Saturday, October 23, 2010


Her voice was not English, although that’s where she’d started out, and it wasn’t New Hampshire, though that’s where she’d wound up when her mother suddenly took her out of the Lycée and the ballet school and headed up to New Hampshire with her brother as a possibly last ditch attempt to keep Paul out of prison, he was wanted on so many charges, from carrying a sawed off shotgun to major shop-lifting, and it got worse in New Hampshire, going into kidnapping, I heard, and holding off police officers with his guns.

And then the brother was gone, first into the army – which a new Hampshire judge gave him as the only alternative by then to prison
a time when he had dressed up in special forces clothes, complete with jaunty green beret, had his picture taken and created a fictional story of being a green beret killer in Vietnam – which was not the first time a fictional story of heroism had appeared in this family. From what I had learned in this year of probing nothing seemed unlikely.

After the hero caper the brother had been killed in a mysterious motorcycle accident, which did not surprise anyone in the family except maybe his mother. But the story was not over.

Lauryn did say on the phone that the woman with the French accent was the mother of her new boyfriend, which was all news to me, but she had more boyfriends then the family thought I had girlfriends, though
I had been with, and lived with, different women like she had lived with different men. We were the only family members to get divorced, not counting my mother's parents.

On the phone she said that the place to meet that evening was the Clam Shell. I had been there in the summer, this landlocked seafood restaurant in this New Hampshire mill town where right at your table there would be an aquarium with slimy bottom feeding fish and eels. (The slimy live water creatures right at the table where dead water creatures were being eaten was one of the best metaphors I had ever encountered.) She said she didn't mean the main restaurant but rather the Clam Shell’s sports bar upstairs. I had gone out of my way even in drinking days to never go into a sports bar not because I was against the drinking but because I had nothing to share with sports fans.

It was a big smoky room with a pool table and long bar. Linoleum tables. Everyone smoking except me – and I had been off tobacco less than a year. It was nice to see her smoke. She did indeed look just the way she had looked all those years ago. Almost 40 now but just like she had always been. And she still had that way of giving you a sympathetic and amused look. There was nothing like her in the family. I asked for matches so I could light her cigarettes.

And at first it was like we were getting together socially, as if it had not been four years since we had last met up. Since then, she had left one marriage and taken her son to Minnesota where she was studying landscape garden design, and quickly had another husband then another son. And then this lover who kept on beating her to the point where she was taken away to the shelter. Which explained why she left Minneapolis.

I mentioned that I had heard from her older brother Lawrence, who was in the theater but so correct he lived in Princeton, and his wife Margaret, who had been a dancer with Merce Cunningham. I had heard from them that when they were all visiting Lauryn and Lawrence's mother in New Hampshire last year she had suddenly gone berserk. They were watching a made for TV movie that was about a girl who was badly abused, and Lauryn, usually so pleasant, had started screaming. In their account the reason was that Paul had once raped her.

And now she was telling me that it was not once but at least hundreds of times.

But the talk wasn’t entirely about what had happened to her. For she seemed to hang on my every word as I told her about what I had been discovering in the past years – tales of fakery and intimidation – what I had learned from Mrs. Marsh, and the bigotry outbreak that had had so much to do with setting off my plunge into the past. And I talked a little about the long standing rivalry between me and my brother that I thought now had been set up, consciously or not, so has to keep us both in control. And then I spoke of this childhood rivalry coming into the present. I told her about how I could so easily have been killed.

She said that she herself took heart in her belief that “what goes around comes around,” which I took as meaning justice of the revenge kind in the end. But then as if I had explained nothing she said,

"You are so angry. Why are you so angry?"

No comments:

Post a Comment