Old Vallejo Jail
Why is it that newspapers can deliver up lies in print, and people are so willing to believe them, no matter how wild they may sound?
Why is that no one, Teresa, not even my own lawyer, Steven DeLuria, can allow for the possibility that I was framed by my delusional cousin Antonie, whose great gift was to tell a believable story?
DeLuria came to see me today, and honestly, he seems as twisted as the pencil-thin mustache that curls in elaborate waxed spirals on either side of his gaunt face!
I welcomed his visit, at least to start I did, as this was the first time I had seen him since they threw me into this hellish cell well over two weeks ago! But it took only moments for me to see that he was miserably uninterested in my case.
He sat on the bench, close enough for me to smell his pomade, and he kept shuffling through papers in his satchel. What in God's name was he looking for?
Ah, then his hand landed on that damnable newspaper, the Examiner, and he shook it at me, and then shook his head and said, "I am afraid that this isn't going to help you one bit."
As if I didn't know it! What a laugh. I was holding onto my guitar, thankfully, and I squeezed the body of that beauty then, otherwise, Mother of God, I would have had a hard time holding myself back!
"Of course it isn't going to help, sir," I said, trembling. "Do you think for a minute that any of this was my choice?" I blinked back tears, which felt hot on the rims of my eyes. "Maybe you hadn't guessed this, Mr. DeLuria, but I would just as soon not be here." By then I was sniffling out loud.
He cleared his throat and straightening up, he handed me his embroidered hanky -- purple lace on a man's hanky? Then he stood -- he is so tall that his head grazes the slimy yellow ceiling of the cell. And he dresses well, at least he has more ruffles on the front of his shirt than do our convent chickens, Teresa, have feathers on their rumps!
"I am wondering how you plan to defend me?" I said, leveling a hard steady look at him despite my tears.
Somehow my crying seemed to have unnerved him.
"I think before I can possibly develop a defense for your case, that I will have to spend more time learning about your situation."
"My situation? You mean how it is that I am sitting in this foul place accused of murder?"
"Well, I will want to know how it is that you have come to believe that you are a victim of what you call...this conspiracy?"
"Believe?" I wrapped my arms around the guitar and squeezed her tight around the middle. "My dear Mr. DeLuria, let me be clear about one thing before we start." I felt my heart slamming against my chest and the sleek wood of the guitar. "I am innocent of all wrongdoing here. My cousin framed me with his ludicrous tales, he was mad as a hatter at the end!"
He kept rubbing his chin. "I see," he said. But of course he didn't!
I stood up. I held onto the guitar by its neck. "No, I"m not sure you do see!" I picked up my diary and thrust it at him.
"But if you do want to know the true story, it is all here, right inside my diary. I have kept a meticulous of everything that happened over these last months with Antonie. You can see all of it here, day by day, exactly the way things really happened."
He held up one hand, but wouldn't touch the journal.
My eyes widened, my mouth dropped open.
"I know full well what the court schedule is, my dear," he said. "But there are two other cases besides yours that I must attend to. So now, if you will excuse me," he took a magnificent gold watch out of his pocket and snapped open the engraved cover. "I am scheduled for an important lunch engagement shortly."
The word lunch set me into a rage. I dropped back on the bench. "Oh, please, please don't let me stop you from your lunch," I said, angry enough to spit. "And tell me about it if you will, what exactly is your menu? Hmmm? What is it that they are serving today, may I ask? Leg of lamb with mint jelly perhaps? Consommé? Fricasee of chicken?" My eyes gleamed, my voice rose. "And what for dessert sir? Apple pie? Berry cobbler? Will there be a large scoop of ice cream on the cobbler?"
He studied me curiously, as if I were slightly mad. "I will be back," he mumbled, "and when I return, I will consider your journal." He nodded that elongated head of his -- ah, I know now, it's resembles that of a small pony! -- and he gestured in the direction of my diary.
"Oh never fear, dear Mr. DeLuria, I will be right here in this cell waiting for you," I said. "I too have my pressing engagements but somehow they must wait."
"And as you are dining today, Mr. DeLuria, please be sure to think of me here," I said, glaring at him. I sang, blaring out the refrain that I have come to love so much:
“In three days I’ve eaten
Only bread and tears:
That is the food
That my jailers give.”
He hurried out of the cell and I tell you if it weren't for the guitar...
I fear now how this will go -- nobody but you and Señora will ever know the truth about Antonie and how he died. Nobody will believe what I've written in the diary.
Why should they?
The only thing I have on my side is the truth: I know that Antonie was ill with the syphilis, and as he was descending into madness and delusion, he was writing. As he went, down, down, down, he cast that net of horrifying words around me, he created another Renata on piles of thin white paper, he turned me into a Spanish dancer, one fashioned entirely out of words, words that he heard in the depth of his fevered hallucination, words that poured out of his mind as pure fantasy.