"Have I been driving my ass off forever or what?" Giselle blurted, removing her hands momentarily from the steering wheel.
"It's been important," he said. "You've been an angel."
"That's what Oprah called you. She thinks you're a angel. Ha!"
"She said I sing like an angel. There's a big difference."
"So, you're not an angel?"
"Nope," he said.
Giselle wanted to know what he meant by that, but just as she was about to ask she wasn't sure she wanted to hear the answer. Her mouth hung open like she was a complete idiot, then she said, "What was it like having Oprah for a mother?"
"We didn't see each other much. After I had my father for a father, having her for a mother was a piece of cake." He smiled.
He had such affection for his motherthey had such affection for each other, Giselle could tell. It was sweet. It was touching. It made her want to cry. She wondered what it would have been like to have had a mother she loveda mother she could love, a mother who would have let her love her, a mother who had loved her, a mother who had liked her. If she'd had that kind of mother, no mother would have been better than her mother.
"Will she be all right?" Giselle asked.
"Yep. She's amazing. My father used to say that about her too. He helped her out here and there, saw to her education, got her some of her first jobs, pulled strings. I think that may have been what they talked about on the phone."
"I don't think so," Giselle said. "Well, I don't know, but what she said they talked about was hearts. He told her everyone has one. That made her cry."
"She told you that? Well, good for her. I'm glad. She's cool. Rocco and Davis know what they're doing."
"Hey, you want to go bowling?" Giselle asked.
"Nope," he said.
"Yeah? Why not? I'd kick your ass, that's why not."
"Yep," he said.
"How do I know you so well already?"
"We were made for each other," he said.
That shut her up.
They'd crossed back over the Rock River again, on one of the Erector Set bridges built during the depression, and were coming into the outskirts of Rockford, the second biggest city in State of Illinois. Was that a joke, or what? Compared to Chicago, it looked like this podunk little jerkwater prairie town lost somewhere in the fifties without enough lights on at night to drown out the reflection of the moon in the river. Her parents and their parents and their parents hadn't known any other citiesexcept back in Poland or Ireland; Dublin, maybe, or Krakow.
Rockford, Illinois had been home to all the people Giselle had known when she'd been growing up. It might have been a podunk little prairie town, but Rockford was their podunk little prairie town; their community, the hub around which their lives had revolved. The Register Star was where they found the jobs they worked at and where they read about who got married and who was born and who had died. WREX was where they watched Tom Brokaw. Rockford was where they went when they went shopping, where they bought their groceries and did their banking and had their cataract surgeries. St. Mary's Cemetery was where they buried the people who died; well, Catholic peopleGiselle wasn't sure what the hell they did with the rest of the people. There was a Scandinavian Cemetery for Scandinavians, she knew, but beyond that, she didn't have a clue. St. Mary's was where they'd buried her grandmother, where they'd buried Mame. In that purple dress.
Mame would have had a heart attack if she'd known she'd been buried in that god damn ugly purple dress. Giselle's mother had bought it for her for her birthday, three or four birthdays ago. Mame had hated it then.
"I wouldn't be caught dead in a purple dress," Mame had told Giselle, holding the dress up, shaking her head sadly, but almost laughing at the same time. "Your mother knows I hate the color purple. I've always hated the color purple. Why she'd buy me a purple dress, I do not know."
"She's weird," Giselle had said.
"I know, dear," Mame said. "I'm sorry."
Yeah, well, Mame did get caught dead in a purple dress. That was most likely why Giselle's mother had arranged with the funeral director to have Mame buried in the thingto get her money's worth; to get the last laugh. Ha fucking ha. Then she didn't even show up at the funeral! What the hell kind of a mother was she? What the hell kind of a daughter had she been? Giselle did not know. There were millions of things Giselle didn't know.
"You want to hear about Tennessee?" Abraham turned, stretched out his left leg, rested his foot in her lap and leaned his head against the window.
Giselle put her right arm under his ankle and hugged his soft shoe against her chest and said, "Sure. Yeah. I do." She wanted to get used to saying, "I do."
"Nice," he said.
"Grassy. Woodsy. Not too warm in the summer. Not too cold in the winter. Just right the rest of the year. You'll see. There's a river, well, a creek more like. We've dug out a big old swimming hole, with a rope you can swing on like Tarzan of the Apesand splash! Like a cannonball or a swan dive, whatever you want, and there are flowers...asters, lilacs, hyacinth...pine trees and oaks and berry bushes and moss. Soft, light green moss, the color of pistachio nuts, spread like icing on big warm granite rocks," Abraham moved his hand as if over an imaginary rock.
"Okay, too descriptive. More matter, less art. Oprah said that. Remember? It's a quote from Hamlet. I wonder if she knew that?" Giselle scrunched up her nose.
"Probably. She's pretty smart. Do you want to hear about Tennessee or not?"
"Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Sorry." She hugged his foot tighter.
"Roses," he said. "Wild roses." Abraham went on, talking slowly, as if he were talking in his sleep, as if he were describing a dream he was seeing. She knew he could feel her tits against his leg, though. He wasn't that asleep. She didn't think he'd ever be that asleep. "Honeysuckle. Jasmine. The houses are all made of rocks. Stone fireplaces in the winter. Handmade everything everywhere."
"Okay, okay, that's enough. I want to go there," Giselle said, pulling his shoe up to her chin, holding his bare ankle against her breasts, feeling his skin against her nipples through her silk shirt. "Right now," she said. "Let's just pick up Ketchum and the little dogs and go. Drive all night, get there tomorrow sometime, or the next day, or the day after that, I don't care. Really, seriously, let's just take off. Like birds. Ha! My dad used to say that, 'Take off like birds.'"
"We can. We might have to. We probably will. As soon as our work here is done. I'm getting homesick. You'll love it, Giselle. There are paths through the forest...soft leafy, pine needle paths with grasshoppers everywhere...flying grasshoppers that whir up out of the purple thistles and startle the littlest of the kids, the babies, the toddlers, the ones who smell like tears and snot and drool...then that makes them laughit makes them laugh that they were scared, then all that laughing makes them droolwe wipe off their faces and they look at us funny."
"I want to walk there with our baby, toddle there with our toddler. Can we?" Giselle asked, pushing the heel of his shoe down her belly, embracing the thin fabric of one of his blue and white Asics between her legs.
"Yep," said Abraham, still with his eyes closed. "We can walk for miles, clear up to the top of the mountain and down the other side, anywhere. We might cross the Appalachian Trail here and there, but that's as crowded as it ever gets."
"Are there lightning bugs?"
"At night, sure. A bunch. I don't know where they go during the day."
"Mason jars," Giselle said. "Are there foxes? I like foxes."
"Yep. And coons and squirrels and a nasty old badger my father said he saw once but I never did. Deer. Lots of deer. Fawns in the spring come right up to you until their mothers take off, loping gently through the trees." Abraham moved his hand in front of his still closed eyes to show her the way a mother deer might take off through the trees. "Crickets in the evening. Hummingbirds. Bumblebees."
"Alligators?" Giselle asked.
"Crap. I want to learn how to restrain an alligator. I've always wanted to feel what it would feel like to restrain an alligator. If you put your hands over their eyes so they can't see, they don't know what to do so they don't do anything. They just sit there. I was thinking I could maybe slip a pair of sunglasses on an alligator. Like, you know, so he could see a little, like 'through a glass, darkly.' Ha! Then maybe I could ride around on his back for awhile. I'd like to ride around on an alligator's back. In Tennessee. You could be there, watching me. I'd wave to you."
"Sorry, hon. We could bring one up from our place near the Everglades."
"Absolutely. Sure. Anything you want."
"What about mosquitoes?" Giselle narrowed her eyes. "I hate mosquitoes. I don't care if they bite me. I like when they bite me. I watch their little bellies fill up with blood...then I splatter them. Ha! But I hate when they buzz in my ears."
"Nope. No mosquitoes. But stars, stars like you've never seen, lots of bright stars...twinkling their little hearts out. You know what makes stars twinkle?"
"Yeah," Giselle said. "Some kind of atmospherical stuff."
"Nope." Abraham was emphatic. "Love," he said. "It's a scientific fact."
"My ass is a scientific fact," said Giselle.
"I know. Your ass is the cutest little scientific fact I ever did see. But do you want to hear about how love makes the stars twinkle or not?"
"You mean, like scientifically speaking?" she asked, batting her eyelashes.
"Yep," he said. "Yes or no?"
"Okay, yes. I do. Then will you marry me?"
"I already married you. I married you a long time ago. I was born married to you. You were born married to me. We were born married to each other; we'll die married to each other."
"Yikes. How cool is that?" she asked.
"Very cool. Are you going to keep interrupting me?"
"Um." She put her finger beside her nose. "Is that like a yes or no question?"
"Yes," he said. "Have you ever heard of Wilhelm Reich?"
"That Orgone guy? The one they locked up 'cause he was nuts?"
"He wasn't nuts," Abraham said solemnly.
"I know. I was joking." Giselle didn't feel like arguing. She was so gosh darn in love she was going to cry.
"They locked him up because they were fascists," Abraham said.
"I read some book once where he said love filled up the space between the stars. Like they were looking for where all this black matter bullshit there's supposed to be left over from the big-bang. Wilhelm Reich told them it was love, that all that missing black matter was love, and they locked his ass up for trying to catch it in a box. But I never heard about love being what made stars twinkle, for gosh sakes. That's a new one on me," she said.
"I'm a new one on you too." He wiggled his foot in her lap.
"Man, are you ever," she said. Then neither of them talked for awhile.
Oprah was right. He was no angel. He'd said it himself. "So, you're not a angel?" Giselle had asked. "Nope," he'd said. She liked that about himan angel would probably be pretty boringbut the comment had stuck in her craw all the same. What wasn't an angel about him? What did she really know about him? Not much. He was Oprah Winfrey's illegitimate son and his father lived somewhere in Tennesseethat was it; that was all she knew. The way he was with her seemed too good to be true. She didn't want to go throwing a monkey wrench into that; well she did and she didn'tsometimes a monkey wrench needed to get thrown into things.
"Hey, so, what went on with you and that Dow chick?" Giselle asked.
Abraham opened his eyes. He blinked. Giselle glanced out at the familiar skyline of Rockford passing by on either side of the road. She was almost all the way through town by then, getting closer to home. She let go of his foot and put both hands on the steering wheel. They listened to the quiet interior of the car for awhile.
"When?" Abraham asked.
"Ever," Giselle said. "What are you like with each other?"
"Affectionate," he said.
"Do you fuck?"
"We have," he said without much inflection.
"Oh." Her face got hot. She got hot all over. She was burning up. Her skin prickled with heat, waves of prickly heat flashed up the skin at the sides of her neck, ducked behind her ears, crawled into her hair and stayed there, throbbing like a third degree sunburn. She couldn't talk for a second, then Giselle asked, "When?"
"It's been awhile."
"How long? Days? Weeks? Months? Years?" She rattled them off quickly, hoping she could get at least to centuries before he stopped hercenturies would be okay, centuries she could handle, the more centuries the better.
"It's been a year or so. We've known each other all our lives. Well, I've know her all her life. She's my buddy. She's my father's daughter, my half-sister."
"Yep," he said. "That's partly why none of us have kids with each other." He was straightforward; there was no deception or guilt or embarrassment in his voice.
"Do you want to have a kid with her?" Giselle flushed hotter than ever.
"Nope. Having sex with Dow...or anyone else down there...was just fun. There wasn't anything more to it than that."
"So, what we did wasn't fun? Jesus. And what the hell do you mean, '...or anyone else down there?' Do you have sex with all the other women too?"
"Giselle..." He stopped. She'd asked a lot of questions, she knew. She would have stopped too. "I want to have a kid with you," he said matter-of-factly.
"When was the last time you fucked her?"
"Who?" he asked.
"God damn Dow, that's who. You can tell me about all the rest later."
"You don't want to know this stuff, Giselle. It was meaningless."
"Yeah. Meaningless fun, ha, ha. Yes I do. Where were you? In Tennessee?"
"Yep," he said.
"Tell me about it." Giselle's throat was constricted. Her heart was flipping and flopping all over the inside of her chest. "I want to know. I want to hear."
"Why? I'm not in love with Dow. I'm in love with you."
"I know. I know." She was dizzy. She may have been hyperventilating. That was okay. She didn't have a headache. Anything was okay. She was so in love she was going to explode. "I just want to know. Tell me the last time you two fucked."
"It was at her mother's house. In the shower. I'd stayed there that night."
"With her? Like did you sleep with her the night before?"
"Yep. I slept with her lots of nights. We're close. We like each other."
"Did you fuck her the night before?"
"Nope. In the shower the next morning. That's it."
"Tell me about it."
"I was taking a shower. She got in with me. We fucked."
"Tell me how. Tell me the whole thing, like from start to finish."
"Giselle..." He turned his hands like he thought that was a bad idea.
"I want to hear." She insisted. "'Let love be without dissimulation.' You just said that. I want the way we love each other to be like that. Without dissimulation."
"So do I," he said.
"Yeah? So? You were in the shower..." She made a few circles in the air with her index finger as if to say, get on with it.
"Yep. Washing my hair." He closed his eyes again. Tiny wrinkles appeared at the corners of his eyes as if he were trying to recreate the scene. "Dow snuck into the shower with me. I had my head under the shower nozzle. I had no idea she was there. She poked me in the ribs." He demonstrated, using both fingers. "Scared me. I jumped. Yelled at her. Called her some name or other." He smiled.
"What name?" Giselle asked.
"Probably 'fucker.' Or, 'You fuck!' We were like that, like kids. We sang songs together, snapped towels at each other's butts, goofy stuff."
"Then what?" Giselle's esophagus was so small she could hardly swallow.
"She laughed. Then she got under the shower too and handed me a bar of soap. She leaned the palms of her hands against the tiles. I was washing her back. I washed her ass. She liked it. I liked it. My dick got hard. We fucked. She fiddled with her clit and came. I pulled out of her and ejaculated."
"Where?" Giselle asked.
Abraham opened his eyes and looked at her, maybe to make sure she wasn't going to throw something at him, then answered her as clearly and directly as he'd answered all her questions. "Sort of on the right side of her butt. I wiped it off with a washcloth and kissed the top of her head. Is that enough?"
Giselle was making notes to herself. What was happening to her, all the things that were happening simultaneously were so...what? Interesting? Fascinating? Good to know? Unknowable?
The white lines down the center of the road were like spears coming at her. They didn't do anything, just disappeared under her tires, under the left side of the car, but they felt like they were being thrown at her, like they were going to hurt her before they disappeared. She had urges to drive the car into them, to cross them, to crash head-on into a Fed-Ex van coming straight at her on the other side of the road, urges to get away from the white lines, to turn her steering hard to the right, to crash into a utility pole, to crash into a whole forest of trees.
"Yeah," she said.
"Wow," she said.
"Thanks," she said.
She swallowed, gripped the steering wheel as tightly as she could with both hands and said, in a whisper, "I'm so jealous I'm going to die."
"I know," he said. "We're going to know each other. Inside and out. Our hearts are going to know each other. We're going to belong to each other. You're going to be mine. I'm going to be yours. I'm not going to fuck anyone else. You're not going to fuck anyone else. We're going to be each other's one true love forever."
"I never knew what jealous was. It hurts."
"Yep," he said. "It hurts me too."
"Will you tell me everything?" she asked.
"Anything you ever want to know."
"Good. That's what I want."
"You want to hear something I've never told anyone?" Abraham asked. "Something I've never done?"
"Sure. What?" Giselle asked.
"I never came in a chick before. Not until last night. I never wanted to make a kid in anyone. I never wanted to be in love with anyone. I never was. I am now."
"Wow," Giselle said. She didn't know what else to say. She shut up. She got completely quiet for what felt like the first time in her life.
Her headlights dodged between trees and illuminated the occasional telephone pole on either side of the Old River Road. She wasn't in any danger anymore. She was calm. Cool. Collected. Secure. Happy. The white lines weren't spears. They were white lines, helping her to stay on the right side of the road.
They were almost home, but that was still going to take too long. She looked for someplace she could pull off into the bushes, somewhere secluded. She wanted to stop the car and turn off the engine and turn off the lights and climb with Abraham into the back seat. She wanted him to pull off her panties, to stick his dick in her without any preliminaries, just to fuck her, to come in her, to make another kid in her, and another and another...that was when she heard the siren and saw the flashing lights speeding up behind her.
"Aaarraahh," she screamed. "I fucking can't fucking believe this!" She grabbed a handful of the thick hair on the top of her head and squeezed it in her fist, then kept pulling it, harder and harder, until it hurt, until she said, "Ow. God damn it." Then she said, very distinctly, "Cocksucking. Motherfucking. Motherfuck!"
Abraham removed his foot from her lap and scrunched down in his seat. "Giselle," he said. "Chill. Just pull over. Talk to the guy. Take your time. Don't do anything dumb."
"Don't do anything dumb, my ass," she said. Then she slammed on the brakes and turned the car onto the shoulder of the road.
Clouds of dust swirled up around the windows after the car had come to a stop. Abraham held his hands with the tips of his fingers touching like a teepee in front of his face, the way he'd had his hands propped together at the dining room table. Giselle remembered the shadows from the candles his hands had made across the wall. She undid her seat belt, turned off the engine and the lights, got out of the car and shoved the door closed, as if all those things were a single well choreographed action. The door slammed shut with a final, muffled, airtight swoosh.
She worried it might have hurt Abraham's ears.