Friday, October 2, 2009

#14 – YOUNG

The most surprising thing in those first days of going to these groups in that dark time was that I found there a kind of relief that I would not have thought possible. It felt different but also very similar to how it had been at times I would pack up a few belongings and jettison the rest, then sometimes head off more alone then ever or sometimes say goodbye to someone I would not admit I was betraying by leaving town. Head off in a cab to what when I first started all this was called Idlewild and then became Kennedy to board a plane, which gave me the feeling that maybe life as life should be was starting now. The exhilaration had been especially intense one January day when my cab drove off in a blizzard and I knew I would soon be in Bangkok. That morning I had turned to do some final packing and when I turned back Susi had gone. In note on my coffee table she had said this parting was just too much. It had left me sad and relieved at the same time. The kind of sweet sadness, I told myself, that was so important to know if you were going to be a really fine writer.

One of the meetings I was going to entailed writing our reactions of questions about yourself, which meant scenes and stories. There was a tall, soft woman named Jenny who seemed to me more girl than woman. She was writing beside me at a conference table at St. Vincent’s. We learned the most horrifying things about each other’s families when we read aloud, and so it seemed we had no alternative except to sleep together.

The first night she was in my place above a deserted garden me in Chelsea, I heard my answering machine click on. At this stage we were lying on the floor right next to the machine. The volume was already all the way down but there were high tinny sounds from the tape and I had thought I heard my twin brother speak. I had been trashing him in these meetings, this perennially good little boy twin who had joined cold war government agencies that taught people in third world countries how to more effectively kill more uppity peasants. I could swear I heard his voice telling me I had to drop everything, especially Jenny and anyone like her, and devote the rest of my life to taking care of dying relatives, starting with my mother and moving on to obscure cousins.

It wasn’t my brother at all but at last I knew what other people at these meetings were talking about when they said those people from the past are inside you. They were sure inside me, saying no and no and no – to the point where I thought I had them on tape – which gave a nice illicit touch to what I was doing with Jenny, and also made me wonder for the first time if there was not something more going on than I could admit to.

In the morning we decided to head uptown to the Met. I wanted to show her favorite paintings of mine – I was taking all this that seriously. On the E train she brought out her Walkman – which seemed like the most illicit thing I had every encountered, †he awful, begrudging, our-kind-of-people people I had though I had escaped were not people who listened to music in public. They were certainly not people who would know what a Walkman was. On the sidewalk on Fifth across from the park I was suddenly young and starting out in life as we crossed our arms in an X behind us and she held to my waist and I to hers.

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