The anger in that sports bar had been connected. Not like the free flowing anger of the past. As in those mornings I would awaken in the first place purely my own, a room with a view over a clean, colorless avenue from a brick rooming house in Indianapolis of all places. Awake and tight and taut and shaking from extreme anger, an anger that could have no end, a floating anger though nearly focused on my parents, on being raised as the dumb bad twin with the bright twin brother, on being belittled.
But that part would come in and out of focus, for it seemed too flimsy to explain the intensity of my anger. And as I walked through the flat Midwestern city, breathing its unique flat air, on down past its black marble Roman or Nuremburg style national headquarters of the dread American Legion where the Commie hunters marched and schemed, on down past the lazy old Claypool hotel, wreathed inside and out by cigar smoke, where the politicians hung out, and then past small hotels where the small town assemblymen could find inexpensive short-time girls who poured into town when the legislture met, which was for two months every two years, and on down through on of the city’s skid rows, between missions and unsaved sidewalk drinkers, on to the old Indianapolis Times where I was in the United Press enclave, covering strange Hoosier world McCarthy era politics, some by phone, some from over at the grandiose state capitol.
By this time at 21 I was well beyond family expectations of me. Only my father’s patrician mother seemed to see what I was doing – first by proving to be bright in boarding school, than discovering that there were girls who could like, even love, me. And then I was filling up the school’s trophy case with brass, wood and plastic regional debating trophies that towered over the sad little things won for stupid ball games by my school enemies. And soon I was briefly in Paris, stepping into the paintings I saw there, and later in college finding I could write even though my brother was the chosen writer. But also so many down times when I froze up.
And this now was an original time, roaming in the unknown Middle West. But awakening under the shadow of the past, and filled with white hot but diffused anger – anger that drifted away as I stepped out into the flat air of Indianapolis and ducked in for coffee next door at a Toddle House restaurant where there was a gray woman behind the counter who had a concetration camp tattoo on her fleshy upper arm. I ordered a cheese omlette, and as usual there were bits of egg shell in it.
The anger left now that I was walking through the city, left as unexplained as it had arrived when I was sleeping last night. And it is seeming so strange that after all I had done and was doing that I could still be angry at those people I came from. For now I am enjoying this plain old middle America city that I ridiculed in letters to friends. For it is a place of my own. I have been meeting people, the father of a childhood Connecticut friend, this father out here in exile with his own best friend’s wife. And a Marxist couple – the man had been an organizer for the fabled Electrical Workers Union that the McCarthyites destroyed. He and my friend’s father are working for money now, both of them with new identities as machine tools salesmen. And I am writing a novel a night, though it leaves me time for the piano bars and the small hotels and the non-professional girls I meet. I am my own person, an actual reporter and writer and rewrite man in this place that no one I am related to has ever seen. And I am almost feeling at home on the weekends when I take one of the four parallel train lines to Chicago for jazz and Second City and the Art Insitute and big black Southside clubs.
Thirty years later in the summer of deep probing I was thinking of in this time when I was 20. Thinking over my life now that I was on a mission to rescue an abused girl. Thirty years later when the anger was finally becoming focused.
I thought that if I could get at the anger I would know what they did or did not do to me and/or her and/or those other cousins of mine who now were joining the dead.