I want to write a short story about my husband’s new girlfriend. I want to write it in the style of Richard Brautigan, because he’s the author she told me about the first night she came over for supper. I touched her ankle for the first time and then kissed her for the first time. She felt wonderful! The three of us were all together in bed even though she didn’t take off her underwear because she was still on her period. I wouldn’t have cared about her being on her period. I’ve gone down on lots of women on their periods and it didn’t need to be anything for her or me to be ashamed of.
She probably thought that I asked her what book she was reading as a way to test her. That’s exactly why I asked her! We both knew that. When she said Richard Brautigan I was slightly disappointed, because I didn’t know anything about Richard Brautigan, he was a nobody to me, but because I love Ella I know now.
She’s only twenty, but she’s really seen everything.
It’s obvious she’s been around the block a few times. She first emerged spotless from the fire at Alexandria, where I was the smeared and wailing one wandering around trying to recite the texts of all of those thousands of individual books, which are now lost to us forever.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice her at the time (well, I was too busy ululating because that’s how women in many traditional societies have mourned).
She was probably wearing a white linen shift. White is a symbol of purity, but also synthesis and complexity because white light can be fanned out into an array containing the continuity of all colours.
Whatever was worth saving at that juncture, she was it, or had it. It was under that white shift where her body is so fine-grained and strong, and though she still wears loose, shift-like clothing, shaped with a lot of proportional integrity like a Egyptian vase.
Next she was born Joan of Arc. She made sure she was martyred before compromising doubt set in. As much as she knew on one level that God had called her to lead France to martial victory, a couple of levels up she was starting to see through monotheistic, patriarchal religions in general and she didn’t want it to trickle down and spoil the Arc of history.
I was incarnated as her mother at that point, trying in vain to teach her how to earn a womanly living while she was sneaking out to confer with Charles VII.
I knew wool-spinning. I could pass on something valuable in the form of wool-spinning. Wool-spinning I could get behind. All the rest of it, the war, the dauphin, I could take it or leave it. But I did spend the rest of my life petitioning the pope to clear her of the charge of heresy, which I’m sure wasn’t bothering her at all.
She grew into Ada Byron Lovelace, surpassing her deadbeat poet father and and inventing the computer she would one day incarnate. I was also using my intelligence. I was fucking a member of an aristocratic family instead of peeling potatoes in his kitchen. It was really something, much better than nothing.
She was writing to her mother:
“I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature . . .
Firstly: owing to some peculiarity in my nervous system, I have perceptions of some things, which no one else has; or at least very few, if any . . . Some might say an intuitive perception of hidden things;—that is of things hidden from eyes, ears and the ordinary senses . . .
Secondly;—my immense reasoning faculties;
Thirdly; . . . the power not only of throwing my whole energy and existence into whatever I choose, but also bring to bear on any one subject or idea, a vast apparatus from all sorts of apparently irrelevant and extraneous sources. I can throw rays from every quarter of the universe into one vast focus.”
Yup, that’s her alright. Over and over, she rose at the seminal moment, innocent, all-knowing, free of everything. I liked to carry everything around with me like a non-ergonomic backpack. Or like the Rubbermaid container in which a newly homeless person might still be storing their stuff, in an attempt maybe to hack the system, do this homeless thing the smart way.
Meanwhile, she is being reborn again, IRL and on the internet. Initially a folk-singing, svelte, and large-eyed hologram to me, she is becoming increasingly real.
So she can pay her brother’s rent, she has taken on a third job peeling potatoes in a kitchen. She can talk to anyone including the incestuous cousins who play darts at The Empress. She’s getting in to pleated pants, which is so adorable. She has lovers other than my husband, including a sad lawyer who ties her up and hits her, giving her a drink without asking what she wants to drink. I understand how his behaviour could feel like a relief.
Sometimes, like today, I worry about her. That might be partly because in the twilight years of the Twentieth Century our equally deadbeat sets of parents gave us almost the same name.
It is now ten minutes to two o’clock on a sleeting Saturday afternoon in March. I am twenty-seven years old. I just had a shower and I’m drinking water out of a Nalgene water bottle and thinking about last Monday when we ate a vegan breakfast of black coffee together, and about the thousands of years of relevant human history that have led up to now. I believe in a cosmic intelligence. I believe in Ella, the girlfriend. I believe in myself, the wife. And I believe in the two of us, each the image out of one eye.