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The Secret Life of Kitty Lyons

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The Secret Life of Kitty Lyons by Maggie Cutler  
Index

Introduction


Collateral Damage

When ex-Senator Bob Kerrey confesses to having done things as a Navy Seal
back in ‘Nam ’69 too shameful and criminal to remember clearly, I have
to wonder what I would feel if my husband Max suddenly told me that he
had, like Bob, in a patriotic moment of fear and confusion, slaughtered
a bunch of unarmed civilians somewhere, and for decades afterwards
allowed people to treat him as a hero for it. If I continued to love him
“for better or worse,” would our love be like that movie The Night
Porter
— all full of kinks and not in color? I decide the best way to
find out is a test run with Kerrey himself.

    

I’m hoping that Kerrey will show me the light side of atrocity
because humor is sort of a hobby with him. Everyone knew even before he
married a comedy writer that he has a capacity for giddy fun-ness, what
with his moving Debra Winger into Nebraska’s governor’s mansion,
followed by his getting busted by the PC police back in primary ’92 for
trading lesbian jokes with Bill Clinton. And then, last March, he
confessed to The New Yorker‘s Elizabeth Kolbert that, soon after losing
his leg in the war, he realized that life is funny.

    

So there’s a lightness to Bob that promises “playful in bed,” and
that white hair, that Dorian Gray skin and pale blue eyes, all make him
look so delightfully unlike Nixon, that I lead him straight to my couch
and start undressing him without a qualm, although I am curious to see
how we’re going to handle the leg.

    

Is he going to leave it on?

    

No?

    

He’s taking it off. Fair enough.

    

But he no sooner does when, suddenly, the door slams open and
Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City daycare center bomber is there, fresh
from Death Row.

    

Before you can shout, “In a People’s War, All Civilians Are Enemy”
Tim grabs Bob’s artificial leg — just grabs it off the floor near the
foot of the couch — and runs back to the door with it, where he turns
and sneers like Sean Penn does before he meets the nun in Dead Man Walking.

    

“Give me back my leg!” yells Bob, quoting from The Sopranos (in which
a Russian woman’s leg was recently stolen by Tony Soprano’s
nutty, trouble-making sister). But Tim will not return it.

    

“I want you,” Tim says — quoting Uncle Sam and meaning me. He
wants me, he explains, “to be the last fucking fuck I fuck before the
feds kill me for killing their kids when I tried to avenge the kids
they killed at Waco.” Pungently expressed.

    

Although mass murderers are not my meat, now that I’ve made an
exception of Bob Kerrey, I don’t feel I’ve a very sound basis on which to
refuse Tim McVeigh.

    

I guess I can say, “Sorry, but I make it a policy to sleep only
with those who restrict their genocidal acts to Asia,” but somehow I
don’t think that does it. I’m headed back to that night in college I had
lousy sex with a lesbian who resembled Judge Judy, just because I didn’t
want her to think I was ageist, looksist or homophobic.

    

I decide to say simply, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I am
fucking every soldier here in the order in which their atrocities were
committed, so get in line.” But I don’t get to, because McVeigh is still
talking.

    

You,” Timmy continues to Bob, “Yer gonna watch.” After which, Tim
says, if Bob can come up with a joke that makes him laugh, then he’ll
get back his fucking leg.

    

So McVeigh and I eat each other for awhile, but we’re both too
tense to get up for it, and we quit, after which Bob does manage to
crack a hilarious, if politically odious, lesbian joke about us. So
McVeigh has to return Bob’s leg before he is dragged off, unrepentant,
no army or movie star in his corner, to meet the maggots, while behind a
glass wall experts in gallows humor affirm that death is every bit as
funny as Kerrey thinks life is.

    

“Love can be healing,” Kerrey says, strapping his leg back on to
return to his new wife and new job (as president of the New School).
And I guess if love has healed what Bob did, it can heal anything — even,
maybe, the kinks in the heart of the heartland, but I’m not sure it can,
because I can’t stop remembering the reddish pink softness of Tim
McVeigh’s dick, something curled up at the root of him stupid and
desperate and disturbing as an angry baby, and love is not what I feel,
or hate, but something equally powerful.