The Soul Recovers Radical Innocence
The city sparkles beyond as the crowds roar at us down the beach. We go on the red carpet towards the cold sea as we are celebrated by a million strobe lights. Luca, by my side, is still the chisel-faced legend in his fine tux, ponytail. My eggshell blue gown, with the plunging back and train, is gorgeous. The sun is too strong, blinding me as I turn towards my escort, Luca. The sound of explosions come from down the beach, drawing closer and closer. Luca strives to smile. The crowd coming at us tenses and breaks. His earring glitters in the sun. Murmuring, he turns to me.The loud drone of helicopters drown him out. I see only the lines of his white bib shirt, the elegance of his suit. How strangely dull are his eyes. Has he died?. Why think that? And what happened to the other girls? How is it we have left them behind? The line of people falls back. The dense trees become a wall of fire, hisses loudly. Sound of gunfire, as if we were being shot at. I need to run. But then I see I am cuffed to him.
His call to her vollies across the massive parking lot below the I-96 that cuts raw and clear through the heavily wooded hills. Steely glance, radius of wrinkles, graying black hair at the temples. ’Black Irish,’ he’s called. The man sticks his head out of the open door of the SUV as if handling a small sailboat, now reaching land. Semis lumber in off the highway, curve here onto the elbow of concrete. The white Trailways bus by the far shoulder slams its doors shut with a heavy whine while the small gaggle of people make their way rapidly across the parking lot to the rest stop here, miles out of New York and barely into the state of Pennsylvania.
The man, Hoult, jumps down onto the pavement and slams the door shut as he sees her. Flicker of his eyes. Tired girl, now a woman, a heavy mess of hair barely covered by a wool scarf, jeans, and sneakers, the taut and powerful body, white earphones hanging down like tendrils of a plant, forever moving to the music of Drake. Hoult isn’t even quite sure she’s seen him, her eyes are so dark, looking through him. How extensive the damage, he wonders? How many years had he caused her to be so hideously fugitive?
But she smiles now. He’s not sure if it’s him or the music.
What she was thinking was that it was no secret he and Offices could find her easily, no matter where she got to. What was amazing was that they hadn’t bothered for months now. Not even since Luca and Sela had been found on the Shelf. And then, was Hoult going to speak of his ‘love’ again when all that he was proposing was simple ownership? Or how he had cleaned his act up for her, gone off drugs, was on the straight and narrow? After she left him for the few days he was able to keep her hostage, she’d read
he’d gone on to run Homeland Security. His stint at Guantanamo wasn’t long but certainly long enough to cause a probe into his time there. He’d gone on to launch his own small security company, no more than another mini-Blackwater. The last she had heard was that the new outrageously corrupt administration was possibly naming him to the White House.
But he was here, dogging her steps.
“Tired?” he called at her.
A spasm tore at her face as she held onto the cardboard cup in her hand. The tea had already gone cold. For weeks now she had decided to dig in here, going inside the rest stop café to buy something, catching her sleep occasionally at a table, going inside the bathroom to clean up? Why had she paused there for so long, instead of going on to some small city to rent a room, take work as a cook or maid? Genet was tired, insanely tired. She could only hold out, as if hope would overcome everything. But here he is, to give her rest. How tired she really was she could admit to no one, least of all herself.
“D.C.? You’re going to D.C?” he asked.
“Nowhere,” she shrugged.
He went to hug her. She was immobile, horrified. She barely breathed. Hoult reached past her, picking up the backpack that sat there by her feet. He slung it over his shoulder. The snow, meanwhile, was coming down hard, blanketing the ground. The wind drew it into a vortex, wiping out the sky itself with snow. He opened the door for her. She paused for a second, looking at the dog bounding in the backseat.
“Lady’s okay,” he insisted. Genet stepped up into the SUV and sat. He went around to the drivers seat, shut the door, insisted they put on their seatbelts. He sat there, staring at her. Genet pursed her lips. Hoult turned on the windshield wipers. They listened to the rub and clack of them, then he began to pull out.
“You’re ‘ wanted,’” he said. “Do you know that?”
From high up over the highway malls revolve by, same but in different configurations, Ruby Tuesdays, Red Lobster, Office Smart. The same glint of cement, a line of glittering shop windows in the dusk light set back on a circular drive. A sharp wind drives the snow at the windshield while the wipers whine.
It grows dark.
“Hungry?” he asks her. Inside the bright diner, he ordered them cheeseburgers with fries, cokes for the both of them.
Genet drank hers right down, so he ordered another. She drank the Coke and ate the cheeseburger, but picked at the fries.
“You’re not used to eating,” he said. She found herself sick, standing up suddenly to go to the bathroom and throw up what little she had eaten.
He took her hand when she returned.
“I need you to love me,” he said, but she avoided his eyes.
He had her lie down in the back, covering her with his jacket while he kept Lady in the front seat with him. Genet watched the traffic, trucks lumbering by while cars hurtled past them, the shoulder shining, soft sky unfurled above. He turned the music up loud then, ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ A glittering jewel mounted up in the heavens. It was a million gas refineries.
She slept for a bit.
The glare off the Twin Towers blinds me. The shell of the Courts reverberates with our steps as we descend the stone staircase. Ellis and I. So young. Has to be our first years. Faultless in his suit, beaming towards the future. Yet why can’t he speak?
Now, thrown onto the bank of a dark river. I try to see my own hands. Cannot. The only light here the gleam of dark sand. Here, under the Trump Tower in construction, so much unearthed stone. Up above, the hideous wound rents the ground at the mouth of Central Park. The Five were taken in to bind you. Down here we are kept. The corpses, Baez, Diallo, so many unnamed Whites float by, pile up at the other corpses, dislodge themselves, float on.
She hears the radio announcing the snowstorm across the Eastern coastal areas once he switches off the music. She sits up to see the snow is driving hard. Hoult pulls off the highway suddenly. He slows down to pull into a drive, shooting around into the parking lot of a motel, pulls into a spot. He runs in. Lady whines and stands on his drivers seat until he returns with keys in his hand.
Hoult runs her a hot bath. She hears him go out the door and return while she bathes. He has hot chocolate and sandwiches, chips, for them.
“Nasty cough,” he said as she stretched out on the bed trying to eat.
“I’ll take the recliner,” he said, turning off the overhead light, putting on the lamp. He turned on the tv, found an old movie. Lady circled his feet several times, then came to rest with a loud whine.
“You should really tell me about Luca,” he said. “They found him and Sela. Luckily Sela survived. Genet inhales sharply, turning over in the bed. For hours, her eyes are wide open.
In the white light of morning, she sees the Gideon Bible on Hoult’s knees. She finally sleeps.
“Look,” Luca laughed. “They’re all asleep, the whole world!”
Luca pulled the old Jaguar through the twists and turns of Central Park. They rode on a softly winding road through foliage lit by a huge moon, heavily limbed trees, sparkling sidewalks, all underneath a magnificent skyline. A single horse buggy clomped by as they came past a brightly lit Plaza Hotel.
“What are we doing here?” cried Genet. “Are you planning to murder me?”
Luca laughed. He had knocked softly at her bedroom door after the girls had all headed off to bed. He had asked if she wanted to go on a moonlight drive.
“I hope you’ve been preparing for your case,” he said, slowing the car down.
“I’ll be speaking to your lawyer five days before your hearing. Please listen to what he has to say before you testify."
“I’ve got it all written out," she nodded.
In minutes, they pulled into an underground parking lot. Luca let them inside the building with a door code.
“This is what?” she asked.
“Private hospital. Payne Whitney."
“Someone in recovery?” she laughed.
Images of Sela still stared down at the world from the bus stations and subway stops all over the city. Sela in black and silver shades, her mad blonde hair peeking out of a Dior scarf. Few people, in fact, knew who it was. Genet had loved her laugh above all. It always floated up above the world. That night, though, it became manic. Sela was always partway in the world, yet still totally in her own. Genet never thought her a great actress, but she was a beauty. One fell easily into that ‘otherwordly’ aspect of hers. Genet was shocked to see how she and Luca had come past many locked doors to finally find Sela in a well-guarded section.
Genet hadn’t seen her, but months back in the subway, Sela wore her fabulous raincoat over a dazzling white blouse, black miniskirt, the tallest of leather boots, the long tangle of blond hair. The Australian actress, as was too well-known a fact, played Genet in Luca’s film ‘Skin.’
It took Genet years to admit the character was her, in many ways. She was so happy that the film bombed miserably despite the intellectual reviews, talk of paradigms, tropes of exploitation. But Dre, who Genet hadn’t seen for at least a year, came running up from the next subway car, Sela's pleased laughter shattering the silence. Genet slipped out at the next stop.
“What is she doing here?” I asked Luca.
“She’s been a bad girl, hasn’t she?” he replied, but not to me. “Come to Daddy.” And she did.
So many people hunted down and killed, she said publicly once Genet was gone, once Offices went after her. On her return from making a sci-fi film in London, Sela was arrested for terrorism. She and Ellis were only weeks in front of their wedding. Another trick to get Ellis to behave, to be used politically.
What happened that night? Sela handled Luca so coolly. It didn’t seem to bother her that he was keeping Sela hostage. She began to respond to his caresses by frenziedly tearing off his clothes. Genet retired to the waiting room . The guards stood rapt, watching the surveillance screens with horror.
Hours later they came out in the whisper of dawn to find the car. It wasn’t but a few weeks later that Luca had finagled to have Sela come to live with them in Luca's house of girls.
Undoubtedly Sela was not so stuck on principles as was Genet. Sela might be able to survive this horror by playing them. Not Genet.