I Know Who You Are

“I know who you are.”

I said nothing, allowing Edna’s quiet words hang in the air behind me as I gazed upon Catherine’s final resting place. Her marker was large, yet very simple- a granite spire, somewhat weathered as were all the stones in this corner of the cemetery, with just her name and the dates: b 1831 d 1896.

“She was only sixty-five. Even being wealthy and protected, the damned winters were like a scythe, weren’t they?”

“I know you heard what I said, so don’t pretend you didn’t.”

I had been feeling something from her for two days now. It was the only reason I had not left yet- I had to know what it was. Her certainty was so strong and it excited her so. I turned to face her.

“Who do you think I am?”

“Great Grandma hired a Pinkerton man to track down Elaine a few years after the War Between the States. He went to Boston, found her lawyers’ offices, but they were well paid, quite reputable and very tight-lipped.” She paused then and said, “I think I need to sit… could we move to that bench?” She gestured with her cane and I nodded. Edna shuffled over, suddenly looking every day of her ninety-eight years, and settled down with a sigh, placing her cane before her with her hands perched atop. She waited until I took a seat beside her. “Where was I? Boston. You always seem to go back to Boston. The Pinkerton man was no slouch, and you’d a way of impressing people, of course. He found a name: Melissa Burns, and there was some talk of Georgia. It took some doing but he tracked you down to a plantation where you were hired as a tutor in literature and mathematics. Then he discovered that you’d murdered a man named Clayton Williams. You were caught, tried, convicted and hanged. End of story, or so he thought.

“I have to wonder what he thought when Catherine sent him back to Georgia and told him to dig up your corpse, if he could. He went back and started asking more questions, spreading around money and liquor, until he bumped in to these two gents who’d had a near religious experience. Neither of them’d had a drink in years before they ran in to him- reformed men, they were. But his questions shook them up, and the whiskey was good, and the tale they told him… well, he’d never heard anything so wild and unlikely in his life, but he had his orders, and like I said, he was no slouch at his job.

“He tracked you to a border town in Texas. A pretty young redheaded prostitute named Molly, sweet and kind and very quiet, and sporting a hanging scar. Only by the time he got that far poor Molly’d had an accident, took a spill in to the river and drowned. Body never recovered. Of course, it couldn’t have been the same woman, because everybody swore she couldn’t be more than eighteen and Elaine’d have been close to sixty by then, except that Melissa Burns hadn’t been more than twenty-five…”

“He would have had a very difficult time following me after that. Molly was a throw-away…” I stopped there because there was no point in continuing. Edna’s gaze was fixed on me, waiting. “How many people know this story?”

“Just me. It’s been passed down through the women in the family. Honestly, I didn’t really believe it myself until you showed up, and even then I wasn’t sure until just now. I haven’t told anyone; Sarah would be the obvious choice, but she’s such a Chatty Cathy I just couldn’t trust her with it.” She sat up straighter then, and took a deep breath, “So, if you wanted to you could shoot me with that ugly old pistol you’ve got your hand on and the story’d die with me. I suspect you’d be able to get out of town before anybody caught on.”

I snatched my hand from my bag- I had not even realized I had my hand on the gun. I was embarrassed that she had noticed, that I had even unconsciously considered

And then I was shaking, trembling so violently that I could not even speak. It was not fear, or anger, or joy, but simply conflict. I did not know what to do. Then a sharp pain exploded in my shin and I cried out as Edna drew back her cane after striking me with it.

“Get a hold of yourself! Lord, you’d think someone as old as you’d be beyond this kind of thing!”

I laughed out loud at that. “I’ve heard that before… I should introduce you to the Yeti!”

“The who?”

“Yes, never mind, it’s too hard to explain.”

We sat for several minutes before Edna finally asked, “So, what’re you going to do?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s not so easy as Jeremy thought it might be.”

“Sure it is. My son had you checked out- you’re loaded. I name you as my successor in the trust and then you can do what you want.”

“Really? It’s not that simple at all. Everything I know is telling me to leave, now, and never come back! I have rules I live by and I didn’t come up with them on a whim!”

“And you married Jerome- what’d your rules have to say about that? Why’d you do that? Seems pretty stupid to me. Be careful what you answer because Catherine had an idea and I think she was right.”

“I fell in love with him. Is that so hard to believe?”

“Honestly? Yes, it is hard to believe. Catherine believed you were just lonely, and tired. Marrying her uncle was almost like trying to kill yourself. Just look at the trouble it’s caused you. Look at where you are right now, honey. Sure you loved him, but you loved him because it gave you a taste of something you couldn’t ever really have. You were trying to destroy yourself. Or at least destroy your life. You wanted an end, and Jerome was just the right man to help you find it.”

She sat back, her shoulders sagging. I could see the exhaustion radiating from her and suddenly I was ashamed again. How could I not see how much this was costing her? To be out here confronting me… Without another word I helped her to her feet and steadied her as we made our way back down the path to my car. She settled in to the seat and I buckled her in, then came around and started the car. Edna had her head back against the headrest, her eyes were closed.

“See, I think you’re going mad. All that running and hiding can’t be good for a body.”

“Do you understand how… how impudent it is of you to presume to speak to me like this?”

She laughed quietly, opening her eyes to look over at me. “Do you think you are wise?” she asked.

I thought about that as I maneuvered down the narrow drive to the cemetery’s exit. “About some things, yes. Others, no.”

“Good answer. I am wise, and about a lot of things. That cemetery makes me wise- I know that’s where I’m headed, and soon, too. Focuses the mind, assuming the mind still works of course.” She chuckled then at her own little joke.

“And that’s something I lack, is it?”

“It’s not just something you’re missing, it’s something you need.”

That was not a new thought for me, so why did it disturb me so to hear it from this woman?

“A cemetery’s not just a place of endings,” she continued, “it’s a symbol, a place of roots. Kids today just don’t understand this stuff; they go wandering off in all directions and don’t give a thought to their family or their history. My daughters… I haven’t seen either of them in five years, or the grandchildren. All picked up and moved off to California and Hawaii… I kept hoping that one of them would get the notion to come home, but it’s never happened.”

“Yet here I am.”

“Yes,” she smiled, “here you are. I’m fit to be pickled now that you’re here. I honestly never believed it was possible, just some funny folk tale, or better yet a practical joke.”

I considered that for several minutes as we drove on in silence.

“So, if I were to say I was merely humoring you…”

“I wouldn’t buy it for a second. I saw the look on your face when you were touching that pistol- you’re first thought was to kill me and run like the dickens.”

“I would never have…”

“I know, but you thought it. So why are you here?”

“I needed to know how much damage… no. I wanted to come, to see what had happened to the people I cared about. I was here a few weeks ago- I visited Jeremy’s grave. I thought that would be enough…” I stopped then, feeling tears coming from someplace unexpected. I pulled to the side of the road and parked the car, then just gripped the wheel, desperate to compose myself. Why was this happening? Why was this woman, somebody who was still just a child in comparison to myself, having this affect on me? Why was I so damned angry?

“Don’t stop now.”

I looked at her, uncomprehending for a moment, and then I asked her, “What would you do if I took you home and then left, and never returned?”

“Nothing. I’d go to my grave knowing that I’d been privy to a great secret. Of course that’s easy for me to say because we both know you’re not leaving. C’mon dearie, stop trying to nice to the little old lady and spit it out- why are you here?”

“Because I was never ready to leave!” It came out so suddenly and so succinctly that it drew all of the emotion out of me in a single statement: I had never wanted to leave. I left because it was my way, a habit, a rule I lived by. It had never been a problem before, but so much had changed since the early centuries of my life…

“Then why leave?”

“That’s enough,” I snapped, my voice dropping in to a peremptory tone that made Edna sit back a bit. I put the car in gear and pulled out again, unwilling to talk any further, or to listen for that matter. Edna attempted to engage me, but I tuned her out so thoroughly that she soon gave up.

What was wrong with me? I had been willing to reinsert myself in to this family so long as I could do it on my terms, maintaining this thin fiction of secrecy, holding myself aloof from them. Why did Edna’s knowledge change things so? Why that sudden impulse to murder and flight? It was clear to me, unmistakably clear that she posed no threat. Even if she did choose to tell her family what she knew, what would they think? She knew this, I could tell she knew this.

I am terrible at snap decisions. Every one I have ever made has turned out to be ill advised in one way or another. I needed time to think. I arrived at that terribly insightful conclusion as I pulled in to Sarah’s driveway. Edna sat beside me, radiating dismay.

“I am going back to Boston,” I told her, making my voice as gentle as I could.

She emitted a quiet sigh of resignation, and then visibly nerved herself to ask, “And What will you do there?”

I paused, unwilling to be short with her again, and then gave her the most honest reply that I could: “Think. Decide. Act.” She nodded at that, and allowed me to help her out of the car and up to the house. At the door something suddenly occurred to me. “You never visited your husband’s grave…”

“Oh, that’s not important. Perhaps next time…”

“Yes, perhaps.” I turned to go, but I could feel her eyes on me, as if they sought to pull me back.

“Genevieve… now that can’t be your real name, can it?”

I paused and turned back to face her as she stood framed in the open doorway, looking small and frail and forlorn. “No, of course not. I don’t have a given name that I can remember, but I chose one, long ago,” and I told her my name, the name I chose that I have called myself for more than two millennia. Then I turned away and walked to the car. It was time to go.

One Response to “I Know Who You Are”

  1. The following comments, with some minor editing to remove unnecessary break-ups, are as they originally appeared on the old BlogSpot/Haloscan system. –ZM

    And so there you are, or rather, there you were, for certainly you aren’t giving us the narrative as an on the spot report. Just as certainly the location is not where you would have us think. It would appear, though, that you are on the very brink of having that which I would have hoped for you, if only for a brief season. A confidant, ,to whom you have no romantic ties, could be such a comfort to you. I imagine this has occurred to you, thus explaining your public journal. The unburdening of the soul has theraputic value far beyond that offered by the herbalist or apothocary.

    My limited knowledge of your methods, though, would indicate that you would not reveal this unless Edna had already passed, if only for her own protection. If this is the case, I grieve your loss, perhaps more than you may realize.

    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 11.22.03 – 6:14 am | #

    I would guess that you’re right.
    It seems likely to me that Edna finished setting her affairs in order and let go. MD was one of those affairs.

    I’ve wtached it happen several times. It’s a wonderous thing to observe. Those of us who remain behind, though, feel the loss.
    Dishman | Email | Homepage | 11.22.03 – 8:16 pm | #

    I have perhaps told more than might seem wise, yet I have certainly refrained from sharing all. I have shown you snippets, nothing more, and I protect my own.

    MD | Email | Homepage | 11.22.03 – 10:12 pm | #

    You give a worthy account of events, and paint a vibrant picture with your narrative. I should expect no less of one with your experience with languages, ancient, romantic, and modern alike. I have received much education from the reading of your accounts, and for that I must thank you.

    And yet I am, indeed, a poet. I hunger and thirst, with an ache that is nigh palpable, to hear your soul override your intellect. I admit it is selfish, and I would be ashamed to say such things of anyone else’s life, but to imagine the joys and sorrows of thirty-five hunderd years! My GOD, how you could move Heaven and Earth, if only you could speak from the heart.

    Je sacrifierais heureusement beaucoup pour savoir les profondeurs de votre coeur. Si c’?taient possible, Je serais m?me immortel.

    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 11.23.03 – 6:45 am | #

    Do be careful what you wish for.

    MD | Email | Homepage | 11.23.03 – 5:20 pm | #

    I know that tone, having used it myself.
    I think you’re both drunk…
    not that I am criticizing anyone, having drawn deeply from The Well myself… recently, even.
    Indeed, the waters are sweet like none other, but the morning after would make a Kennedy blush, and the hangover would leave a sailor searching for words….
    he says, as he contemplates another, deeper draught.
    Dishman | Email | Homepage | 11.23.03 – 10:01 pm | #

    I am no stranger to pain, and war is an especially effective teacher. I no longer wonder at Hemmingway’s behaviour, as I did in my youth. I have discovered, as he, that small arms fire has a wonderful way of focusing one’s mind on eliminating the artificial limits on one’s life by emphasizing the real ones, and Baghdad has been no exception. My own lack of armament, as a non-combatant, only serves to highlight the concept further.

    Immortality, for me, would be a last resort, were it even possible. The elimination of that boundary would, I conjecture, necessitate the creation of others. I am a man, and a passionate one. I am of those who would walk into the fire, that I might better sing of it’s beauty, and damned be the one who would tell me I ought to at least wear shoes. Drink from the well? I would bathe. I would swim it’s depths, the pressure and the sting of the salt and the burning in the lungs building until, addled and half blind, I float to the surface against my will, only to gasp, gulp, and submerge.

    I do not relish the pain, but I have come to embrace it as the acceptable price of admission to another’s soul. A man cannot walk those halls for free, and the works on display there demand a portion of your own soul as their tarrif.

    That is why I said that I hunger for your heart to override your intellect. Where you have little concern for physical pain, do to your unique capacity, I have discovered that emotional scars are a matter of choice. If I am deliberately naive, I accept the label gladly, for it enables me to believe, with all my heart, that I can keep exposing my soul to the fire indefinitely. And if, in the end, I suffer as no man has before, then I will also have lived with a zeal beyond other men.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 12:53 am | #

    Definitely drunk.
    Dishman | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 1:37 am | #

    Have you ever been at one of those social gatherings (you may have to go all the way back to your University days for this one), where people are drinking, not socially, but with verve, as if, at any moment the FDA would come in and ban every intoxicant in the place? You find a friend, happliy sitting on the couch, holding a conversation with a lamp, and giving every appearance that the lamp is talking back. So you tell your friend, “You’re drunk.” Your friend, excusing himself from the lamp for a moment, looks up with an amicable grin and compliments your penetrating perspicaciousness, your assiduity, and the particularly fetching pair of shoes you’ve chosen to wear that evening.

    For some reason, that is the mental picture I got from your observation, Mr. Dishman. It gave me a rather pleasant chuckle, too, further proving your point.

    Thanks. There aren’t enough things to laugh at out here, and laughing at yourself is always the most satisfying.

    By the way, nice shoes.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 3:55 am | #


    “I have perhaps told more than might seem wise, yet I have certainly refrained from sharing all. I have shown you snippets, nothing more, and I protect my own.” – MD

    Your “own”? People? As you noted they die of like flies in light of your own immortality. In fact, I am surprised you do not view others as a stream of passing amusements, rather than having any emotional attachment to them at all. Then again, I think in reality you do. Your “own” memories or thoughts? Protect them from what? You are immortal, are you not? We do not know your identity, and even if I were to meet you today, I would hardly believe that you were what you claim to be. Indeed, I would guess you were a rather bored, contemptuous rich girl intent on finding a semblance of personal interaction that is sorely missing from your real life. You are terribly lonely and don’t even know it.

    Or just plain crazy.

    Take your pick.
    Alice | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 8:56 am | #

    I know this is really not any of my concern, but as a relatively new member of the blogging community, I was wondering if it is customary and acceptable behaviour to hurl invectives at the host and leave no address. It seems rather like accepting an invitation to a block party and hurling tomatoes into the crowd from your bicycle, then peddaling off into the night, or at least the dusk, curfews being what they are, and this being a school night.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 10:06 am | #

    I am disinclined to umbrage at Alice’s comments. As invective goes it is certainly well within the bounds of what constitutes acceptable behavior in that he or she keeps focus solely upon me rather than having the temerity to heap aspersions upon my guests here. Remember: I am the one making the outrageous claims. I am the one who refuses to offer any verifiable proof as to my identity, location or status. Given that, it seems I have been most fortunate in gathering in Alice as some self-appointed foil.

    “…bored, contemptuous rich girl…” Amusing.

    MD | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 12:22 pm | #

    Let us suppose for a moment that you are, indeed, a “bored, contemptuous rich girl”.

    Bored- You have time on your hands, and the amusements at hand do not satisfy you. You sate this by stretching your mind. Your use of phrases like “desert religions” indicates you have spent considerable time delving into the mind of Man.

    Contemptuous- Scornful, disobedient. You do not hold in high regard the traditional ways of thought and life.

    Rich- You have financial assets at your disposal. You could, if you chose, have a high profile. You could buy your own soapbox.

    Girl- No older than 24. Your mind is not yet fully developed. You will continue to learn new tools and techniques. You have exhibited a depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding at least equivalent of a 30 year old with a 120 IQ. This puts the lower bound on your IQ at 160 (4/3 * 120).

    For you, yes, amusing.

    For those you heap scorn upon, I can only say, “Fear this.”
    Dishman | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 6:14 pm | #

    So interesting to read you, MD. And to draw parallels, however thin I may stretch them.

    Reality in my life is the adventure beckons, but only at the expense of a family life.

    Both are not possible, as the keeping of secrets in the adventure path would prevent any type of meaningful procreative enterprise.

    The difference, and it is all the world, is having a choice to do so.

    What truly makes a man immortal? long life? Progeny? A place in the history books? A world-changing philosophy? Perhaps all three are within reach, but not for all of us.

    You don’t have these choices, and we seem to envy you. I say seem because wishing for your particular, condition, is a sign of weakness. Closing off life paths by choice is much different than having them as part of your existence.

    For you – the answer is more about what choices you have. Wishing that you could partake in life without having to experience death is a fanciful, but ultimately futile hidden side of the coin.

    You know you have flaws – very human flaws. Do you know what your choices are? If there were a race of beings as you, would they all face the same choices?

    One wonders, and when I say one, I mean me, if you are copying human choices out of some innate need or bonding similarity with us. Or perhaps, you are making choices hiding from your condition by trying to copy ours.

    You have perhaps heard of this gentleman?

    Much of what he is supposed to have done and said is legend. Much is myth. Much was arrogance on his part. Tales of his demise, and of his life, have always been exaggerated by those who wish to appear wise, for the appearance of wisdom is oftentimes more effective than truth when one is establishing a “new order.”

    Of course – every one of those men and societies has brought bloody death and woe upon their countries, their friends, and themselves.

    Men lacking wisdom often don’t understand what they unleash when they seek power through mysticism.

    Conspiracies destroy a man as thoroughly as corruption – and usually more quickly.

    Perhaps the sign of your wisdom is your abject failure to use it to influence human history. Is that a sign of weakness, or of futility?

    You mentioned me here. Flattered as I am that you occasionally think of me when writing or when struck with wooden canes, the sentence says something about what you want to know about yourself.

    There is no shame in living a life of hedonism as you seem now to do. This story is evidence in some way that your instinct is not just preservation, but the need to do more.

    That’s dangerous ground. The Comte de Saint Germain played the game you’re thinking about in the courts of Europe and attracted the attention of the deranged for centuries after his supposed demise.

    Groups of small men with dreams of sitting at the right hand of the Chosen still try to barte
    TheYeti | Email | Homepage | 11.24.03 – 11:19 pm | #

    Groups of small men with dreams of sitting at the right hand of the Chosen still try to barter their waning influence to those who now hold the power of democracies.

    They weaken and undermine the thin layer of decency in the new Republics. All because he liked pretty jewels, and happened to fancy himself an original source for three esoteric philosophies.

    What he never realized (fails to realize?) is that original material is good for study, but not for application in later times.

    The human race evolves as a series of collective consciences. Old manuscripts help understand where humans started, not where they are.

    The attempts to live in that past are the source of more woe than you have managed. If the slaughter of cattle two millenia ago gives you pause, you might think of what happens when human beings catch your madness.

    And yes, I do presume to lecture. I believe there is more to understanding the human condition than simple experience or blind obedience to the purity of service.

    Purity of service means one is not responsible for the results. Other paths are not so clear cut.
    TheYeti | Email | Homepage | 11.25.03 – 7:04 am | #

    Nothing more refreshing than having to parse the inane for a crowd of intellectuals. Considering myself to be no higher than the local village idiot makes this turn of events laughably ironic.

    Allow me to be quite frank. My previous post was not meant as an insult, rather an accurate description of the author of this blog. So I would classify this well within the bounds of acceptability.

    Reality check for some of you regulars. This may come as a shock to some of you, but she is not 3500 years old. She is 25. Rather impish, and considering herself just a bit more clever than the rest of you. Considering I have to spell it out, she may well be right in that assumption.

    “MR.E” – I find your writings to be infantile. The clearest example of a limited mind’s abuse of a thesaurus imaginable. By equating my post to a schoolgirl flinging insults from a bicycle you are clearly violating the very premise you propose. I suggest you consider this before hurling another “tomato” my way.

    [MD – And before you take offense to this, carefully consider the initiator first.]

    Alice | Email | Homepage | 11.25.03 – 4:27 pm | #

    I just liked the Lewis Carroll allusion.
    TheYeti | Email | Homepage | 11.26.03 – 7:00 am | #

    Moreover, how do we know that Alice is not truly MD, seeking to throw us off the scent?

    How deliciously impossible to sort out. And how telling it is when one person feels the need to call out another.
    TheYeti | Email | Homepage | 11.26.03 – 7:01 am | #

    I hate when this happens.

    Alice, you are right. I was out of line to make such a comment, and I hope that you will accept my apology. Frankly, you were right about me on other levels as well, but this really isn’t the time or place to discuss me.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 11.26.03 – 1:46 pm | #


    Definitely a very interesting collection of self-selects. I almost see a pattern here. It would probably all make sense to someone who saw MD’s inbox.

    … then again… few people ever question MY sanity… unless they’re trying to give me the benefit of the doubt.
    Dishman | Email | Homepage | 11.26.03 – 6:14 pm | #

    “MD” – “Amusing”. Considering this entire thing is an exercise in your own amusement, I am happy to oblige, however I must insist that my previous statement it is an accurate description of you. What disappoints me infinitely, is that someone with your intellect isn’t smart enough to realize her own limitations. Maybe too many people having told you too many times that you must be just a bit brighter than the rest of humanity. No doubt the result of your rather privilegded upbringing. I’d offer that you’re not, but that’s just one girl’s opinion.

    Consider yourself “most fortunate” indeed.

    “Dishman” – “contemptuous”, “…regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless; scorn.” I’d venture to say that this must be the way she views the masses she thinks she’s leading around by the nose. Personally, I tire of the perpetual arrogance this displays. Hence this post. Lastly, color me impressed with your rather scientific calculation of IQ. I’m “afraid” alright.
    Alice | Email | Homepage | 11.25.03 – 4:29 pm | #

    “MR.E” – Delusion of one self in the hopes to be convincing enough so that others might not see through the veil of deception is a particularly human quality, although I’d like to think that the your admission puts you in a realm where few tread. I’d like to think that this is a quite extraordinary feat.

    “YETI” – For the record, I am not MD.
    Alice | Email | Homepage | 11.30.03 – 4:34 pm | #

    And I am not Alice.

    Of course, this proves nothing…

    MD | Email | Homepage | 11.30.03 – 9:59 pm | #