The Seduction Of Nonny Stein
The Seduction Of Nonny Stein
IN THE BEGINNING there was Caroline, and Mommy-and-Daddy-and-Nurse-and-Popper. She and Jimmy Doll lived with Nurse and Caroline lived next to Mama and Daddy in the back room. She leaned out the window, watching the sun. "Oh, the baby," Mama said. "Get her, Caroline."
"What's the baby's name?"
"Nanona," Caroline said.
"No," Mama said. "Ramona. Ramona Ramona."
"Nanona Nanona," Caroline said.
"Ramona Ramona. Ronnie Ronnie," Mama said.
"Nonny Nonny," Caroline said. "Nonnynonnynonnynonny."
Daddy came down the hall, singing Me and Rosie O'Grady on the Sidewalks of New York. "Where's Mama?"
"Here," Mama said. She looked in the mirror and put on her hat.
Daddy looked at the top, the bottom, the walls, and put his arms out wide.
"Gee, what a nice place. I wish I could afford to live here."
She sat on Daddy's lap and put her fingers on his eyes. "You be the blind man, I'll be the dog."
"Ohhh, baby, don't sit on my stomach," Daddy said. "It hurts."
"Look, we're coming to our street. There's our house, Caroline, aren't you glad we're home?"
Caroline just looked at her.
"O.K.," Aunt said. "Take your little suitcase, Nonny."
The lobby was cool after the hot sun. She put her cheek against the cold marble. "Caroline, feel how cold the marble feels. It's nice." She looked around when the buzzer rang. "Can we ring the bell now? Daddy must be better, if we can ring the bell now. Is Daddy better now?" The lobby was too cool. Too white.
"What's wrong?" she yelled and ran through the first lobby, into the second, up the stairs, ran quicker, leaping up the stairs, screaming, "Mama, Mama," pounding on the doorway, crying. "Mama, Mama are you there?"
The door opened and her mother was there. Mama leaned down and held her in her arms, she looked just like she always looked and smelled the same as always. Her mother was there, and put her arms around her, and she buried her head in her mother's neck, tighter and tighter until there was nothing outside anymore. Everything was there, in her mother's head and arms and neck.
Caroline started to cry. They followed Mama down the hall, past Daddy's room, to Popper's room at the end of the hall. The bed was made. "Where's Daddy? Is he better?"
"Daddy's better," Mama said. "He's in heaven." Mama started to talk with someone else's voice. She was crying, and talking as though she wasn't crying at all. She and Caroline and Aunt stood looking at Mama. "He's dead, he went to heaven," Mama said, and then she stopped talking and put her elbows on the dresser and leaned her face on her hands. She could see the tears go inside Mama's blouse. "Daddy's happier now." Then Mama put her head down on the dresser. Caroline screamed and ran over to Mama. They were crying to each other, holding on to each other, crying. She wanted to go to Mama but couldn't. She just stood there, looking at them.
Aunt put her arms around her. "I'm all right, darn you," she screamed. "Darn you, leave me alone. I hate you, I'll kill you if you don't leave me alone." Aunt stepped back. She stood in the middle of the floor, screaming, felt the hot tears rush from her eyes, the saliva pour from her mouth, her nose running, felt the heat from her head and the sickness all around her, thick and burning. She stood with her feet apart, her hands clenched, yelling and shaking, shaking so hard she almost lost her balance. And then she stopped crying. She put her hand up and wiped her nose. She looked at Aunt, at Mother, at Caroline and walked out of the room, down the hall, to the front door.
"Nonny," Mama called. "Where are you going? Nonny - "
"I'm going out," she said, and slammed the door.
"Come on, come on," Popper said. "You women." Popper always