Wednesday, July 21, 2010

#129 - WHAT A TIME

And now we leave the interstates and the Aqua Mustang is zigzagging east and north. The continued excitement of being in a car heading to the north country. With this pretty girl beside me. Just like I am young and she is younger than she must in fact be. As in a dream I used to have when I was a child and saw myself in sunlight on a green hill being married to a blonde girl as pretty as the girls in story book illustrations - and as unlike correct family women as she could be.

But this is a real girl or woman, a sort of an adult sitting beside the adult version of myself, and she is talking about her own past. Saying that they, her parents, used to go to Maine, though, she says, they did not own anything. They did not have anything like what she calls my family’s a “magic kingdom” in the White Mountains. That place she has not seen but has heard me describe in meetings.

It seems that somehow I have gotten something like love of the mountains into the dark stories I have been telling.

And now Gillian is talking about the celebrities her mother fucked in their cramped Fifth Avenue apartment, too far uptown to be true Fifth avenue, with the wilder upper reaches of the park on one side and Spanish Harlem on the other. And then she is back to Maine again and summer memories.

Memories well up in me when we stop after dark to look at a pond we saw from the car. We walk to the pond, stand on its rocky shore. And send flat stones skimming along its dark surface that is alive with insects and an occasional small fish that breaks water to catch them. This skimming of flat stones is just like what she and her brother used to do, she says.

Just like a perfect childhood, I think, and wonder how I could so quickly skim over something squirmy and dark that she has just told me in the car: that when she was a child her mother and father took her and her brother to a cold, deserted beach in Maine, told them to take off their bathing suits, and had the little girl suck the little boy's penis.

And then I am back on what has recently become familiar territory. We cross into Vermont and pass through Rutland, but do not stop there. We continue up through the state. It is dark but I know that on either side there are soft green mountains.

Just before Burlington we turn west to Lake Champlain. When I had driver up here in August I had taken a high old bridge across a narrow part of big lake to New York state. The car in front of me had one of the just issued new patriotic New York license plates, which were in red, white and blue with a picture of the Statue of Liberty, replacing the orange and black or navy blue that New Yorkers had always had. There was a small New York state park just off the bridge ramp, and standing guard was a state trooper, in one of those forbidding state trooper hats. I had turned around and gone back over the bridge. This was the other side of Vermont from the side that touches New Hampshire. It seemed nothing outside Vermont could be safe.

We pass now through an old-time village, with many vacant stores, called Vergenes. A welcoming sign says it is “the smallest city in the world.”

We are on very small and very old roads now. Pavement gives way in places to the old rural dirt surface. The air remains heavy with late summer and memories, including of things that were not directly in my experience. I have this feeling I have had often this year when hearing someone's story, or exploring countryside, that I have been here before. The way I had felt two weeks back, just after Labor Day, in Naples, Maine.

We head on a dirt road through a place with no stores called Charlotte. Jason had told me in the summer that when you say that name you should put the accent on the second syllable. We drive slowly by a long field where in moonlight we see many cows are lined up at a fence and looking at the road, as if they had been waiting there for us.

Then we are at the lake house on that bluff above the cove. There is a light on. It turns out one of Jason’s wife’s brothers is already staying there with his chubby wife. He is wearing those ultra-WASP L.L. Bean boots in which the foot is made of rubber, which may have been intended for duck hunters but seem to be used by the sort of fake cheerful men who have little ducks on their neckties.

The guy greets us as if it is perfectly natural for all of us WASPs to be sleeping together. He tells us three of the four little rooms are free. We take our bags up steep, narrow stairs and I feel like I am held up by strings being manipulated by a master puppeteer. The puppeteer pulls me to the left as Gillian goes to the right. Separate bedrooms.

The brother-in-law couple head immediately to the bedroom they had claimed. We go downstairs to unwind in the very plain living room/kitchen area. No need for the gas fed heater, for this is still an unseasonably warm night.

We see a guest book and sign it. Before my name I write “What a time we had!” – Which I realize is the sort of thing someone from another time would say in one of my grandfather’s period piece novels that I now make fun of.

In the morning Jason’s in-laws have departed and we have the place to ourselves.

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