The summer of our love, 2009.
“Let me grab another pack of cigarettes, Baby, and my bottle of vodka,” Stalker says. “I will tell you the whole story and then we will never have to speak of it again.” His voice was bowing under heavy resignation.
But once he tells the story, he can never stop telling it, again and again: the repetition of grief.
The night air passes my pink bedroom curtains and washes over me, as I lie in bed under a cotton sheet in my home in Portland, Oregon. With closed eyes I focus on Stalker’s voice traveling from the Bronx, filling my room through my phone’s speaker. I brace myself for his story and hope I can accept it fully without judgment. I hope I can contain it for him, and give him some relief.
“When I came back to the Bronx from Richmond in ’74, I couldn’t tell my friends what had happened,” Stalker said. “I started to tell Simon, but before I got very far, he said, That’s really fucked up, man. He looked like he couldn’t handle it, so I stopped. My brother was gone by then, himself. My mother and sisters knew the major points, but I couldn’t talk it out. I told myself to get on with things. I took up with another woman, right away; took her in with her little girl. Instant family, as though everything was okay. Maybe I loved her, but probably I didn’t. That lasted six years, and since then I’ve mostly been on my own.
“My sister tells me to talk to a priest, to take communion, but I could never do that. I could never wash the blood of the murders off my hands. I have not been in a state of grace for forty years and nothing can change that. No priest can change that.”
Confess to me.
“Someday I will go back to Richmond; you will come with me, Baby. I will show you the theater where I played King Lear. Show you the house I lived in, and the other house, where Deborah lived after we murdered my unborn son. No, I shouldn’t blame her at all. It was my responsibility. I will show you the waterfall where she and I swam, naked, early on, when we still had our innocence.
On my birthday, she asked how old I was. Twenty? she repeated, incredulously. We had already been together for months. What did she think?
“Even though I was eight years younger than her, she knew I was in charge. She was a brilliant doctor, me, an undergrad. But I am an alpha male and she respected it. She could have had anyone. She had been with prominent physicians, wealthy business people. Her father knew everyone to know in Virginia. But Deborah and I were meant to be together.
“. . . I had been having a bad feeling, a really bad feeling. So early one morning I drove my black Corvette to her place. Another car was parked outside. I stormed into the house; I blasted into the bedroom like Conan the Barbarian rescuing Valeria, and found a 50-year-old disgusting man — a head of a department at the hospital — in bed with her. How could she let him touch her? I was studying karate since high school, breaking my toes on boards, and my muscles bulged all over. And I had a huge voice, and I let him hear it. That beer-belly coward jumped out of bed and out of the house, running for his life, leaving behind his clothes. I chased him down the street, shouting that I would kill him if I ever saw him again!” Stalker is laughing now. I’m remembering the movie Sideways. But I stay quiet, thinking of what this all means.
“You still there, Baby?”
I take it in, take it all in. Hold it.
“How dare she do this to me. I slapped her face. I admit it. I slapped her face. The only time. She took it. She knew she deserved it. All this time, Deborah said nothing, showed nothing. She calmly got out of bed, got dressed and left for work at the hospital as though nothing had happened.
“Later, she told me. His wife called that evening and asked for his keys and wallet.”
You forgave her?
“She was free, white and 21. She could do what she wanted.
“By the way, that moron Patch Adams didn’t know a thing. And Robin Williams should burn in hell. Adams said Deborah was frigid. She wasn’t; but she took a very, very long time. One night I didn’t have the patience. I rushed things, really rushed things. Afterwards, she bolted up and said, What did you just do to me? What did you do?
“In a split second she was across the room, but I was quicker. I had to pull her off the open window, wrestle her to the floor, pin her down. She fought against me, so strong in her anger. I could barely keep her down, she was going for the window. She screamed and cried; my housemates knocked on the door to see what was going on. Let me die, let me die! She finally promised to calm down, and I let up on her.
“It got worse. I should have understood the signs, I should have known the signs.”
You were so young.
“But it was my responsibility. And it kept getting worse.”
. . . to be continued