|Day Three of Telling How I Came to Make These Pages
Perhaps the reason we don't want to dwell on suicide is that whereas in a
homicide there is a murderer, in a suicide there is no one so clear to blame. For
me, I felt I could have been to blame for Bobby's suicide. Not that it was so
important that I said I couldn't love him right then, but that he may have needed
love right then, and I didn't give it to him and the void overwhelmed him.
The girl who pulled out her eyelashes didn't seem to feel she was to blame. She
was sad, I believe, and shocked. I don't know if she was more shocked than me.
Maybe he hadn't asked her if she loved him, or if he had she may have said yes
and he didn't say he had the Tombstone Blues; or, maybe she was less shocked
because she, too, did heroine. I don't know that she did. I just have no idea.
I think she told me once that she got a hundred dollars a night. She seemed very
proud of this. I think she told me, because I don't remember anyone else saying
she was a prostitute, but maybe Bonny had said. Bonny knew everything. I was
mainly a listener.
There was a Lebanese man at Claude's who had asked me if I'd like to earn a
hundred dollars a night, he said I'd have to have a speciality. I was very poor, so
maybe he thought I'd be glad of the chance, but I wasn't that interested in money. I
wanted to be a writer. I wanted to know things, and write them. I had written a
play, sitting over the floor vent of the furnace to keep warm without turning up
the heat, to save money. It was at about the time of the Lebanese man, because I
remember Virgil coming over to pay me some money he owed me. I remember
the police coming because Virgil was reported as skulking around my house. I
told the police that yes, I knew Virgil.
Virgil was great. He had newspaper clippings that he kept in his wallet about all
the famous restaurants that he'd opened. He was a singing chef, Opera. He wanted
to change Claude's into a fashionable restaurant. Maybe just profitable, rather
than fashionable. He put red and white checked table clothes on the tables in the
first room, the huge dance floor room was to the right of that as you walked in.
He had a Chianti bottle with a candle in it on each table. The wax drippings made
the bottles look arty.
Virgil hired me, and another woman, I forget her name but maybe it was
Michelle, or Michael. Maybe she called herself Michael. She lived with another
woman, and one of them was the daughter of the Colt 45 gun makers, if I
remember correctly. Though I may be wrong because I knew a man from that or
another similarly well known gun making family when I lived in London. I don't
remember asking him whether he had a sister named Michael; I would have
thought I would have if I'd thought they might be from the same gun making
family. I wonder if his name will come to me. I would think that it would,
eventually. He was over with the woman he lived with, and their daughter, when
the building across from where I lived on Goswell Road burned down. It was
quite spectacular, and a little thought provoking because the big, red
hand-cranked fire alarm that had been downstairs by the entrance door, had been
removed. I knew that the Worshipful Company of Brewers, who owned my
building, wanted me to move because they wanted to build something new. But,
because I had rented it unfurnished, I had a right to a life tenancy according to the
then laws in London. I couldn't help but wonder if the Worshipful were warning
me, or hinting that it would be wise to get packing.
What Michael and I were supposed to do, was go around and stop into shops on
the Plaza and surrounding streets and talk to people about the restaurant, about
how good it was, how they should try it.
I don't know what Virgil paid Michael, but I got paid mostly in pizza, so how it
was that Virgil was bringing me money, I have no idea. I must have needed some
for rent, or something.
Thinking about Virgil makes me smile. He told me how to peel onions so that it
was fast. I never did it his way up until now when I've been too sick to stand very
long. For me, not wasting any of the onion was more important than speed. Up
until I had tetanus standing was no problem so speed wasn't important. Now, I do
it Virgil's way. In fact, I was thinking of him as I peeled onions just a moment ago.
Virgil had introduced me to the DuPonts when they ate at his restaurant. They had
the Antipasto, of which Virgil was very proud. I had never heard of antipasto. I
remember the DuPonts and antipasto about equally. Though I do remember that
she had seemed not at all flighty. I can't remember if she was the DuPont and her
husband had a different last name.
Once, Virgil took me with him to see Oleg Cassini. I mainly remember that there
were beautiful Persian rugs in the room. The man, Mr. Cassini, seemed nice. I
forget why Virgil was seeing him. I remember thinking that Mr. Cassini seemed
too ordinary to be so famous, except that his home was so beautifully furnished.
He didn't act aloof, or have the airs I guess I expected. I have no idea what the
men talked about because, I suppose, I was so busy weighing the reality of
meeting Oleg Cassini. If I had met him when he was being interviewed for the
news, that would have been more convincing. On the way down from his home, I
asked Virgil, "Was that really Oleg Cassini?" "Yes. Don't you think so?" Virgil
Another time we were in a home near Delgado, where years later a woman from
Texas used to have Women's Circles, and for some reason there was champagne.
Tattinger's. It was the first time I had champagne that wasn't at one of my cousins'
weddings. Virgil said, "Tattinger's" the same way he said, "DuPont." Maybe that's
why the name stuck with me.
I can't remember why I moved from that house on Lugar de Monte Vista, where
Virgil brought me money. It seems like such a central place in my memory, of
the places I've lived here in Santa Fe. Certainly its apricot tree has informed all
my experience of apricots from that time forward. Those were the best apricots,
warmed by the sun, large and sweet.
I may have moved from there to California. That must be when I moved to
California. I remember being in Monterey and finding $20 from my Stevens
Point friends, Posie and Dee, which they had hidden in my shoe organizer, so that
I would have some money when I got to California. Posie had been the first to
move to Santa Fe. She'd gone to Madison to school, in journalism, and had gotten
a job at the New Mexican as a reporter. Dee and I had moved to Santa Fe to visit
her. But I had really wanted to go to California, so eventually I had packed my
huge Dodge station wagon and set off, waving aside warnings that I had too little
All of that time, during all of that time, I used to look at my fingernails and think
to myself how much I liked the shape of the nails on my index and little fingers.
My middle finger nails splayed out a little at the top, and I didn't like the looks of
them nearly as much. But all of my nails were beautifully smooth. I remember
that, which in part is why it surprised me so much when decades later I noticed
that they were no longer smooth, but rather, as ridged as if they were mimicking
hog back mountains.