Author’s note: If I could go back in time I would definitely protect him from this venomous female.
In the light from the lamp in the kitchen we ate and listened to the storm. I saw him examine me for a moment before he spoke again. I wasn’t so dim that I could not put two and two together: he was in an amorous phase and he was on the rebound from Nin, bitter about women, and I was different, someone he trusted, so he tolerated me. That could change at any time. I had to be prepared for that. “Why haven’t you,” he finally said, “asked me about what happened with Nin?”
“I didn’t think it was any of my business,” I replied, looking away.
“Your face always betrays you,” he said, but not too harshly. “I know you followed us, and eavesdropped. Was it jealousy?”
Then I looked down at my hands—anywhere but those eyes. “That, and
“Why are you so uncomfortable?” he asked. “Have you heard rumors about her—and possibly about me?”
Confused, I asked, “Rumors about you?” Without warning, thunder rattled the building and the lights winked out. We had to chuckle at the timing of this, and I rose to dig some candles out of the drawer again. “Nothing that dramatic,” I answered lightly, and he scoffed. Immediately I sobered. “Henry Miller—he’s her lover.” I lit a candle and let the wax drip onto the table to jab the stub into it. “I saw them together. Many people have.”
This didn’t seem to surprise him. “And who else is her lover?” he prodded.
I swallowed. “Well, we both know René Allendy is.” Oh yes, that bastard! telling Nin one day in the Coupole when I was there that Artaud was impotent because he was a homosexual—all men but Allendy were, to hear him tell it. Ignorant Allendy confused homosexuality with impotence, and both were feeble to his mind whereas Allendy was Freud’s gift to womankind. He knew all. Because I’m a doctor! Artaud could never satisfy you. Artaud would never be able to imagine that scene last night, when I whipped you. Artaud is impotent. Artaud is sexless. Jealous quack! And I had savored Nin’s reply: “When you whipped me last night with your cane you remained flaccid, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it. But Artaud can arouse me just with his words!” Nin had been blunt, ruthless with Allendy about his bad-mouthing of Artaud. I almost admired her, but not for toying with the feelings of the man who sat before me now, listening with dejected eyes.
“June Miller,” I added, “Henry Miller’s wife…and Bernardo—her own cousin. And Miller’s roommate, Fred Perles, and frankly I suspect another psychiatrist, Otto Rank…” Why couldn’t I just shut up? There was a weight forming in my chest that I wanted to push out. “She has all these affairs right under her husband’s nose. He’s a friend of my brother’s, you know. It’s no one’s business of course, but she also conceals her lovers from each other!”
None of these names seemed to surprise him. “Do you want to know who else?” he bit out.
“Isn’t that enough?” I asked. “I’m sorry. You obviously want to talk about it, but she’s married, after all. If a woman will cheat on her husband, why wouldn’t she cheat on her lover? Lovers,” I corrected myself.
He nodded grudgingly. “Yes, I made a fool of myself over her. But she was the one who began writing to me; she approached me, and I was astounded. The author of that book on D.H. Lawrence, so sympathetic, interested in me. I felt I could really talk to her. We had a meeting of minds that was, for me at least, like being pulled out of a nightmare. A woman who lives metaphysics. I thought it was real, but she is all theory, duplicity. Beatrice Cenci, that’s who she is!”
I had been about to answer, but he interrupted me when he added, “No—Beatrice was raped. Nin is worse.” And he looked to me as if for agreement. “She left to visit her father, and they’re fornicating. She seduced her own father. She bragged about it,” he insisted, for my face must have registered disbelief. The inside of my mouth suddenly tasted horrible. “She’s proud of herself for it—for making a victim of him, me, and all the others. You know, I once told her that she gave me the impression of immense evil despite her innocent face and her kind ways. I even admitted that I hated her at first as any man hates a great whore despite all the times that he runs to her, and I felt guilty as I said it. And she ‘forgave’ me! All this, only to find out I was right all along, that the suspicions I cast off one by one were to her just a striptease for her amusement.”
He turned his roiling gaze to the wall. I rubbed my eyes. “Let it go, Antonin. She’s gone, and I don’t want to hear any more.” He forked the last of the potatoes into his mouth and chewed, staring at me again. “I’m sorry,” I said once more. “Yes, I followed you. Yes, I quickly guessed what she was, though not the full extent of it. I knew she was going to hurt you and I wanted to prevent that, but what could I do? Walk up and accuse her? Could I have said anything to you?”
He shook his head. “No, you’re right; I wouldn’t have listened. But you were jealous too, weren’t you?”
I smiled. “And I was fucking jealous!” But he didn’t return my smile; if fact, he appeared a bit hostile. My smile faded. “Do you still love her?”
He let out a short laugh of surprise. “Do I love her? I most certainly do not!” He sat in thought for a moment. “Do I love what I thought she was…? Very likely.” His plate empty, he pushed away the tray, went into the other room, shrugged off the robe and threw himself face-down on the bed, hugging the pillow. Lovingly I approached him and ran my hand down his back. “Don’t.” He turned to glare at me.