Saturday, April 24, 2010

The history of curses

It's no secret that I have a fascination with swearing. I had an affinity for foul language even at an early age. When I was five, we had a Tahitian exchange student. A swap had been arranged by a family friend. My sister, then seventeen, would spend the summer in Tahiti with a family this friend knew. Vatea, the Tahiitian family's seventeen-year-old daughter, would return with my sister and spend the school year with us.

The casual set-up probably foretold some of the problems that arose. My sister had a terrible time in Tahiti (leave it to her to have a terrible time in Tahiti) and returned rather traumatized. Vatea turned out to be something of a tramp. She managed to pick up three guys on the plane to the States and, upon arrival, promptly announced to my parents that she was going to live with them.

My father, always in command, set her firmly back on the prescribed course. And so a sullen and resentful Vatea moved into my room and I relocated to the couch in the study (very happily - it was closer to my parents, who, at that stage, I worshiped).

I have only the vaguest memory of her appearance. I remember thinking that she was gorgeous but I've seen what my girls were impressed with at the age of five. The shinier and more gaudy, the better. I do remember she had a butterfly tattoo on her ass which she was more than willing to show off. She was, I'm certain, sexy (hence the guys on the airplane).

She lasted perhaps a week, maybe two, before her bad behavior (smoking, provocative clothing, general surliness) set the volcano that was my father boiling and she was summarily dispatched back to the islands.

After we returned from putting her on the plane (and we did, literally, watch until the doors were shut to make sure she was truly gone), we ventured, as a family, into my bedroom to survey the damage. The room reeked of cigarette smoke and too-sweet perfume. The clown curtains my mother had made were slashed (and stayed so until she finally sold the house in the nineties). We discovered, when my mother stripped the bed, that not only were there deliberate cigarette burns on the new teak bunk-bed but also carefully etched into the sheets. Vatea had written a number of things with her cigarette. Most of them we couldn't decipher, either due the imperfection of her writing implement or her shaky hold on the English language. One word, however, was clear, even to me, who had yet to start kindergarten.

I looked down at the letters, F-U-K, and said, "That's not how you spell it."

No comments:

Post a Comment