July 24, 1900 – March 10, 1948
I was that skinny girl who ran bare foot
embarrassing my mother who thought a judge’s
daughter should be more disciplined to avoid
gossip in Montgomery. I dream of times when
my ‘Jellies’ and I scandalized the town, but what
they talked about the most was the time
bare feet for that dashing lieutenant and escaped
with F.S.F. and headed for the big city, leaving
my innocent days behind to fall into the pit
of darkness; of being controlled by a husband who
loved me; who took credit for my creativity,
works that should have had only my byline.
I dream of the big windows — floor to ceiling — with
French doors leading down to this rolling lawn;
of my platinum-and-diamond wristwatch Scott gave me
that sparkled in the candlelight when I danced and
hugged my wrist as tightly as Scott hugged my waist.
I dream of dancing the Charleston to Cole’s music;
of us drinking the beckoning green poison to excess;
staying ’til dawn in a stage of inebriation. I dream
of the purple morning glories climbing to the eaves on this
house where now the vines, like me, are no longer supple.
Sometimes I think of our soirees; think of women
like Hadley, how she must have felt knowing people
gossiped about her lack of backbone; her turning
away when Hem and that hateful woman writer
overtook Had’s comfortable way of living with a man
who commanded each scene, trying to prove his
value to society and his lap dog FSF, who catered
to his every need from wordage to money, neglecting
his own muse, leaving me and Hadley to sit with Alice,
wasting time, while the men engaged Gertrude for hours,
vying with each other for center stage, but it was always
the big man who talked of war; of his value to those who
stayed on the fringe, listening to his verbalizing, his use
of fisticuffs, the African bush life, never caring about
man nor the four-legged victims who became fodder
for his pen and ego, even Max was drawn into his snare,
neglecting FSF whose glass was always half full, never empty.
Hear her coming down the hall? The big woman always opens
the door at twelve o’clock, but I’ve already turned my back
and ignore her question. Are you awake? Nelda?
My hands, as in prayer, under my cheek and I remember
my beautiful diamond wristwatch; pay no attention
as though in sleep. Someone calls her, so now it’s
time to dream again, dream of my ‘Jellies’, of home, of mama
and papa — who always called me Baby — and I dream of those
glorious morning glories climbing up the side of our house
while I lie on the lush grass — ignoring chiggers — and remember
leaving Montgomery with FSF, but I know he’s already lying cold
and mingling with the ashes of yesterday, leaving behind
the promise of the two of us and I wonder if Hem ever
thought about how he robbed other people
of their place in the sun, but I know he moved on
to catch minnows who wanted to swim around in his pond.
Sometimes I dream of holding the baby, and how soft her body feels
through her many layers of fine clothes, but always there is
F.S.F. who is with me, fighting or loving with his arms cupping
my breasts, always ‘taking charge’, pushing me to take a dare.
I think of our fight on a train going somewhere when
I threw my beautiful diamond wristwatch out the train window.
Mostly I dream of dancing and painting; of me and Jozaan on the beach.
Did you take my beautiful platinum-and-diamond wristwatch?
It’s my special treasure. Where are my paints? My favorite paintbrush
with camel’s hair? There’s smoke. Papa’s having the yard boy
burn leaves again. Smell that? It’s like the time I set fire
to my bedroom and we left that house.
That woman who called me Nelda? She’s crazy.
I know my name is Zelda with a capital Z. Zelda Sayre,
my father is the judge here in Montgomery, Alabama
and my mother belongs to the Womens’ Tuesday Bible Class.
Yes, that’s right. It’s Zelda with a capital Z, then e . . .
Note: Scott Fitzgerald gave Zelda a platinum-and-diamond wrist
watch when he sold movie rights to Head and Shoulders
for $2,500. On the night of March 10, l948 Highland Hospital
caught on fire. Zelda, after returning from a dance, had taken
her prescribed sedative. Along with eight other women Zelda
was trapped inside. All nine perished in the fire.