The opening strains of “La Vie En Rose,” never fail to elicit one of several reactions from me. Sometimes my face flushes as I’m overwhelmed by nostalgia and lust. Other times, those same notes evoke anger and resentment, endured with gritted teeth until the bitter end. When this track shuffles into a mix, I’ll skip forward. If it cuts on in a restaurant or party, I’m likely to leave. A beloved classic, the song’s ubiquity and its effect on me is a curse.
Because “La Vie En Rose” will forever remind me of Reale, my first dominant.
She was a slim, brunette, and Argentine. Reale frequently used her beauty and poise to throw others off guard. Like when she laughed with wild abandon until you joined and then fell silent to appraise you with cool gray eyes. Having grown up in Buenos Aires and taking a degree in Paris, Reale had license to affect class without possessing all that much of it. She was also a brazen libertine who didn’t give two fucks what anyone thought. While I found her free-spirited ways endearing, my affection was tempered by the knowledge it’s far easier to get by with such an outlook and attitude when you come from money.
Those who have money are eccentric, those who do not are insane. A well-worn cliche, but the truth of a phrase is the cause for its repetition.
And there was a family fortune to draw from as generations prior had extracted vast wealth from the campesinos of Uruguay through land scams and mining operations. “Oh, it’s blood money,” Reale would say offhand, “tainted, to the last centavo.” And though a thought of vocation had never entered her mind, she was ruthless and calculating in all the ways her forbears required to run the family business. That never happened, so Reale had plenty of idle time and enough money to indulge in numerous eccentricities.
She kept a sprawling home in Los Angeles, a Jaguar in the garage, and a soundproofed playroom in the basement. Possessing a voracious sexual appetite, Reale paid runners and sycophants to keep tabs on the bus station and nearby squats; it was they who kept her constantly apprised of the daily arrivals. Runaways lack the agency to do more than cry pretty when thrashed, so she was keen to have those who were beautiful, desperate, and naïve delivered at will.
I didn’t meet her through that particular channel, though I might as well have. The details of how we met and began seeing one another are unremarkable: a chance meeting at a bookstore, the promise of drugs and a good time, teenage lust. Of course, I thought myself street smart when I most certainly wasn’t. Accordingly, I was taken in by Reale’s ability to exude a soft, seductive charm which masked the truth – her sexuality wasn’t tinged with sadism but defined by it.
She also happened to be thirty five while I was fifteen.
But I’ve never held the age difference against her. Not really. You cannot rape the willing and all that. Oh, and you’d best believe I was willing. If anything, I despise her for a reason which sounds strange without context – I despise her charm.
Charm – the weapon of choice for sociopaths. Reale’s charm was nothing more than a bright facade designed to mask the serial cruelty which was both means and end. A tired lust for other’s misery dressed in denim and leather. Because she didn’t merely derive pleasure from wrecking lives, she practically achieved orgasm by manipulating people into destroying each other and themselves.
But Edith Piaf? Why I have dragged the voice of “The Sparrow” into this?
Because Reale listened to Piaf compulsively, the soaring voice and violins providing the soundtrack to the daily psychodrama of her life. Always careful to make sure the needle dropped right before a prospective girl or boy was brought in to ‘interview.’ Later, she’d toil with a single-tail or razor strap to ensure their shrieks echoed off the terrazzo precisely as The Sparrow trilled and swirled to giddy heights.
“La Vie En Rose’ is the perfect track for remembering Reale because the title translates best as meaning “through rose colored glasses.” Of course, the tragedy is that of the singer, which makes the song ironic and appropriate. Because all of us were singing for Reale.
And because Reale fooled many people, but only a fool would believe she ever lied to herself.
Strange I’d love someone A described above? Given the fact I was fifteen and stupid as anyone of that age is no excuse, just as an apology for love is sheer folly after suffering sheer madness. Strange I’m bitter about someone who I consider a ‘great love?’ Or are you puzzled as to how I could fall so deeply for someone so twisted? If so, then the madness of love for a serial manipulator has yet to infect the marrow of your bones.
Of course, I’d be a liar to claim she lured me into a lifestyle and situation I wasn’t searching for. I’d be twice a liar to say she didn’t teach me one, possibly two things, which are either too trivial too mention or too profound to detail.
Yet I must confess to being a writer, which makes me a professional when it comes to duplicity. Do I owe Reale credit for helping to cultivate raw talent? None I’m willing to acknowledge – In fact, the more I remember about her and think on the pain she caused, the more the possibility of her never existing increases in appeal…
Why should I relate how Real’s twisted games helped to shape and construct aspects of who I am? That smacks of concession. Wouldn’t, instead, relegating her to the status of a constructed character be some kind of victory?
Pyrrhic or not, I quite like the idea of her as being nothing more than the arch antagonist in a torrid and perverse cautionary tale. So that’s exactly how we’ll leave things… for now.
Messy business, all of it: the song, the memories, and the endless tango with lying and truth remind me of a very specific series of events. They were a series of trysts with dominant women, facilitated by Reale, which may or may not have occurred.
It’s these trysts and the lessons learned from each one, which I’ll endeavor to describe.