Penthouse Retrospective

by John Green Originally Published: July, 1983

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

“You recall very well. You have a perfect memory.”

“You wouldn’t want me to betray a confidence, would you?”

“Yes. I pay you, don’t I?”

I shuffled the cards. “Perhaps it would help if you asked specific questions.”

I was baiting her and she knew it.

“I want to know how John feels about me.” She spoke slowly, with exasperated care.

I laid out the cards. “I’d say he loves you.”

And he did. Over the next five years I was to have the opportunity of seeing John demonstrate that love in many ways.


On a fine April afternoon, I got a phone call from Yoko.

“Guess what?” she teased happily.

“I wouldn’t dare,” I said seriously.

“We’re pregnant! Isn’t it amazing? Now, I have to see you right away. I haven’t told John yet, because I need to know how he’s going to take this. I’m in a phone booth on the street outside the doctor’s office. I’ll be right over to see you.” Click.

Visits from Yoko were rare and my apartment was hardly in shape to receive a client. Quickly I folded up the bed, picked up socks and other flotsam, and attempted to create at least some illusion of order. I was thus engaged when I heard her knock at the door.

I let her in and she went directly to the reading table, settling herself into one of the director’s chairs and hugging herself in her mink jacket while I got out the cards. “Okay, we’re pregnant and we’re going to have the baby, understood?” she announced as the consultation began. Then came the inevitable barrage of questions. Will it miscarry? Boy or girl? Retarded? Deformed? She puffed furiously at her cigarettes. Most importantly, how was John going to take the news?

“He’ll be thrilled,” I predicted. And he was, as I learned the following evening when I went to read for him.

“Charles “ said John. “Have you heard the good news, Charles?” he said as he walked into the White Room. “We’re pregnant!” He sat down across from me on the sofa, obviously in a serious mood. “I’m going to be a father again, Charles,” he began, “and I’m not prepared for this new beginning. I’ve got too many ends, too much unfinished business. Particularly with May. You know, I never really settled things with her. I don’t see her anymore but she’s still around. She calls sometimes but I don’t talk to her. Even so, it makes Yoko crazy. I guess you’ve heard all about that from her, haven’t you?” I nodded. “I’m not being fair to May. I know it and it bothers me. She didn’t do anything wrong.”

“So … talk to her. The silent treatment is probably hurting her more than anything you could say.”

“I can’t. I’m afraid. If I called, she’d ask me to come and see her. I can’t say no, can I? I can never say no. So I’d go see her and even if I didn’t sleep with her it would ruin things here … this life, this marriage. I can’t risk that. There’s going to be a baby. I have to straighten things out. I mean, I don’t know if May is waiting for me or wants to tell me to go fuck myself, which she certainly has the right to do, or what. ’ ’

“What did you tell her when you went away?”

“Didn’t. I didn’t really know I was leaving. I never do. I mean, it was in the air: ’Someday he’ll go back to his wife. ’ Then one day I realized that someday was today and I was here.

“I never really go away from things, you know. I go to things. I never realize what I’ve left ’til I get where I ’m going.”

“You left Yoko,” I interjected.

“No, not really, and she didn’t throw me out either. I’d been doing my Mind Games album and it really had me going. I was going all the time. Yoko and I were bothering each other but I was on the go and didn’t notice how much. So one night I was just going to get a paper. Then I realized what I was actually doing was going for a walk. Then, while I was walking, I realized what I was really doing was going to see May. I was seeing May and that was going on ’til I realized that I was going to stay with her awhile. That’s how I realized I’d left Yoko and that’s when I realized that I was going to get back together with her … ‘someday. ’ Now I’m back, and I’m going to stay, I’m going to not call, write, or going otherwise do anything to upset this particular apple cart, as it were. May wasn’t just a bit of fun on the side, you know. She knows Yoko, too. It was Yoko’s idea to hire her.

“Like I said, Yoko and I were having our problems, sexual, among others. Yoko suggested that May would work for me. If anything went on between the boss and the secretary (and knowing the boss, there would be!), well, so be it.

“It sounded like a good idea. The marriage had its problems and May was there. But as always happens, it got involved. May got involved with me and started feeling loyal and protective toward me, which I love. She stopped her reports to the wife, for which I will be eternally grateful. That’s when it stopped being a good idea. I couldn’t be married to one woman and sleeping with another. I was fragmented as it was. I needed a whole something in my life.”

“And do you have that whole something now? ’ ’ I asked.

“Well, three quarters of a something, maybe. But as the baby proves, Yoko and I do sleep together. Besides, I’m not convinced that a perfect relationship is a whole one. To be perfect it has to have a few holes, doesn’t it? And that still leaves us with May.”

A compelling view from a unique perspective on a rock music icon and the absurdities that surround him.

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