Excerpt of Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
(Page 2 of 9)
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The first time I wasn't your husband yet. You were already twenty, because it was the
weekend after we went to City Island for your birthday. And I didn't hit you. You know I
didn't hit you. You see, Fran, this is what you do. You twist things. You always twist
things. I can hear him in my head. And I know he's right. He didn't hit me, that first
time. He just held onto my upper arm so tight that the mark of his fingertips was like a
tattoo, a black sun with four small moons revolving around it.
It was summer, and I couldn't wear a sundress for a week, or take off my clothes when my
sister, Grace, was in the room we shared, the one that looked out over the air shaft to
the Tarnowski's apartment on the other side. He had done it because I danced with Dee
Stemple's brother and then laughed when he challenged me on it. He held me there, he said,
so that I couldn't get away, because if I got away it would be the end of him, he loved me
that much. The next night he pushed back the sleeve of my blouse and kissed each mark, and
his tears wet the spots as though to wash the black white again, as white as the rest of
my white, white skin, as though his tears would do what absolution did for venial sins,
wash them clean. "Oh, Jesus," he whispered, "I am so goddamned sorry."
And I cried, too. When I cried in those days it was always for his pain, not for mine.
As rich and persuasive as Bobby Benedetto's voice, that was how full and palpable was his
sorrow and regret. And how huge was his rage. It was like a twister cloud; it rose
suddenly from nothing into a moving thing that blew the roof off, black and strong. I
smell beer, I smell bourbon, I smell sweat, I smell my own fear, ranker and stronger than
all three. I smell it now in the vast waiting room of Thirtieth Street Station in
There are long wooden benches and my son, Robert, and I have huddled together into the
corner of one of them. Across from us slumps a man in the moth-eaten motley of the
homeless, who smells of beer and vomit like so many I've seen in the waiting room at the
hospital, cooking up symptoms from bad feet to blindness to get a bed for the night, an
institutional breakfast on a tray. The benches in Thirtieth Street Station are solid,
plain, utilitarian, like the pews in St. Stanislaus. The Church of the Holy Pollack, Bobby
called St. Stannie's, but he still wanted us to be married there, where he'd been
baptized, where his father had been eulogized as a cop's cop. I had never lived in one
place long enough to have a real home parish, and I'd agreed. Together we'd placed a rose
from my bouquet at the side altar, in front of the statue of St. Joseph, in memory of
Bobby's father. It was the only memory of his father that Bobby ever shared with me.
The great vaulted ceiling of the train station arched four stories over us, Robert and I
and our one small carryall bag, inside only toothbrushes, a change of clothes, some
video-game cartridges and a book, a romance novel, stupid, shallow, but I had enough of
real life every day to last me forever. Gilded, majestic, the station was what I'd
believed the courtroom would be like, that day I went to court, when my husband took the
State your name.
Robert Anthony Benedetto.
And your occupation?
I'm a police officer for the City of New York.
The courtroom in the state supreme court had been nothing at all like Thirtieth Street
Station. It was low-ceilinged, dingy, paneled in dark wood that sucked up all the light
from low windows that looked out on Police Plaza. It seemed more like a rec room than a
courtroom. The train station in Philadelphia looked the way I'd always imagined a
courtroom would look, or maybe the way one would look in a dream, if you were dreaming you
were the judge, or the accused. Robert was staring up at the ceiling, so high above that
those of us scattered around the floor so far below were diminished, almost negated by it.
At one end of the huge vaulted room was a black statue of an angel holding a dead or dying
man. I thought it was a war memorial, and under normal circumstances I would have walked
across to read the inscription on the block beneath the angel's naked toes. But whatever
the opposite of normal circumstances was, this was it. I shivered in the air-conditioning,
dressed for July in a room whose temperature was lowered to April, my mind cold as
Use of this excerpt from Black and Blue by Anna
Quindlen may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or
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Copyright© 1998 by Anna Quindlen. All rights reserved.