as the stepbrother emerges from the elevator, the sunlight streams through the glass door and beams golden off his white hair.
we do not hug or shake hands. instead, we embark upon a somewhat frantic tour of the house. i feel less like a biographer and more like a buyer, come to bid not only on the home but all the contents within.
the stepbrother’s name yields the shallowest of googles. i know very little about him and didn’t realize he had a wife and children until i’m standing in the castle’s breakfast nook staring at their portraits adorning the walls.
as with most everything i do these days, i’m not entirely certain why i’m here. we’ve two hours to talk and i come bearing a mere question and a half.
and yet, within ten minutes of small talk over framed photographs and family memorabilia, an amazingly random, potentially awesome story begins to emerge. i don’t know what to do with it but, before the stepbrother has even uttered a word about jackie, i assume i’ll be coming back.
but we’re here to talk about jackie for now.
the stepbrother sits in a high-backed chair. he gestures at the various available seating options and declares the couch “difficult.” ever one to choose the path of most resistance, i sit there.
the word “difficult” is generous. the couch is a full foot shorter than a sofa made for modern man and whatever cotton once comprised it has now decayed to the consistency of a gel.
sitting down is like free-falling onto a water-bed. my feet leave the floor and for a glimmer of a moment there’s a very real fear i’ll go bobbing over the sofa’s back. this is not good.
quickly, i gather my wits. using the momentum remaining from my initial fall into the sofa and the force of the subsequent gelatinous waves, i lurch forward so that i’m teetering on the edge of the beastly thing, my feet en pointe.
despite the awkward posture (and a belated awareness of the visibility of my bra), throughout the interview, i’ve a very great sense of how incredibly cool i am being.
for instance, when the stepbrother says, well, of course, you know jackie’s mother died in this room, i nod and smile as though that were, in fact, something i had known.
when he mentions that patrick kennedy’s wedding is scheduled for the middle of the month, i nod and smile, as my last hope of ever marrying into the kennedy family vanishes in the room where jackie’s mother breathed her last.
if the process of writing biography has taught me anything, it has taught me the very great importance of appearing cool. because the biographer has to confront his or her own inadequacies and ridiculousness on a near-daily basis and yet keep fumbling forward, moving against a very keen sense of his or her own ineptitude.
i am doing this. i am trying to be cool. usually i’m just inept and the uncoolest uncool one could ever be, but i’m trying.
i’ve not listened to the tape of this interview beyond checking to ensure that it did record, so when people have asked for details, all i’ve been able to give are the very few soundbites that were able to break through the mental curtain of OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD.
and, as i sat in the castle that day, not much made it beyond that curtain. just a few little bits…
i have sat in the room where janet auchincloss died.
i’ll likely never marry a kennedy.
during WWII, with flirty sailors at the nearby naval base, jackie traded chickens for steaks.