Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 91 – WHAT HAPPENED
In this time when I had to know not what was happening in situations I had been close to – not what the thugs called tonton marcouts were doing to the best people in Haiti on behalf of the dictator Duvalier who ruled by voodoo and blood, and not what Batista had done in Cuba, or the colonels in Greece, or the makers of Vietnam policy, or the puffed up Somozas in Nicaragua, or the egregiously cruel Marcos’s in my recent wife’s homeland, not was happening in situations to which I had been an observer but not a party, but rather to what I knew best but had investigated least -- my family.
I had made early attempts to connect dots – for example this question of why no one in my parent’s generation could hold on to a job. But in the biggest matters I had not made connections any more than the others did, though the connections had already been coming before I picked up the Aqua Mustang and used it for time travel.
At first it was Cousin Elizabeth, in Sloane Kettering with cancer, not lung cancer but her parents and her husband were blaming it all on her smoking, Elizabeth one of the alive ones, and an artist, a real artist, not like her mother who the family thought so talented because of the family and pet portraits she had done when young before the Junior League took all her time. Before children arrived, Elizabeth was at the Art Students League, which they all said proved she was nothing because anyone could go there and take classes, unlike, for instance, Smith and Radcliff and Vassar. And a year before this time driving in northern New England I had been working night and day on a project that took me down to the Bahamas, and I had made time in the city to go over to Sloane Kettering every day or two. I had seen poems in which Elizabeth told of her pre-cancer suffering, but I had only skimmed them. She had an apparently successful bone marrow operation, and then announced that she wanted to die, and talked what both her mother, who competed with her for men, and her father had done to her, and then one day she was on a respirator, her head swelled up like a deep blue balloon, this just after she had said she wanted to die because of what had happened. And soon after that Cousin Anna hung herself out in San Diego where her husband Cousin Mark was being an academic anthropologist having finally gotten his education after being thrown out of Exeter and then Williams for stealing. And Mark, who was so obese by now he practically could not travel by air, had been with a surprise mistress while the suicide was taking pace, and then borrowed from my brother the Farm House, the last of the big family houses to stay anywhere in the family, so that he could have his honeymoon, as he had always dreamt, in the White Mountains. It was awhile before an order of protection was out to keep him away from his daughter – and a while longer before he shot himself.
Aunt Alice, who said she kind of liked Lauryn’s batterer, and anyway Lauryn brought it on herself for she was too pretty, too appealing. And just after this my mother said she had talked with Mark’s mother, who had talked with Anna’s mother, who agreed that Anna’s death was all to the good for she had been such a problem to both families, and now Mark could get on with his life.
And in this same time, Cousin Lawrence and his wife Cynthia had just told me of a strange thing that happened when they were up in the mountains for Christmas with Lawrence’s mother, my Aunt Alice – who had moved long ago not to a family house – she was too much of a black sheep for that – but to a small company house in a nearby decaying mill town. She had gone there with her daughter Lauryn, who was in the Lysée in New York and almost full time with the ballet, because Lauryn’s brother Paul had gotten so deeply in trouble they had to flee. The trouble involved sawed off shotguns and kidnapping and apparently rape – and had still been going on up in new Hampshire when a judge let him off only if he would join the army. While Aunt Alice and her children Lawrence and Lauryn were watching television that Christmas there was a TV movie about sexual abuse and to their surprise – as if this had come form nowhere – Lauryn started screaming. Lawrence told me about it, but said it was that she had actually been raped by Paul once.
And then Lauryn wound up in a battered women’s shelter in Minneapolis, just at the time I was in the midst of my exploration of New Hampshire. Aunt Alice had been phoning me in the autumn, I heard her voice when I called my answering machine, but I did not return the call. I was busy in a deeply sexual tryst with a very pretty blonde woman, which seemed a natural extension of my investigations. I knew her from Adult Children of Alcoholics, where her stories were sufficiently horrendous. She knew the sort of world I had been born into, and even had one of those fake British accents, though she had apparently learned it during a time studying in England.
At this point the pat was completely in the present – and clear visual images came to me of what had happened to me. They came to me when I was back in New York and picked up the phone and heard Aunt Alice saying a horrible thing had happened to her, Aunt Alice, which was that Lauryn had been battered– and it turned out that Paul had been beating her from the time she was very young – Aunt Alice, Lauryn told me had to have seen the deep whip marks and blood when she was in the bath. Full rape has begun as soon as she was large enough for Paul to enter, and it went on for years It and it would never have ended, she knew, if Paul had not been killed in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident – which in the family they said was so strange, a motorcycle, for nothing like that had ever happened to any of us.
I had been in the Philippines, which I knew far too well, doing a book about the Marcos's and the horrors of martial law – village square beheadings by the constabulary, for instance – in those thickly populated islands. The book was written with a journalist friend from my years in Asia, with the help of a major player, a liberal Marcos rival who had spend eight years in prison, and was killed, shot in the back of the head by government men, before the book was finished, and soon our allies were being assassinated at a rate of horror. And I was under death threat, called in the night in Manila and San Francisco, by figures said to be from the Marcos military.
And just now at this time with Anna and Lauryn and Elizabeth and the memory of Paul it came to light that my brother Peter was working in the Philippines for the CIA at the very time I was there more or less underground with the old-line opposition and also the Maoist New People's’ Army, and he never told me, and we both could have been killed because of it.
This and much more was on my mind as I drove about northern New England looking for what had happened in what has once been the most safe of all places – a little stuffy these people, maybe, but with great accomplishments too – all in the past – in this part of the world that to so many in the family it seemed the family owned.
I was on the track now – and for the first time in my life had gone for a year without depression.