If I do

Alone in the elevator, they kissed. DC Baines shifted his satchel of papers to pull Cathy to him, right hand on her ass, groin to groin. Cathy kept an eye on the lighted numbers as they rose. A floor from their stop, she pulled her lips away, leaned against his chest, prepared to break when the elevator bumped and slowed, brought her arms down from him, moved apart. The last number glowed, the bell rang, they greeted the opening door at parade rest, DC holding the satchel in front of him in both hands to shield his erection, all ready for the law offices of Garry, Dreyfus, McTernan, Brotsky, Herndon & Pesonen, smiles intact and stepping forth.

DC held the elevator door, said, “After you, Cathy.”

“Thanks, DC,” chipper and alert.

Case in point for the need for this, Beverly Absalom, in the hall waiting, as it turned out, for Cathy. Such caution, and still Beverly scrutinized them as she shook his hand. DC kissed her gentlemanly on the cheek. Bev inhaled. Could she detect an excessive admixture of Cathy-molecules on DC, the substance-in-common two people create when they are, like their odors, entangled?

“I have to talk to Charlie,” said DC, and to Cathy, “Nice talking to you,” proceeded down the hall.

“Where’s Jimmy?” asked Bev, which sounded like What have you done with him? “I called your house.”

“Got in last night from Boston. At a meeting in Berkeley.”

Would Bev tell Jimmy what she suspected if she suspected? Yes and no. She would signal by inflection: “I saw Cathy and DC yesterday.” “I was at a meeting. Cathy and DC were there.”

Such news would not come to Jimmy from anyone black. If Jimmy spoke to Big Man of the Panthers who had seen DC with Cathy at the Right Spot in Oakland last week, Big Man would make no mention of that in any inflection no matter what tensions existed between the Panthers and DC, or what sympathies might lie that moment between Big Man and Jimmy. That was nobody’s business but DC’s. If DC were married, signals might arrive to his wife from black women, oh I saw him with that white girl from San Francisco, you know, the antiwar one, but DC was not married, and whoever he was with he was with, no gossip intended, none taken. Women with whom he was not involved could say, who was that nice looking girl I saw, you know, the [gesture of hand meaning white one]. The color line, or color membrane to be more accurate, did not leak.

The bond of gender, on the other hand, was porous as lace. There were too many reasons to convey gossip or surmise: To test Jimmy (see what his love is made of), to prove a point (women are free), to punish him (ha ha and with a good friend of his), to punish him (die, chauvinist insect), to punish him (I know what you did in Boston), to punish him (and you did it with my best friend’s woman), to punish her (Heavy Couples are oppressive), to get Jimmy for oneself.

And yet. No one ever told Jimmy. If monogamy didn’t matter in 1968, then non-monogamy didn’t matter either. Nobody’s Business If I Do so outran gossip the FBI gave up trying to blackmail anyone in the Bay Area. DC and Cathy did not flaunt it because they would not hurt Jimmy’s pride, which was their pride as well. They both loved him, simple as that.

And in this moment, anything could happen that would engulf them all. Riots in a hundred cities, though none in the Bay Area, such was the steadying influence of the Black Panthers despite the shootout in West Oakland two days before, Little Bobby Hutton killed, Eldridge Cleaver wounded.

“C’mere,” said Bev, “I’ve got bad news.” She laid her briefcase on the reception desk. “The DA’s called a bail revocation hearing. Tomorrow.”

Cathy opened her mouth.

“I have NO IDEA,” said Beverly. “Something’s afoot. Do you and Jimmy have any sources of bail money other than Cosmo?”


“You’re not listening. It’s a bail revocation hearing. Either Jimmy violated his terms, which I doubt. Should I doubt?”

Cathy shook her head. Anything could have happened in Boston.

“Or something’s screwy with his bail. Or, and I’m ready to believe anything, something unthinkable has happened.”

Cathy looked down the hall in the direction DC had gone. Didn’t mean to, inadvertant. Bev followed her look.

“Where’s Cosmo?” Bev asked.

“I don’t know. He’s been gone. His place in Napa doesn’t have a phone.”

“Have Jimmy call me the minute.”