A Visit chapter six

A while later – I was not sure how many minutes – I realized I had either fallen asleep or so into the moment I forgot what had just happened. I was still sitting on the bench with Stacy. She still held my hand, sitting relaxed with her eyes closed. She looked asleep but maybe she was not. I asked, “Are you awake?”

She did not answer. I tried letting go but her grip was tight. Was her body still on automatic pilot? I wiggled my hand around in hers. She did not open her eyes but her hand stayed clamped so I figured a part of her was awake. I said, “Hey!”

She said, “Mm.”

“I have to go soon. Are you going to hold my hand forever. It’s getting late.”

“Mm!”

“Come on, stop it!”

“I don’t stop.”

“Are you going to hold my hand forever?”

“Nanny nanny nah nah.”

“I’m staying for the week with my sister and her husband. They made dinner for me and if I don’t show up they’ll be worried.”

She opened her eyes. “We don’t want them worried, do we?”

“No, I don’t.”

“No, we don’t.”

“Whatever.”

“Refer to us as we, please. I’m now a part of you.”

I did not want to argue. If she was honestly thinking that she and I were now one because she became attached to me, nothing I could say would change her mind. I would have to wait until she was really asleep for me to get free.

She frowned. “Well, aren’t we going?” She got up.

We walked in the direction of Georgette’s house. I walked slowly, not sure whether I wanted to prolong the walk or felt embarrassed about arriving with Stacy. She smiled as if I was her husband. I was a bit creeped out at how she seemed to view this in her warped way. If I continued talking to her, maybe she would snap out of the weirdness. I asked, “How do you feel about the idea of collaborating on a story?”

“That would be fun. Are you thinking of us writing a story together?”

“It could work. When I wrote stories back in California, I first got coffee and then, if the cashier touched my hand when she gave me my change, I used that energy to write a new story.”

“That sounds really productive. I bet you’re full of ideas now from the energy I’m giving you.”

“I probably am, especially because of how you’re dressed. If you looked like my cousin, I wouldn’t want you to touch me at all.”

“Of course. A blood relative? That would be so twisted if you wanted a touch from her.”

“You may not realize this but your crazy behavior is actually a real-life counterpart to a character in one of my stories.”

“Crazy behavior? Why the fuck do you say that?”

“I don’t mean crazy as in you belong in a mental institution but crazy as in not going with the status quo.”

“I’m not crazy, you asshole! I’m very normal! I have a full-time job. I keep my apartment clean. I have a neighbor who doesn’t like the music I play. He slams his door when he comes home. I think he’s into some sort of demonic religion or something. I’ll freak out and bang my head against the wall and feel like cutting my wrists and have had bad thoughts about wanting friends of mine to get into harmful accidents but that’s only because of stress. I work. I live in subsidized housing but I work. Don’t ask me for details. I’m not supposed to tell. But I’m normal. If you think I’m crazy you’ll see crazy. You’ll wish you never met me.”

“You’re not going to hurt me, are you?”

“I’ll do whatever the fuck I want to do with you.”

“We’ve gotten on a negative track here. Let’s say positive.”

“You’re the one who’s negative. Calling me fucking crazy. Fuck you!”

“If you think I’m bringing you back to meet my sister and her husband, you’re mistaken.”

“What? Why not?”

“You’re certainly not calm. It wouldn’t be appropriate.”

“’It wouldn’t be appropriate!’ How snotty that sounds. You make me out to be a tramp, like a piece of gum that got stuck to your shoe and you have to scrape me off before putting your princely feet on the royal carpet of the king’s house! That’s very insulting! Look at my hair. It’s long and combed nicely. Not all frizzed out with a bunch of wacky hair dye or flaking with dandruff. Look at my clothes. My shirt is tucked in. I’m not wearing a ratty old sweat-stained loose shirt with spit and puke on it and jeans with dog crap and heroin flakes on it. Is that how I should dress? Should I dress like your cousin? Does she look like that?”

“Generally, that’s true for most of that family.”

“Okay. I’m not going to embarrass you. We’re going to your sister’s.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No, I’m glad you did because now I’m never letting you go until we get to your sister’s.”

“So, if we go there, will you let go?”

“I’ll be on my best behavior and I’ll let go.”

“Okay.”

“Goody good.”

I was not planning to take her to Georgette’s house. Instead, I would continue walking down various streets until she was tired. I would be tired also but my nervousness would keep me energized so I could walk forever. If she asked when we would arrive, I would say only a few more blocks. I could reach into my powers of persuasion and say things that would put her in the right mind.

As we continued walking, she dug her fingernails in my skin. I said, “Ouch!”

“It shouldn’t hurt because you’re just a figment of my imagination. I own you.”

“That does it.” With my other hand, I pried as hard as possible.

She screamed, “Hey!”

I noticed her other hand was carrying an open knife. I stopped trying to pry loose. She said, “Don’t fuck with me!”

At this point, fear or no fear, I was in whatever I was in and there was no way out. Just like a prisoner on death row, news came about whether or not today was for the electric chair or a pardon. The prisoner had to deal with what was coming. I had to handle what Stacy gave me.

I had an idea. I was in this predicament with no help. If I brought her to Georgette’s, she and William could help. There would be three against one. Even if she used the knife, the possibility of everyone getting stabbed was unlikely. Maybe my bringing family into potential harm would cause more problems and mistrust but the situation was already risky and there was no safe solution. We were one block away. I said, “My sister’s place is coming soon.”

She put away the knife. “I’m sorry I got upset, darling. You’re my sweetie poop.”

When we arrived and went inside,  she held on tighter. I figured that I would wait until absolutely necessary before pulling free. If she remained calm and the evening went well, she may actually let go. Perhaps that was her original plan. She had not been specific about anything. I would wait.

Georgette and William were not home. Stacy and I sat in the living room. She gritted her teeth and said, “This does not look like we’re meeting any sister. What is going on here?”

“They might be at work or they could be getting groceries. It wasn’t one hundred percent certain they’d be here.”

“I don’t like the looks of this. I’m feeling restless.”

Suddenly, the front door opened. Georgette walked in. Her expression was a combination of “Oh, great, you found a new friend” and “Uh oh, what’s a stranger doing in our house?” She said, “Hello.”

I said, “This is Stacy. We met at the book store. She works there.”

Stacy said, “Pleased to meet you. Phillip bought a book by Ann Nowak. She’s who I want to be so I’m latching on to one of her fans.”

Georgette laughed as if she was hoping Stacy was joking. “What bookstore?”

“Pure Shpiel.”

“Oh yeah! My husband, William Kennedy, has an account there. He’s a professor at Columbia.”

“Professor Kennedy! Yes! Phillip, you didn’t tell me Professor Kennedy was your brother-in-law! I could hit you.”

Quietly, I said, “Ssh!”

Georgette looked at first startled but then composed herself as if to say to me, “I trust you wouldn’t bring a lunatic here.” She said, “So, are you two on a – like – date?” She smiled.

I said, “Sort of. We have a lot in common and decided we might as well spend some time holding hands for fun.”

Stacy nodded. “Yes. I was anxious and didn’t know what to do and Phillip calmed me down.”

Georgette looked concerned. “Oh, what was stressing you?”

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold his hand all day so I chased him down the street.”

I said, “Please stop saying stuff like that!”

Stacy shrugged. “Georgette knows what I mean.”

Georgette said, “Hmm. Well, would any of you like any tea?”

I said, “Okay.”

Stacy said, “Sure.”

Georgette went in the kitchen. The front door opened again. William walked in. He said, “Hi, Phillip.” When he noticed Stacy, his expression was a combination of “I’m so glad you brought her here” and “We’re going to have a talk later.”

Stacy said, “Do you remember me, Professor Kennedy? You buy a lot of books on Russian history. Did you take my advice and buy that book of Dutch poetry I recommended?”

“I’m sorry to say I didn’t. Maybe I should learn Dutch before I buy it.”

“You could just read it for the beauty of how the words sound. Or you could read the translations.”

“There weren’t any translations. Also, I saw the book again when a fellow professor, who speaks Dutch, accompanied me to the store. He said it was a book about automobiles.”

“You mean there wasn’t any poetry in it?”

“All prose.”

“Well, automobiles can be poetic too.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt they can be.” He was trying hard to hide an expression of “Hurry and get her out of here.” He said, “Phillip, there’s a book I’d like to show you. Can you come here a moment? Alone?”

I said, “Excuse me, Stacy.” I got up and so did she, holding my hand and accompanying me.

William smiled. “Excuse us, Stacy. Phillip and I are working on a private project and we have to go over a few things.”

She smiled. “I won’t say anything.”

I said, “Excuse me.” I tried letting go of her hand. She held tight. “Remember what you said?”

“I say a lot of things.”

“Please let go.”

“I’m on my best behavior. Everything’s fine.”

William said, “I sense there’s a problem.”

Stacy said, “Don’t sense that.”

I said, “I might need some help.”

William said, “Hmm. Okay.”

Stacy shook her head. “There’s nothing wrong.”

William dialed a number on his cell phone. “This is going to be the publisher. Hello? Yes. My name is William Kennedy.” He mentioned his address.

Stacy frowned. “Your publisher doesn’t know who you are?”

“Yes. There seems to be a situation. A bit of trouble. We’re trying to get someone to leave.”

“You’re trying to get a character in your book to leave?”

“She’s not violent yet but her state of mind is in question. She’s in her – probably – late twenties, early thirties. Yes. She came home with my brother-in-law.”

“Who are you talking about?”

“Yes, voluntarily.”

“Hello!”

“The situation got… tricky. Can you please bring someone over?”

“You’re bringing someone over to read a book? I don’t think so.”

I said, “Let’s go in the living room. We can talk to Georgette.” We walked in the living room and sat down. Stacy smiled as if she had already forgotten the last few minutes. That was both comforting and eerie.

Georgette returned with the tea. She seemed aware that Phillip was on the phone about a predicament but was not sure of details. She asked, “Did I hear correctly? I was in the other room. Are you a fan of poetry?”

Stacy said, “I like prose more but sometimes I want to read something with broken lines. Poetry is like life. Each line is like a new minute, a break of the continuum. Prose is more continual, like a giant road that keeps going. In life, I like static but in writing I like structure.”

“Okay. Besides Ann Nowak, who are your favorite writers?”

“I like Jorge Luis Borges. Italo Calvino. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Julio Cortazar.”

“So mostly Latin American writers, except for Calvino who’s Italian.”

“I like writers who I can imagine having accents when they speak. If a writer can write well, his writing can outweigh any phonetic problem.”

“That’s interesting. You realize, though, that the works in English are translated by other writers.”

“That’s also really good. If a deaf man uses sign language to speak and an interpreter can make the words come alive, it’s similar. I like when writers need a little help in getting their messages across to people outside of their cultures.”

William spoke louder. “I don’t see how that has anything to do with it. When I say not violent now I’m emphasizing not yet. I’m trying to be as subtle as I can because I don’t want trouble. No, not you. I don’t want trouble with the person. I don’t have time to wait several hours before anyone comes by. We’re going to eat dinner soon and I want the problem solved before then.”

Georgette said, “Who is he talking to?”

I winked. “A publisher.”

“I don’t understand.”

I had to be direct. “He’s calling emergency to get Stacy out of here.”

Georgette got up and walked towards Phillip. “Honey?”

William hung up the phone. “Damn it!”

“What’s wrong?”

“They say that she has to be violent before they can come and get her.”

“Who? Stacy?”

“She can be a bit much.”

“Then why did Phillip bring her over?”

He nodded. “Let’s ask him. Phillip. How did you meet Stacy and why did you bring her over here?”

Stacy frowned. “You should drink buttermilk with cayenne pepper. It’s a great pick-me-up. It originated in Bulgaria.”

William shook his head. “Phillip?”

I said, “I saw another book by Ann Nowak and wanted to buy it so I did. Stacy’s a huge fan of her work and she talked to me about it.”

“That’s fine but it doesn’t explain the progression of a talk about books to her holding your hand in our living room.”

Stacy said, “I need his energy.”

“That sounds like something you’d say. Are you going to let go any time soon, as in ever?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

“And?”

“I still can’t say.”

I said, “Phillip, do you think it would be a good idea if I take Stacy out for a walk? Somewhere authority oriented, if you get my drift?”

“Authority oriented?”

“The authorities.”

“Oh. Are you up for it? It’s sort of far on foot.”

Stacy asked, “What authorities?”

I smiled. “The publishing authorities.”

Stacy nodded. “Okay. I’m taking Phillip. He will never leave me.”

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. William answered it. Peter was outside. He asked, “Is Phillip Kaufman here?”

William said, “Yes. Who may I say is asking?”

“Peter Nicholas. I work for Ann Nowak’s publisher.”

William said, “Come on in.”

Peter walked in. He stood still, frowning. “Hello.”

I said, “Hello.”

Peter pointed. “Her.”

Stacy asked, “What about me?”

Peter shrugged. “Exactly.”

I said, “She’s a big fan of Ann’s. I bought one of Ann’s books and she was working the counter. To make a weird story short, she insisted on holding my hand and has decided never to let go.”

“Sounds like I heard more than enough. Ann is asking for you. Do you want to see her?”

Stacy was excited. “Yes!”

Peter sighed. “Not you. Phillip.”

I thought about my options. Ann had held my hand also but she did not stop me when I let go. My reason for leaving was on account of Peter who now was okay with me seeing her. How could I get away from Stacy? I said, “I’d like to see Ann.”

Peter nodded. “Fine.” He approached Stacy and pulled at her hand. She screamed but he kept pulling and finally separated us. She ran out of the house.

I laughed. “Peter, thank you. I owe you one.”

He gave the slightest hint of a smile. “Right.”

I asked, “Is it okay if I go?”

Georgette said, “You’re only in New York a week. You might as well make the most of it.”

William said, “I just hope Stacy doesn’t return.”

Peter raised an eyebrow. “Ready?”

I said, “Yes.”

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