Thursday, March 7, 2013

Chapter 18 / Rush

Now it was another Sunday, after his meeting with Amistad. Sunset, and they had stopped at the riverfront in Schuyler before his train arrived. Afterward she realized that he had planned it that way: more private than a restaurant, and if she turned around and left him, he could walk to the train. 

“I’m remaking myself,” he had said, “for the third time. I’m lucky I got the Pacifica gig. As soon as I did, Rush Limbaugh accused left-wing radio of hiring convicted murderers.”

He said something after that, but, as intended, her mind stuck on murderers. Convicted. 

“I hear that Rush Limbaugh exaggerates,” she said. 

“He does,” said Andy. “He gets confused, too, about the facts. In this case, I did the crime, and the time.” 

“Felony DWI,” she said. 

He shook his head. “Manslaughter.” He said the word gently, lingering over the three syllables. “Pled down from Murder 3, depraved indifference to human life. 

“Sometimes legal terms are perfectly precise . . . but do you want to hear about this, or do you want to go home?” 

“—Both. I wish I could sit down. Let’s go back to the car.” 

She had parked in the boat club lot, near signs that said Private Property and Members Only and No Trespassing. She and Ed had always parked here when they wanted the view; some rules were easy to break. In the car, Andy asked her if she would move her seat back, so he could see her as he talked, “and you can look at me, if you like.  

“I killed my wife,” he said. “I was depraved. So was she. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and a photographer with an eye like no one’s had, before or since. She was the one who took the photo of me at the demo, with the blood running down my face. The shot seen round the world.”  

“—Were you wearing a tie?” 

“Yes. And a blazer. Did you see the poster for sale in a flea market?”

“Probably. And the photo, in newspapers.”

“Well, this beautiful, brilliant, crazy girl wanted me. I could not believe my luck. I was skinnier then. I looked like a starving horse on two feet. 

“We got married the week after I graduated from Yale. She didn’t graduate. She dropped out of Wellesley her last semester because she was a brilliant photographer who didn’t need a degree, I was going to support her, and her mother wanted her help in organizing the wedding. Five hundred guests. Her father ran half of Kentucky, my father owned the other half. They needed a NASA computer to create the seating chart. 

“We got enough presents to fill an apartment in New York and a house on the Georgia Sea Isles. Her father gave us the house. My father bought us the apartment. If you’re thinking they were two competitive bastards with that especially silken Kentucky drawl, you’re right. 

“Anyway, she wrote three hundred thank-you notes. Little cards with her new initials on them. Enough to drive anyone crazy. We had things like silver grapefruit spoons. Did you ever have grapefruit spoons?” 

“I found a couple in a flea market.”

“Probably mine. For sale next to the poster.” 

He paused and looked at her until she met his gaze. Intent, she thought, but not crazy. 

“You didn’t get married right after college did you,” he said. 


“Wise already, at a young age.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It was a close call. I handled it—badly. But if you’ve had difficult parents, you don’t want to repeat the experience.” 

“—Right, Annie. And the rest of us had loving, sustaining parents. You’re wise and suffused with common sense.” 

“Or a fear of commitment. Anyway . . .”

“Anyway, we had all this property and these things—I did love her, in my own 22-year-old way, and after growing up inland, suffocating, I loved being able to see the water from both the apartment and the house . . . anyway, we had to think what we were going to do next, when we weren’t having sex, and I got an assignment to Beirut. On spec, but it was my idea and I sold it and I knew we could make it work. Her pictures were part of the deal, we did it together. Her pictures were so fine—beautiful and deadly. 

"We loved the danger. We left the hotel, squatted in a bombed-out building. She had studied Arabic. I protected her, but she did the talking. Her voice would change. No Kentucky drawl in her Arabic.

“Back home was too tame. We tried things. You never did drugs? Not ever?”

“—Not seriously. I had the example of my parents, alcohol.”

“More common sense.” 

“Boring. Except to Ed, who was thirty before he tried a cigarette. So anyway . . . “

“So anyway, I got another assignment and I cleaned up. She didn’t. Two years of hell. I left her, came back. The city was hopeless, so I took her to the sea. She left me, came back. We tried tough love, we tried sweet love. We put her in detox, we took her out. Everyone blamed me, and I did give her the needle that killed her, there were witnesses, but I didn’t start it, Annie, I didn’t start it. 

“The case was a power struggle between her parents and mine. Her father wanting me dead, my mother trying to save me. 

“You can look it up,” he said. 

She didn’t answer, thinking that she should look it up and she couldn’t bear to. He would be portrayed as the criminal, and he was the criminal—

Digame,” he said again. He didn’t like telling her to talk to him, but sometimes, he was learning, you had to dislodge Annie from her thoughts. 

“You don’t use her name,” she said. 

“—Her name was Mary. She was known as Polly, and her parents called her Pooh.”

“I went to college with a girl named Pooh. It’s hard to think of now.”

“Think of something else then.”

“—It’s tame here . . . but I like it. Eventually you’ll go away . . . maybe you should just go now.” 

This time he looked slapped. “But I like you,” he said. 

“You will break my heart.” 

“No,” he said, “no. First, I’m smarter. If a beautiful creative girl agrees to spend time with me, I’m not giving that up. Second, it doesn’t matter what I do. Ed broke your heart, right?”

She looked away. 

“That’s it. For you, it will happen only once. I can tell.” 

“That’s a crazy thing to say, Andy,” she said, turning back to him, “but never mind. Why aren’t you in Rwanda? That’s the story of the ’90s, not this godforsaken Republican backwater.” 

“First, this backwater isn’t so bad, story-wise. We’ll talk about that. But . . . OK, let’s spell this out, for both of us. I would give my teeth to go to Rwanda. But I’m not strong enough. For me to tell you that is like cutting my wrists all over again. After three years in the Cuscutlan jungle, I have malarial relapses. I can’t risk losing my goddamned psychotropic meds, or running out of them. I have a job. I like talking to Warren. I spent the ’70s as a murderer, the ’80s as a madman. The ’90s are my last shot at a life.”

He looked at his watch. “The train is due in five minutes. Let’s take me to the station. I’ll leave. You think. I should tell you that I’ll wait for your call, but I won’t. I’ll call you tomorrow, as usual.” 

“Chloe,” she said that night, “I am reduced to talking to my dog.” 

With this information, he has isolated you. Jaime would say that. 

“It happened twenty years ago. He went to jail, got out, did his parole. It’s not like he put a gun to her head. Or is it?” Was she in the way? Did he hope for an accident? She couldn’t say the words out loud. 

“He hasn’t killed anyone since. Except, probably in Cuscutlan and later, almost, himself. Oh, Chloe, what a mess. Are we safe? And how do you tell jokes with a person who has killed someone?”

Kathleen, the practicing Catholic: Would she be speechless? No, she wouldn’t be. To go on, you will have to forgive him.

Copyright © Debby Mayer