In her third-floor office at the Connor’s Fishers Island residence, Lucy rapidly tapped the keys of her IBM Selectric. A machine-gun ratta-tat-tat-tat that was so pleasant and familiar and comforting. That percussive, mechanical, and yet somehow musical sound meant she was working. That she still had her wits about her, could easily form coherent sentences and string them together in one marvelous, weighty, and pregnant paragraph after another.
Oh, thank God Vittoria finally has come! What a darling! What a precious, gentle, kind, open, and innocent little creature, like a doe in the forest! Dappled in sunlight, she takes one tentative and gentle step at a time.
And so generous!
Am I over-using exclamation points? I don’t care. This visit from my newly acquired surrogate daughter deserves exclamations. God’s precious gift to me. Nothing less than Divine generosity, especially at THIS point of my life, such as it is.
That DHL delivery from Vittoria a few weeks ago to me at Four Sutton Place—what a surprise! An elegant treasure chest lined with rose tissue paper containing two sterling silver bracelets, one of them a gorgeous wide cuff and the other a petite basket-weave bangle, and also a violet heart-shaped box of Vosges Balsamico dark chocolate pieces, each topped with a Sicilian hazlenut.
What exquisite taste. What generosity.
And now? In the car the other day I watched the darling girl step out of the small charter plane I’d arranged for her, and when she sat beside me she pulled out of her black satchel still another present, this time a velvet-lined box of exquisite porcelain Capodimonte calla lilies, which, she said, were imported from Napoli. A bouquet of four, with slender stems and leaves, tied with an ivory satin ribbon.
I told her, “Oh, darling, I’ve never seen any porcelain or glass objets d’art like this. However did you find such a treasure? You are a treasure, and I wonder why I’m so lucky that you’ve come into my life!”
* * *
I strive for accuracy. I liked my Irish uncle, very jolly, married to Mummy’s sist-ter.
That sit-uation about Sally trying to borrow money, and turning around and rewarding the son and daught-er Mark always want-ed. Note the hyphens! As well as the exclamation points! But by God I don’t want to take a stance in the batt-le about being exploit-ed emotionally. I told them to their faces that Harry was a weasel and skunk and no-good bastard rat and he was.
I wasn’t who he thought I was, not by a long chalk. I was too int-ense.
Hypochondria and psychosomatic ailments can come from anger and rage directed inward to be self-destructive, or from wanting to be dependent, want-ing love and attention and sympathy. Ah, the HY-phen again, you see how profound my identification is with the ineffable! It drives me to make unconscious hyphens when I type. Oh so very unintent-ional, oh damn, like that, I didn’t mean to do it.
I have a picture of Mark in his US Navy Officer whites with black shoulder boards, dancing with his grandmother, and in it he is extending the little finger of his right hand. Mine used to go numb with anxiety, but now all it does is involuntarily and unconsciously stab the typewriter’s hyphen key—my little pinky!
Once I deeply cut my pinky with an X-acto knife in sympathy with Mark, who, during a fall down a flight of stairs, got his finger caught on something and almost ripped it off. A bloody, traumatic episode that unnerved him. Not to belabor the obvious, but his little digit represents his male member, his cock, prick, phallus. My finger-phallus makes mistakes on this typewriter, and I let it because I want to see precisely where and how it makes mistakes, because all mistakes have meaning, which meaning you will discover if you just take the trouble to find it. Them?
Once in the limo to the New London ferry Mark asked me to read aloud for him from the Wall Street Journal. The numbers in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, whatever in hell that is. It gave him an erection, and I laughed. And I wondered, was it my voice that stimulated him so? Or did he get a hard-on imagining those all those hard-driving alpha males in their three-piece suits and wingtips and chrome-trimmed Samsonite attaché cases, making all those numbers dance around like that?
Was Mark homosexual? No. Perhaps he had just a hint, a few traces, of bi-sexuality. The lines always blur with regard to one’s sexual identity, don’t they?
I had one homosexual experience which happened when I was 20 and it took me years to recover from the guilt, horror, shame of it. It happened because my husband at the time was a latent queer (as distinguished from closet queer) and that played out in my having a relationship with a woman who worked at one of the Connor Empire’s glossy magazines. I did to her what Mark liked to do to me—I poked my finger deep into her warm, soft, slippery vagina.
Mark’s digital or penile pokes were aggressive, manly invasions. He was determined, obsessed with invading and conquering every millimeter of my brain’s compass, my mind’s scope, circumference, interior. Very ballsy of him. Balls. Balzac.
Mark gave me a billiard ball holder shaped like a triangle, symbolic of a woman, then he shaved off my pubic hair and made me a teeny-bopper, or a castrated boy. Castrati were Italian boy singers who were made ball-less so their voices wouldn’t change. But back to Mark. The next day he accused me of having suborned his doorman. Sub-born. Infant in the womb. Pre-birth. I was a premature baby. There. That’s t-he point I wanted to get to.
Mark and I met at a debutante ball at the Waldorf fifty years ago and we became lovers a few months before he married his first wife. We continued to be lovers, off and on, during and after his second and then his third wife, because we had a profound connection, always have had a deep mutual understanding.
And finally, at long last, WE married!
His first wife used to put a tiny circle above her “i”s, which is indicative of pretensions. But underlining your signature has a motor effect on the mind. The British royals usually do and for good reason.
On a walk on 57th Street near Third Avenue Mark and I were arguing. He stubbornly refused to acknowledge something I was trying to tell him, which stubborn refusal felt suffocating, it brought forth all sorts of feelings of being strangled (when, as a child, a rope caught me as I was being knocked about in the strong surf, and I nearly drowned, and my strangling and choking was representative of all the times Mummy kept me from speaking, from expressing myself). As we waited for the light to change, I just took a step toward the swiftly moving traffic on Third Avenue, directly in front of a speeding car, just to give Mark the opportunity to save my life. And of course he did, instantly. His reflexes were perfect then.
He was indeed a life-saver, whose anxieties and neuroses were manifested in his constantly needing to clear his throat. Very annoying after a while. I wrote him a letter and I said: “Buy a roll of candy ones and let them melt in your mother, low caloric, good for your throat.” And then I saw I’d accidentally typed “mother” instead of “mouth.” See? There are no accidents. His mother was absolutely horrid, and destructive, and deserved to die.
My dear old nurse, my beloved Nanny. Mummy fired her when I was two, just because she couldn’t tolerate me liking, loving someone other than her. Nanny just disappeared, and all my life I’d get anxiety when I encountered people who looked like her. Like Mervin, the polo player. His helmet reminded me of the Cloche that Nanny wore.
Cloche! Milliner Caroline Reboux invented that lovely bell-shaped hat in 1908, and was so popular in the 1920s. Everyone wore them, every day of the week. Mondays. Tuesdays. Damnit all, Twos days, and To You’s Day, T’Yous day.
I am an androgynous self, of course, all creative people are.
I have an acute sense of values, of quality, such that I can tell the real from the false, the genuine from the feigned, can identify roles that are appropriate and which are odd, off center, not quite right. Vittoria is wholly authentic.
Jack Joyce, her lover, significant other, fiancé, or whatever, is on the other hand annoyingly argumentative, too full of himself, too much a know-it-all, who presumes most people aren’t as well educated as he is. Columbia University, if you please. The great august Columbia University, the ultimate tower of ivory. Doubtless Mr. Joyce believes all the sordid accusations against Mark and me. That much was clear in his reaction to Mark at the PEN get together at Sutton Place. The disdain for Mark in his eyes and body language was unmistakable. And then later at dinner, he presumed to lecture me about my Australian art, and about music. Despite all that Vittoria loves him, so out of courtesy I will remain silent about these matters.
I would never have invited that pretentious Black Irishman to dinner had he not showed me his cellphone with some of the pictures Vittoria had taken. I was immediately captivated, and of course knew I had to meet her. I knew her images were vastly more artistic and intriguing than anything Jack had done in that book and gallery collection. I bought a half dozen of his photos because Mark, after reading the review in the Times, suggested they would be a good investment. One’s portfolio ought to be diverse.
My identity is smoking people out, seeing them for who and what they really are. Mark’s primary identity was his money.
After his father died, Mark swore that each year he’d make a million, to add to his rather penurious inheritance. And of course he did. And why not? Mark once objected to my calling him pecunious. He thought it was a synonym for stingy, tight, ungenerous, penny-pinching and so on. I threw the Webster at him. Look it up for Christ’s sake why don’t you?
Was he homosexual? No. Perhaps just a hint of bi-sexuality. The lines always blur, don’t they?
In his last months Mark had what looked like pseudocyesis, a false pregnancy. Symbolic of giving birth to a new self. Within himself a resurrection. A renewal. A new life with new meaning. Along those lines I put a marvelous George Matheson quote beneath his portrait on the cover of the book I put together for his memorial service:
“I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”
Ambiguous, yes. So much left unsaid, no?
Pseudocyesis is a much, much better term than pot belly, or beer belly. Or paunch, spare tire, bay window. Or even embonpoint, from the 17th Century Middle French en bon point, which means stout, or in good condition.
Now, symptoms of pseudocyesis can also occur in men who have couvade syndrome, which is also called sympathetic pregnancy. It’s a fascinating condition in which a partner experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior of an expectant mother. These most often include minor weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning nausea, and disturbed sleep patterns. In more extreme cases they can include labor pains, postpartum depression, and nosebleeds.
Well, all right. Enough of that.
I must update my resume. Much has happened since I put it together years and years and years ago.
So much ground to cover.
I have lived and traveled in North and South Africa; the Far, Middle and Near East; Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; the United States where I was born, and Europe. The Dali Lama autographed a book he had written in Tibetan for me, and commissioned a lecture I had given at the Society of Women Geographers to be printed by his Imperial Printing press as a booklet to be officially distributed by the office of Tibet.
Cyprian, the late Paramount Chief of the Zulus, once presented me with an ox leg and three wooden bowls.
Ranee Islon, Queen of the Nicobars, helped me to hunt for Tridacna, giant clams. We found one, which is now here in my clear plexiglass coffee table, the size and shape of a coffin, full of the shells I’ve gathered over the years in my travels all over the world.
Now, when my dear sweet Vittoria first saw that big clear plastic coffin-box after she arrived, she was fascinated! She pulled the big digital camera out of her bag, and eagerly began shooting. Later she opened her laptop and showed me the pictures. My god, what an eye she has! What a sense of the hidden beauty of the world! The most striking image was of a perfectly round white sand dollar lying next to a split Nautilus shell.
Was it just an accident that Vittoria in effect juxtaposed the mathematical concepts of Pi, the circumference of a circle in relation to its diameter, and Phi, the golden ratio that appears throughout nature? No, there are no accidents. If Vittoria hadn’t actually seen the relationship or articulated it as she framed and focused the camera, then she obviously just felt it, which is precisely what all great artists automatically and instinctively do.
Hindus say the Nautilus Shell symbolizes the multiplicity of creation. Phi can be found in all other organic structures, all biological configurations, such as the seed pattern of a sunflower, the proportions of human and animal skeletons, and is in fact a geometrical blueprint for life itself. Plato called Phi the key to the physics of the cosmos. Vittoria understood this, or felt this, and deftly captured its essence.
* * *
Vittoria brought in some stones from the beach. Glacial moraine. Mark once had a row of those smooth rounded stones on his office window sill, which he’d gotten from Marsha. That row of stones frightened me. I don’t know why. There were twelve of them, the size of oranges, or apples, or tennis balls. A jury, sitting in judgment, ready to deliver a verdict of GUILTY. Or to deliver a $12 million judgment against me in Kathryn's sexual abuse lawsuit!
No, that's not right. A jury always has fourteen--the original twelve plus two alternates. Nevertheless my fear dissipated and was replaced with a burning rage. I told Mark he must remove them, at once. He resisted, but I insisted.
But Vittoria! The girl has been here one or two weeks, and every time she says so charmingly that she hopes she isn’t wearing out her welcome, I emphatically tell her I want her to stay the rest of the summer, or even longer. She is perfect company. She and I have a profound understanding. We have deep, deep things in common. And of course by way of a profound contrast there’s Kathryn and her deliberate mischaracterization of one of my many, many, many, many attempts at reconciliation.
Yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, Vittoria brought in some stones from the beach. Glacial moraine, debris left here 41,000 years ago when the great ice sheet stopped its southward creep right here on this spot, and melted. Mark once had a row of those smooth rounded stones on his office window sill. They terrified me. I don’t know why.