Vivian’s 8th grade teacher, Madam. Malmoud, told her that her skirt was too short. The skirt in question reached 2 inches below Vivian’s knee which she thought was quite modest for a skirt given modern times and how Vivian’s older sister Marie dressed. Alas, the skirt was still too short, it did not reach past the knee’s halfway point, the Madam was not satisfied. Vivian tried telling her that the skirt was in fact 6 inches past the shortest allowed length and that it was not a tight or bright or eye catching but Madam Malmoud wouldn’t budge. “If you want to dress like a whore young lady, you may do so outside of school… But for now, you may see the principle and hope he doesn’t go 6 inches past your money hole.” the crone said as she pointed towards the door, all the kids in shock. Vivian got up calmly and went to the principal’s office. Later that day, an ambulance rushed Madam Mahmood away in an ambulance after she had accidentally mistaken her Coke Zero for a large and almost deadly amount of hand sanitizer. The Mother Malmoud did not return to school until the next year, until after Vivian would have gone on to a different school.
In her late teenage years, Vivian heard a rudimentary psychology lecture that left her paranoid of the strength of memory and decided that she would take pictures each day and write about the day. She used her phone and started recording the crunch of leaves in autumn, snow falling under a street lamp at night, early morning fog. She wrote down the beauty of her days sentence by sentence as time passed by. Vivian also recorded the bad moments, ones she didn’t want to remember but needed to remember.
Vivian looked out her window to see the neighbor’s cat playing with a squirrel, toying with it, like the cruel psychopath all cats are. The neighbor cat grew tired as it had mangled most of the near dead rodent and walked away to more the more exciting past time of sitting in a box. Vivian walked out and saw the squirrel breathing heavy and convulsing every 20 or 30 seconds. She stood over the half dead mammal and took a short video of its harsh breath, being sure to capture at least one seizure. Then she went to the shed in her backyard grabbed a shovel and ended the creatures suffering.
In an upper level film class, Vivian met Henri. Henri was an aspiring film student who, to Vivian’s shock, knew very little about the non-technical aspects of filming. Henri’s attention was ‘very focused’ he would say while others would tell him how limited his perspective was, not studying the whole scope of film and only caring about angles, frames, and shots. People constantly would barrage him with their opinions “you need to learn story to be able to tell story through film.” “practice is nothing if you have no theory to exercise in practice.” “you’re that creepy dude with a camera.” Henri never minded these comments and would often mumble to himself “…lower class scum…” as he would walk away from the conversation. Then one day he saw a girl, a girl he had to record. Henri had to capture this girl’s movements, her elegance, her very essence.
When Vivian turned to see a boy with a camera recording her, she felt instantly faltered. Vivian started to approach Henri, he began to run expecting a strike from a purse full of buckles. “WAIT!” she yelled “I WANT TO SEE THE VIDEO!” Henri stopped, sweat beating down his chest, he gulped and showed her after she caught up. Vivian thought the clip, though short, was beautiful and asked for a copy, they exchange information and started dating the next day.
Vivian and Henri had a struggling relationship as Henri had problems performing. It mortified Vivian at first, she thought she was ugly or that somehow it was her fault, she was the problem. Did it smell bad? Are her hands too cold? Is he a homosexual? But after some time, Vivian became accustomed to Henri and his low libido. Stress and frustration added up even more for Vivian as time went by. Vivian lost one of her scholarships the following semester and money had become tight. Henri told her to come work at the restaurant he worked at, she could be a server. She was intrigued to say the least, but Henri was very insistent on the idea. She was very surprised by his eagerness, Henri rarely showed enthusiasm for anything Vivian included. Maybe this will make things better with him and we can finally have sex on a semi regular basis… Vivian thought. Vivian wanted intimacy so much more than the once or twice a month (and that’d be if she was lucky) that she was accustomed to with Henri.
She started at the cafe as a hostess and not a server, the manager was not convinced of her capabilities. After a hectic night, a server quite mid-shift and the manager yelled at Vivian to grab a check holder and apron and get her ass on the floor. The manager looked away and snapped his head back…”Don’t forget to suck their dicks with your eyes while talking to them. It’s how you get good tips and make them happy.” It was that kind of shock that one can only feel when something so ridiculous drops into life. There’s an absurdity that you can’t wrestle with and must walk away from, no matter how wide your eyes are. The job was awful, the customers rude and detached from the world, occupied by art galleries and pretty spreadsheets but the pay was better than hostess, better than “not shit.”
Henri began looking more at his phone and less at Vivian which chipped away at her every day. One day, when she got home from work, Henri on the couch, staring at his phone… again, not even noticing her come in. She stopped though and found what had long been missing from their relationship: an erection. Maybe that’s it! He wants something hardcore, that must be what he’s looking at on his phone, I gotta find out… Vivian thought. She crept up behind the couch which faced away from the front door, Henri was still under the phone’s spell and didn’t notice Vivian behind him.
What Vivian saw was not something hardcore as she thought she would find. She was stunned to see that a video of a woman peeing was playing. Even more shocking was the bathroom was all too familiar, it was the women’s bathroom of the cafe. Vivian was silent with her tears, covering her mouth as not to make noise. Henri hit the back button revealing thousands of videos, hundreds of women, not just in the bathroom but changing rooms too. Vivian even saw her own bathroom in the thumbnails, her aqua tiles along the wall.
Henri was a voyeurist. Vivian cried even harder thinking about how this had been a part of him since before they met. It was why he never wanted to have sex. She had been with him for nearly two years and they’d been living together for over 5 months, all this time he was a creep, a scumbag, and a criminal. Henri jumped when he heard the crying, his head turned slowly to look behind him to a banshee wailing. Henri jumped back and landed breaking the glass coffee table
“It’s not what you think.” He said.
“Then what is it? Tell me.”
Between the gasps of air of Vivian had to take to remain conscious.
“It’s…It’s….what it looks like…” Henri drifted off, his eyes now staring at the bottom right corner of the couch, he wasn’t being mindful of the glass lodged in his hands and ass.
Vivian left for America the following week, she told no one, except on the last day she visited her father. Her father, who was lounging in a chair watching T.V. not paying attention, she said to him “I’ll never see you again, you were a terrible father and a hypochondriac, but you tried.” Vivian’s father huffed in recognition of whatever words she was saying to him, the TV was his child now, no room for disappointment. Vivian left for New York like all immigrants. Vivian wanted a new start without videographers and voyeurists, without men failing to give her what she needs. She would date almost exclusively women and develop a drinking habit to help her forget her traumas.
Henri left for America a week after figuring out Vivian would never return, he discovered that she left for America by exploiting the weak security on the airport’s camera network. He followed her but never found her, New York is a hundred thousand life times of searching and longing packed into one city. Henri was persistent he worked bare minimum ate bare minimum and spent all his money on spray paint cans to write Je t’aime Vivian. Where is my Vivian. I miss Vivian. I have lost my heart she is somewhere…scared. Henri garnered a small clique of social followers and admirers, they did not know the truth behind his words, they thought only of a genial and pained street artist.