Tuesday, February 9, 2010


On a warm June evening I take Gillian to a wonderfully seedy outdoor place I used to go to in summer in the early sixties. That was before there was universal air conditioning. Amazingly the place is still here – a dilapidated, walled garden with wobbly chairs and tables and strings of colored lights behind a marginal Italian restaurant way down on Sixth.

Twenty five years before this time with Gillian, back in the early sixties when I was briefly a job holder, I would skip out on some summer days and head to this outdoor place. I would meet a fleshy, horny rich girl named Alice whom I had met when she was a bridesmaid and I an usher in the very social wedding of college friends. In the garden, we would get carafe after carafe of wine and serving of things heavy with garlic and oil such as were never known in the Waspy places we came from. Mostly we neglected the food for foreplay.

And now all these years later I am here with Gillian this evening and I am feeling that time is timeless. The colored lights are jolly, though they make me think of heavy drinking days and dark White Rose bars that keep their Christmas decorations up all year round.

I stuff paper napkins under an uneven table leg, like I used to do with match books. Before the antipasto comes, Gillian leads off with a strange invasive question. She asks me what my “truth path” is – as if anyone would know what such a term meant.

I suspect it has to do with platitudinous things that have appeared since I first brought girls here, which was before anyone ever heard the term New Age.

Her truth path, she says, is Tibetan Buddhism. Then, with no conversational lead-in, she is telling me intimate details of her life. She says her father abandoned her when she was coming into puberty, leaving her to a semi-famous, sex-mad mother, a mother who presented herself as Upper East Side old family upper class and who spent her time fucking literary celebrities. Which Gillian thinks may have to do with why she herself has done indiscriminate sex. She has my interest.

I tell her about cases of betrayal and molestation and maybe worse, proven and suspected, that I am discovering in the very proper seeming family I was born into. And then for no clear reason I am telling her how my father was deserted three years ago just before he died, deserted by the people he loved – his wife, my mother, his good son, my twin brother, his rakish sister, my once favorite aunt. No family there except me, the black sheep, and my almost ex-wife. When he lay dying in a third rate Florida hospital, his entire chest an open cancer wound, a cowardly third rate doctor holding back on the morphine for fear of a law suit.

Suddenly Gillian is in linear didactic mode. Her acquired British accent gets more so as she tells me exactly what happens at death. How you move into something clear cut that does not entail matter. And how Buddhists like her will know precisely what to say to some being who will take you to the other side. Not that there is anything real about either side.

I am wondering how long till the pasta comes. And in my head I am cataloging girlfriends of the past.

I listen but do not tell her anything more about myself. I do not speak of my 15 years in the Far East without a single spiritual experience to relate. I do not tell how I would go through the motions in Buddhist Thailand of praying with Sunisar in front of a sort of garlanded birdhouse in my sandy yard on the Chao Phrya River. Sunisar would have slipped out of her gold lamé night club gown and would be in an equally enticing low slung sarong. Then she might change to tight bright pants and a colorful blouse, and lead me off in a rented sampan to some light and senual celebration at some brightly lit and colored sort of community center temple compound.

No connection at all between these encounters with Buddhism and what Gillian is telling me she experienced when living in a cabin in an orchard in the part of India where the Tibetan exiles live.

I tune out her foolish how-to-die prattle but do not forget the dramatic part about this being an apparently sex ready and certainly appealing girl selling wooden fetish figures on the street.

As if, despite all that is opening up in my life, I am still someone trying to create scenes that could appear in correct fiction.

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