It’s come time to talk fully of Kerri Kenner. It’s come time to talk about her visit to Vermont. There’s so much about Kerri Kenner that defies reason. She stepped into my life with lies of omission, but even these were forgivable. She had to lie; the truth only broke her a bit more. Only by lying could Kerri Kenner ever hope to emerge from the darkness that diminished her, that drew the weight from her flesh, that had turned her skin into ash, and her mouth brittle. It was what gave her tongue a metallic taint, and her eyes the limp look of a soul teetering between two worlds.
Her past was oblique. She had told me nothing about her childhood when we first met, except that she had grown up in Chicago. When I probed she shut down.
“A pretty ordinary childhood,” she said.
Soon after we met, she fled to another city. That was Kerri Kenner’s way of things. She hopped from city to city, tried to set down roots, failed, and then escaped, leaving broken hearts behind her. I’m the only one who understands Kerri Kenner. I’m the only one who knows her. I knew her even before I found out the truth. I knew her before I learned that she had changed her name, that she wasn’t called Kerri Kenner, but Naomi Mischl. And that she had grown up in Kraftsbury Kommons, Vermont.
I believed her when she said she was from Chicago. She had the traits of an urbanite: Vampiric, brutal, fashionable, worldly, and distant. But in truth she had grown up surrounded by farmland and cows.
“Let’s go on a road trip,” I suggested about a week into her visit. I had tried for two nights to entice her into my bed. She had bee-sting tits. All nipple from what I could tell, and they made me nuts. But each time she demurred, pretending she hadn’t heard me. Instead, she slept in the guest bedroom, though it wasn’t any kind of sleeping that she did. I could hear her at night, when my lustiness kept me awake, I could hear her walking around the house, going on the porch, listening to music on her laptop, hanging out in the kitchen smoking.
“Where? Road trip where?” She hadn’t let on that she was perfectly familiar with the sweet air and the winding roads unlit by streetlamps and crawling with moose and drunkards.
“I’ll figure it out. We’ll do a big loop.”
Kerri fiddled nervously with her cigarette; she had been chaining ever since she got here.
“Okay,” she said.
We set out the next morning, taking a state road north. Kerri looked out her window, keeping her face poised in deflection. Her fingers tapped on the opened window’s bottom edge, tap, tap, tap.
“Wow,” she said, “It’s so beautiful. It’s so, so beautiful.”
“I’m glad you’re saying that. It’s been losing its allure lately. I’m not quite as blown away as I used to be.”
“No, it’s like Eden. Look at those mountains, David. Look at them.”
I loved Kerri Kenner when she became like a girl.
We pushed farther north into Stephen King land. Ancient farms sinking into primeval brown earth. Dirt roads with lost edges. Few cars, fewer people. Then we got into a small town, a village, really.
“Kraftsbury Kommons,” I announced. I said it aloud because the name resonated with history. Because I remembered it from somewhere.
“Jesus,” Kerri said. “How did this happen? I so didn’t notice.”
“Look at the houses.” They were old and stark, all of them painted white, like a row of ghosts. They surrounded the commons, a green circle on which you imagined once witches were hung and debtors shackled to stocks.
“Are you fucking with me?”
“Are you trying to fuck with my head?” Her face turned red, her eyes got wet. She had pulverized her cigarette.
“What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
“I’m from here!”
“This is where I grew up!”
“I thought you’re from Chicago.”
“No. No, David. I’m from Kraftsbury Kommons.”
“Shit, Keri. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because, David, I’ve been trying to forget.”
She didn’t tell me much. But when I got back to New York I found a newspaper clipping from the 70s. That didn’t tell me much, either, except that something terrible had happened here one Halloween night. It seemed as though the town had wanted to forget, too, just like Kerri Kenner.
I didn’t bother Kerri about it. I knew her real name now, though. I expected the rest of it would come out eventually.