A Memoirby Roberta Payne
My first recollection of Victoria, other than her appearance, was her lion. She said she and her husband were living in the Bay Area, back in the early ’70s, when she owned a fully grown male lion. Victoria was pregnant at the time, and she recalled how gentle the lion was with her because of that. I can’t remember now how long she had the lion and whether it was still living with her when her son was born, but she said that the lion had been poisoned by a neighbor. “He went through agony,” she said, “and died with his head and mane in my lap.”
Of course I was astounded. Everything about Victoria astounded me then. I met her at a Mensa Christmas party in Denver, back in the late ’70s, when Mensa was still fun, not populated by so many peculiar people with odd beliefs. She was truly beautiful. She had the glowing, firm skin of a twenty-year-old beauty-pageant winner. Her chin, nose, and forehead were perfect too, especially her nose. Victoria had red hair, with lots of curls, long, down past her shoulders. Her brown eyes were huge. She usually held them wide open, taking in everything, fast, fast. She had a kind of souped-up speed that many very bright people have.
At the time it seemed to me that her eyes exposed her. The rest of her was self-assured, even cocky, but she had plaintive eyes. I do not mean the vulnerable eyes of Martin Luther King, and I do not mean the terrified eyes of an animal lit up by car lights on a nighttime road. I mean you could tell from them she was just begging not to be hurt.