THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET DRESS
Now a little earlier, before the dinner party there was a girl in a red velvet dress that came to the bookstore for a Christmas job while he lived in his first hotel room and they saw each other and their eyes locked and they were each paralyzed. They saw and tried to not see but could not avoid each other’s eyes and in two weeks they were helplessly mesmerized and could no longer dodge the spell of sex and obsession that had been cast, the delusions ensnaring her away from marriage and he from his good sense but it mattered not as he was free to be consumed with desire and he could only unconsciously imagine she embodied every neurotic English dream affectation inherited from The Dark Queen, including even the one where as a child he'd waited days for the good Queens blessing but the girl did not know that.
He couldn’t say what spell had been cast, but there was something of the shape of her face, her cheekbones and mouth in full color with the lush ripeness of early adulthood, the blond hair and blue eyes. But it was also her very fairy tale princess Englishness that enchanted him and he was too fast asleep within himself to understand the magnetism of her charms. He was mesmerized with lust and dreams and the figments of romance that can only fall across the eyes of the guileless or very young, and they were both. She left her husband on Christmas eve and moved in with him and he thought he was a grown up now and they had a little cozy space they called all their own right on the street of broken children's dreams across from the cafe where he had come of age and though he hadn't really he didn't know that yet with paintings on the walls and handmade things and they imagined they would design things together, write children’s books and the world was new again, an ecstatic perfumed garden that he’d never imagined he’d find. And they had the kind of romance, dreams and rich delusions of the heart and loins that license is given to such fools but once when one is blank and young. They enjoyed it for the little grace period that comes with the package until they found each other out as always happens even in the best of tales.
Later he would say he didn't know how he lived long enough to grow past twenty one without ending up dead on some dirty street or violated nightly in some prison for his crimes. He didn't know how he escaped but he knew it was only just barely. He did not escape the torture of the soul that's unawakened and would say there but for the grace of god go I and yet he was one that others might say that about.
The story of course of the lovers in their sweet nest of pretty things and delights always ends and it makes one cringe but it often ends this way and he did not know how hard he would fall but of course all that it took was one bold stroke and she eviscerated him but good.
Over and again he heard the voices repeat, don't be so emotional, don't talk so loud, don't be so tense and don't be too this or that, don't tell anyone the truth about yourself and most of all don't let on how you really feel.
It really didn't take her much, just the whimsical change of heart, a change of man like a change of fashion while he, with adoring intention, naïve and convinced he was devoted to her for life now was tripped up and made a fool as only a man child can no matter how grown up he has convinced himself. He is cast out of the garden and into a hell that is reserved for those who unwittingly take the leap of faith only to be shown that the leap into her arms was off a cliff instead as she steps aside to turn her distracted and indifferent attention to another man now on his bed and barely hears the anguish or the screams, laughs at the foolish child who thought he was a man. She, the mistress of manipulations beyond his ken and he cannot conceive that cruelty could be so savage from this heart he adored.
He fell hard and wandered, drunk and lost, he smashed his things and rent his clothes, he tore his bed and flung pots and flowers to the street below and did not open windows first. He made a furious roar and screamed and finally police were called as they must.
They were kind as cops can be when confronted with a broken heart. But not their fault they did not know their solution may aggravate rather than soothe, and insisted that the Queen of Night herself be called to take him now to care. And she was as cold and brittle and unfeeling as he later realized she had always been but she deigned to help only if the police would bring him to her, and even then, was barely condescending and took him to her home and dropped him off to go and have her hair curled and set.
He turned around and returned to his wretched chaos and continued to destroy all that had delighted him, he killed her over and over but she was long gone and his heart was in shreds when they came for him again and this time made the mother really take him away where he might get the care he needed.
For the first three days they’d tied him to a bed in a cement cell with the window open, wearing only his underwear. When he came in he was so angry at the rough treatment they took him to be psychotic, but he was just a hurting little boy inside an older body who wanted someone to speak to him quietly and kindly and gentle him back down as one might an anxious horse. Instead they gave him a shot and he went to sleep for a day and a half.
When he awakened, quiet now within and reflecting on where he’d been and how he’d come to be where he was now, he asked the nurse that came to check on him for a pencil and paper so he could write to see if he could still make sense to himself and when he could he knew that this bad time was not so different from bad times he’d had at the hands of The Dark Queen, moments of degradation and humiliation that he could not comprehend.
He saw firsthand the institution from the inside out; the veritable Cuckoo’s Nest with the institutional food, the glossy white tiled walls and bored orderlies, the nurses and the lining up for sedatives at the nursing station and he knew that whatever he was, it was not crazy. He’d awakened on the Vernal Equinox and taken it as a sign that this was to be a new year now for him, life was to start over for him and he needed to see it that way. If only it were so easy, nothing ever was for him.
Eleven days later now with the gift of seeing what really crazy people were like and knowing himself now at least a little better he could laugh because the draft board now saw him unfit to be sent overseas to become a drug addict or killed.
The girl he’d hitch hiked from the east with came to him in unfettered compassion, to be there for whatever she might and he held her all night long and cried and she let him because she’d been to places like he was herself.
At the end of the month he moved to the city, it was time to get away from the Berkeley that had ceased to be the enchanted lyrical dream space of his childhood and never ending adolescence. Another hotel room, this time on the cable car line, smack downtown just a burp from the most expensive retail landscape in America. But his was a parallel universe.