I have only confused memories of the next couple of weeks. I'm told that, during that time, I had various delusions. I told the record keepers at the hospital that I was twenty four years old, and I also gave them my mother's birthday instead of my own. Janey swears that, when she asked me a question about an account, I replied,
"To use a phrase I have heard somewhere, my memories of that account are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
It was, I suppose, a good thing that my reply was given only to Janey, and not to the client himself.
My first really connected memory of that period is of a conversation I had at Sandell Memorial Hospital with Dr. A. Stuart Bigelow. Dr. Bigelow, a thick-set man of gruff appearance, reminded me of a friendly bulldog. I was sitting in his office in a cotton dress from which the belt was missing. He said,
"It's quite normal at this stage for you to ask how much longer you'll be here. I can't say definitely, of course, but I can give you some idea. The general rule is that the time needed for recovery is about equal to the time it took the illness to develop in the first place. In some cases, such as depression caused by the death of a parent or loved one, we can measure the length of time from onset to peak quite easily. In your case that seems to be three or four weeks. In other, more serious cases, it may be a matter of decades."
"Am I better off here than I would be in a cabin in the woods?"
"Lots of people have recovered in cabins in the woods. Provided that they don't hurt themselves before they've recovered. Medication helps, too. Not as much as some people claim, but some."
"Well, I've read some Freud. Don't I have to work through all sorts of things to recover?"
"That can be painful, time-consuming, and expensive. It also doesn't take advantage of some very natural healing processes. There's no point turning you in on yourself if you're able to resume your normal life in another few weeks."
"That'll make almost two months altogether. I've known people who've had breakdowns and only been in the hospital for two weeks."
"You had a very nasty experience, and you didn't have a chance to prepare for it. Just be patient a little while longer."
I felt better after that interview. They didn't think I was sick enough for protracted analysis. All I needed was a few weeks to taper off the medication. In fact, I was allowed out to the nearby town with Constanza for shopping and lunch. I asked her,
"Can you tell if there's something wrong with me?"
"There's a little, but not much. You're much better than the last time I saw you. You're only a little subdued. Let them pamper you a little longer, and then you'll be all set to take up where you left off."
"I haven't forgotten what happened between us."
Constanza laughed as she replied,
"I wondered if you remembered that. Has it bothered you since?"
"No, not at all. I also remember your suggestion about Janey. I still want to follow it up."
"We've both been concerned about you, and we've talked a number of times. She cares a great deal about you, and I also think I was right about her."
"The only trouble is that I've never told her what really happened. She thinks I'm mourning Brad. After all, she liked him. She even picked up his dog from the kennel, and is keeping her."
"I know. I've met the dog. Brad seems to have been better with dogs than with women."
"So are a lot of men. Anyway, the truth is going to turn Janey's world upside down. She may think I'm still crazy when I try to explain."
Constanza smiled in one of her Sicilian ways.
"You want me to tell her?"
"She'll be the only one I tell. I have been afraid that you'd tell the psychiatrists, and that they'd make trouble."
"I don't think Dr. Bigelow would. But I haven't told him, at least as far as I know."
"If you did tell him when you were crazy, he probably didn't believe you."
"Yes, there's that. I won't tell any of these people, but Janey has to know."
"I'll make sure that she understands the full state of affairs. You won't have to explain when you see her."
I suspected that Constanza would find some way of enlightening Janey about Brad without saying baldly that Hiram and Dai had murdered him. That was good enough.
When I entered the ward, the nurse asked me to give her my belt and stockings. It was an indignity, and I complained,
"I'm well enough now so that I'm not going to hang myself."
The nurse was soothing.
"It's not only you, Miss Brooks. We don't want anything around that any patients could use to hurt themselves."
The local euphemism for committing suicide was 'hurting oneself'. I gave in gracefully, knowing that the nurse had her doubts, not only about the other patients, but about me as well. She was proved right the next day. My mother arrived. I had a relapse.
I found out later that mother had visited before, but that Dr. Bigelow had turned her away without saying anything to me. This time, I was asked whether I wanted to see her. I refused and went under for a couple of days.
When I next saw Dr. Bigelow, he said,
"I knew you'd be upset by your mother's visit, but I thought it would be better to have it happen while you're still here."
"How much did that set me back?"
"Not a great deal. It was inevitable. You had trouble with her visits even before, didn't you?"
"Yes. I haven't seen her for almost three years."
"So I gathered. Some people don't have close relations with their parents. You seem to have many good friends. Mr. and Mrs. Halvorson, Mr. Heston, Mrs. Tertulli, Miss MacLachlan, and your college friends. They've all been here, and I've talked with most of them. Not many people have such a strong support network."
"I know. All I have to do is keep mother away. Can you see to that?"
"I can tell her that you're not fully recovered, and that her presence is likely to pose difficult problems for you for some time to come. When, eventually, you do see her, it might help to have someone else with you. Mrs. Tertulli, for example."
I found myself laughing. The doctor thought Constanza could deal with mother. He was right.
Two weeks later, I was taking runs around the neighborhood, and was missing Erika. I felt fine otherwise, but Dr. Bigelow kept me another week "to be sure." The result was that I was full of piss and vinegar when I was finally let go.
I boarded the Amtrak train for New York, and, finding it mostly empty, I settled myself in one of the luxurious reclining chairs. My thoughts had finally deserted Brad, and were half on Constanza and half on Janey. I found, to my great relief, that my objectivity had returned, the same clear powerful searchlight that it had always been.
It revealed, first, that Constanza had been right about our interlude in bed that morning. It was no big thing. Constanza was still as heterosexual as ever. But, by the same token, if I meant to switch over, I had a long way to go. I had had no more than a glimpse of a distant shore. I hardly knew what physical love between women might turn out to be like.
One thing I did know. It wasn't for me if it involved a denial of femininity and required one to go around in boots and an army jacket. I concluded, however, that the women who looked like that might only be the conspicuous minority. Most lesbians probably looked like everyone else.
The next question was whether Constanza was right in her continued assessment of Janey. It had never occurred to me that Janey was inclined in that direction. But, then, I had never wondered about myself either. In order to throw a clear light on Janey, I started over from scratch.
She came from people whose women married young. She could attract men in droves. She worried about her financial security, but she could easily have put such worries to rest by marrying a wealthy older man or a young one on the way up. I knew that she had had offers. Why, then, had she not married? It wasn't that she had some sort of block against sex. She managed it quite easily with all sorts of different men. Perhaps the reason for her not marrying was that she was unconsciously waiting for something else. I knew that Constanza was quicker than I. She might have been wrong about the wisdom of my marrying Heston, but, still, this was exactly the sort of thing that her intuition might pick up.
The countryside flashing by wasn't particularly interesting. Bored and hungry, I went forward to the snack bar. The bits and pieces of food available were, on the whole, fairly disgusting. Since it was impossible to eat well, I went to the other end of the scale, where there was a choice between a Ho-Ho and a Ding-Dong. I took the Ding-Dong.
There was a man, also buying a Ding-Dong, who remarked on the similarity of our taste. When he then tried to pick me up, I cut him short and announced in a clear voice,
"Don't bother. I'm a lesbian."
The man actually fell backward against the wall. I smiled in a cool manner and returned to my seat. A couple of other people had been within earshot, and it seemed to me that I had passed a significant hurdle. I might not be prepared to do the same thing in my home town, but I had casually done something that many lesbians never do. And, anyhow, so far as I knew, those people might also be getting off at Stockport.
As it turned out, there was only one other person getting off with me, and it wasn't one of those who had been at the snack bar. The result was that I could embrace Janey warmly without inhibition.
The station cafe served dinners in addition to its lighter fare, and I found that the Ding-Dong hadn't spoiled my appetite. Janey was also hungry, and we had steaks. It was when we finished them that I asked her,
"Did Constanza explain to you about Brad?"
"Yeah, I was completely blown away at first, but we talked again and I guess she's right about him."
"I don't think there's any doubt."
"Was he already planning to marry you for your money when I met him?"
"I don't think so. He was playing the market, and he probably thought that he was going to be rich. Marrying me must have been his back-up plan."
With that she took my hand. It was now late and they wanted to close the restaurant. I was tired, and I suggested to Janey,
"Let me take you out to a fancy dinner tomorrow night. We'll have fun. No depressing talk."
Janey agreed and drove me home. After assuring her that I'd be all right, I watched her old Buick disappear around the corner.
I had decided to take one last day of vacation from work, and, the minute I got up, I put on my shorts and was out the door, headed for Erika's island. I was surprised and delighted to see Erika on the middle of the bridge, at the extreme limit of her territory, waiting for me. I supposed that she must have seen me coming along the coast road.
I immediately noticed that something was different about Erika. Her greeting was more effusive than usual, and she seemed to have extra energy. A sentimentalist would have thought that it was because she had missed me, but I suspected otherwise. Instead of trotting beside me, she sprang out in front, periodically looking back over her shoulder to make sure I was following. We tore around the island faster than ever before.
When we got to the point, we met another dog. It was a large German Shepherd limping along on three legs, and he tried to join us. Erika snarled at him, rather viciously, and he retreated. As we quickly left him in the dust, I again wondered what had come over her.
Mr. Haberle was just coming out of his house with a glass of water when we sprinted up to him. He greeted me and said,
"You got around about a minute faster than usual."
I gulped at the water and replied,
"It wasn't me. It was Erika. She seems to have extra energy today."
"I know. It's odd. She was spayed last week. She's just had the stitches taken out."
"Good heavens, that's an unusual reaction."
"Well, she's only had one litter of puppies and she really hated the whole business. She didn't even like to nurse them, and I had to coax her. She was real happy when I gave away the last one."
I reached over to pat Erika, saying,
"So you're like me, Erika. You don't have maternal instincts either."
I then turned to her master and said,
"I haven't been spayed, but I've recently decided not to have children."
Mr. Haberle looked only a little surprised. He's a fairly conventional looking older man, but he's also an artist. He must have known a good many unusual people in his time. He replied,
"With Erika it was a little more than that. When the male dogs pestered her, she tore a couple of them up pretty badly. So I thought we'd better do something before she killed one of them."
"We passed a Shepherd limping on three legs. Was he one of the rejected suitors?"
"Yeah, I think so. His owners wanted to charge Erika with assault, but we pleaded gross sexual imposition."
It occurred to me that I resembled Erika in yet another way. Although I had required some help to dispatch my last suitor, he had been well and truly dispatched. I didn't tell Mr. Haberle how dangerous I really am, but, when I left Erika on the bridge, I felt as if the rightness of my views and intentions had been confirmed.
Back in town, I made preparations for the evening. The hairdresser managed to fit me in, and, having decided that the yellow silk dress was entirely appropriate to the occasion, I bought a little purse to go with it. I then went home and had time for a nap before taking my shower.
I managed, that night, to look my best, something that's not easy for me. Because I'm thin and have small bones, I can produce a delicate butterfly look as I float around in a few layers of silk on top of little shoes obviously incapable of supporting any significant weight. Unfortunately, since I'm not a dainty delicate person, this look jars hopelessly with my personality. The only solution consists in a look of vibrant coiled power combined with grace, the sort of thing one might expect of a wildcat or swan.
Needless to say, this isn't easily achieved. But it's possible to dress revealingly, and yet move and act with a standoffish supple arrogance which puts one's voracious sexual appetite just out of the reach of any onlooker. I know when I get it just right because everyone stares at me. They did that night.
The restaurant was, in some ways, a bit of a joke. Restaurants that revolve are generally twenty or thirty stories up in the air, and command a spectacular view of a whole metropolitan area. This one was four stories up, on top of a bank, with a view which ranged from part of the harbor to the back of our brokerage. On the other hand, it was pretty in an airy way, combining excellent food with an absence of the heavy formality which so often appeals to the rich old residents of Stockport.
Janey was in a new black dress of rather simple design, bought, I suspected, in an attempt to upgrade her taste. She had succeeded quite remarkably. It was true that she didn't have to do much to look wonderful, but, on this evening, she had done quite a lot quite inconspicuously. No one would ever have guessed that she was a high school drop-out. I told her that she created much the impression that Constanza had on her first visit to our office.
Janey was happier than I had ever seen her. While we were waiting for the elevator, we looked at ourselves in a large mirror. Black and yellow make an excellent combination, but it pleased me even more that we presented no striking contrast. On this occasion, Janey wasn't so much more beautiful than I, and I didn't look much, if at all, more educated and sophisticated. Still less could one of us have been put down as feminine and the other masculine.
When we got to the top, and I gave my name, the headwaiter was unable to function properly. He simply couldn't deal with the idea that women like ourselves would go out to dinner at a fashionable restaurant without escorts. I'm sure that it never occurred to him that we might prefer each other to any man. Still, despite his confusion, he did manage to lead us to a table next to the glass in the non- smoking section.
Janey was full of the events of the day, particularly since she had broken her previous sales record. She said,
"Of course, a good deal of that was because I took the orders that would have gone to you, but it was a good day anyhow."
As we chatted on, partly about business, Janey suddenly pointed across the room in astonishment. Following the headwaiter to a table was our newest and youngest secretary, all dressed up and looking quite nice. Following her was David Larsen. It was a good thing that neither of us spilled our wine on our dresses in the hilarity that overtook us. I finally choked out,
"By God, there's a man who believes in dating his employees."
In a way, the appearance of David broke our mood. We had been being extremely glamourous, elegant, and even dignified. Then, for a few minutes, we must have acted like schoolgirls. However, when we had finally digested this latest turn in David's romantic preferences, we were both so relaxed that I was able to say, without having time to think about it,
"I'm going to suggest something that may shock you."
"No it won't. Go ahead."
"I'd like to go to bed with you tonight."
"Great. Let's do it."
It turned out, as I might have known and Constanza had known, that Janey was a long way ahead of me. As many men as she had had, she preferred women. She had sensed the potential in me, but, having met Brad, she hadn't made any overtures. She explained these things to me, adding,
"I'd love to have breakfast in the garden behind your apartment."