Moving fast. Not only meetings, for I have just spent the summer carrying my investigations to the actual places of the past, including sex with a stand-in, and now there is this situation wilth this key figure from the past, Deirdre. New Hampshire. I call Littleton and in a cool exchange with Aunt Betsy learn that Deirdre is out of the shelter and back in Littleton, though not in the house up behind the movie theater. This has all happened quickly. She is living with a guy she knew in high school, a French-Canadian guy. I call her there and she greets me in a way that sounds like a clever replication of the way people in mythical ideal families would sound after a long absence.
I call Mickey. I know she needs money so I say I would like to rent a room. She says it cannot be in the formal wing now, for there have been some problems there, but she will give me a room in her more personal wing, which has become more like a farm house than a summer house,with all the dogs and local art work on the bare board walls, and the pot belly stove.
So the plan is taking shape. Faster and faster. In meetings and in diners afterwards I am with these new people who are now my friends, and they have just been in my apartment for the World Series and Iran-Contra. Faster and faster, back again to the Whitney and then the Modern to follow Gorky’s route into sex turned to horror, and on to death, and Matisse’s trapped boy at the piano beneath a gray taskmistress. But there are still the bronze girls, which I look at too, and out in the garden of the Modern the bronze relief backs of life-size Matisse women, and the voluptuous larger-than-life reclining Maillol girl, “The River,” lying there soft and lazy, and also the big bursting standing woman of Gaston Lachaise’s art and life obsession. And in the Met, the spring days of Corot, the tangible sensual days of Courbet. Then back to Gorky, and after that to the dark Hobbema woods, and then into a world just holding together in Cezanne, and almost what it should be in Courbet. And I see it all quickly in a series of flashes as I dash from room to room in the museums, retracing my year and my life and looking for the future.
And new old ground to in Chelsea, with the fifties era places along Eighth Avenue, and the long low Bronx style building where Rita lives and keeps tabs on the whole neighborhood, and the stoop building next door with Freddy with super who was born on this block, and the new –grocery/florist/salad bar/hot food takeout place where the Koreans greet me. Through the union houses, and past high brick buildings of something called the Hudson Guild, which advertises programs for children and the elderly.
And the Venezuelan guy on my floor and the little round couple above me who had always just gotten back from the country.
I am wearing the Dockers’s version of Jeans, and I have Timberland shoes that are a little like Boy Scout shoes and a little like the new running shoes, and I have my green plaid pullover flannel shirt from Sak’s, and a denim shirt and also demin zipper jacket that came from Lord & Taylor, and the blue Lord & Taylor scarf. I am still restricted mostly to the two stores for which I have credit cards left over from marriage – these stores that have something of the same role in my life as the Aqua Mustang, which is not quite up to its appearance since its convertible top cannot be lowered, and its gauges are no help in sports car style driving since the gear shift is automatic. This vehicle for freedom that is not tied to anything more substantial or darker than the life I want to have as I move around in it – like these new clothes.
I am going to the mountains and I think of the work boots we used to use for our hikes up the mountains and above the timberline. They don’t having anything at Lord & Taylor that look to be real winter boots to use in the snow and cold, except for one pair, maybe meant to be stylish for not very stylish people, but looking to me like an exact duplicate of the work boots I used to buy in Littleton. And they also have a pair of soft leather or imitation leather with ersatz fur inside, boots for lounging rather than walking, but I need these too for wherever it is I am going. I think I know exactly where I am going though not knowing exactly what I will find there.
One day I drive up to Bear Mountain, and I stop at dusk at a small lake surrounded by woods, and I draw it, not worrying about whether anyone will see what I see, and as I am finishing the water is broken by little cartoon creatures – these must be muskrats – swimming along. That evening I go to dinner with Tina and her mother, who is in recovery in AA, at their place on 14th Street. The have rented Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” which I have not seen in the 30 years since I had my first place in New York. This old man who keeps going back in his head to the perfect summer place his big family had in high country in Sweden, and the pretty girl he romped with there. And I realize that when I had first seen it I had made very little of the fact that in this perfect family place of perfect northern summers this perfect girl was cruel and flighty, and betrayed him.
I am talking in meetings now of how I have to go back to the mountains one more time. As the drama of Lauryn unfolds I am giving a blow by blow account to these people whom my family would have called the very sort of people with whom you should never share what is really on your mind.