My Name is Jane

written by Christine Unger

My father loved Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan. So here I am, Jane. But I’m nothing like Tarzan’s Jane. The thought of appearing in public in an animal skin sarong is so unappealing it actually makes me smile. He can’t have know that his baby girl would be a plain Jane.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter. I may have been upset by this as a girl, but now, in my 40s, it’s become an absolute asset in my new profession. Some private eyes need coats and glasses to become unmemorable. I don’t.

But this story isn’t really about me, it’s about another Jane and she, well, she was an artist, she was art. I’m not even sure she was beautiful, but she projected herself into the world with the allure of an Egyptian feline. She wrapped herself in animal skins and companioned herself with noble beasts, and her partner, Dick, I’d swear, was as much animal as man. She WAS Jane.

Her story became my fascination and my salvation, and now, my fate. It is still a fabric full of holes, stitched together from the shreds of her carefully camouflaged existence: bits that still cling to those people, things, and places she touched, remnants of stories captured in rare interviews, insights recorded by writers more perceptive than myself. I’m recording it here—what I’ve discovered, what I suspect—despite how crazy it seems.

I spent a good part of my life avoiding crises, imagining that I was living when I was really just waiting and watching. I existed in a self-imposed limbo, like an enormous mouthful of air held too long, and when I finally let it go I almost lost myself and the person I cared most about, was gone. I’m still repenting those years. No, I’m not talking about Jane, she’s not the one I lost. That’s another story. But Jane is part of it and I don’t want to lose any more parts. I’ve learned to follow my instincts. No more waiting. I am knitting myself into the picture of life, changing the pattern, adding a layer or two of my own.

I remember a lecture Jane once gave on synchronicity “there’s a larger body of existence, an ocean, that is both synchronous and timeless, if you can just run your hand overtop, you’ll be surprised what comes to the surface. Nothing really dies, it’s just lost in the layers. Open your eyes,” she laughed gently, like she’d just made an inside joke.

I can hear her voice now, that seductive, raspy, southern lilt of hers. She spoke, turned away from her audience. Standing alone on a dark stage, just her hallmark platinum wig, glowing, disembodied, above her audience. People who had never heard her speak made fun of Jane’s vanity, sure that her desire for anonymity was nothing more than a publicity stunt, building her mystique. I know the reasons now, I get the joke. I didn’t know exactly what she meant at the time, but her words brought me out of the depression that threatened to swallow me whole after my partner disappeared. I determined to run my hand over the surface and see what came up. Jane gave me a life. The least I can do now is write down what I’ve learned about hers.