Wednesday, February 3, 2010
47 – 90 DAYS
I was dating now, but not for long with Jenny. She had been telling me how frightened she was, including being frightened by an overbearing young man from ACOA who worked with her as a volunteer at Covenant House – this not long before it was discovered the priest who founded Covenant House was having sex with some of the street children his organization was meant to protect. Bonnie’s fear was not new. It had been clear just before the evening I went to her place with flowers. She had left a breathless message on my machine saying “Have you got it too? The obsession?” And when I got to her place, it turned out she had not gone to bed at all the night before since she was so excited about our date.
Now, she said, we’d better slow down. Too much in the air right now, she said. Things had gone so far so quickly that we should pull back and take 90 days off from sex.
Ninety days was a magical 12-step number, like the Bible’s 40 and 7. It came up in all the programs Jenny attended – 12 step programs that went beyond those for the obvious addictions of alcohol, food, gambling and drugs and took in such matters as procrastination, messy apartments, and love and sex. In these programs you were expected to start with 90 meetings in 90 days, and announce each day how many days you had into recovery from what you were trying to change. And later a 90-day time out was also standard practice when a relationship got so confused that your recovery from whatever you were recovering from was threatened.
It seemed silly to me. I had looked into AA the last time 11 years back when I had just stopped drinking. I did not attend now and I had attended only one meeting back when I came off 23 years of heavy drinking. So I had never gone through an official 90 days at the start. I had not announced my latest number of drink-free days in rooms full of supportive people. After that one meeting 11 years ago I had gone for coffee with a fat man from Alabama who had just canceled a trip home for the holidays for fear he would drink on the bus. I told him I was at the start of my non-drinking. He said I should make no sudden moves. Program people followed certain guidelines, he said. No travel. No new relationships. Not till you’ve had your first 90 days and then your first full year. Despite my belief in tolerance, I felt contempt for him.
Two weeks later I was on my way once again to the Far East, this time with a free ticket to Bangkok my book editor had arranged. Not long after I got there I met a girl in Manila and I was thinking that I was falling in love, and thinking, practically before we talked, that I wanted to marry her.
In the Far East that time I had passed the age of forty and had not had a single marriage yet. I had lived with Vannie and Bonnie and sort of lived with a few others, but I had never been married. And when I got to Asia sober I felt a nostalgia for so much that had never been. Western men I had known in the past were still there and all of them now had appealing Asian wives. Everyone was moving along except maybe me, even though, just off the booze, I had all this sudden energy. In quite quick succession now that I was back in Asia I went to Bangkok, Singapore, Djakarta, Bali, Taipei, Hong Kong. After a party in Singapore I went out to the old bars I had frequented. Not drinking now
I was an alien in this world, which reinforced the feeling that I was drifting away.
I went with a journalist friend and a guy with whom I had taken flying lessons in the deep past out to a rambling place called the Tiger Club, which had been a British forces club and was now open to just about anyone who wanted to join. Someone I met said he had to make a phone call. When he came back his said someone was driving right over who had to see me.
It was the school psychologist from the American school. He had been told on the phone that Fred Poole who was the one who wrote under the name Andrew Harris was in town. The school psychologist, Ed, a big, pleasant seeming man slightly gone to seed, had been telling people for years about his experience with Andrew Harris’s Bangkok After Dark, a soft core porn book I had written in the sixties. Ed had heard about an opening for a school psychologist at a private school in Bangkok. He had gone to a bookstore in Seattle, where he was practicing his school p trade, and the only book they had on hand about Thailand was the Harris book. Ed shook my hand now and said how much he had been wanting to thank me. The book was enough to him to divorce his wife before flying to Thailand, and the sex was everything Andrew Harris claimed, and then he taken this job in Singapore, and the sex was really great here too. It was not long after this that I got married in Manila.
It had been fun and sad that anyone would take that hack book so seriously, though it was mostly based on truth. Andrew Harris and Bankok After Dark, Taipei After Dark, Manila After Dark. And now some years later Andrew Harris was being asked to refrain from sex for 90 days.
Until now with Bonnie I had never honored the magic number 90, but I was relieved to have a break from her. In memories that were coming now there had been relief anytime anything, good or bad, came to an end. My marriage, so full of hope at the start, to that girl in Manila whom I had thought would be my life. My past times with Vannie, and also with Bonnie and Judy and with Rae and Irma and Anne Marie and Cathy, all the way back to Kitty. There had been all these hopeful beginnings, and projections about future possibilities for what might follow. But there were the endings.