Thursday, April 15, 2010


I stop at a Burger King on the strip in Rutland not far from where I found my car. This strip a regular people’s untidy place, not unlike Littleton, not far from tidy picture postcard versions of Vermont, which are not unlike White Mountains summer places. This bouncing, sandy haired, surely underage Burger King girl who serves me a bacon cheeseburger, a girl whose cute face is still a blank slate, flashes a coming-of-age smile that shoots me so far back in time that I can imagine myself going out with her, hay rides maybe, falling in love with her, planning a future with her, just as if I am 15, not 50, 15 and desperately in need of something in my life to transport me out of the trap I feel I am at in my second year, the 4th form year, in at an old-line boarding school. A school where I fight my destiny, which is to be at the bottom of the heap, and in a family in which my twin brother is their pride and I am expected to forever hold my place at the bottom wherever I am. And I am also trapped, as in school and family, in a country fallen under the sway of the swaggering senator Tailgate Gunner Joe McCarthy – whom I know all about now that I am rising in the school by becoming a champion on the debating circuit. McCarthy and the pretentious bully Douglas Macarthur, that ambitious, trigger-happy old general whom reactionaries up here in New Hampshire think should be president instead of Truman.

I can be so angry. Though cutting through family, school and country are Keats and Wordsworth and Thomas Wolfe and the sight and smell of fields and woods, the nostalgic northern birds cries, the fresh water ponds, mud and ice and all, and the northern rivers clear and sometimes foamy beneath old bridges – and Pattie down with girls form her all-girls boarding school, our sister school, for a joint glee club concert at the stolid but humble Plymouth State Teachers’ College – in the summers the Gibbs and Grout girls in the White Mountains, Kitty still someone out of dreams of a glorious future. Am I frozen in that time?

Or in all time? Here in Rutland one of the friends of Peter and Julie I am using as my friends is a cheerful woman who works in Washington for Senator Leahy and swears that 1986 is the year they are going to win the Senate back from the Reagan-dominated Republican party – the Republicans who, long before they became the Reagan party of racists, gave us McCarthy and Macarthur. And next week the hero Daniel Berrigan is going to be at an all-day rally at a small Benedictine place on a hill in central Vermont. Reagan and Berrigan, like in these battles I was fighting when I was 15.

Remembering now, as I drive, Pattie, Kitty, and my debating trophies and the gang that liked me in the summers. And girlfriends down through the years, and a recent wife. And also all the times alone. Like this time driving this entertaining car up and down and around the Vermont hills in lush summertime.

I see girl in a Burger King who is so like what I find in time travel, and this girl looks me in the eye and smiles. And I wonder if any other times were as full of hope as this time. As I drive and listen to music I have missed in this car that is coming to feel like a machine for time travel. Hope based on what? Though I am convinced I am in a second life, much of what I look for is still in haze. The hope maybe flowing from my recent discovery that I am not alone in needing to know what happened in the distant past. What happened and why. Go right into it and find out what is there.

What a year this has been. And also, I am alone so much this summer in the car.

That girl in the Burger King – the same age as Patti and Kitty when I met them, one a girl for the summer and maybe forever, the other a girl briefly for the long winters – all of it a construction so fragile, so on the edge of there being nothing or no one at all.

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