Friday, August 13, 2010


And time is timeless in the way I would have hoped. We drive short distances, we walk around the lake, we lounge. I hardly know what time it is. We stay in bed late but are as aware of the early light, intensified by reflections off the big lake, as early risers would be. We go from moment to moment with no plan except to keep this a time without plans until the gas tank arrives.

In Vergennes I check my answering machine in the city. There is another message from my aunt saying something has happened and that I should call her.

The garage calls. The gas tank is ready. We take the car over, and leave it to receive its new tank. While we are walking in Vergennes we agree that this is almost like leaving a child for some medical procedure.

It is getting late in the day, so we will leave for the city the next day. There is intermittent rain now, making the remaining colored leaves shine. We stop in Bristol, a picture postcard town that also has real people’s stores – for hardware and groceries and drugs and lunch and basic clothing – a place that always felt inviting when I drove through it alone in the summer. The opposite of Middlebury. We come upon a shoe store that has mostly winter boots in its window. Reminding me that this is such a crucial time in northern New England, this time when there is still a little time to prepare for winter. Gillian is drawn to tall yellow boots that you step right into, slick for rainy times on the outside, insulated for cold times on the inside. Perfect for the street, she says. And she wears them now, and looks so happy with them.

When we start back the next day I say I’d like to avoid the interstates this time. She says she thinks this is a great idea, and she smiles like, I think, a child who has been given a gift. I do not say it but I am as interested in retracing my steps from the summer as I am in showing Gillian these places along the way.

Down through the center of Vermont on route 100, down to the corner where Massachusetts and Vermont come together near Williamstown, which is antiseptic near replica of the fake town of Princeton, has its own unpleasant collegiate gothic buildings. But it also has a theater, and and just outside it – though we do not go there – is the Clark Institute.

Passing through without looking in at the Clark collection feels a little like passing through Rutland and not seeing anyone I know there, or going by my brother and Terri’s places without stopping to see if they are at home. We go down now through picturesque Lee and Lenox. When I found myself in a place called Lenox while driving in the summer in this then brand new old car I had fantasized about being with someone like redheaded Tina who would be handling the tape deck while I drove. And now I am with someone who is not merely like someone but is someone, this brilliant but tortured and lovely girl with the acquired British accent.

For the most part I do not even think of the way she talks as being the same as the pretentious fake British accents heard in Middlebury and in Sugar Hill and Franconia. Except when she falls back on sex again and says, in the tones of a school mistress, “I always advise young people to practice anal sex. The best way to avoid pregnancies. All you need is a little soap.”

It close to midnight when we are finally in my apartment in Chelsea. “Fred, you did not tell me it was such a wonderful place.” Gillian is seeing for the first time this small but spacious feeling place I have been in in this new time in my life.

In the morning we hear chattering outside my window, which seems strange since I am on the third floor. It is two workers on a scaffold cleaning the outside of the building. Their hanging platform is high over the gone-to-seed garden where the tree that passes my window grows. The garden that was tended by the old Namboy man.

They are talking about how you handle women, Gillian says. She says she had to learn Hindi in India. They are talking dirty about how you have to keep fucking a woman to bring her into line.

Then Gillian, this almost innocent appearing blonde, pokes her heat out the window and shouts something in Hindi that shuts them up. She does not tell me what she said.


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