Saturday, January 17, 2009

Penelope Camille

Penelope Camille- A True Story

In 7th grade we worked as office monitors. Once, just as the bell rings, she says,"Don't you wonder sometimes what IT is like?" She kisses me softly and walks away.

Throughout high school, I take great pleasure in walking into the auditorium behind her, marveling at her long blond pony tail and blue pleated skirt. I watched as she joined the cheer leading team, dated Doug M. , asked her to write something in my yearbook when we graduated. I lost track of her.

My ex-wife tells me to look up Penelope. Joanne and I are dating after our divorce. Stupid but not uncommon. I find that Penelope makes jewelry in a suburban cluster of buildings fashioned out of a defunct grist mill. I walk in and ask her to make me a ring. "What kind of ring?" she asks. Make something that you would make for the man you would marry. I know that she's 40 years old and single. It's a classic line straight out of old romantic movies.

We begin dating. I'm a free bachelor 2 weeks out of the month. After 16 years of penal servitude as bad guy, chief bread winner and keeper of the realm, I have joint custody of three children-one of which isn't potty trained. Penelope is coming straight out of a crippling relationship. Really, after discovering her lover in coitus on the kitchen table, she is unable to walk. She is confined to her bed for weeks. I'm also seeing a busty music teacher. I cancel a date with Penelope. The date with the well endowed music teacher falls through. 9:30 in the evening, the doorbell rings. My high school sweetheart is at the door. She thrusts a large folded piece of sketch book paper at me, pushes her way inside and tells me , "Read this." She's consumed an unknown amount of wine. The note castigates me for abandoning her. She wants to spend the night. I make sure that the encounter is strictly platonic-which it is, kind of.

After a whirlwind, fairytale Christmas, Penelope decides to join an ashram in Lenox ,Mass. I'm crushed. I sing, "Que sera sera," to myself and wait. In May, she returns with a different attitude. Eight hours of chopping carrots, a daily exercise regimen, fasting, Kuchicha tea and visions of Babjii's feet, she comes back in poor health. She asks me to marry her.

Our wedding was choreographed by Walt Disney. Part Hindu ceremony, part Christian, we hire a bagpiper and a rotund black woman who is the soloist at the symphony. Both force people to their feet. I bring them to their knees with a wedding program that includes excerpts of love letters we exchange before tying the knot. I should have been suspicious when a friend is consoling a sobbing Penelope in the back of the church. Warner Brothers could not make a better movie.

After the ceremony, we ride a white, horse drawn coach to the Women's Club on the lakefront. A 7 piece classical ensemble plays soft music while dinner is served. Rock and roll music straight out of Wedding Crashers and a last minute ceremonial drum session at our new digs rounds off the night.

Let me pause, for a moment while I compact the next 2 years, 7 months and 28 days.

It's late. Penelope isn't home. I'm worried. At midnight I call several hospitals and the district headquarters of the police. Nothing. Nada. Out of curiosity I open the bedroom closet door. All her clothing is gone. No note, no phone call, nothing. Two days later a man approaches me at my place of business. He asks my name and hands me divorce papers.

The following week Penelope and her boyfriend drive up to My house. As I approach their vehicle, I notice he's holding a silver scepter crusted with black onyx and jewels. The sight is so startling, I 'm briefly speechless. He holds it up toward me like they do in the vampire movies. "We want you to leave the house for 30 minutes while Penelope gets her things," he says. I avoid replies that could be cliches with a firm, No. Later she sends the same clown to my business with mortgage papers for my house I need to make payments. I emphasize the my house portion of that statement. I call for backup from the third floor warehousemen and dial the police. They escort him from the building. "Could I have hit him?" I ask one of the boys in blue. "Yes, but then we'd have to take you in also."

Enter Dawn my present wife. Being something of a white witch, she shreds notes from Penelope at the entrance to her jewelry fabrication studio. She returns everything negative Penelope conjures with her own brand of vehemence. Penelope hires an old, crippled crone as a divorce attorney. Here's the last scene before it fades to black:

The County courthouse has three doors. Before the days of metal detectors and security, all three are unlocked. I gaze up at Justice and walk in the door. At the elevator, I push the up button. The door opens. There's Penelope in a green shapeless wool smock. She looks like a nun kicked out of the convent. I gape and mutter, "I think I'll wait for the next car."

There's more, but I have been told by my superiors to rig for silent running and maintain radio silence.

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