Were having some sort of … function beyond herself. Function. Alarm bells. Dr. Jay, after all. A plot thing? No, not a plot thing, definitely not a plot thing, she wasn’t making herself understood. The points of her hair swung like pendula below her chin as she shook her head. My napkin had unfortunately fallen under the table. How clumsy of me. Her legs were there, but curled back, underneath her chair, ankles crossed. Alarm bells or no, I wanted first to reach for an ankle, then to pee.
No, she simply felt-at times, mind you, not all the time, but at sharp and distinct intuitive moments—as if she had no real existence, except for what she said and did and perceived and et cetera, and that these were, it seemed at such times, not really under her control. There was nothing pure. Hmmm. Could we talk about something else? Why for instance did I see Dr. Jay? Oh, just some dream-orientation, general rapping. I had a sort of detached interest in the whole analysis scene, really. My problems were without exception very tiny. Hardly worth discussing at that point.
I saw Jay in particular because I liked him least of any of the [very many] Cleveland clinicians with whom I’d rapped. I found an atmosphere of antagonism vital to the whole process, somehow. Lenore too? No, Lenore had been referred to Jay by a physician, friend of the family, old old crony of her great-grandmother, a physician to whom Lenore had gone with a persistent nosebleed problem. She’d stayed ever since. She found Jay irritating but fascinating. Did I find him fascinating? Actually, I went simply to ride the chairs; I found the chairs fun things. A release. The chairs.
She loved the heavy clanking pull as the chain drew her down the track to the Sanctum. She had gone to a fair once with her brother and her governess, and had ridden a rollercoaster that at the start had pulled and clanked like that. Sometimes she really almost expected a drastic rollercoaster plunge when she entered Jay’s inner office. [Give it time. ] She had gone to the state fair in Columbus once with her sister Clarice and they had gotten lost in the House of Mirrors and Clarice’s purse had been stolen by a man who had pretended to be a reflection until the very last moment.
It had been scary as hell. What did her mother do? She was hanging out, more or less, in Wisconsin. Were her parents divorced? Not exactly. Could we go. She had to be at work to give me my paper in the morning, after all. Very late all of a sudden. Had she eaten, would she like something to eat? Ginger ale was surprisingly filling. Her car was in the shop, choke trouble. She had taken the bus to work that day. Well then. She had one of those new cars made by Mattel, also the maker of Hot Wheels. Only slightly larger than same. Really more toy than car. And so on.
I see us driving down the insanely shaped Inner Belt of 1-271 South, toward lower East Corinth. I see Lenore in the car keeping her knees together and swinging both legs over to the side, toward me, so that I touch her knee with the back of my hand as I shift. With my stomach I see disaster. I see me dropping Lenore off at her place, us on the porch of a huge gray house that looked black in the soft darkness of the April night, the house Lenore in a small voice said belonged to an oral surgeon who lent out two rooms to her and Mandible and one to a girl who worked for her sister at CabanaTan.
Lenore lived with Mandible. I see her thanking me for the ginger ale and the ride. I see me leaning, lunging over the rustle of the white collar of her dress and kissing her before she has finished saying thank you. I see her kicking me, in the knee, where the knee nerve is, with a sneaker that is revealed to be surprisingly heavy and hard. I see me squealing and holding my knee and sitting down heavily on a step of the porch bristling with nails. I see me howling and holding my knee with one hand and my ass with the other and pitching headlong into an empty flowerbed of soft spring earth.
I see Lenore kneeling beside me—how sorry, she didn’t know what made her do that, I had surprised her, she had been taken by surprise, oh shit what had she done. I see me with dirt in my nose, I see lights going on in the gray house, in other houses. I am horribly sensitive to pain and almost begin to cry. I see Lenore run through the door of the oral surgeon’s house. I see my car tilting ever closer as I hop madly toward it on one leg. I am convinced that I heard the voice of Candy Mandible high overhead.
I knew that I loved Lenore Beadsman when she failed to appear for work the next day. Mandible informed me with wide eyes that Lenore had assumed she was fired. I called Lenore’s landlady, the surgeon’s wife, a two-hundred-pound Bible thumping bom-again fanatic. I asked her to inform Lenore that she was in fact not fired. I apologized to Lenore. She was incredibly embarrassed. I was embarrassed. Her supervisor, the switchboard supervisor, Walinda Peahen, really did want to fire Lenore, ostensibly for not showing up for work.
Walinda dislikes Lenore for her privileged background. I am Walinda’s supervisor | soothed her. Lenore began to hand me my paper as before. Where are you now? For there was the magic night later, a magic night, untalka boutable, when my heart was full of heat and my bottom had healed and I left the office in a trance before six, descended, on wire, saw across the dark empty stone lobby Lenore in her cubicle, alone, for the moment Priethtless, reading, the switchboard mute as usual.
I slipped across the blackly shadowed floor and melted into the white desk-lamp light of the tiny office, behind Lenore at her console. She looked up at me and smiled and looked back down at her book. She was not reading. Through the giant window high over the cubicle a thin spear of the orange-brown light of a Cleveland sunset, saved and bent for a moment by some kindly chemical cloud around the Erieview blackness, fell like a beacon on the soft patch of cream just below Lenore’s right ear, on her throat.
I bent in my trance and pressed my lips gently to the spot. The sudden beeping of the switchboard mechanism was the beating of my heart, transported into Lenore’s purse. And Lenore Beadsman slowly took her right hand and slid it back up my own neck, cradling with soft hesitant warmth the right side of my jaw and cheek, her long fingers with their dull bitten nails holding me in position against her throat, comforting, her head now tilted left so I could feel the tiny thunder of an artery against my lips. I lived, truly and completely and for the