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Norman Allan
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Chapter Fifteen: Genevieve

The fin de siecle artist, Mucha, has a set of prints of beautiful young women representing the seasons. "Spring" is a gorgeous blonde round-faced maiden (in my memory) carrying a bouquet of white lilies and looking like bright sunshine. Genevieve reminds me of "Spring". She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever set eyes on. (The only imperfect thing about Gen may have been her thick ankles: the English maid's curse.)
     A short while after Ted died, when I was over in London, I visited Genevieve. We were in our fifties then. She's a year younger then I. She's still wonderful to look at, and to be with. We went to lunch, then walked in the park. We talked mainly of current matters. We spoke of Ted as well, of course. I asked how they'd met.
     She was working for the theatrical management company that was putting on "I've Seen You Cut Lemons". Ted told Genevieve later that he and Sean Connery, who directed the play, "tossed a coin to see who would take me home. In fact Sean used to take me home sometimes in Ted's little car." However, it was Ted whom Gen started dating. That was 1969. Ted was 53. Genevieve was 25. Love flowed fast and deep. Oh, Ted's always reserving part of himself, was always second guessing every romantic moment, but yes (leaving Gerda Taro aside - a brief "might have been", that) this was the love of Ted's life.
     I have among Ted's papers, from a few years later, a series of letters between them. 1974: Ted was in Montreal filming "Lies My Father Told Me". In her letters Genevieve's warmth and intelligence is reflected along with the depth of her love for Ted. And from her letters we may garner that sexuality was not an unimportant ingredient of their relationship. And that Ted had matured by this time into an accomplished lover.

     In their letters, too, we can see Ted's continuing paranoia, and we can witness his jealous possessiveness of Genevieve at the same time that he is carrying on a hot love affair in Montreal. Jealous letters to Gen and romantic letters to some Elle overlap in time.
     I asked Gen about Ted's womanising. Did it matter to her that he might be out with other women when he was away from her? Gen thought that "knowing the sort of extraordinary person Ted was" his infidelities came with the territory, so the women he was involved with accepted this, she said. (1)

When Ted met Gen she was a secretary. I am not sure of the time course, but eventually she moved in with Ted in the Putney apartment. A small kitchen, a small bedroom, bathroom (the tiny spare room) and the one large studio room: given the size of Ted's personality and the fact that he was working at home, they were quite crowded. In these early years, when they were first living together, I recall, Gen took a creative writing course. Then she got a job as a junior sub-editor at Cosmopolitan. As I mentioned, she was warm, she was intelligent, she was beautiful. She did not radiate self-confidence, indeed, with me, she tended more to be self-deprecating. She certainly wasn't in any apparent way pushy, but she rose rapidly in her profession as a journalist/editor. Towards the end of the seventies, at a time when Ted and Gen were becoming distant both in their domicile - he spending more and more time in the States - and consequently emotionally more removed as well, she became editor of the Sunday Times "colour section" - no mean achievement. Later, in the eighties, she was the first woman editor of a major London newspaper when she headed the Evening News.
     Ted wrote little of Gen. There is one lament, written after, titled "Is It Really Over", and an anecdote, I'll quote, later. As I saw their story, from my distance, Ted took Genevieve very much for granted. And he was very ambivalent about how deeply he wanted to be committed.

     Ted and Genevieve lived together for about eight years. As time progressed I think Ted's ambivalence intensified along with his love and along with his drive to be the first to leave. He wrote songs about that: "I love you too much. I'm leaving first."
     In the later years, their last years, she too had other romantic interests, and she came to covet the apartment (where she had lived so many years). And finally they parted in the autumn of 1978. Ted felt that the fact that she had rejected him, that she was seriously involved in another relation, that this triggering of "abandonment issues", helped precipitate his heart attack.

This summer Kate recalled how, "After Ted's heart attack he wanted Gen to come over." Kate paused, then added with relish, "She refused!"

Genevieve Cooper, beautiful Gen, was the love of Ted's life. They remained closed friends, by telephone, but the early years of their separation grieved Ted deeply.

From a piece of prose titled: "IS IT REALLY OVER?"

"Eight years together. Or was it eight years and some months? I used to wake up and watch you sleeping, smiling to myself. I kept telling you over the years that it would be better for you if we split, but I never believed we would. We'd become a part of one another. You always complained that I overwhelmed you and that you had to free yourself from my influence. "I can't think a single thought," you said, "without asking myself what you think." That also made me smile.
     So many things you said or did made me smile. Every time I'd say you were beautiful and you'd hastily retort, "I'm not!" That whole catechism of me praising and you denying or questioning. It was a funny routine.
     It's three years now since we broke up. Do you realise that? I've had affairs, but I haven't been able to fall in love with anyone else. And I can't quite understand how you did.
     I kept feeling you were my sun that made the day bright and alive for me. I've got it all figured out now why I wasn't able to show you how much I loved you and why I behaved the way I did. I was simply afraid. I sit here typing, trying to make it funny, but there's this damned empty feeling in my stomach and I still can't get myself to accept that it's over. Is it really? Are you really in love with someone else?
     I know you share the same physical intimacies with your lover as you did with me. It's normal and inevitable. The repertoire of love making is not all that varied. But surely you cannot possibly laugh as much with him as you did with me?
     We start laughing within seconds of seeing each other. I'm not saying we're dullards on our own, but together we bubble and effervesce like no two people I know. And yet, having written this, I can't remember what made us laugh, what we said that set us howling. And that is over? I can't believe it.
     I keep remembering the very first time I saw you over ten years ago. You were wearing a mini skirt and looking enticing, inviting, but it was your face that enchanted me. I mean enchant in the fullest sense. It still has that effect on me. I feel hypnotised, brought to heaven, and to tears. Why did I always want to cry when I held you?
     Do you remember our trips to Spain, to France, to China? The way I shouted at you in the train to Shanghai and the Chinese translator called me a male chauvinist. The dreary unpleasantness of southern Spain for us. God! how we hated each other then. But against that was the magic of that old hotel near the Arc de Triumph, the room you loved, and that wonderful sea food restaurant around the corner? That delicious meal we ate and that vintage Pouilly Fuisee we drank and couldn't stop praising?

I remember how you'd walk into the bedroom backwards and I never paid any attention until the night I asked, "Did you just walk in backwards?"
     You waited a moment and then sat up and said, "Look at me." 
     I'd been reading something and I was momentarily puzzled. I was looking at you.
     "Look at me," you repeated.
     "I am looking at you."
     "What do you see? you asked.
     "I see you." I wondered what game you had decided to play.
     "I know you see me, but what do you see?" you asked.
     I stared at your hair, your face, mouth, eyes, and I shrugged.
     "My hair," you informed me, "is full of curlers."
     I nodded. "Yes. You're hair is full of curlers as it often is when you come to bed," I replied.
      "I always," you said, "walk in backwards when I put curlers in my hair so you won't see what I look like. I then turn my back to you, say goodnight, and wait until you've finished reading and put out the light before I turn. I've been doing it for over six years."
     I looked at those curlers and then at you. "Do you think I don't know what you look like with curlers?" I started to laugh.
     "But this is the first time you've noticed that I walk into the bedroom backwards," you pointed out.
     "That is true," I said puzzled by my never having noticed so singular a method of entering the bedroom.
     "You never noticed!" you said accusingly.
     "I noticed!" I argued, "but I didn't pay any particular attention, or considered it with any special significance."
     "Right," you said turning your back to me and waiting for me to put out the light. We laughed then and we couldn't stop.

Three years separated. Had you realised it was that long? But even now when we see each other we laugh, and I feel loved and I know you feel loved, so why is it over between us?
     I wanted children with you, at least two, maybe three. I thrilled every time I saw you with children.
     So many memories. So many revelations that come too late. Our visit to Gerda's grave in Paris. I was in love with Gerda and didn't know it. I was in love with you and didn't know it. I mean I couldn't face it, or accept it. I never could until recently, when it was too late. You were the only person I ever took to Gerda's grave. Actually, I had never gone to her grave until you came with me that summer afternoon and waited outside the Pierre Lachase cemetery while I went inside to weep and to finally say goodbye. I can see you standing there waiting for me beside the car, your blonde hair a halo in the sun.
     There were so many things wrong with us, weren't there? My inability to be quiet and secure, protective and reassuring. Your inability to be the same. Your feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. The way I'd "ignore" you at parties, walk to the other side of the room and leave you to yourself. And you feeling abandoned and that I was ashamed of you. I'd steal glances at you thinking you were the most beautiful woman in the room, and never convey any of it to you.
     There were times you bored me. My God, your obsessions with your dress and hair drove me to distraction and, alas, too often to rudeness. I don't like remembering my own self absorption, or the times I became impatient and irritable and lost my temper, and how unpleasant and boring I must have been to you. What a piece of work is man - and woman.

That drive to the airport a few weeks ago in London - you picked me up Sunday morning and you looked radiant in your leather trousers and white jacket. I was happy knowing we loved one another and I felt that your affair with the nice young man would run its course and then you and I would get married. I had always felt this. I felt it even stronger when you said, "I have a feeling we'll be seeing each other."
     The end between us seems really to have come when you gave me Peter's note on our way to the airport, or was it in the airport... [Ted starts to gripe about Genevieve's boy friend (husband to be) - how his note was thoughtless or rude - that he wasn't that nice.] ...Well, it looks like the note finally accomplished what you'd been trying to accomplish unsuccessfully for years: to get me to accept that it was really over between us. I had never been able to accept it before even though we've been separated by three years and six thousand miles. The ending of this has taken me by surprise.
     I had planned to write a funny piece about us, but it isn't funny. It's pathetic. Three years, six thousand miles and I'm still asking, "Is it really over?"

Hollywood nights. Ted writes...

"Stan and me on the beach:
     Stanley: People are pigs. All people are pigs except you and me.
     Me: And I wouldn't lend you $100 when you asked... so that leaves just you.
     Stanley: Yup.
     Stanley: (After a pause) I know the one word that could depress you.
     Me: Which?
     Stanley: Genevieve.
     Long pause. Yes that depressed me.
     Stanley: She loved you. She adored you. You used to treat her so badly. You told her to get out. Why did you treat her like that?
     Me: Stanley. Leave me alone.
     Stanley: Okay.

chapter sixteen