We've been told that all of us -- us males at any rate -- are afflicted with the Oedipus Complex. But what we've never been told is when do we begin to set in motion the terms of this complex -- when exactly do we begin to enact or fantasize what we're supposedly fated to commit?

In the womb? Or just when we emerge and take one look at the frightened face of the father? Or when the mother leads us to her breasts for the first suckling? Or is it when we're three years old and we had a nightmare and beg Mama to let us sleep in her bed? Or is it when we're eight and Mama asks if we want to sleep with her tonight because Papa is out of town?

My complex surfaced when my mother gave me the last bath I ever got from her. I was nine. I think. Or maybe ten. It was in June. Or maybe July. It was very hot that day. I was standing in a cuvette of warm water in the kitchen. I was naked of course. My body pale skinny shivering in spite of the heat, but proud of the budding black hair already curling above my little reddish penis. My mother was scrubbing me with a soapy gant de toilette. She kept saying, arrête de bouger, et arrête de glousser comme ça. After she wiped me with the big towel, she gave me a gentle tap on the derrière, and said, vite vas t'habiller.

That day, when I got my last bath from my mother, my father was at the race track betting the week's groceries on the wrong horse. When he came home late that evening and told my mother he'd lost everything, she said if she had the courage she would kill him. Qu'est-ce que je vais donner à manger aux gosses maintenant? She started sobbing. For a moment I almost felt like doing what my mother said she didn't have the courage to do.


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