Still, I did have these little surges of hope while I was in Vermont but it did not survive the trip back. I could get the concept, if just barely, of good feelings when my mind drifted to how it had just been. And I did have a sense that I had made a statement just by going to Vermont which, with its environmentalists and folk singers, the Bread & Puppet Theater, people working for civil rights and against the smug Reaganites, Vermont with its Socialist mayor of what was becoming known at the People’s Republic of Burlington, Vermont with its Green Mountains which were in fact so very green – and filled with life as compared to what in my mind were becoming the increasingly cold and stark White Mountains of New Hampshire, which were very close but could have been a thousand miles away.
As my mind roamed while on the bus down back down to the city, what had gone on up there just now in Rutland seemed to have no clear context. And after I was back in my still new and bright apartment in Chelsea with its view over an abandoned garden and then out and over low buildings almost to the Battery, I still could not recapture the recent hope I had felt in Vermont – much less the hope I had been I finding here in something like community on this block of people who had always been here – these people among whom I moved now like a wraith. Nor the hope I had found in the sympathy of David Yammer, and in my reading of Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child (its first title being Prisoners of Childhood).
And I was almost paralyzed. I had very little money, but I could not rouse myself to go for more, not even to go to Atlantic City. I had these book proposals floating around but I had lost heart with them – not just the now dead commercial one that involved lying about the West Indies that had taken me on that trip to the Bahamas with Ellen. But also the one that would be called Twins in the American Century. That last one, an editor’s idea, meant to take off from what had been in those grand houses in the White Mountains – the grandfather with his Pulitzer prize and his place on official college reading lists, my brother the good twin, who for years had been traveling the world, sometimes for the CIA, sometimes for cold war defense department agencies that taught free world allies in Southeast Asia how to kill more of their peasants – though in the book proposal my brother’s career was presented as a light element in this light book that Richard at Macmillan said they wanted if I would only give them the sample chapter they needed to make their sales people feel secure, this book that would be called Twins in the American Century, the American century being a term still current in the Reagan time, about the grandfather’s efforts as an internationalist to get America into world war II to aid the nice people (the English), with no mention in the proposal that in the White Mountains, which had become his family base, the hotels would not rent rooms to Jews.
Just my grandfather the serious internationalist, and my brother traveling on the payroll of the government for imperial reasons that, for book proposal purposes, I would not say infuriated me. And myself, the other twin, always traveling too but living by my wits, sort of, doing free lance projects and books that were sometimes real and sometime hack things and sometimes verged on what nice people would call pornography, and was associated with, I did not spell this out, the very people his brother, who had been raised as the good twin, were trying to kill, not mentioning that I the bad twin had very recently been underground in the Philippines, closely associated with figures in the Maoist New People’s army. Nor that there had been all those death threats phoned in to me in Manila and San Francisco and New York.
This was in my thoughts as, unable to sleep, I read a novel that was about someone coming to terms with his past in the most silly and sentimental way – and deciding to reconcile with them when he read the Robert Frost poem “The Death of the Hired Man,” read that famous line I could almost cry over,
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.
How brittle and cold and cruel. How long had it been since I had read poetry, which in some distant past so much a part of my life? I reread The Death of the Hired Man. The author of that novel did not mention that the hired man in question knew he could not go home. It did not mention the hired man’s brother, who was a bank director.
Home! Shit! There was something going on with my twin who was somewhere inside me and might be back there in the White Mountains now in the family house that had come into his possession. The last of the family houses in that place across the border, the stark White Mountains, which we had believed were soft and fluffy and safe, and where our lives had started.