Our summer of love, 2009.
“I am almost 60 years old,” said Stalker. “This is not high school, with our whole lives ahead of us. Take the plunge with me; we will jump off the cliff holding hands. What are you waiting for? Kiss Me Kate. We will be married o’Sunday. Come to me. Surrender to me. I will look after you. You will die in my arms. I will be there for you; when you are 85 years old, I will cradle you in my arms as you say good-bye to this world.
“Now here are your lines, Kate. You must study them and say them to me on our wedding day. You will wear a Ginger Rogers white dress, feathers flying.
“Now, Baby, say after me. ‘I am ashamed that women are so simple.”
You are ashamed that women are so . . .
“No, no, Baby. Say, ‘I am ashamed . . .”
You are ashamed . . .
Stalker so funny!
“You’re not one of those women libbers, are you? Tell me you’re not one of those feminists, please! What have I signed up for? Thirty more years of this! Oh, heaven help me! My father said, Stalker, one thing. Just remember one thing. Never get married! I should have listened to him, but no, Stalker has to fall in love with the biggest bitch of Pelham Parkway!
“Did I tell you my father was as good as Fred Astaire? If he hadn’t been a drunk he could have been someone. He could have been a real contender. Now give Daddy a big kiss into the phone and say good-night. It’s a school night and you must get your rest, Baby. Tomorrow you must write me the next essay. Tell me about each boyfriend you had, starting with kindergarten. All the details, you must not hold back. And now I must eat some spinach to be ready for the next round with you! This week your training begins! Kiss me goodnight, Kate! Mwaaah!”
I never knew who Stalker was one minute to the next. Which voice was real? Which story line was play? Which threats and promises were theater; which could be counted on? Were we in a play within a play, within a play? Or not? Oh, what fun. Novelty! Entertainment! Mysteries! I was never bored for a moment. We were in heaven, Stalker and Baby — dancing cheek to cheek.
“All I want, Daddy, is someone to watch over me.” My little girl voice. Yes, I do voices, too.
“Ah, I love that sweet voice. I’ll watch over you, little lamb.”
Good night, Daddy.
“Good night, Baby.”
* * *
When he talked about Deborah, that was the true voice; the original person speaking –underneath the personas and the false selves. That much I knew. His natural voice was East Bronx, tinged with lyrical, working-class Irish cradling the diphthongs and punctuating the stops; no more theatrical accents, no more voice acting.
The next night, he told me more about the murder. “I am a bad man,” Stalker began.
. . . to be continued
© 2011 Barbara E. Berger. All rights reserved.