R is for Rosenthal, Marilyn Rosenthal. She was my father's secretary
two years. After my mother left, my father married her. So I assume that
they were having an affair even before my mother left. But Marilyn looked
nothing like Anna Pavic; Anna is dark, short, almost angry-looking: Anna
contracts and draws you in with her. Marilyn, on the other hand, was the
least provocative person I knew: her face was too long and squarish to be
attractive. Nor did Marilyn present herself well: she kept her blond hair
short, wore her demure pastel turtlenecks every day and small earrings.
She wears her delicate gold heart necklace with a ruby in the center. She
is a little girl who has grown old without realizing it.
My mother and I
would greet her when we dropped by my father's office and Marilyn would
always offer us tea or coffee. She was very soft-spoken with wide brown
eyes. On our way back home, my mother would say to me, Poor little spider.
When's she going to catch her man? Is she going to end her days in that
dingy little hole?
I remember the first time Marilyn came to our house. My father has cleaned
up the living room and he's dressed casually; this in itself is unsettling.
The bell rings. It's Marilyn, holding a bottle of wine. I look at her. She
too is dressed differently. She has a chiffon green dress that is covered
a dress cut rather low for Marilyn, a dress that barely covers her hips.
Her hair has been curled, pinned into a beehive. She is wearing heels, dark
red lipstick. I realize that she is not trying to efface herself anymore.
She sits on the sofa and stares at me. I, in turn, stare at her legs. I've
never seen them before. She has large bony legs that are enormously long.
This is emphasized by her white lace tights, the white heels. She is crossing
her legs (wondering how much I know), then uncrossing them (how much I intend
to forgive or ignore). Finally she stands up, wandering towards the kitchen
where my father is. She's curious. She's trying to see how far she can walk
into our house. I follow her like a cat that follows the trail of a newcomer.
Tito, she says, It's me. Marilyn then puts her arm around his waist and
he kisses her on the cheek once he has finished with the salad. She places
the wine on the table, uncorks it, pours a glass for herself, then my father.
I like this place, she says softly. She picks up a leaf of lettuce out of
the salad, dangles it in front of his mouth. Something smells good. What's
My father's specialty is chicken. He first rubs the skin with olive oil
and herbs. He pushes his fingers beneath the skin and tucks in cloves
of garlic and rosemary.
Then he roasts it in a brown paper bag with a brick on top of
He opens the oven and pulls it out. Voila, he says, Chicken for me, cock
He presses against her and
tries to put his hand down her green dress, down all her flowers.
Marilyn dodges. Really, she says, laughing, you're too much.
After dinner, she pretends to say goodnight but he leads her to his dayroom.
Stay, he says, I'm so lonely. He rubs her stomach, rubs the scratchy green
All that night, I dream of his hands clutching at her breasts, at her skirt;
she is wriggling away. I hear them laughing, drunk. When he returns from
the restroom, he forgets to shut the door. I see him on top of her, inching
upwards on his belly. He's holding her wrists above her head. He's fully
clothed but his pants have come unzippered. Her dress is over her head and
her hair is tangled. Her face and breasts are green and white with flowers.
She squeals and whimpers as he squeezes her breasts. It looks as though
he is crushing them.
He moans, Anna, Anna, Anna as if he is drowning--she hears this as -Na,
He looks up at the door, stares at it, hard, listening. I don't move. He
I'm there. That I and my mother are watching through my eyes, listening
through my ears.
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