NONE of his closest friends, not Virgie Moreno, Larry Francia, not any of his American pupils who attended his weekly poetry tutorials, knew he had one. Willie Sanchez and that erstwhile infant terrible David Cortez Medalla who lived with Villa in his Greenwich Village apartment were none the wiser. Andres Cristobal Cruz, who liked to snoop around for literary memorabilia, did not suspect anything when he visited Villa years ago. Dylan Thomas, had he known, could have written about it—but more of that later. I stumbled on the fact quite accidentally, although I realized it much later. I am rather uneasy about talking about it now because Villa had sworn me to secrecy. But I figure, since he’s been gone all these years, what could be the harm in that?
Besides, what does that have to do with his poetry? But there could be a connection . . . There’s another reason for my uneasiness, however. I’m afraid that his friends that I have really gone mad, since my sanity has never been certifiable. But having recently come across a story about Gogol’s wife, I am now encouraged to break my long silence.
Nikolai Vassilevitch’s wife, according to the lone witness Foma Paskalovitch, a.k.a. Tommaso Landolfi, Nikolai Vassilevitch Gogol’s wife, whose name was Caracas, was a balloon, “an extraordinary dummy made of thick rubber, naked at all occasions, buff in tint, or as more commonly said, flesh-colored.” Nikolai Vassilevitch could turn Caracas into any shape or form—thin, fat, sexy, brunette, blonde, anyway he fancied—by blowing her, or it, up through the anal sphincter. NV and Caracas had a stormy and interesting relationship until one day—but you have to read the story yourself. My subject is Villa’s mistress, and I am moved to speak about it now because of Foma Paskalovitch who, as far as I know, was not committed for his indiscretion with the private life of a great writer.
As you must have guessed by now, there is also some peculiarity about Villa’s mistress. She is (I can’t simply say, scientifically speaking, made of)air, that which is lexically defined as a mixture of gases (mainly oxygen and hydrogen)surrounding the earth and breathed by all animals, including humans, of course, and plants: a light wind, an impression given, a melody or tune. No. Villa couldn’t have shaped her as Gogol did his wife by blowing into—she would be rather the air which Gogol blew into—but enough about Gogol’s Caracas, it will only confuse the issue. How Villa came upon her, how it all happened, so to speak, can only be speculated upon, for he did not give me the complete story. I suspected even then that he was annoyed by my accidental discovery.
“Don’t, ask, me,” he said. “Read, my, poem, if, you, know, how, to, read: poetry.”
I’m no gossip. I don’t care how people live their lives so long as they let me live mine. I chanced upon Villa’s mistress the first time I joined him for drinks at the White Horse bar in the Village, the same White Horse where he and Dylan Thomas whooped it up many years ago. I was a couple of hours late and I thought he had left in disgust. But there he was in the corner table with a row of dry martini glasses in front of him talking earnestly with the most ethereally beautiful woman I have ever seen. She wore her hair in a snood which accented her fair, heart-shaped face. From where I stood, her shapely legs, emanating from the seductive slit of her aquamarine skirt, seemed to go on forever.
Needless to say, I yelled from the entrance, “Villa, O, Villa, have, come, am here!’ to attract her attention.
He gave me the penetrating look of his book portrait, but sure enough. She looked at my direction, said something to the pissed poet and made for the washroom.
“Who, was, that, phantom, of, delight?” I asked Villa as he remonstrated at my behavior.
“Rosemarie, Violeta, choose, your, wild,” he said nonchalantly.
I interrupt this narrative to tell you about Rosemarie, Violeta. Rosemarie is the woman of the Song: “pale, vermouth, ultraviolet, And, tender, lambs, astray, But, if, these, keep, love, beautiful, Sweet heavens, yes,” the ultraviolet anticipating Violeta of “your name is a cool word, quiet like a young bird.” I will vouch for the fact that Rosemarie, Violeta, was/were, Villa’s first and one true love, for whom he wrote all of his Appassionata, poems in praise of love, for all potential lovers—Song of the Waiting Lover, Woman Arriving into Man’s Life, Will you always for I can, etc. and the sad, yet affirming, To A Lady Going to Antipolo, in which Villa sang: In Antipolo there will be many young men who will come to you. You will like them because their tongues will be honeyed and their feet light. You will forget me. I shall be forgotten by you whom I cannot forget.
WHEN she returned and sat beside me, making my small share of the earth tremble, I was determined to impress with my literary erudition. She listened intently as Villa and I bandied about poets in general and Filipino poets in particular, with me provoking his irreverent judgments. I was impressing her, I thought, when she yelled, albeit melodiously, “But, all, all, shall, become, x, virgins, what the fuck!” causing everyone to look at us in a place, mind you, where nobody bothers with no body. And right then and there, I swear, she evaporated before my very eyes, although Villa kept insisting afterwards that I had fourteen dry martinis.
IT WAS FUTILE ATTEMPT to discredit my senses. I could be drunk (but I wasn’t) and to suggest that Rosemarie/Violeta was an apparition was simply ridiculous: I have absolutely no imagination. As a reporter, I see and hear accurately, I cannot invent anything if my life depended on it. All the same, I kept my peace (it was dangerous to argue with Villa) and let the whole incident pass.
I spiked his drink as he went for a leak. My intention was to make him pass out so I could take him to his apartment, to which he never invited me on the dubious excuse that it was too messy for me. I succeeded in my scheme.
No one, as far as I know, has ever seen Villa pass out, not since the late Forties, anyway, when he was active in the New York literary scene, partying and drinking with the likes of Gore Vidal, Randall Jarrel, the Sitwells, Anais Nin, Delmore Schwartz, and others. The Ravens are in possession of a group picture with Villa looking like a pensive but less brooding Kafka. That’s one thing about him: he thinks but he never broods.
He did brood once. That was when he had to leave the country for good, some say out of a desire to conquer the literary world where it should be conquered, first in Mexico then New York. He was eventually held as one of the distinguished new voices in American poetry. But in taking him home, albeit through stratagem, that fateful night, it dawned on me that he had left the country because he was so heartbroken that only the greatest distance could make him whole again.
The truth is that he had decided to give up not only poetry but life itself. From out of this deep and terrible desolation, cold and loveless in his tiny room on Greenwich street, in which he buried himself until his lonely death, denying himself the sun and the moon, consuming pints and pints of martinis, emerged whom he secretly called Miriniza, she who was all Rosemarie/Violet: fair, radiant as the moon and warm as the sun, she who made him return to poetry, threatening to leave him if he did not.
I learned all this from Mir-iniza as we talked all night while Villa slept. Their relationship had become stressful. That night was the second time she had gone to the White Horse, as she didn’t like going out of their tiny room. But Villa had insisted because of the incident with Dylan Thomas.
Thomas was on his New York tour. Breaking his rule, Villa insisted that the Welsh poet spend the weekend with him. It had been impossible for Thomas, a sensitive fellow, not to have sensed Miriniza’s presence. At first Villa didn’t mind, he even asked Miriniza to drink with Thomas and him at the White Horse. She was the most beautiful creature in all New York that night.
They had a fabulous time. Thomas’ attentiveness to Miriniza, Villa took as admiration, for who wouldn’t have admired Miriniza?
Minimize supported the two inebriated poets on their way back to the apartment, a kind of Helen with Paris and Agamemnon in tow. Villa couldn’t remember anything in the morning, but he suspected Thomas of seducing Minimiza, whom he accused of disgracing his memory. Insulted by his jealousy, she, in turn, wouldn’t disabuse him of his suspicions. Things came to a head when Thomas died from a fall in Villa’s apartment. Minimize was beside herself with grief.
THAT’S ALL I can say about Villa’s mistress. I can only guess that it was around this time that Villa started signing himself as Xoce Garcia Villa with the VI written as the Roman numeral for six, and announcing that he would not repeat himself, stopped writing poems altogether. His story is that he was working on a poetics before his death—his corpse discovered only after three days (while Larry’s, with arms calmly folded, was discovered the morning after).
I believe the story about the poetics, as I have been told there were numerous shoeboxes containing his notes: they crowd the tiny room that there’s hardly room for his Thursday pupils to sit on. I used to drop by in those days when I could still travel, hoping that I would see or sense Minimize again, but the only thing I felt was something that breezed by me—I couldn’t be certain.
It seems that Minimize had left Villa after that night when I spiked his drinks. Maybe, they had another violent quarrel and that he became insanely jealous once again. This should explain, I think, his plunge into poetics: by formulating the secret of his incomparable poems, he must have hoped to bring Minimize back from the abyss of his profound need.
I know this rambling narrative does not make much sense. I would have probably done it justice if I were a poet and not a literal-minded reporter. But the opportunity had not been given any poet except Villa and Thomas, and Villa would not write about her and Thomas could not.
It has been left to me to tell about Villa’s mistress. There lies perhaps the meaning and the irony. Not having the words to say too much or the imagination to embellish, I can only relate the bare facts.