or: Memories of Stardust Memories
“Why am I so alone?”
“Loneliness kills in the long run.”
Where are the parties of the fifties, which I attended with pointed breast armor, standing in a corner, besieged by five Charlton Hestons and William Holdens? Where are the parties of the sixties, I with slick décolleté, and falling for every Peter Sellers or Bob Dylan or Richard Fariña or unpickled youngster explaining how Trotsky had been wronged and that perhaps all would have gone well had he become Mexico’s presidente. A lonely man.
In 1973 I got married. My husband Pedro Verde bought me a Cadillac Sedan de Ville as a wedding present – tan metallic and immensely long, with silver-grey leather interior. I grew to like the car and dislike my husband, a 15th-generation or so Chicano high up in local politics.
At night I’d take the Caddy west on I-70, leaving behind Cabrini Shrine and Buffalo Bill’s Grave, Idaho Springs and Georgetown. The stretch from Georgetown to Silver Plume, where it gets steep, served to make me feel the power of the car’s gigantic engine. I’d exit in Silver Plume, take the lane going east and speed down again. Men would turn their heads in their Camaros and Mercedeses and whatnots, and I imagined that they were wondering about the middle-aged made-up brunette with severely drawn lip lines passing them carelessly in her big marshmallow boat.
My husband once asked me about the gas bills, all of which I charged to his Phillips 66 card.
“200 miles a day – that seems impossible!”
“Errands, my dear! Married life …”
He probably suspected a lover but wasn’t interested enough to find out.
He shrugged his shoulders and then, one morning, lay in bed dead. Heart attack – too much red meat and mellow brown liquor.
He left me $50,000 a year.
I pretended to be very thoughtful after his passing away. The term helped me deal with the relationship we’d had: We went along the same freeway for a while – mostly on cruise control –, two reasonably normal citizens at 55 mph, he at 57 sometimes and leaving me behind slowly, then me speeding up a little, getting even and passing, and eventually he passed away.
No men after him.
I paint my fingernails white or ivory, go to bars, drink Bloody Maries and smoke Dunhills in a precious holder. Men buy me drinks and try their tricks, dropping ice cubes between my breasts, casually mentioning the existence of cozy cabins near Woodland Park and the nonexistence of serious ties with their spouses.
Often I go to see a film or rent one. Belle de Jour – Deneuve the lioness, Viridiana – life, on the surface, a game of cards, La dolce vita – Mastroianni crying and trying to shake Emma out of her poison-induced stupor, Meryl Streep musing about truth with a Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice.
Yesterday I saw Stardust Memories, not because of Woody Allen, a nervous nuisance I’d gladly do without anytime, but to watch Charlotte Rampling age. Her nearly bare chest skin and bones and stringy muscles as she spreads her arms. Her split-second face twitch twitch twitch, her lips two pieces of crust meeting deformed, then her feet behind her, chipping away at the floor tic tic and at Woody Allen and her sanity. Why be sane?
November 1980 something. I know a doctor now. I am so alone. Loneliness will kill me. I know a doctor now.
– James Steerforth ( © 2009 )
Originally written in the 1980s. Pulled out of the drawer and revised slightly because of One Single Impression’s Stardust theme.
“I know a doctor now” is a quote from Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980).