9 April 1971:
Lake Shaheen, New York
Are we going to see Daddy? Where is Daddy?
Momma? Where is Daddy?
This day at twilight when the sun appears soft as an egg yolk at
the horizon a solitary car is observed descending route 39 into
Lake Shaheen from the north. In this dense-wooded landscape in the
foothills of the Chautauqua Mountains all horizons are
foreshortened. Vehicles appear suddenly around curves, rapidly
descending into town, though this car, driven by a woman with a
blurred face and long streaming hair, is being driven at about
thirty-five miles an hour—a careful speed, a
calculated-seeming speed as the car approaches the railroad
crossing at the foot of the hill.
A quarter-mile to the east, the 5:48 P.M. Chautauqua & Erie
freight is also approaching the crossing, much more rapidly.
Say you're the proprietor of Texas Hots Café. Say there's no
customer in the café at just this moment, so you've been
smoking a cigarette and staring out the front window of the
café at nothing you haven't seen a thousand thousand times
before. Not noticing still less giving a damn that the window is
greasy, should be washed. Not noticing still less giving a damn
that the asphalt in front of your café is beginning to crack,
bad as the asphalt parking lot of the old train depot across the
road; that weeds are growing in the cracks, like unwanted thoughts.
Thinking that life is emptiness mostly—you managed not to get
killed, blown up, or shot up too bad in the war—now your
reward is, this emptiness at twilight of a day in early spring so
cold and so cheerless it's indistinguishable from late winter, and
even if a few more customers straggle into the café before you
shut down for the night there's still this emptiness at the core,
an emptiness you'd associate with Lake Shaheen, population 760,
except you know it's elsewhere too, and anywhere: a stillness like
the stillness between a faucet's slow drips. Yet so crowded
sometimes, so much commotion inside your head there are moments
when you can scarcely breathe, and you yearn for sleep to fill your
head like soft warm concrete. All this while not really watching
the car descending the hill toward the railroad crossing except to
think with mild reproach No headlights but then it isn't
dark yet, only just almost-dark, the sky overhead is vivid with
waning sun and roiling clouds blowing down from Lake Ontario twenty
miles to the north. You aren't aware that the car you're seeing is
Duncan Quade's beat-up 1968 Chevy sedan he left behind when he
moved away from Lake Shaheen sometime last summer, nor that the
driver is Duncan Quade's wife, Hedy, who grew up around here, one
of those Lake Shaheen High girls so pretty, so smalltown
sexy-glamorous that guys are all over them from the age of thirteen
onward and they wind up married before graduating from high school,
next thing they're mothers, and there's no next thing after that.
Or anyway, no next thing they can see for themselves. And if their
marriages go wrong, what then. But you aren't thinking yet of Hedy
Quade or the likelihood that the small tense figure you half-see in
the passenger's seat beside Hedy is probably the Quades' little
boy, and behind Hedy in the backseat is a smaller child, probably
the little girl. You don't know the kids' names: Duncan might've
told you, but you don't remember the names of kids not your
And you aren't really watching the train yet. Except to note its
lights are on.
This is the early-evening train, two passenger cars and the rest
freight, coal and oil, the 5:48 P.M. through Lake Shaheen five days
a week, that doesn't stop at Lake Shaheen but continues on to Port
Oriskany fifty miles to the west. Truth is, you scarcely hear the
trains any longer. You opened Texas Hots in 1946, back from the war
(France and Italy, 1944–45) with a shot-up knee and a
perforated eardrum and the trains passing the café and the
shingleboard bungalow at the rear where you and your wife live are
no more perceptible than pulse beats in your brain. People always
asking how can you sleep through those damned trains and you just
shrug, sure you sleep through the trains and so would anybody else
in your position, anybody normal. If you'd been asked—as
nobody of your acquaintance in Lake Shaheen or among customers
likely to come into Texas Hots would ask—possibly you'd admit
that you take comfort in the trains, their regularity east-west,
west-east along the same tracks day following day. The locomotive
whistle long and drawn out and melancholy, the clattering wheels.
Vibrating of the earth at your feet. Especially you take comfort in
the 5:48 P.M. because it signals the waning of the day and the
coming of night which is your best time so you can sink back into
sleep, head filling with sleep that no train whistle or clattering
freight cars can penetrate.
Except today, a day you haven't yet noted has a date, is to be
different. Tonight, you'll have a damned hard time getting to
Those mare's-tail clouds in the northern sky over Lake Ontario
looking as if they'd been torn apart by angry fingers.
For there is getting to be something wrong. You're seeing it now.
The steady speed of the car, the rapid approach of the train.
Perpendicular lines, forces. Route 39, the raised railroad tracks.
Instinctively you've been waiting for the car to slow. To brake to
a stop at the crossing. You've begun to recognize the car, belongs
to a local resident, Duncan Quade you're thinking though thinking
too that you haven't seen the man in Texas Hots for a long time,
nor anywhere in town; you haven't time to think It isn't Quade,
even drunk he knows better than to race a train.
9 April 1993:
Institute for Semiotics,
Princeton, New Jersey
Is this a mistake, is this a cruel trick. Don't ask.
I am not one to ask such questions.
Princeton, New Jersey
He's hunting us. We have to escape him.
Hunting she'd always said. Your father is hunting
In the early 1970s before stalking had been invented
promulgated by the media.
I went to the Friends of Chamber Music concert in Richardson
Auditorium on the Princeton University campus, there I was shown to
my plush-red seat C 22. Never before had I sat so close to any
concert stage. Never before in so privileged a position where I
would be able to watch a distinguished pianist's fingers at close
I arrived twenty minutes early. Basking in the significance of the
A friend, a friend! Who is my friend?
A young Japanese pianist would be playing that evening. Brilliant
but controversial: his interpretations of classical piano pieces,
as of difficult contemporary music, were said to be
Did I like it that other early arrivals were glancing at me, yes I
did. That solitary girl midway in a row of yet-unoccupied orchestra
A girl, you'd be led to think. Not a woman of twenty-eight.
An attractive, rather doll-like girl you'd be led to think. If you
didn't come too close.
If the overhead lighting wasn't too bright.
I have to admit, I'd thought about exchanging the forty-fivedollar
ticket for something cheaper. My stipend at the Institute—
"stipend" was the term, not "salary"—kept me, like most
graduate students, at just above the poverty line; and living in
Princeton was not cheap. But I refused to give in. No! You will
not. This evening is a gift, you have an unknown
I wanted to believe this. I knew better, but still I wanted to
For the occasion I wore a green velvet sheath that fitted my lanky
body like a glove. A green velvet headband pushed my glossy black
hair from my face. There was something very still and precise about
me, like a doll in an upright, seated position; my face was a
perfect oval. This oval had been shattered and mended in a filigree
of near-invisible cracks, but as long as you remained at a
distance—at least eighteen inches, depending upon the
lighting—you weren't likely to know this fact.
What has happened to you?
Were you in a car crash?
When did it happen?
In fact it was rare that anyone asked, now that I was an adult.
Living in a new part of the country where people tended to be
polite, even formal. I'd endured public schools in Nebraska,
Arizona, New Mexico and each morning now in New Jersey I woke to
the relief of no longer being a child or a teenager; no longer
being Hedy Quade's daughter.
Strange, the envelope had been addressed L Quade. In
Princeton, at the Institute, I was known as Lara Quade; no
one could have known that I'd once been Lorraine Quade and
that I'd changed my name as soon as I'd been old enough.
I might have changed my last name, too. But I had not.
He's hunting us. The three of us. His.
After more than twenty years, I doubted this was so. My father
Duncan Quade had long vanished from my life. Mostly, he'd vanished
from my thoughts. (Though I had a memento of his. Just one.) My
mother had fled with us after the accident at the railway crossing
and we'd never seen or heard from Duncan Quade since.
At least, I had not seen or heard from him.
We had our separate lives now. Hedy, Ryan, Lorraine/Lara.
Whoever had sent the ticket to L Quade, I assumed he was a
music lover and maybe like me he favored the piano. Maybe, unlike
me, he played a musical instrument. He'd noticed me at these
concerts and possibly he knew me from the Institute where I was a
research fellow and just possibly he took pity on me (I didn't want
to think this, but it seemed logical) in my cheap balcony seats.
He'd seen me from a distance of more than eighteen inches, and he'd
liked what he saw. The glossy black hair, the perfectly poised
head, an air of something withheld you might misinterpret as depth,
He was certain to be significantly older than I was and he
certain to have much more money than I had.
He was certain to be he.
The scars at my hairline were delicate as lace, you'd have to have
a magnifying glass to see them clearly. Others, shaped like commas,
on the lower part of my jaws and throat, you'd swear were slivers
of glass still embedded in my skin.
Still other scars, brutal corkscrew twists of skin, of the sick
color of curdled milk, were hidden inside my clothes, and these, on
my back, my buttocks, my upper thighs, you weren't likely to
Jesus! What happened to you?
Car crash? Fire . . . ?
Still, I liked it that men's eyes drifted onto me sometimes in
public places, and snagged like fishhooks. It wasn't my fault, I
was blameless. I encouraged no one. I deceived no one. If I seemed
to promise something I was not, the misinterpretation was not my
"Excuse us, may we—?"
I had to stand, to allow a couple to squeeze past me. The seats in
Richardson Auditorium were old, handsomely refurbished but small,
and the space between the rows was narrow, as if the old Gothic
building had been designed for a smaller species of men and women.
The couple took seats C 21 and 20. Beside me, C 23 was still
It was 7:50 P.M. The auditorium was filling steadily. Here and
there were younger patrons, very likely music students, for there
was a strong music department at the university and many performers
and composers locally, but most of these younger patrons were
seated at the rear of the hall and in the balcony, not in the
front-row seats. Overall, the audience for serious music is an
older audience: the average age in Richardson that evening must
have been sixty. Patrons were subscribers to the series, well-to-do
supporters of the arts. That tribe of Princeton patricians who were
Caucasian, very wealthy, tastefully dressed and unfailingly
courteous. I understood them to be good people: the kind of people
Hedy Quade would identify, with a hurt little smile that hid her
anger, as money people.
I understood that they were good people. The couple beside me,
white-haired, elderly, fussing with their programs, their coats,
the woman's handbag. Not my benefactor. Not these.
The Caucasian-patrician smell of women's discreetly lightened hair,
expensive leather handbags, men's aftershave lotion and cologne.
Seated among them I wondered if I might be mistaken for one of
them: except I was conspicuously alone. If you belong to a tribe
you are never alone.
Don't hate! Be grateful.
Scarred marred girl must always be grateful.
I think it must be because my mother had planned for me to die,
with my brother Ryan and herself, at the age of six. You learn to
measure living, the beat of your pulse, against that other:
extinction. Lorraine Quade 1965–1971 chiseled on the
child-sized grave marker in a country cemetery in a wedge of
upstate New York called Lake Shaheen.
If so I'd have been six years old forever. My brother Ryan would
have been nine, forever. My mother, Hedy, thirty-one.
Thirty-one! So young.
He took my life from me. What's left now, isn't
It isn't me doing this now. It's what he has made
I was sitting in my plush-red seat and I was trying to concentrate
on the program, reading about the young Japanese pianist who held
the Diplomino from the Conservatorio di Musica in Bologna,
Italy, his numerous awards and recitals and music festivals. This
evening he would be playing sonatas by Samuel Barber, Bartók,
Prokofiev. I was trying to read, trying to concentrate on the
words, trying to drive away my mother's long-ago voice.
Remember I love you. You, and your brother.
"Do you come often to this series? My husband and I have been
coming for twenty-six years . . ."
The white-haired couple beside me was trying to engage me in
conversation. I had the idea that the woman, seated closer than her
husband, had noted my damaged/mended face. The man was more likely
to have mistaken me for a daughter of their tribe, oddly alone. In
my green velvet sheath many times marked down and sold at $12.99 at
the Second-Time Around Shop just off Nassau Street, that might in
fact have once belonged to a young woman of their acquaintance. In
my green velvet headband that gave me the demure feminine look of a
pre-Barbie ceramic doll. I tried to be polite but my replies were
Never never show it. Nothing of what you feel.
For all I knew, maybe these were my benefactors. Wealthy eccentric
music lovers who bought blocks of tickets to send out anonymously.
If I was disappointed, I didn't intend to show it.
The seat to my right, C 23, was still vacant.
The house lights were dimming. The Japanese pianist appeared, brisk
and somber, with a little bow glancing out into the audience as if
to check, yes we were there, something alive and expectant was
there, to mirror his dazzling performance.
Music is my other world to live in. Where I am not-known to myself.
Where I have no memory. Where no voices from the past intrude, nor
even my own. There, I become entranced. I am capable of feeling
happiness at such times.
I have no talent for music, I think. No voice. Except I can
recognize what music is or anyway what music is not:
Then, this happened.
A late arrival came, just after the first movement of the Samuel
Barber sonata, to sit in C 23. A clumsy figure. Graceless as a
runaway truck down a steep incline. He sat so heavily, the entire
row of seats shuddered. His knees were jammed tight against the
back of the seat in front of him, jarring that row also, provoking
people to glance back at him, annoyed. Shifting in his seat, that
was too small for him, he poked me with his elbow. "Hey.
The dramatic mood of the opening movement of the Barber sonata had
been shattered. As if a megaphone voice had overwhelmed a merely
human voice. I felt my heart beat in disappointment, chagrin.
I'd wanted to believe that my anonymous benefactor would be sitting
in that seat. The measure of my disappointment made me realize
The intruder was a youngish ox of a man with unshaven, stubbled
jaws and punk style hair. No one associated with the Institute
though (possibly) a graduate student at the university, an
unorthodox composer or performer. He was panting, as if he'd been
running. He gave off a smell like singed hair. His hardlooking head
had been shaved like a skinhead's at the sides and back, but the
rest of his hair was combed back long and lank and tar colored. His
hands were big-knuckled, their backs covered in coarse dark hairs.
As the pianist plunged into the second, forceful movement of the
sonata, these hands gripped the man's knees as if to keep them from
twitching; still, his left foot, close to mine, began keeping the
beat, pushing just ahead of the beat. I felt such anger, a flame
might have been lighted against my skin. You don't belong here,
why have you come here!
I felt the danger of this individual as you feel the danger of
standing too near the edge of a precipice.
Though you have no intention to throw yourself over. Yet, you feel
the danger as a physical sensation.
I knew the tricks of mental discipline: I'd made myself into an
almost purely mental person, since adolescence. I meant to
concentrate on the pianist, and on the music; and I did. Avidly I
leaned forward in my seat, to avoid contact with the stubblejawed
man. I stared at the illuminated keyboard, the pianist's agile
fingers. The auditorium was filled with flawlessly executed musical
notes like shattering glass. Here was power! Here was beauty. I
would ignore the intruder beside me, my heart beat in disdain of
No one will cheat me of this.
I could feel the stubble-jawed man making an effort to relax.
Hot-skinned, he seemed, and edgy. He must have felt clumsily out of
place. He must have wondered why he was here. Now he sat with his
arms folded tightly across his chest, holding himself in a kind of
straitjacket. There was something wayward and careening about him
that reminded me (uneasily, guiltily) of my brother Ryan whom I
hadn't seen in years: poor clumsy shorttempered Ryan whose speech
became slurred when he was excited, and whose left foot dragged
when he walked, the result of minor brain damage.
This man was dressed like Ryan, too. Or what I recalled of Ryan. A
well-worn leather jacket, unzipped. Khaki work trousers, hiking
An anomoly, in this genteel Princeton setting.
Yet I managed to ignore him, mostly. The piano music was
captivating. By degrees, I might have been alone in the auditorium
beyond the brightly lit stage: there, the enormous Steinway concert
grand piano dominated, and the figure of the very young-looking
pianist with his remarkable flashing fingers. I was beginning to be
placated, consoled. This was the place music brought me to. If I
can't achieve such beauty I need to know that others can. The
third movement of the Barber sonata was an adagio, precisely if
rather coolly executed. The last movement was a bright leaping
allegro, that seemed to me musically complex, intricate,
and must be enormously difficult for any pianist to play. The
percussive forward-motion of the conclusion had the drive of an
accelerated heartbeat that left me breathless.
The sonata ended, abruptly. The pianist stood to accept his
applause. He bowed, now shyly smiling. How happy he was: you could
see it now. That buoyant relief of having made his way through
Beside me, to my annoyance, the stubble-jawed man was clapping his
ungainly hands, as if the music had meant something to him. Again
his elbow collided with my arm.
"Hey, shit—I'm sorry."
He smiled at me. A twitchy belligerent smile, I thought it. As if
he mocked me even as he feigned an apology.
The pianist exited the stage. In the interval before the
Bartók sonata, the audience began to hum and buzz with
Beside me, the stubble-jawed man made a show of peering at his
program notes. "'Samuel Barber. American composer.' Never heard of
him, have you?"
Was he talking to me? I hardly glanced up from my program, nodding
a vague cool reply.
"Takes getting used to, huh? That kind of music."
When I didn't reply he persisted. "Cerebal music, is it?"
The stubble-jawed man laughed at my correcting him. I couldn't tell
if he was laughing at his mistake, or at my Princeton prissiness in
"This guy, 'Okado'—'Okada'—he's pretty good, I guess?
You heard him play before?"
I had to admit, I had not.
The stubble-jawed man shifted his knees, clumsy as clubs, against
the back of the seat in front of him, and another time the woman
sitting there glanced around at him, annoyed. He ignored her. He
seemed to have taken a definite interest in me, out of boredom
perhaps. I wondered that he hadn't left the concert after the first
selection. "Weird, a Jap—a Japanese person—playing
American music. I wouldn't."
I wondered if I was being prodded to ask: What music do you play,
I said nothing. My nostrils pinched against that smell of something
singed, and, beneath, a yeastier odor of a man's body, dried
perspiration, clothes not recently washed. I was reluctant to look
this stranger directly in the face, knowing that's what he wanted.
I was a challenge to his masculine vanity. I was possibly a puzzle
to him: alone? And is she good-looking, or is there something weird
about her face?
I wanted to protest I'm not freaky like you. I belong
The pianist returned, and began the Bartók sonata.
Bartók! Here was music that could frighten you, it was so
percussive, obsessive. The pianist's hands hammered out chords
rapid-fire. I thought it must hurt, such music. Perhaps it wasn't
music but raw yearning sound. Beside me the stubble-jawed man, the
man I wished to despise, stared at the stage and listened intently.
His left foot kept the hectic beat. This was music you couldn't not
listen to, it raced through you like neutrinos piercing solid
objects. The Bartók piano sonata of 1926 was a powerful piece
of music but it left me unmoved, only shaken; there was something
chilling in its austere authority.
At intermission I thought He will leave, he's had
I wanted this. And yet, I was anxious that the stubble-jawed man
should depart, as abruptly as he'd appeared.
But he didn't leave. He stood by his seat, stretching his long legs
and yawning. He was nerved-up, restless. This wasn't a rock
concert—not quite!—but the Bartók had made his
blood race. He glanced about the auditorium, squinting. I
understood that he was keenly conscious of me.
On my other side the couple lingered in their elderly way in their
seats. Chatting with friends in the row behind them as if the
Bartók sonata had passed through their tastefully attired
bodies leaving not the slightest trace.
I too stood, stretching my legs. I would have liked to walk up the
aisle, I would have liked to pass among the chattering crowd in the
foyer where the obsessive hammering of the Bartók piece had
rapidly faded and was now not even an echo; there, I might see
whether I knew anyone here this evening, and whether anyone knew
me. A familiar face from the Institute, perhaps. Lara Quade.
Are you enjoying the concert I've arranged for you?
Except my way was blocked.
I didn't want to stumble past the elderly couple, and I didn't want
to push my way past the stubble-jawed man, who seemed to want to
talk. I sensed an air of belligerence in his manner as if he felt,
just maybe, someone was playing a trick on him.
" 'Bar-tók.' He's something, eh?"
I murmured, yes. I thought so.
"You play piano?"
I murmured, no. I did not.
"This 'Princeton.' You live here?"
I murmured a vague yes. It was true, I lived in Princeton for
As a research fellow at the Institute, I was a temporary presence.
I had no permanent rank, title. We "fellows" laughingly called
ourselves seasonal laborers. (In secret, each of us fantasized
being kept on, or re-hired at a future time.) Some of us were
serious about continuing our academic careers and some of us, like
me, had possibly come to a dead end.
The stubble-jawed man stared at me, assessing. "What d'you do?
A faint sneer to the word teach.
No one likes a teacher. I knew.
I shook my head ambiguously. Let this guy think what he
Less and less likely now it seemed to me that my mysterious
benefactor would identify himself. I had to suppose someone had
bought a block of tickets and distributed them arbitrarily. This
happened often in Princeton, though never before had I heard of
tickets being given out anonymously; usually there was a patron,
someone you were meant to thank.
The stubble-jawed man loomed over me. He was easily six feet three
or four. Inside his worn mud-colored leather jacket he was wearing
what looked like a black, much-laundered T-shirt with the logo of a
rock band, unfamiliar to me. Heavy metal, I supposed it. I was
reluctant to look at him too closely, knowing that he was watching
He was saying, as if this information might surprise me, "This is
my first time here. 'Princeton.' I don't live too far away, up the
Turnpike, but I never come here. It's not like other places in
Jersey, huh?" There was a subterranean reproach to this remark; a
craftiness that made me edgy. I so rarely spoke with strangers, I
had no idea how to play the game of such casual-seeming yet
shrewdly directed speech. For the stubble-jawed man was assessing
me sexually, I knew. Yet so long as I rebuffed that knowing, and
gave no sign of returning such an interest, I was free and clear of
him. I believed this!
I hadn't wanted to be looking at him. Yet I saw a flash of a belt
buckle: a silver Z.
He said, disdainfully, "This place, it's kind of old, I
guess? Like, what?—a hundred years old? Two hundred?" He
meant the auditorium, the elegantly refurbished Gothic building
that was like a museum to enter.
I said I wasn't sure. Mid-nineteenth century, probably.
"Where I come from, old is just old. Here, old is a fucking big
" 'Historic.' "
I was surprised to hear myself say this, impulsively. As I'd
supplied the word cerebral earlier.
"Yeah, right—'historic.' Meaning M-O-N-E-Y. That's the
big fucking deal." The stubble-jawed man laughed harshly, but with
I lifted my eyes to his face, smiling. I felt weak suddenly, as if
I might faint.
His eyes!—his eyes seemed familiar to me. Very dark and
deep-set and rounded like a horse's eyes. There was a look of heat
to them, as if thoughts beat hotly behind them; they were so dark
as to appear black, and glistened strangely. I might almost have
said hungrily. I had to wonder if he'd been noticing the scars at
my hairline, beneath the pretty velvet headband; if he'd caught
sight of the flurry of comma-scars at my jawline.
His own skin looked roughened, his nose was long and hawkish with
dark cavernous nostrils. His mouth was fleshy, sullen-seeming, even
when he smiled. For there was something ironic and withheld about
his smile. You believe this? Believe me? I'm a nice guy? You can
trust me? His eyebrows were coarse and wiry and nearly met over
the bridge of his nose, giving him the primitive look of a mask
carelessly shaped in clay.
I would think afterward: I didn't want to seem rude to him, that
was it. He knew no one else there.
The surprise was, this man wasn't so young as you'd think at first
glance, not twenty-five but in his early thirties. (My brother
Ryan's age, if Ryan was still living.) His forehead was creased,
one of his canine teeth had grown in at a rakish angle,
scum-colored. His hot intense eyes fixed on my face, he was telling
me how music meant a "helluva lot" to him since he'd been a young
kid, music he'd hear on the radio, it was this secret place you
could crawl into and hide and nobody could follow. He'd played in a
band in northern Jersey for a while but gave it up, that wasn't
what he wanted, other people in his face. Music was something he
wanted for just himself. For his soul.
I wondered if I'd heard this correctly. I was feeling
"Like sleeping really hard, y'know? That kind of dreaming, so hard
it hurts, it's more real than real life, you don't remember what it
is when you wake up but you sure remember— something."
The stubble-jawed man bearing the initial Z on his belt
smiled at me as if goading me to say, Hey yes: I know exactly what
For some reason I said, instead, "But—why are you here,
He smiled, shrugging. "Why? Somebody gave me a
The second half of
the concert, a sonata and several short piano pieces by Prokofiev
passed in a rapid blur. I was conscious of the pianist's virtuoso
playing and yet it seemed to me no more than a disjointed cascade
of piano notes. Somebody gave me a ticket. The piano notes
were confused with the pulse beating rapidly in my throat and the
intimate presence of the man beside me. That smell of something
singed, yeasty. I tried not to see out of the corner of my eye how
the stubble-jawed man watched the pianist, frowning and grimacing.
In the silence between musical phrases I heard his breathing that
sounded unnaturally loud.
Somebody gave me a ticket.
The pianist exited the stage for the final time. My hands stung
from clapping. I had the choice of following the elderly couple out
of the row, or turning in the direction of the stubble-jawed man as
he prepared to leave. Unconsciously it seemed, I turned to my
right. I saw the man in the aisle, glancing back at me. His big
rounded horse-eyes, with their unnatural glisten.
I intended to say nothing to him, simply to walk past him. But I
heard my voice lift in a shy, quick question: "You said—
somebody gave you a ticket?"
Already he was fumbling in his jacket pocket. He brought out a
cream-colored envelope, carelessly folded.
"Yeah. Weird! It came in this, in the mail."
I took the envelope from his fingers, he'd shoved it at me. It
might have been the identical envelope in which my ticket had been
sent to me. Except the handwritten name was different, of
Beneath this was a typed address, a street in Metuchen, New Jersey.
So that was where Z Dewe lived: an hour's drive away.
" 'Z.' For Zedrick."
Zedrick! I smiled at the name.
"Sometimes 'Zed.' "
I understood that I was meant to say I'm Lara. But I
couldn't utter the words.
Yet I did something then that I would wonder at, afterward. At the
time it seemed so natural I didn't hesitate.
I, too, had brought the cream-colored envelope to the concert, in
my bag. In fact I'd been carrying it with me for the past two
weeks, as if naively imagining I might see the handwriting
replicated somewhere, and could identify it. Now I showed the
envelope to Zedrick Dewe, as a child might show another child
something of enormous interest to them both. "This was sent to me,
with a ticket for tonight's concert."
Zedrick whistled thinly. I liked it that I could surprise this man,
he had no idea who I was.
Zedrick took the envelope from me and examined it. I understood
that he was memorizing my name, possibly; he'd know now that I
could be found at the Institute for Semiotics, Aesthetics, and
Cultural Research on Washington Road.
What a pretentious name! I wanted to laugh and assure Zedrick Dewe,
yes I knew this was so.
Zedrick said, "Just the ticket inside? No note, huh?"
"Just the ticket."
He checked inside the envelope. To make sure I hadn't missed
He said, "I figured, why not check it out? This thing
tonight. It isn't my kind of music usually. But, see, nobody sends
me anything, much. Kind of, I live alone. I keep to myself and for
sure I don't know anybody in Princeton. But I can't figure it, what
I said, "Maybe someone sent tickets out arbitrarily. For no reason.
Taking names from a phone directory." Not that I believed this, or
wanted to believe it.
"Shit, why'd anybody do that? What sense is
Zedrick Dewe was one who didn't like tricks played on him, you
could see. He was roused to fury, at the prospect of being
perceived as some sort of dupe, even of a beneficent act.
We were leaving the auditorium together. Outside, we descended the
sandstone steps with numerous others who glanced at us curiously,
especially at tall hulking Zedrick Dewe with his brutish hair, his
stubbled jaws and odd clothing. I wondered if anyone from the
Institute had seen us. I wondered if my appearance here, with so
strange a companion, might be reported back to the Director. By
this time I'd nearly forgotten my expectation, or my hope, that my
anonymous benefactor would speak to me. I'd all but forgotten my
In the presence of Zedrick Dewe, it was difficult to think of a
purely notional being.
The night air was damply chilly. I slipped on my trench coat, I'd
been carrying over my arm. I noted that Zedrick Dewe didn't help me
with the coat as any Princeton man would have done, whether he knew
me or not. I thought In his world, you don't touch people
How like my parents' old, lost world. Upstate New York of a bygone
era. Only dimly could I recall, I'd been so young a child
We were drifting in the direction of Nassau Street. But by an
interior route. Like individuals who have no idea where they are
headed so long as they remain together. Yet reluctant to leave each
other. I might have mentioned to Zedrick Dewe that I lived about a
half-mile away, I would be walking back home. Zedrick Dewe
mentioned having parked close by. These were isolated remarks.
These were remarks encoded with meaning. Swiftly my brain worked
but could come to no conclusion. I will have to get away from
this man only just not yet.
Crossing now a near-deserted quadrangle of the campus. This, the
oldest part of the university. Here there was a flawlessly
maintained green, tall trees, eighteenth-century buildings facing
one another across a grassy space. Zedrick Dewe was saying, with
the swagger of an intimidated man, that he'd "tried school, for a
while" but quit because being told what to think, what to do,
"pissed me off." I supposed that this was meant to impress me. I
waited for him to ask me about the university, but he did not.
Through his eyes I was forced to see familiar scenes subtly
altered: the picturesque façade of Nassau Hall, illuminated at
night by artfully placed spotlights, vivid and unreal as a stage
set. Beyond, the yet more unreal Greek-temple façades of Clio
and Whig Halls, startling white, like papier-mâché. High
overhead, shreds of cloud were being blown across a quarter-moon
that shone with unnatural brightness, like neon. I was tempted to
tell Zedrick Dewe of the research I was doing for the Director of
the Institute: amassing data on the earliest examples of
But I could think of no way in to such remarks. No way that
wouldn't threaten a man whom education has pissed off.
I thought It's time: ease away from him.
If he asked me to have a drink with him, I would say Thank you,
Yet we continued to walk together. As if we were headed for the
same destination. Zedrick Dewe was less talkative now. His manner
had become somber. So close beside me, he loomed taller than me by
several inches. He must have weighed 190 pounds, approximately
ninety pounds more than I weighed. I was beginning to shiver. Waves
of exhilaration and dread rose in me, leaving me weak. I was
hearing still the rapid-fire hammering of the Bartók sonata.
My nerves were taut as piano strings.
If Zedrick Dewe had touched me suddenly, I would have recoiled from
We wandered into one of the few wooded areas on the main campus.
Along a drive bordered by tall trees. These were evergreens, there
was a sharp smell of pine needles in the soft earth underfoot. I
led Zedrick Dewe across the grass and around to the rear of the
old, fastidiously restored Italianate house that had been the
residence of the university's president Woodrow Wilson in an early
decade of the twentieth century and was used now for less elevated
university purposes. Here was a garden, formal and proper as a
funeral, here were curving graveled walks and beds of tulips of
many colors that looked, by moonlight, like a single color. "We
should go in that direction," I said, pointing toward an opening of
evergreens around a corner of the Wilson house, "back to Nassau
Street. If—" I happened to touch Zedrick Dewe's arm, the
sleeve of his leather jacket. Instantly he took hold of my
wrist. His fingers were strong, closing about my wrist.
"Take me with you, O.K.?"
"Wherever you're going."
The man's voice was urgent, pleading. But his fingers were
Overhead, the quarter-moon had shifted in the night sky. So
quickly, the moon moves in the sky. It had become a faint glowing
shape nearly hidden by clouds. Wisps of cloud, shreds like broken
cobwebs or broken thoughts. If you had not known it was a moon,
you'd have had no idea what that curious glowing object was meant
Excerpted from TAKE ME, TAKE ME WITH YOU © Copyright 2003
by Lauren Kelly. Reprinted with permission by Harper Paperbacks, an
imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.