Dallas, 1965: First it was in Denton. The girls, Paula and Pretty Patty, had a house near Paul Miner’s second house. I used to visit, and smoke, and draw pictures, and spent the night with Pretty Patty. One night I became convinced that a small sculpture might take wing, and fly around her apartment.
I don’t remember those days with perfect clarity.
But Stephanie showed up. Actually her name was Patricia W., but she called herself Stephanie Barbacaine, and perhaps it fit better. Billy Bucher warned me. Some friend of his had got messed up, he said, by this Stephanie.
She had this peculiar, repeating behavior.
If she had trouble with a guy, she’d go find his best friend, and she’d sleep with the friend. I have no clue why. But if I recall aright from those dim days, Billy’s best friend had trouble with Stephanie Barbacaine, and she was making a play for Billy.
As I recall, it didn’t work. Billy wasn’t interested, or shook free somehow. And somehow, I got selected as Billy’s friend. This entanglement with Stephanie Barbacaine caused some major upsets with Pretty Patty, my girlfriend.
Those were confusing days. I was working nights, schooling days, smoking a lot, carousing way too much, and things were breaking down for me.
I do not recall exactly how it happened, but after explosions and conflagrations, Pretty Patty had a new apartment in Dallas, set back on a deep lawn beneath huge trees on the boulevard across from Southern Methodist University. I was working night shift at the armored car company in Dallas, counting hundreds of thousands of dollars through the night. And somehow it became too much trouble to drive the Morgan back to my cool apartment in Denton, so I gave it up, moving in with Patty Cake.
For a few days it went well.
We smoked a bit, and went on a decopage kick, decorating coffee cans, making wacko greeting cards, and such. Then one afternoon, Stephanie Barbacaine showed up at the door, with my friend Lefevre in tow.
I cannot imagine what the woman said, to explain their presence, but she said something, and was invited in. Soon Lefevre drew me aside. “Who the hell is this woman?” he asked.
I answered, but in fact, I’m not sure I knew then or know now. She was merry enough, attractive, thin, stylish, with frizzy hair, round eyes and a mocking, urbane manner. She’d been raised in an orphanage to the north of Dallas. She’d told me of her first trip to downtown Dallas, with the other children, on a bus trip to see a movie.
“I’d got all dressed up,” she said, “and as I stepped down from that school bus onto the sidewalk outside the movie theatre, I thought everyone would be watching me, and thinking how nice she looks! I thought the sidewalks were filled with people who’d come downtown to see me. And I was so proud, because I was all dressed up. So I just held my head up, and stepped down from that bus, and marched very prettily into the theatre.”
She’d once had a job modelling shoes, and I’d heard her describe herself as “a model.” She was pretty enough to be a model, I suppose, and she had a lot of shoes. She dressed more “grown-up” than most women, and she knew how to captivate a man, that’s for sure. She was a woman careening through life, inventing herself from whole cloth daily.
She and Lefevre spent the night, sleeping upon a pallet on the floor, which was kind of awkward, especially in the middle of the night, due to various noises. So, after Lefevre departed back to Wichita Falls, it’s not too surprising that Pretty Patty blew up one last time, saying she just couldn’t put up with it. And somehow I found myself living with Stephanie Barbacaine, in a white apartment on the fourth floor of an Art Deco building in the north of town.
It was at this time that I began to go nutty, spending countless hours trying to work out a budget. Now, budgeting is certainly a wise thing to do, but not the way I did it.
I was trying to calculate exactly how much I’d need, and so was dividing the cost of a movie over thirty days in the month, and creating elaborate calculations that had to be revised almost moment to moment. I wasn’t sleeping much at all. We went to a movie — Karen Black in “Lord Love a Duck” — and, walking out, I couldn’t remember much of anything about the movie we’d just seen.
Stephanie Barbacaine had a funny way about her, too. We were getting ready to go somewhere. A movie, the grocery store, dinner, I don’t recall, but I remember her sitting at her dressing table, with the lights all around the mirror, and doing her makeup. I was antsy to go, and kept nudging her.
Finally she said, “I’m a girl. I have makeup. I’m not a boy.” Which shut me up suddenly. After a while of silence, she said, “You’re worried that maybe you’re gay, right?”
Well, that hadn’t been in my mind, but it sure gave me something to think about. And life around her was like that. My mind was everywhere, and generally going to hell with the speed of an arrow. Somewhere along the line I moved out. I got a room in a boarding house, but stayed there only one night because it was too wierd.
I found a tiny apartment on my own but flipped out trying to cook spaghetti. The directions just seemed too complicated. The tiniest things in life were speeding up. So fast, so fast.
I made a blunder. There was an accident. I found myself in a hospital. That night, on the phone with Stephanie Barbacaine, she told me what she was wearing, and what was underneath all that; it was one of those calls. One thing led to another, and further adventures ensued, up and down, but somehow, somewhere in this smoke and confusion, with a sound like clanging bells I lost track of Stephanie Barbacaine.