So Alex was in love, was earnestly if ludicrously in love with "a waif, a slip of a girl, a spirit childlike in her vivacity and exuberance but also wise and sad and sweet," to quote Harry Adams writing about his fair and faithless Clarissa.
The weeks following my sudden insight into Alex's condition were, to use a guarded term, "interesting." I was virtually certain he knew he was in love with his stepdaughter, but since he was unwilling to come out with the truth, I had to feign ignorance. In our conversations, he was continually succumbing to the lover's desperate urge to talk about his beloved, to relate instances revealing wit, grace, charm, sensitivity, intelligence, to bask in the sense of nearness to a cherished object that we get when discussing it with a sympathetic listener. And my role was to listen without revealing that I knew the subtext of his enthusiasm.
Right after our meeting in New York, Alex had been careful to include enough news about Dirk and Rowena in our talks to give the casual observer the impression that the entire family was his subject. But as time passed there were more and more conversations in which the main topic was Paloma—delightful Paloma, terrific Paloma, remarkable, amazing, incredible Paloma.
What cost is levied on the patience and goodwill of anyone who listens for hours on end to the one dearest to him holding forth on the great wonderfulness of someone else, I will leave for the reader to surmise. I did on occasion amuse myself by setting small traps for Alex and watching him trip them. When for instance I suggested that Paloma entering high school in the fall would probably mean half a dozen boyfriends swarming around her, what with her looks, Alex almost bit my head off long distance by snapping: "She's too smart to be interested in high-school kids." I smiled, grateful that the century was not advanced enough to provide us with video telephones, and egreed that it was unlikley Paloma would pay attention to boys, no matter how much attention they might pay to her. This type of dubious entertainment notwithstanding, there was more than a measure of tedium in having to pretend I had no idea about something that was painfully (literally speaking) obvious to me....
Copyright 1993 Evelin Sullivan