The Deathbed Confession
of Christopher Walken
 |  Paul Corman-Roberts

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             Lenny, lean over close, so you can hear everything it is that I need to tell you right now. Listen; it’s imperative you get every word of this clearly, do you understand? I’m not saying I was always a good man, Len. Not always … but I was not of the character … I wasn’t … what I mean to say is, there were limits in my life that I observed. There are limits in all people’s lives, but where they’re drawn … where they’re drawn determines what kind of people we are. And R. J.’s line was drawn. R. J. might have been the last one to see her, but I was the last one to hear her, see?
             Even now … goddamn. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. The truth is not as sordid as you might think it is. But perhaps, it’s more sordid than it should be.
             Len, the first thing you need to understand is that cunt of a captain was a fiend whose mother assuredly conceived and birthed his squalid ass on the banks of the River Styx, all right? He was one of these fucking guys who would break out a Himalayan mountain’s worth of snow on a lounge table on a Thursday night and, somehow, would make his way through your stash like a Hoover vacuum before sunrise Sunday.
             No, wait, I’m saying this all wrong now, that’s … that’s not really where I should begin. The look on your face says, “Chris, you poor, sad prick, just get it off your chest, brother.” Forgive me; this is difficult. You want to know if … if she and I … if we …
             No. It never happened, though Christ knows I wanted it to. There were a couple of times where it almost went down on the Brainstorm shoot. Hot kissing, heavy petting; and then, she pulls up, saying she’s not ready, that it’s “not right, right now.” You know the drill. What guy doesn’t know that drill? Except it hadn’t happened like that for me in damn near twenty years, Len. You’d really think a man my age would know better, yet still I was transformed into this drooling puppy of a man-child, this completely, hopelessly starstruck kid, even though I was pushing forty. She was already a living legend when I got my break. Running my hands all over the body of a woman my friends and I had ached for in school—that way you ache for things you’re sure you’ll never have—that was like drinking ambrosia from the fountain of male entitlement, Len. Those make-out sessions were the life’s peak of my ego, and that’s saying something. But that’s also as far as it ever went, Len, as this cruel fucking universe is my witness.
             And let me tell you, there was not one other set of gams in all Hollywood, not one, that I—or any other straight, red-blooded actor just starting out—would want to have been with. She was in her prime THEN, I tell you. I wasn’t going to demand it, Len. No, uh-uh, not when it was being put on layaway. And a young man in the prime of life—and not the prime of sexual longevity, Lenny, but the prime of confidence and success of knowing who one is finally and just how to be with an older woman—when you’re a man like that, and a woman like that puts it on layaway, I don’t care who you are: you book the date.
             It was supposed to have been that weekend. She kept saying R. J. wouldn’t mind if we got together, that he was just going to go out to another party scene on another yacht or some such thing and do his own thing. She told me he was a swinger and that was his thing, and he was a good man who respected their thing and that they were very hip, you know. She liked to use that word—“hip”—like they were these high-class beatniks. She said he was into pretty men, and that’s why he liked being with her, because she reminded him of a pretty man. But I couldn’t … no, wouldn’t see something like that at that time, Len. I always wonder if I could now.
             By Thanksgiving night, though, I had resolved, in my own heart, that there would be no intimate encounter between us that weekend. We could have been together that night, with her old man out on the boat. Just him being out there, and maybe I’m less of a man for admitting this to you, Len, but whenever I was alone with her that weekend, it wasn’t there, you know? Not like other times we had been alone. It was like we were just friends again, like when we first met on the shoot, but then, when we were out in public, it was on again. And I’d start to think, Oh yeah, we’re back on again. But then, she’d start talking about R. J. all over again, because that’s part of what was getting her off.
             For the first, and really only time in my life, I was experiencing sexual schizophrenia. I’d change my mind and say to myself, “No, Chris, you are going to jump over this cliff. Just a little more champagne, and we’ll be there any minute.” And the next minute, I was back trying to swear her off all over again. Because so what if her old man is a little fruity, and she’s a little saucy—you just don’t make a guy’s wife in front of him. I know he was square with the younger crowd, old-fashioned nice guy, you know, but man, this was still Bobby fucking Wagner. This man was a strong survivor and wasn’t he worthy of respect? Wasn’t he worthy of dignity? That’s the question I wanted to ask her at the Harbor Reef restaurant, and I couldn’t quite … I was just this horny lottery winner. But the more she smack-talked R. J., the hornier she got. The longer dinner went on, the more forward she got, too.
             Then, he showed up with Davern and all bets were off. I tell you, he didn’t appear to me as a man who didn’t care about who his wife was humping. Oh, no, he was making jokes about the rumors, and underneath his easy laughter, I could see his fury; for the first time in my life, I saw the cuckold’s fury, though oddly, not for the last. So, what does she do, but takes her right hand down to my lower thigh and begins this slow buildup with the most supple stroking motion, and I mean … you know as well as anyone, Len, that men, simple men like us, can’t hide anything in that position. Not with a woman like that. No. And with the captain running his mouth about all the booze and drugs we had available. He was the reason we were asked to fucking leave the place.
             When we got back to The Splendour(sigh) … the blow was stupid, it was just stupid of us to be doing so much, but I got into a “match you line for line” contest with that prick-faced captain, who quite honestly was. I mean, he even had straight-laced Bobby hooking down lines, just to give the whole sordid situation a spin of its own, like a high-noon bacchanal. You heard the phrase, Lenny? Going to eleven? You know that phrase? Let me tell you, all of us on that yacht that night, all of us …
             People like Natalie and R. J. should not be allowed to go to eleven. Not after what they go through to get where they are; not after what they become.
             She kept goading him to go to the other party. And then, he’d say, “Oh, sure, Natasha, so you can take your latest thoroughbred for a test ride?”
             So, then, she says she’s going to take the dinghy to the party. And then, in front of her husband, she puts her hand on my package, asks me if I would like to go to the party with her, and then, promptly violated my ear space with the very wiggling tip of her tongue, in that exact order. I can still feel how warm her saliva made my ear out in the ocean air and the utterly, absolutely homicidal look on Bobby’s face. The feeling I had, looking at this beautiful woman’s husband, while my ear felt so wet, cool, and comfortable: that’s the memory that never leaves me, Lenny. It never leaves me. R. J. might very well be into making the hairy-man back all night long, but he did not come from a generation that tolerated being made to look foolish.
             I couldn’t take it anymore. And I was beaten down, from the whole weekend of partying and psychic fucking head games. I’d had enough of all the bad karma, and they obviously had not, so I made my way down to the bedrooms. Davern at least showed me a little mercy. He could tell I needed to take the edge off, and the whole time we’re down there smoking a joint, we can hear them fighting, and he’s telling me this is all perfectly normal—they act like this all the time—and then, we hear the hitting, you know: slapping, punching. So, Davern casually announces he should go shut the boat down. Like, maybe he’s used to this cue. I knew, then, that my dream, my dream of hearing the serenade of our lovemaking, the sound of her being made love to by me … that was something I was never going to hear, Lenny. Not while R. J. had to be part of the equation. It was never going to be the way I pictured it for us. It was never just going to be the two of us, but always the three of us. Every night with her was going to be a night on the yacht.
             I swear I just stayed there in my room and heard a little more yelling, but for the most part, it seemed to die down. I didn’t want to know. More than anything, I wanted to get off the boat, get out of the fucking ocean as soon as I could the next day. The coke had worn off, the booze had caught up to me, and the weed was starting to settle in real good, and like any other night of partying winding down, I just drifted off. But you know how sometimes, in that instant just before the sandman comes for you, in that one instant, a sudden burst of adrenaline hits you like a tractor-trailer and jolts you awake?
             You know I’ve heard all the stories, Len. I know they say two of the lifeboats left the yacht that night, and only one came back. But what happened? Brother, that’s between R. J. and God.
             We spoke later, after the funeral, and it was very strange because … I apologized to him for my behavior, and he accepted. Then, he apologized to me—but he wouldn’t say for what. I won’t lie to you, my friend; I was afraid. I felt myself in danger that evening on the yacht. I felt that R. J. intended me harm. Even now, when I see these reruns of celebrity poker matches on the fucking Game Show Network, and there he is: Old Man Wagner, in his seventies, looking like he can’t be fucked with by anyone, and everyone at the table knows it. He still gets the girls. Nothing happens to guys like R. J. Not in this world. They get away with everything, because nobody wants to go down that road of darkness with them. On the television, the look in his eyes still makes me want to crap my pants even before I got into this fucking mess I’m in now. Now that he’s gone, he still has that look on his face like he’s going to find me, even now that it’s impossible, because his is a malevolence that is so old and so transcendent, it can reach beyond the grave. Just because I’m telling you all this. He always looked like he was that guy.
             But, Len, I do know I woke up at one point on the yacht, just as I was falling off to sleep, and you know how you get pulled back awake with a start, because you think you saw or heard something? On the yacht, I thought I heard a splash in the water, somewhere not so far away. And it was the damnedest thing, Lenny. As I fell back asleep, I heard a woman singing. I heard her, drunk and singing away. There is no doubt in my mind it was her, because I’ve never, never forgotten that face and the things that voice said to me. There were times when I was with her and heard her sing, but I never really appreciated it until just that moment, because, of course, it was a different kind of singing I dreamed about, you know.
             There’s a place for us, a time and place for us. Hold my hand, and we’re halfway there. Hold my hand, and I’ll take you there. Somehow, someday, somewhere!
             She would have been out in the water, already in the Reaper’s clutch, and her voice was coming back to me from that abyss, like radio signals from a sleek, but very lonely, spaceship on the verge of plunging across the event horizon of a black hole. But at the time, it was the sound of her voice, crossing the distance between what I thought was our cabins that was the sweetest lullaby I could ever have to lull me to sleep. At that moment, it didn’t seem as if things would become as terrible as they did, as if she were just fine singing her heart out to me on the water. At that moment, it was all-good. And the fuck of it is, Lenny, to this very moment, it still is. I got my serenade after all, didn’t I?
             Take a walk now, friend, I need to get rest now. And please … lock the door behind you on the way out.

♥ End ♥

Paul Corman-Roberts is the author of three collections of prose poems and flash fiction: Coming World Gone World (Howling Dog, 2006), Neocom(muter) (Tainted Coffee, 2009), and 19th Street Station (Full of Crow, 2011). He is a co-founder of the Beast Crawl Literary Festival in Oakland, California, and is the fiction editor for Full of Crow Online Quarterly. Recent and upcoming work can be seen in Cease, Cows; Samizdat Literary Journal; The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Red Fez; Corium, and Be About It. He was the winner of the Out of Our Magazine 2010 Poetry Contest and spent the evening of the Rodney King Riots in 1992 barricaded in a Circle K convenience store. This story first appeared in subTerrain. [Author photo by and © Timothy Crandle; used with permission, all rights reserved.]

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Elizabeth said...

Great evocative take on the story about a real actress's death.

Unknown said...

thank you Elizabeth! It's been characterized (accurately) as "faux confessional."

Myquest said...

there's more than one O J out there. Kirk has a confession to make, too. But this story is brilliantly told. Bravo.

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