Saturday, May 8, 2010


And 48 hours after Bruce’s funeral I am back in Vermont again. Back for the summer. I drive up with my dramatic new Italian friend Mario and his sweet young Eurasian wife who supports them both with her job in a theatrical agency. She also supports their nice, sloppy, untrained dog, sort of a German Shepherd Great Dane. The dog and the girl are crammed into the tiny backseat of the old Mustang, a backseat that is more like a storage area than something meant for passengers. But Mario insisted she wants him to have the front. I do all the driving for they do not have licenses.

Alice, this friend of a decade of my old friend Peter Cooper, had asked me to find summer tenants for the suburban style house she had inherited, after much family death. Mario was very ready to get to New England for a civilized long vacation, "like in Europe."

The idea is that I will stay for a few days with them at Alice’s place, then move into the room that is ready for me at Peter and Julie’s. I am up early the first full day, for Alice has asked me to come with her so some sort of church meeting. Suddenly all these churches. Bruce’s strange funeral in that strange pretentious part of Long Island. And, two weeks back, before my trip down to the city, that tiny church way out in the middle of nowhere farm country where Alice does summer services, for which I think she will get credit in the fall when she is in divinity school down in the city at Union.

Again I appreciate that she is full bodied and tan and very quick. We roll along beneath the soft inviting Green Mountains that are such a change from the mountains with which I grew up. And I am marveling at fast shallow rivers where clear water runs and ripples over smooth stones, just like in rare tender aspects of New Hampshire but here such rivers seem to be everywhere.

We talk and talk about things that are most on my mind these days – getting at the true stories, the family stories, finding out who did what to who, getting at what really happened, getting at what is real, getting it right, no matter who gets hurt. Questions of identity. She talks of how when she was growing up in Massachusetts her older brother got a job delivering milk, for which he drove up to Vermont for pickups very early in the mornings. It was then when she heard his tales that she swore she would eventually herself live in this magical place. And eventually she did move to Vermont, and took her mother with her. Her mother who recently died here. She tells me how she ran for the state senate not long after her arrival. Then she is suddenly talking about another aspect of her childhood.

She says she thinks it is so wonderful how I am hearing so many real stories in these meetings, wonderful that I and all these people are getting has what had happened in our own lives. And she starts on something she says she has never talked about before – an uncle who molested her over and over for years. She says she thinks it may explain aspects of her sexuality and I know from all the stories I have been hearing in those meeting that “sexuality” can be a code word for same sex coupling – and this is news I do not want to hear, for despite everything I am beginning to realize I am lonely, as well as horny.

We arrive at a church on a hill in the town of Rochester where a dozen ministers from around the state are gathering. It turns out to be a monthly meeting for sharing. This is 1986 and I had lost my faith in 1951, at 16, in what seemed like a moment of revelation – and I had never thought to look for it again. And I had ignored all religious traditions, including the stylish ones that I ignored in my years in the Far East. Since boarding school days I had been in churches only a handful of times, and always as a tourist in places like Greece and Haiti and Manila. 

In the prayer circle each minister has a few words to say about where they are in their lives. I just say “I am here,” hoping it will sound like something profound. For I am in a familiar situation now, pretending one thing on the surface that has no connection with what is underneath. Or maybe not this time.

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