Sunday, May 6, 2012
When he came home, when he came back, when he was once again in These States, as Whitman called them, los estados unidos, the mejicanos said . . . when he was no longer in Mexico the first time, he married Rebecca, entranced by her body and her work though he liked to joke it was only because of her Healey. After their honeymoon in Mexico City on his second trip, Rebecca made friends with a bevy of Seattle artists–photographers, painters, and sculptors–and a lesbian friend of Myra Jacobs took a liking to Rebecca’s sculptures, the Kienholz "installations," as everyone called them except Rebecca. Myra’s friend was Bobbi. Bobby thought that took the cake. Bobbi invited Bobby and Rebecca for dinner–she tended bar at The Madison and lived in the Montlake district, a deft accomplishment, Bobby told Rebecca, who was eager to go when Myra told her Bobbi painted. They went to dinner and they traded dinner dates every week. It grew obvious to Bobby the woman was falling in love with Rebecca. Bobbi got drunk one night and came around the place Rebecca was renting and stalked the perimeter, pounding on the front and back doors. Bobby tried to intercede but Rebecca insisted it was her task, so she called through the door to please go home and rest. That was it for their relationship. Myra apologized to Bobby when Rebecca was off in her studio doing the fat people sitting on chairs populating her windows in her house on Lake Washington, off to the side of one of the serpentine, switchback streets where the twenty-six-year-old Kurt Cobain was found dead in his mansion many years in the future.
One day it stormed and Bobby fought with Rebecca over money, as usual. She was unhappy with him because he lived on a scholarship, still, and the rakeoff from his work with Sanchez was too little for him to pay his way with her. Rain was falling in torrents at midday. Lightning cracked the surface of the sky hovering over Puget Sound. The waters of Lake Washington roiled. They were backing out the driveway too fast–rather, Rebecca was–when the car went out of control and plunged into the water, sinking rapidly, Bobby struggling to free Rebecca from the steering wheel against her chest, and failing, his breath going quickly, he had to leave her there and propel his body upward, reaching the surface in time, but just barely. He lay on the beach gasping, the rain drenching him, thunder and lightning seeming to surround him, until he regained his feet and stumbled to a house where a man phoned for help, but once the winches brought the Healey to the surface she was dead, as he knew she would be, and he wept with an agony he had never known and would never know again. He quit playing or singing, stayed in Rebecca’s studio, feeling he was being consoled by the papier-mache figures on their sagging chairs. That and the black-and-white Locomotive series of jagged lines inspired by an engine’s axles propelling the train along the tracks, black blur frozen on white canvas . . . or, as he’d insisted, the motion of two bodies in heat pursuing their own less predictable, churning trajectory. He sat on the floor and when he could not sleep he stared for two days and two nights and the following day, then called the Black and Tan and the bartender said Sure, I’ll pick you up and take you into town; and did. The guy seemed to respect the wishes of the bereaved Bobby, saying nothing. His rattletrap Chevy made it to the New Congress in time to sit in on the first set, but Bobby declined, just sat at a table where Christina joined him, then insisted he come with her to her place. She fed him bacon and eggs and toast and mixed drinks for him he couldn’t identify. The night was quiet, the rain long gone, and she cradled his head in her arms all night. He even slept.
That happened before the third and last trip to Mexico City. He was in a spell for weeks, until they boarded the plane. He was in a trance, but when he took the stage to sing–it was suddenly all he wanted to do–he followed the music where he’d never been before, and went where it led him, he didn’t care why or how . . . In Coyoacan, after going each afternoon to sit in La Casa Azul he picked up on all the oldtime blues he dearly loved, from Make Me a Pallet on the Floor to St. James Infirmary to the one he wrote for Rose, which Tony played to the letter as Dave had done in bringing it to life before Bobby added words. Bobby was singing better than ever and knew it. Manuela Roma, alone now and pregnant with the baby spawned by her new man, who was in the Bronx settling his affairs and looking forward to his upcoming adventures in Latin America, invited him to sleep on her couch. At midmorning her house filled with the dissident youth. Manifestaciones occurred daily. The Olympiad was coming, and the young, the campesinos, and the workers were insisting that the government’s dinero be reserved for the poor and hungry, that finally Vallejo be freed–the Siqueiros of his day save that he was more the Mandela of Mexico–and that the future be given the attention the president, Gustavo Diaz-Ordaz, was devoting to building, or salvaging, his international reputation and decimating those not only protesting peaceably in the streets but ready to give their lives to the cause, which they would do once the thugs and army had their way.
(28 April, 7 May 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander