Before dawn this morning I finished FELLINI’S ANGEL. The time now is 0625 Hours. It’s done. 75,821 words. Let’s round it off to an even 76,000.
What do I feel?
I’ll let the goddamned thing sit for a week, then give it a final read. And then I’ve gotta let it GO.
I’m still astonished at my neutral emotional state. I’m not dancing around, giddy with relief and delight. OK, maybe I’m glad that I don’t have to WORK on it today, as I have for the past two years, I can just piss the day away.
I need to pick an excerpt to include in my agent queries. Okay, here’s one.
Excerpt from FELINNI'S ANGEL
A novel by
It was easy enough for me to blow off Francesca, but what came next was entirely more formidable and unnerving. At four in the afternoon Zenia and I were awakened by a loud pounding at the front door. It was urgent, angry pounding. Serious pounding, like those Nazi and SS goons in the old movies and newsreels, rounding up Jews for the long train ride to the concentration camps.
I put on a robe, opened the front door.
The man was in his late 30s, and had a great resemblance to the actor Stanley Tucci. The same roughly handsome face, and partial balding, and dark complexion. He was about five eight or nine, and muscular. In a white, open collar shirt. Big arms, gnarled stonemason’s hands, a wide chest, narrow waist.
“Are you John Palcewski?” he asked, mangling my last name. Everyone does.
“Yes, I am.”
“I want my wife,” he said. “Right NOW.”
Carl took a step toward me, and I raised my hand in a gesture that meant STOP. To his great credit, he did. And we stood, staring at each other. In those first seconds I sensed he was not a violent man, just a very hurt and angry one, as well he ought to be, given the circumstance. And likely Carl saw that I certainly was no threat to him, at least not physically. He could easily have pushed me aside, or beaten me senseless. But he didn’t.
I felt no hostility, no jealousy, no fear. Just sadness and an odd sense of kinship. I knew exactly what he was feeling because I had experienced something like this myself, when Elizabeth announced our marriage was over. He probably was asking himself what he’d done to deserve this betrayal, this cuckolding. He labored long hours at repair, reconstruction. Laying bricks and tiles, running electrical cables, pouring and smoothing concrete, sawing and nailing two by fours, putting up sheets of drywall, sanding, painting. Brutal, sweaty labor. He worked hard all his life.
Me? I tapped a keyboard for a living. Took pictures. No heavy lifting. Losing his wife to a skinny, intellectual, effete guy like me must have galled him. Jesus Christ. Where’s the justice?
“It wouldn’t be a very good idea for you to come in,” I said.
“So tell her to come out,” he said. “And NOW.”
“If she wants to, she will.”
I turned, and closed and locked the door.
Zenia stood in the corner, holding onto the sheet loosely wrapped around her. I couldn’t think of a thing to say, and neither did she. We were paralyzed.
Carl pounded again on the door. Repeated bangs, one after another, reverberating explosions like the salvo of a battleship’s big guns.
“Lee, come out here,” he shouted. Lee was her nickname, short for her middle name, Lisolette. “Lee! Lee! Do you hear me?”
Carl pounded for what seemed like a half hour, but then finally he stopped. I went to the window. He walked, head downcast, arms swinging at his sides, down Riverside Drive. An ambulance, lights flashing and siren wailing, sped by, weaving in and out between cars. From above the Hudson came the whup-whup-whup of a big helicopter. At 87th street, Carl turned left and disappeared.
Zenia picked up her clothes.
“Maybe you should stay here tonight,” I said. “Give him a chance to cool off. ”
“No,” she said. “I’ve got to face this.”
She told me later it was awful. When she got back to Long Island that afternoon Carl was waiting for her. He paced back and forth and shouted at her. She said nothing, just sat in the chair quietly, eyes downcast. When she tried to go to her room, he put his hand on her throat and pushed her up against the kitchen wall. She thought for a moment he was going to break her jaw or nose or knock out her teeth, or strangle her to death, but no, he just trembled all over and finally let her go. He picked up a chair, threw it against the wall. Then stormed out. He was gone three days. Where did he go? He’s got relatives all over the tri-state area, so there’s no telling exactly where. But after three days he came back. Went to his room. In the morning, he got up and drove off to work. As usual. As if nothing had happened.
“He didn’t call a divorce lawyer, or threaten to throw you out?”
“No, Carl would never do that. He’s not that kind of guy.”
“Well, what happens now?”
She didn’t answer.
“I’m such an evil person,” she finally said.
“No, you are not.”
“Yes I am. He’s a good man. He didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
I was convinced that Carl’s looking the other way was a temporary thing. Over time his knowing Zenia and I were still seeing each other would eat away at him. I also knew if I were in his place I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the situation. No way. I’d sit her down at the table, and lay it all out.
You have GOT to make a decision. Him or me. You can’t have both.
Period. End of story.
But that didn’t happen, because Zenia took off, went into hiding at an undisclosed location. She remained hidden and silent for a week, two, three. Then four, and five. By then I should have been accustomed to her habit of disappearing when things didn’t go her way. And it didn’t take a Freudian analysis to understand why she did it. It was a replay of her wine barrel disappearance back in Buonopane, which had brought her powerful father to his knees. Disappearing brought her power, control. She just hated being out of control.
I viewed those anxious weeks of hiding as a karmic test. Each day, to relieve my concern and anxiety, I reminded myself I had no evidence that she’d abandoned me or betrayed me. No evidence she had dishonored our love. No, in this instance she simply needed time and space to heal. And if I were a goddamned normal human being I would keep that important fact in mind, and be supportive, and understanding. Wasn’t it way past time for me to grow up? To be a man?
Another way to look at it was that she was giving me a gift. Material! Plenty to write about, to think about. The best metaphor that described our relationship was a cliché, but it was true. A gut-wrenching roller coaster ride. Like The Tower of Terror, at Dreamworld in Queensland, Australia. Its electromagnetically powered cars accelerate to 100 mph in seven seconds before they climb to a height of 377 feet, followed by a 328 foot drop to what seems like certain death.
That’s the text message she finally sent me 40 days later, breaking her excruciating silence. A single two-letter word.