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On Rescuing Katy Kather From the Plains of Dublin.

 

            She called me with an announcement, made of the same flinging, tactless, and vague shadows of description that 20 years ago breathed life into a marriage and 5 after, spoke deceit into that very union. Accusatory, her lips wound a tale, pulling on the thinly connected strings that moved our lives across parallel paths. Tugging on her end, she commanded me to her. A thousand miles away, I took her final call.

            “Come, Marilynn,” she begged each time, with a hint of teasing, and a dowery of secrets to spill to the many voices, listlessly awaiting a reply in her phone book, should I return elsewhere but by her side. She always had a phone ready in one hand, a line to hell to whoever she swayed to send her second husband down the ladder, titos on the rocks in the other.

            I dropped whatever I was doing, each time. Work or picking up the grinner from school, oh she has secrets on him too. Him too. The kind Peter would murder me for, leave my body like all the women from marriages far more broken than ours. Leaving him alone with the Salisbury Steak, and me, without a soul. Only a whisper it would take. A taste of bad blood on Katy’s tongue, and a carefully crafted life would be twisted in rickets like a babe’s poor legs. Oh, for Katy Kather, every time I would go. Red boots faded leather brown, tucked beneath the seat of the plane. I waited uncomfortably. My shirt wrinkled. My coffee going cold, and half decaf. I’d shake too much on the flight. How I wished, in the nervous jitters of the ups and downs, we were still young enough to take expresso by the gallon. 

            Offered a sprite, I turned it down for the silence. The ice rocking in the cup would break what was left of a fragile mind. I could only wonder, why I had come, time and time again. Why I swore that each time, no different than this, would be the last. If I burned her purse where she clutched her secrets tight, what power, would the words inside her head hold? Would the fearful come calling to Katy Kather’s side, side with her for their own discrepancy? Or would the join me? A joyous rebellion. The French masses, arising out of fear, at the call of a martyr. Was I the end, or the beginning?

            Gathering bags and heading out, the masses of the lost and the frustrated travelers, strong smells of pipe and city smog, brought a reality akin to my departure. Had the sky not changed, I would’ve believed I’d never moved at all. In my dreams, I am caged, naked and chained, Katy Kather feeding me cheese and bread like a house mouse through a hole. Trapping my tail, when I lean out for more. I am not the end. There will always be another to satisfy the ambitions of a wild woman. Like a dancer in a cage, I will satisfy. I will go, each time.

            I didn’t ask how she got there; the flower padded fields of a Dublin wilderness. Fifteen miles away from the nearest bar, not a road or a turned over barrel to point the way. I thought then, that she had truly gone mad. She swore it would be the last time, each time. But we knew better. We knew the children would grow older, before Katy would stop demanding we swaddle her attentions in their cribs.

            How wonderful it must be, to not care for a thing at all.

            The gray clouds of Ireland formed above in the sky, a sea of familiar trials. Think of the adventures we once had in these lands, she would tell me, of all the times we were once young, unpredictable, untethered. 

            I often thought, over half empty glasses and droning company, those dragging Sunday night thoughts— that Katy only ever married a man so she could have the pleasure of leaving him helpless. To have the pleasure of defiance: to the nuns who sat us down in Sunday school and taught us, gracefully, how to fuck with our fingers and legs to please a husband. The coworkers at Peter’s Christmas parties, who would glance tedious eyes over her bare knuckles, and point out the loneliness of the season, without a warm cup of cocoa in hand. The birds who dared to mate in the spring, when she sat on sun chairs in her lawn with an enormous, wicket flowered hat, and stared them down. Fools to nature.

            I crossed through miles of southern, wisping plains, until my feet found traction in the muck and the mud where her heels had penetrated the earth. The soil too, a victim of her intrusion; her defiance of the consistent, unyielding earth. Container of her immortal soul. If only she could too, defy the universe which bore her. Then, Katy Kather would finally be free.

In the orange sun, it came down upon with sudden rush, turning the valleys gold, I thought of her ratty red hair in ’98 and her fake, maroon, Parisian shoes. I always hated those goddamned shoes.             Katy ruined a bachelor’s party over those shoes, never thinking to explain herself afterwards. We could not forget those shoes. Mae and I talked about them for years. When her husband was out too late at work, fucking around with a mistress, we called it a maroon heel. A great mistake. One that would never be apologized for, nor forgiven. A transgression we could not deny, but were forced to live with. The heel cut sharp.

            We joked about the irony of it all. Katy’s instance the boat stop shaking, the water could damage her fine Parisian leather. One man laughed at her. A fool. She stood up drunken with long nails around a shaking cocktail glass, half drunk, half defensive. Then, Katy Kather took hold of the night by the throat, pushing the groom’s best man, and his 1800-dollar suit over board into the Pacific.

            “No one ever said a word about her damned shoes until she made a deal of it,” Mae said years after, looking back on the scene under a cabana. 

“No cow ever died, no horse’s hoof in the heel. Only 2,000 dollars overboard a cruise ship and the enjoyment of a party, died for those shoes.”

 

            We couldn’t let her go all the same. The thrill, the excitement, the dread upon returning home, opening the doors to a 10th floor apartment, and finding the stiff air the same as you had left it. Blankets thrown over a couch, dishes half cleared, house empty and cold. The cars ticking by outside, you switch on the tv. With Katy life never grew stagnant. You never slumped back in your couch and stared blearily at a bowl of pistachio shells no one had thought to throw out. You didn’t wait for calls from your boss when storms came in, allowing you off the roads. You just went when you wanted. And you didn’t look back. 

            Peter said it was enough on the 12th, when the grinner cried for dinner and no one was there to cook it right. I had thought too, that I had gone too far that time, too long. But, to hear it from his voice. His commanding, entrapping voice, practically played in melody with Katy’s encouraging whispers.

            My mother always said to marry a man who needed less than you could give, that way you would never bore him. I had married Peter instead, under his own illusion, that that was true. He called now, for obedience of vow. He wanted to cage me, collar around my neck, duster in hand. I took my oven mitts and threw them down, marched out with the authority Katy would.

            Oh, I’d practically been possessed by her ever living ghost. Got into a taxi, and called for the nearest airport. Not a planner opened for meeting dates. Or hand scratching a list, writing a reminder to buy more pistachios and jumbo-sized diapers. Only a click of the door, a cross of the heels, and we went. Out, out, out away. Us, those pulled into Katy’s circle 20 years ago. Never free. Never fully trapped either--so long as when she picked up the phone, we answered. 

            Four months of gray suits and keyboards, at an office backed by windows and a gray city below, of people who paid too much to live there and traffic that jammed twenty miles back, I waited for the phone to ring. People came, people went. Files stacked and papers collected dust. I only waited, for the phone, to release me of my sentence, that my mind alone could not fracture. I came when Katy called.

            Our eyes opened, with age, with time. Mae, Loue, and I, and the ones that came and went in between. One by one, and all at once, we walked away, stiffened, shocked, dulled. Understanding that what we had once come to thirst for, to suck dry in desperation—that high of the extraordinary in the moments dull, had crossed a precipice that exceeded the lives we were bound to return to.             One by one, and all together, we silently swore in oath, to not return. As individuals, as a whole. We would cut Katy loose of her accomplices. Should she go there, beyond the great return, we would not be complicit. I would have Peter, what was left of him in his dissatisfaction, and the little grinner. Mae her two twin sons. Loue that one lesbian lover she swore she wouldn’t go back to in Chesapeake. The only one other than us, that she wrote Christmas letters too. We would go back, and pick up the pieces. When the phone rang, we would not answer. 

            The Dublin skies cleared in the time I walked. Like the ice served in the bars of Mali, the white and gray became cubes in the sky, dripping, melting into the blue. I found her there in the red. The poppy flowers stared up at me with startling fright. No longer the green and soft lilac which had rolled for miles into town. The air held a great dew, and when she looked at me, above her throne of poppies and dew, the dull blue of her eyes when we had last left her, regained a terrible sparkle. 

            “Katy,” I tried out a thought, “What was all this for?”

            Her face was powder white; her coat far more expensive than she could afford. She plucked it like a pelican from racks outside boutiques in the streets. Made a show of trying it on, and then her attention caught, rushed off with the wave of a hand towards an old friend, or a stranger. It looked a hideous green now. I waited in terrible silence for her to speak. To tell me why I had come. 

            A fantastic journey, she described it on the phone. I know of a journey, where you have never gone before, not anything you have ever known. 

            Dublin? I asked. 

            No. Her still face responded. Not anything you have ever known.

            I checked my watch. She had gone without me then, and come back to gloat. Was that true?                 That I had sat down the phone when she first called, and looked at the calendar. Peter’s anniversary two weeks in the corner. A board meeting the Tuesday after. I swallowed a nervous swallow. I had done truly it in now. She would speak, of everything she had once known, of our loves, our affairs, our innocent and girlish mistakes we had made together in confidentiality. She would speak of friendship and of the bonds that bound us still, our every souls, for now until the day we died. The things we had sworn to leave behind. When she was finished, she would set down her bag, and she would never speak again. Leaving still the silence of those many messes we had made, unraveled, in ruin. Had I come to Dublin for Katy, or for a plea, for my life?

            I dropped to my knees and begged, for her hand to never dial another number, not for me, not for Mae or Lou, not for anyone. A callous god she took my prayer hands and threw them aside in her silent response. The children would be going to bed soon. How long until Peter found them another mother? One more suited, in character, for the position, than a school girl who never outgrew flaunting her skirt? Katy had said, upon my first child’s birth, that it was unnatural, for one child to raise another. We were no younger than 33. The doctor thought it was a surprise I had not dried up.

            She started with a hideous laugh, which shook her thin frame and her false blond hair. Rolling in the hills and the fields she cackled. I gripped my coat as the wind came, and stepped closer to her, refusing to back down. She pointed and taunted and roared. Oh, all the horrible things, she would say now. Peter’s job would be forgotten, once his boss no longer had the promise of my silence. The driver who knew the streets, wouldn’t stop for my crude face any longer. Would the baker too, turn me down, if I was no longer beautiful? Would the teachers, apologize for the soul of my child, if Katy’s fingers peeled back my skin, left flayed, a rat? There was no question, would Peter leave? Would we have a home? I crawled towards her desperately, a plea towards the heavens that she would not go this time, farther than the rest of us could return from.

            “Don’t do it,” I said. I wailed. I too, laughed.

            “Come on Marilynn,” I heard her now.  

            She would not answer my question. Her face, red lipstick smeared by screams and hoots, faced my own. My hand shook, my small bag dropped. I looked to the sky.

            This time, I would not go with her. I would not say sorry, for the times I let the phone ring. I would drag her back, kicking and screaming and crawling, from her high top on Mars, down to this bitter earth. If she spoke, I would caw like a bird. Fly too, like one. Into the sky, away, away. I would know not a husband, not a life. Was there ever such a comfort, in a home, build upon fantasies? Or was it no more familiar than the overstayed welcome of a dream? I would know the clouds, and Katy Kather would be firmly planted in her earthen prison, where all children learned to love a home. And go no further.

            But I knew one thing, indefinitely, above all else. Katy would always go too far. 

            It was only when I stopped looking up, awaiting the thunder to form with her cackles, that I looked down, and realized she was dead.

ameliapozniak.jpg

Amelia Pozniak 

 is a freshman studying English at the University at Buffalo, and a writer for NAME Magazine. Her work was awarded honorable mention for the Scribbler Prize. She is from upstate New York and also works on art and dance at UB.

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