Wednesday, June 2, 2010
#101 – DRIVING AND LONGING
And still I was driving. And I thought of times of adventure, but not so much. I thought of the family horrors that had been unfolding. I thought of all those new people I knew in the city, and how little I knew of the people in Rutland I saw now. Except for Peter they were other people’s friends.
And so I was alone – which was fine to a point – for life seemed to have begun and I could not believe for certain I would remain alone.
In those talks I had had with Mario when we were still talking, and also when I had spoken in meetings down in the city, I had heard myself saying that if everything should change and everything go wrong in the future, I would still have had this year. Even if it should all end tomorrow I would have something of great value that I had not had before. And anyway this did not feel like an end point. Not like that false peak of getting a novel published that was supposed to make everything all right. Not the false peaks with women, all through the deep past and now just recently with Jacqueline and Susan and Barb. Connections that had briefly led me to think meant everything would be all right.
In the deep past, when I was a teenage debating champion, my mentor Joe Abbey said one thing he worried about was that debating could turn people into contentious figures who thought they knew all they needed to know about anything. What would he say to people in ACOA who decided they knew everything they needed to know about what was wrong with the people and places from which they had come.
And what would he say about this longing for connection that was far more than the horniness that was also there. Connection that could trump any triumph. The longing for connection that years back had made me furious that a girl in a Hong Kong whorehouse bar was not more than she was, and likewise a girl in a bathhouse outside Taipei, and another in a vast Culi-Culi dance hall-brothel complex in Manila, and one in a waterfront bar with bedrooms in Piraeus. This wanting, even demanding, more even in those places. This wanting connection.
While driving I had fantasies about red-headed Tina with the shoulder tattoo riding with me, selecting the tapes we played. And I would think about the blonde girl Gillian in the sun at her sidewalk sales place.
These girls, and back into the distant past. Which meant a different kind of time travel, not to find out what was wrong in the family but to recapture what has seemed so right from when I had first begun coming into life. Not in ACOA. Further back. The Haitian girls in New York. The beautiful painter who lived with me. The stylish and lovely clothing designer. And Laurie, part sexual outlaw part love object. And all the short term relationships too.
In the Philippines I had had a room with my friends the Espies which was much like how this summer I had a room with Peter and Julie. And I had use of the Espies’ car – the same Volkswagen they had purchased in ’62 in Germany and driven to Athens to pick up Vannie and me, and we’d proceeded around through Turkey and Syria and Lebanon, where I left them on the first leg, which was by sea to Alexandria, of what I hoped world be my biggest adventure.
Adventure that it seemed necessitated being along. And alone again now driving about Vermont. Alone and analyzing. And drifting into memory that had the air of fantasy.
Here I was no more than two hour’s drive over from the White Mountains, and no more than seven up from the city, where so much had happened in my life but also where my grandmother had had an Upper East Side apartment.
In the early sixties in a summer when Nana was in the mountains and I had just come back again from aboard, and again had no home, I had used her solid, still pre-air conditioning apartment for the steamy month of August. Across from the study there was a guest room, which was used in winter by Nana’s best friend, Frances Perkins, who had been Roosevelt’s labor secretary. The place could be seen as that formidable.
As soon as I got there that summer I brought in the object of anobsession, a ripe Kentucky girl named Laurie, sexual outlaw and brilliant, who was married to a friend who was no longer a friend. We had been hiding out at the Henry Hudson Hotel way over west where the ocean liners docked, where we had rolled about in bed with bottles of scotch in the last place anyone would look for us since the hotel was used almost exclusively by out-of-towners on their way to Europe. And now here we were in my grandmother’s bed, then Mrs. Perkins’ bed, then my grandmother’s, the wonderful smell of our bodies in summer, trying out everything we could think of from the past and new things too, going from room to room with the omnipresent Scotch bottles. Sweat giving a special shine to Laurie’s body. She telling me, who had not been always been sure of his physical self, that she just loved his body’s line. Now together in a bathtub. Now, still too hot for clothes, we could as easily as not have gone on top of the Steinway, which had been brought down here when White Pines was sold. The Steinway that here as at White Pines held a facsimile of the Nefertiti head, which was as perfectly shaped as the head of my grandmother, who wore her white hair in a tight net. Laurie wore hers with a flower in it.