6/12/79 — Wait for boys to remember school dress ritual. David tried to wear yesterday’s dirty socks and shorts. I rode them to school in just tee shirt and shorts and no shoes or socks. Got gas, sang a poem at the pump, beside well-dressed couple getting out of Jaguar. She was all made-up and dressed smart, until I sang. Then they shrivelled inside their clothes, uptight and self-conscious, afraid to be themselves; they work to keep up appearances, I’d guess, stay in sin and misery, Beverly Hills style. I’m losing my compassion for the materialists, as people. Or else I’m refusing to let it interfere with my own self-expression. I’m so free, not knowing too much from day to day, except how to feel good when there’s always the choice to feel bad.
Pay the phone bill: only $31.50 this month. Home: make beds, pick up, vacuum, shower, iron a dress and shirt, launder, blow hair, dress, leave for bookstore. Almost. Drive to Ralph’s, to get keys made. I told the lady clerk one of the house keys was not cut out enough and might not fit. “Sure, honey,” she says, “It’ll fit.” She holds them all up pertly, as if, because they were in the same general mold, they’d still turn the key. I demur, rather than protest her ignorance, try the key in the lock. It doesn’t fit.
Drive to Real Escape Digest. Delores, Margaret, and Donna are the only ones there. They get so upset when they hear a woman declare that a woman’s place is in the home or kitchen or whichever metaphor is used to indicate something subordinate to a man’s world. Each woman who is so emphatic about using her “abilities” or “intellectuality” is still off-center to the degree of her protest. Sorry, ladies, but that’s the way it is. There is more to being a woman than what goes on in the reasoning mind or intellect: she is most truly herself and brilliant when she becomes part of the greater “mind” or “heart” to which we all belong — that universe in which feelings of a higher order are the kings and queens, the author of all originality, and new genius. Compassion is the savior and those who learn, grow wise, fall most likely into the fire or rise above it.
Lyle’s been calling every night around 11:00, going crazy with his old lady, who rejects him continuously, but not completely. Tonight he told me he smashed some glasses in a coffee shop, got up and walked out, but was able to come back, repent, offer to pay. The people inside were still in a state of shock. Part of the heat wave. His girl’s been gone for days, but finally she returned today, heart-sick and far-gone because she went with some wrong people in a desperate attempt to escape her problems. Trying to have “fun” with “fun people” is the worst hell there is, when you’re really down. Lyle re-solved his misery more simply. Driven to the outer limits of despair, he prayed constantly at the park, until finally he broke down and cried, surrendering, and discovered how sweet sincere tears can be, found a new place within himself as a result. I could detect a new spontaneity and honesty, therefore. He told me he’s been angry because I wouldn’t meet him at the Beverly Hills Cafe these past three evenings when he calls around eleven. I felt I had to appreciate his honesty: he had never felt free to express negative feelings before, in an open naive way. On the other hand, I felt the surging frustration of knowing he couldn’t put himself in my shoes at all, or he wouldn’t expect it of me. I did feel some anxiety about whether I shouldn’t be trying to comfort him, though I’ve been feeling selfish or self-centered: these trips people lay on me get to be so demanding, insatiable ploys for attention, rather than a looked-forward-to date. However, in glancing back, I can see that it was best for Lyle that I was unavailable: I had begun to be aware that he was getting too dependent on me and my advice — he got closer to God by dealing with it himself, finally. He doesn’t want to: he was still talking about checking into a neural psychiatric clinic, but I disconcerted him. “Lyle,” I said, “I think you’re doing real fine.”
Our minds are made up of sentences to be liked by everybody: by the time we grow up we have to take them apart, by paragraph, chapter, and story, to find our own style, ’til finally the mind is random as alphabet soup, ready to make new combinations of feeling and thought.
Clutch in car is grinding when I start. Lemonade to cool me after conversation with Gordon, the boys’ father: conventional outrage, because I told him about David’s graduation from sixth grade tomorrow, and he’s got an appointment in West Covina with an auditor. “Cancel it,” I said. That got him mad. He’s become one of these businessmen who has a way of dealing with every situation in such a way as to incriminate the other person(s), no matter what the reality of the situation may be. At one time, many years ago, I was the slacker in love’s efforts, and when he left, he had some justifiable anger to back him up for a year or two. But he failed to notice, as the months of separation chipped away at me, piece by painful piece, the reform of my spirit, and consequently, when I became truly victimized by circumstance, he continued unrelentingly to drive his rusty nails in, refusing consolation or understanding, trying to treat me as an object, a situation which was almost more intolerable in divorce than in marriage, since in marriage there was the veneer of acceptable feelings: ‘this is my wife,’ etc., roles to relate to. I felt gratitude for years afterward, for all those things he had done for me, which he seemed to later regret. I was constantly frustrated that there wasn’t some magical turning point at which he would accept my good will and remain friends. But, his arrow seemed to be flying straighter and straighter every year. I had actually become indifferent, no longer caring whether he became enlightened.
Now, his indignation, when he attempts to turn the tables, is getting feeble, lacking even the pose of self-righteousness. But he makes the attempt. “How come I’m never told about these things?” he says. I can’t remember the exact words, but the effect was: I’d gone too far in ignoring the norms for diplomatic divorced parent-child relationships. And he had a right to call out a judge and jury, it seemed he was saying. “You could have called earlier . . . now it’s too late to cancel this appointment . . . but I could have arranged it some other time had I known.”
Suddenly, after all these years of passing by spontaneous opportunities with the children, he feels excluded, as if never informed of their little doings, as if I hadn’t beseeched him repeatedly to break his mold or routine, in order to give a little extra on a special occasion.
“You never tell me anything,” he says.
“I gave up asking you,” I say. “I called you tonight only because I felt some compunction to at least give you a chance at the last moment.”
“Well, I told David I wanted to come,” he says defiantly.
“He’s probably gotten discouraged from asking you over the years, too,” I say. “You’ve regulated your life for six years so that the only participation is on a weekend, at your place,” I say. “Now suddenly, you blame me. I can’t believe it.” For the first time, after having had a taste of just about every heavy poison that can reach the lips and perception of modern woman, I hear myself saying the non-believer’s words, “I can’t believe it.”
By explicit instruction, by tacit approval, by demeaning words of others, by ignoring me, by putting me off with maybes, by never calling back with an affirmation, he had paved the way for this total disconnection.
I knew I was in the right. I didn’t need to defend myself, I was the spokesman for the children, and I was going to resolve this long-standing conflict now.
“I might go back home,” I say.
“Don’t threaten me,” he says. “You’ve been threatening me for three years with that.”
“I’m just telling you what is,” I say. “I’m not so easily swayed to stay here because you’re here. The boys are at an edge (freudian slip) when they need male companionship, my family’s there and enjoy me and them, and I want to be where I’m enjoyed. Eventually, I’ll find my place, where I am able to do the most good.”
He was silent. He stopped attacking me. Suddenly he was cooperative, not so much, I felt, out of self-protection, as from (could it be?) belief. I surprised myself, with my other-oriented direction. Those words rang in my ears: WHERE I AM ABLE TO DO THE MOST GOOD. If I could remember that, and live according to it, I wouldn’t go wrong.
“Maybe I can take them out tomorrow evening, then,” he says. My hopes go up. “Lorna’s parents are having something for Candy — but it’s not definite yet,” he adds. Then his voice hesitates as he goes on, “She’s graduating into middle school.”
All it turned out to be was an “if it fits into my stepdaughter’s plans,” the way all outings and weekends were made to revolve around their very structured lives.
“This graduation isn’t that big of a deal,” I say. “And I’m not trying to make you feel bad about it. I’m leveling with you, while there’s still time to get to know your boys and become closer to them.”
David is upset, about the paper route. It’s been getting on his nerves, and today he came home from school and called up the office to tell them he was too tired. About six, the new district manager, Rosarita, came by and yelled at him that he’d better do it or get fired. Unfortunately, he also took this time of general discouragement to inform her he didn’t want to do Route 1, the extra, anymore. She screamed he’d better, or get fired — for a week longer anyway. My nerves have been frayed, the heat and the smog are getting on everybody, kids are yelling in the street, it’s the last day of school. He’s been doing two paper routes after school and early mornings on weekends for two months. There was that temptation to complete the cycle — just one more day of this heavy routine. But he looked so distraught. And I knew after Rosarita screamed at him that matters were worse. It was too hot even to drive him around. And I was upset now, too. “I’ll call her,” I said. I didn’t want him doing it — no matter what the consequences. He’s been an excellent paper boy and deserves more understanding than that. I felt the kid had reached his outer limit of endurance.
At 7 o’clock Mr. Kertel wants to know where his paper is. Since he lives on Shenandoah, I told him David could run over. Nobody else called. I felt this was a tribute to the job David had done all along. Also, it might do some good if the paper never arrived for a night.
Tony calls and lays another trip on me about working for his “cause”: good works. When I try to find out what I can specifically do, he offers me abstracts. He implies I’m selfish and lazy because I won’t write these political tracts; I’d like to, but I feel so uninformed.
Is it all right to do nothing but feel light, with the apartment floating through clouds, moving around another degree in this human revolution?
A chain of causes: the earth moves. Children play, self-contained entertainment industries.
Lyle calls again about eleven. This time he is threatening to kill himself.
6/15/79 — I feel as if I’m being picked up by the middle class again, slowly swept out of reach of the fringe.
“You guys are sure analytical about tennis shoes,” I say.
“We’ve been that way for a month,” Jeremy says. They are discussing this evening, jokingly, every conceivable style and brand of tennis shoe, including what kind each kid in their classes wore, including, in some cases, more than one pair.
“One kid (named) has four pair of Nikes,” David says.
“That’s totally unreasonable,” I mutter from my bedroom. They laugh.
6/16/79 — Love is constantly burned by degrees of attainment. What counts is righteousness and having faith. Tony says, “Write something on behalf of President Carter.” I want to, I want to do something toward unification, but all my energies for two years have been personal and detailed descriptions of my own little world. I am scared: burning uncomfortably inside with panic, as if it will be too late to do my share, and how presumptuous of me to make some appealing declaration for support. “What shall I say?” I ask, being ignorant of contemporary politics, or Carter’s stand on the issues. I have a faith in him myself, but no basis for my belief, except that he’s a new breed of president, unrecognized as yet. He’s just enough of a real, ordinary man with intelligence to bring politics down to the level of everyday life: the public wants the kind of worldly sophistication — even dazzle — which has been part of the old order, a certain historical time-frame which it is easier to work within from the worldly point of view, as if life were a continuum from A to Z.
“He’s a man of God and he needs our support,” Tony says.
As soon as the flame burned half-way down the match, I noticed the black paper stick it was lit from, and then the tiny whiff of smoke which it exhaled. I am lighting a candle to sit by me, in a sunny spot, near the large window facing west. A breeze from an open sash riffles the flame, amorphous active melting pot of fear and shame. It’s tip darts and thrusts energy into the never-ending space around, intensity within as revitalizing, eternal as the infinite cool depths of love’s water.
This blinding light direct upon me is a miracle I must curtail with sunglasses, sitting indoors on a warm day, all the contradictions behind me on the battlefield of personalities. I want to go forward again; inside the green lens the edge of my face reflects from the sun upon it, glistening grey white furry skin, old gold plastic-rimmed sunglasses distilling vanilla celluloid dreams.
6/17/79 — I’ve got a possible name for a book: Reclining Morals, I tell Jan in a telephone conversation.
“I’m all for a hard-core easy reality,” I say.
“Morals sounds like a very old word,” she says.
“Yeah, it’s been around a long time.”
“An earthy word,” she adds.
“That’s even better,” I say.
She hesitates, then asks why.
“It fits in with what I’d like to drive home. Until you can control your subconscious powers, you can’t control those things outside yourself,” I say.
“You’re talking about being at one with yourself,” Jan says.
“I didn’t know that,” I say. I like her way of expanding my own interpretation. She expresses some anxiety about getting everything done that she wants to.
“Don’t limit your time,” I say.
“Right. Don’t limit yourself, don’t limit your time.”
I learned what “frets” on a guitar are. Lines that go down and you have to learn to work your way out of them.
I told the manager of this building I’d go to the bank to get a cashier’s check to pay Roseman, the landlord. My check had bounced and he had refused to send it back a second time, so I had agreed to the new demand. The next day he gave me an ultimatum: by noon today. It is just the push I needed to leave here. By five o’clock I hadn’t gotten the check.
“When do you think you’ll get the money?” he asks.
“I don’t know.”
“Tomorrow? The day after, do you think?”
“Maybe.” I look perplexed.
“I’ll tell Roseman and see what he says.”
Why was I perplexed? The manager was suddenly getting nicer since I was getting more stubborn.
My bedroom clock has been set at five minutes to 12:00 for days now. In Washington, I dream, I’ll be able to swing up in the driveway, instead of fastidiously parking in a crowded garage. Jan got cynical today when I used an old cliche: “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Gee, that’s original. For some reason, I was hurt.
6/18/79 — This is the best cloud ride offered on a swell, hot day: I get righteous and tell an interviewer at the unemployment office, “You keep interrupting me.” She makes me go to another line. Curt, a young fellow in that department, saunters over, and smiling, calls my name. We met once before: maybe he was new then.
“How’d you arrange to get me?” I ask, recalling our fresh encounter.
“I don’t know,” he starts to mumble, then rewrites the script. “I see who I want to see.” His third line is even better. “Just lucky I guess.” That’s more like it, Curt. He looks at my card.
“So, this is the job you want,” he says. Not exactly, but I nod. He picks up the phone quickly. “Can you go today?” He is dialing. “I have plans,” I say. “Another interview.” He looks at me skeptically. “How about tomorrow, then?” I am searching my mental calendar, trying to accommodate this appointment in such a way as to ease the day. Suddenly he is talking to the director at some school, I hear him apologize to her for my inability to comply with an interview immediately, that afternoon: “Sorry I’m being difficult,” he tells her.
“How about Friday?” I volunteer. That’s two days away. He puts his hand over the receiver, and growls, “You could lose your benefits that way,” he says.
“Tomorrow’s fine,” I say. He makes the appointment and hangs up. “What am I supposed to do?” I say. “I had another job interview already.”
“You’re to be ready whenever we give you an opportunity,” he says, “and grab it.”
“But the other one’s a better job,” I say, with the maddening logic that men hate. He gives me a cold, aggressive look, but silently keeps his flirtation vow. For a minute, I got worried. Was I losing my sense of balance? Did I think I could go around saying whatever I felt like? Was I losing my empathy for men, that I could so easily upset them? In seconds, I righted my self-doubt. A real man would appreciate my kind of logic, I think. He wouldn’t expect me to grovel in these situations. After all, Curt had handled me awfully fast, not allowing any time for deliberation or thought. It wasn’t his fault, exactly. He probably had some sort of quota to fill that day. When I stepped outside, I felt new energy. Righteousness prevailing, like a sudden gusty wind.
Trying to have “fun” with “fun people” is the worst hell there is, when you’re really down.
6/21/79 — I’ve lost interest in the benefits of a long distance relationship. Leroy said to appreciate them — letters and phone calls. I’ve reached a realization that the presence of these dangling promises creates a source of friction, frustration more than anything. It takes away from the whole essence of my life: at least today.
The cat’s pregnant. Laying on my sweater, she’s looking at me, almost lovingly. Leroy — you jerk. Who makes me the most angry?
Leroy’s got to produce. But I don’t. He tries one thing after another, as if one occupation for the purpose of making money will be better than another. Each one, after the initial novelty, brings disillusionment. He goes on to another. Each new skill is preceded by a course of instruction. He is trying to prepare himself for the future, but that is only possible by sharpening instincts, loosening up in one’s attitudes to a manifold reality, chaos, indeterminate existence of positive energy, embodied in the faith mind, perpetuated by risk. If you have the best job in the world, it means nothing, will give you no security, if your goal is to be an artist. Or if you are one, or almost, that takes the guts to live in another dimension: the world of feelings/thought.
This peroration introduces three pages of erotic seductive writing to Leroy. He’s got what it takes.
Breezes sway shadow upon shadows. A sapphire light at sunset softens the lingering glare of the day’s deluge of events. I soar for the deeper blue that bathes this room, with its iridescent greens and yellows, splashing neon color in the sash of angles, thrust by tipsy windows looking out to sea.
The mechanic on Pico is fixing my car for $200.00. Going to a lot of trouble to keep the costs down for me. He says he will do a partial tune-up for no extra, by using used plugs, etc. And, the carburetor it’s got is O.K.
“I figure you deserve a break,” he says, like a sea captain.
How did he know? I had asked him if I could pay for part of the repair work in a week or two. Or if I could write a postdated check. He said he’d had too much trouble that way, and it was his policy to accept full payment for the work when I picked up the car. But after he said this, he looked nervous and a little guilty, because he knew my predicament.
Nevertheless, I restrained myself from putting pressure on him to relent, or from using feminine wiles.
6/25/79 — It all seems rather close, the decisions that must be made cannot be put off for more than an hour. The manager has just come to the door again about the rent check; I said I’d get it this afternoon. If I cover it, I’ll be committed here two more months. That’s a long time, when you’re anxious to leave. If I let it go, there will be the formality of eviction, even though I have a last month’s rent to live out. That’s unpleasant . . . brings worry.
I am hurrying through life lately, at snail’s pace: the hurry is in my mind as I anticipate my next move. Enthusiasm, even jubilation, abort my incentive to write letters to fit any specification which one or two minds may behold. I shall soon leave this tacky town to go home to Washington.
Thus, a period of my life, divided between unemployment and working as a secretary, in order to get to be a writer, ends.
The future holds the promise of other things which I dare not explain. To do so would limit the power of faith, tells me I am released from old debts.
There is not enough time left to stay here and slowly make it for me alone. If it was my only goal, it could be done. But, the Lord’s will is far more comprehensive.
Lyle calls again about eleven. This time he is threatening to kill himself.
6/26/79 — It seems like Washington lately, even though I haven’t left yet. At night I hear the crickets, and the days are cooling off. I am beginning to imagine what it will be like. This creates anxiety. One must make plans, yet let the moment continue to flow freely, of its own accord. Last night I was sad and nervous. I thought: perhaps I am losing if I move. This morning, it seems like excitement. I am beginning to relate to the whole picture, rather than my own convenience in making ‘it’ here, only. If I relate to the whole, it is hard to continue in my course, for all my energy is going to support a system I detest just to survive while working toward other goals. Yet, the California dream is there, hard to give up, hard to realize that it is a contradiction in terms. It is impossible to live in this city without big compromises, for me.
In the mirror, there is half door and half wall. On the floor, an empty wine glass, telephone and Bible. In the corner, a pile of books. Behind, the edge of another door. Toward the side, a chest with a few jars, plant, etc., on it. An early morning plane in the sky. Footsteps on the porch. Saying good-bye. It is time to go to another time and place. Whose memory is it I leave? There was no California dream until I met you, Chas, and so we may find each other again someday, when the skies are clear and we have things to do here. If you come to town now, I won’t get to see you. That’s all right. This is the first step in living for myself. I’m getting away from all the husbands — not to escape, but to return to that place that offers me the most security at present, or shall we say, grace.
6/27/79 — A most memorable evening last night. Helena invited me to a showing in Beverly Hills, of an artist’s paintings. Named Ricardo. Lyle called me just beforehand, and asked himself along. I agreed to pick him up at the office: Beverly Hills Cafe, where he hangs out. When I pulled up into their dirt parking lot alongside, he didn’t appear. I was tired, but I got out of the car to look for him inside. I opened the door and said, “Come on.” He was standing there on the phone. I marched back out of the cafe and stumbled in my gold lamee high heels, as I neared the car door. Waiting for five or ten minutes more, I decided to return. Then he got off the phone.
“I’m sorry I spent so long on the phone,” he said.
“It’s not all right,” I said cooly, with humor.
He laughs. “Boy, you women are rough.” Patti and Pete had just come into the Cafe, and he and Patti had another showdown. First there were intimate insults. Then she says something about he hasn’t called her for a week.
“She really turns the tables,” I say. “Did you point out to her that she broke your last date?”
“What’d she say?”
“Call me in a week.”
“What’d you say?”
“I’ll call you in a weak moment.”
By the time we got in the car, he was thinking perhaps he should change his clothes. “Can you drive over to my car?” he asks. We are over an hour late already.
“Why didn’t you do this while you were waiting for me to come?” I look at him.
“I could put some boots and a shirt on,” he says. It sounds like a good idea; I notice his feet, the furry nylon slippers he is wearing, and give a little screech.
“Slippers?” I say. “Where’s your car?”
“A block over.” We travel around the block, tall office buildings. He changes. From undershirt top to blue tee shirt and maroon sweater, matching his maroon cords.
“How’s this? Look better?” he asks.
About a mile down Wilshire, we find the street: Crescent. From the corridor outside the apartment can be seen massive paintings of nude bodies, in a Fiorucci style. They are perfectly proportioned, according to the popular concept of proportion, fluid, and in most cases without faces. There are backs and thighs, fronts and thighs, thighs posing sideways, pairs of thighs and multiple groups. All are the same garish peach color, for flesh. There is no hair on the skin, blemishes, or creases, except perhaps to indicate an erotic curve. I have an emotional reaction of anger.
Ricardo looks like his paintings when I think about it: placid, expressionless, boring. No hair. In the kitchen, I say something about the unreality of these paintings. A friend of Ricardo’s tries to put me down, saying, “Ricardo sees clearer than everyone else — he sees what he sees very clearly.”
“That doesn’t make it objectively clearer,” I say, “That doesn’t mean he sees more clearly than me.”
“Yes, everyone has a different perspective,” says the Buddhist. Ricardo himself walks past me at that moment and says,
“You intellectualize too much.”
“How do you know?” I shoot back.
“I can tell.”
“He’s psychic,” Helena chimes in, taking his side. “His ex-wife is a witch. He was telling us about some things which were just fascinating — unbelievable. She used to. . . .”
“I’m not interested in witches,” I say, cutting her off.
This Ed Soper and I start to discuss show business, after another lady, Lucy, says she is trying to get in. Ed says there’s a lot of money to be had there for anyone; that it’s just starting to break. That brings up the topic of commercialism, and they act like true artists, who have a standard — except, of course, it must be toned down to work within the existing system. I have the feeling of being at some cultural affair of the 1890’s with all that highly positive, turn-of-the-century optimism, that knows no fear or shame.
The pose of sensuality, without the love strength of a mate, is a last resort of the psyche to crush ice. When love and goodness are going, sensuality fills the gap for awhile.
From time to time, I hear someone say, “There’s a heavy producer here tonight.” Hollywood. I find some consolation from these groups, on a stool next to the cardtable in the living room. My Perry Ellis linen pants, made to wrinkle beautifully, are indeed wrinkled. I’ve worn them for weeks, rolled the cuffs up to mid-thigh. A man strolls past and stops, without introduction, saying, “You look good.” I smile back. “Thank you.”
“I don’t mean that as a come-on. I just wanted to tell you,” he says. He looks a little flustered, as if he’s not used to saying such things. Our hands touch, we shake hands. His hands feel soft and weak, but he is still in touch. He tells me he is a producer.
Lyle got real outrageous and drunk, flirting with all the cool beautiful ladies, a far more colorful and interesting man than the others there, but they entertain the boring ones with money and clean-shaven, well-groomed appearances. I consider that the real prostitution of beauty: done for the prospect of favors. Lyle and I told Ricardo he has a lot of talent, but he should do something else. Actually I think Lyle did the talking. He said they weren’t turn ons, like they were supposed to be, because there were no eyes, because there were no faces. There was no stopping us with trite cliches now: we’d had several glasses of wine, and Lyle more, drowning his misery.
A major coincidence: the young starlet I’ve noticed on my block was there. I introduced myself as her neighbor, and we got a laugh out of that. She is friendly and we talked. She needed a ride home, so I drove her home, after we dropped Lyle off at his car, lonely and self-deprecatory.
When I got home, I asked myself, what does it all mean? Just as I’m getting ready to go home, everything is opening up: such coincidences lately. This morning I got a call about a job, I’ve been happier since I decided to leave. Should I move right into Beverly Hills? No. I remembered what Helena’s friend said at the party: it’s just more competition for the children; the temptation is that it’s supposed to have such a good school system. At this moment, I hear children playing outside. Two little girls.
“My Mom’s going to make big trouble for your Mom,” one girl says.
“My Mom’s going to sue your Mom,” retaliates the other.
For the first time, after having had a taste of just about every heavy poison that can reach the lips and perception of modern woman, I hear myself saying the non-believer’s words, “I can’t believe it.”
In a competitive society, all progress is an illusion. It is making me paranoid. I’m capable of succeeding in those terms, but the values of those around me are frightening.
Cost of living. Should we accept the growing trends and flow with them? Or deprive ourselves, in order to hang onto the only thing left: inner life.
Conversation with Chas yesterday was triumphant. Our understanding is nearly as mellow as when we started this deep passionate affair three years ago. He’s written a song, expressing the feeling we both miss, that we once had, that deep bond between us. The song he sang over the phone, and it made me cry. Yet, just like everything about us together, it had an up spirit, sad as it was. It is so funky real, and yet it has got the catchy melody of a hit. It’s our song and it’ll be big someday. The Ego is Restored. “If I come to New Orleans,” I say, “you’ll forget about her.”
I wrote my own refrain:
I feel that I should be passive and let the right man come to me, Only I’m stuck in this big ole town without any back-up, Baby you know I’ve been patient, suffered oh so long, I never wanted to tell you And have you think less of me, I woke up the other day, All alone near a dirty wall And suddenly it was the same as that night you left me With an imaginary teddy bear for company, It’s a hard time bein’ real anymore, the usual solutions don’t pacify, I think you’re gettin’ down again, too, Is there yet time for us?
My question and answer dialogue with Jesus Christ yields the information that Washington might be the best place for me now. It is the bottom line: I can play a better game where I have the greatest security. Everyone is reinforcing me. Except Chas. He wants me near him.
In a competitive society, all progress is an illusion. It is making me paranoid. I’m capable of succeeding in those terms, but the values of those around me are frightening.
7/1/79 — The last three days: titanic. Friday at 8:45 a.m., a court appearance at L.A. County Court. Bill collector after me. I slept on the couch the night before to be sure I’d wake up in time. As I wait on a bench in the large room, a lawyer stops and asks, “What are you doing here?” He offers advice, gives me a business card and says to call him. The lawyer representing the plaintiff against me is late. The judge leaves. Then this lawyer comes in. He asks me to step outside the courtroom, into the hall. As we walk to the rear, a heavy-looking older, bald man in a sharkskin suit joins us. They ask me if I can pay fifty dollars a month, after I reply that I am living on child support and unemployment.
“No way,” I say.
“How about twenty dollars.”
“No,” I say. “Ten dollars a month is the most I can afford.”
“Then how about if we settle it, so you pay what you want.”
“How much will that be?” I ask suspiciously.
He looks a little angry. “The one hundred and thirty-five dollars plus interest plus court costs.”
“How much all together?” I ask.
He adds it up.
“Why should I pay all that?” I protest.
The two men start to look upset.
“Look,” they say, “You can pay whatever you want.”
“At my discretion?” I answer.
“Yes . . . it’ll be at your discretion.”
“Why are you settling now?”
“We’re not here to get your $135.00,” they say. “This man is from the hospital,” Mr. Glutenberg, the lawyer adds, “We just want to get this cleared up.”
“All right,” I say.
We go inside the courtroom and walk up to the front. They get a paper ready for me to sign. I look at it — the costs are there, but nothing written under terms. I wonder why they are so anxious to get this settled.
“It doesn’t say anything here about ‘at my discretion,’ ” I say. “How do I know you won’t come after me again?”
“Look,” they say, getting nervous, “There’s a new hospital administration. We don’t want to take food out of your kids’ mouths.”
I felt ungrateful, untrustworthy, paranoid, ready to burst into tears. Suddenly there were doors opening: circumstances that would have made me euphoric three years ago. Now, there was no stopping me, no satisfaction in some puny victory. Every day I was crying. I’d been defensive for good reasons, too long, and righteous and sore. I was nevertheless being placated — why? What had I gained in my struggles that intimidated worldly men? What did they want from me?
“Why are you in a hurry?” I ask.
“This is the same judgment the judge will make.”
“Where is he?”
“You want to settle it with him?” the lawyer asks, reversing his tolerant role, for the first time, in order to push and pull a bit. “We’ll have to go to Room 20.”
I was anxious to leave also, and agreed to sign the paper. It all seemed true. As we walked out of the room into large gleaming halls, Mr. Glutenberg asked me to walk out of the building with him, to where we were parked in a subterranean basement with confusing mazes and layers of floors. Nearing the elevator, he changes his role.
“I wish we’d met under other circumstances,” he says. The green eyes are slightly more squinty than desirous, yet unyielding. It makes me uncomfortable. “Could I take you out?” he asks.
I am aware of the old me, ready to laugh hilariously. All my worry, the months that had passed in dread of having to go to court, every time asking me on a date! But I can’t laugh. It is annoying that one more person wants something, for practically nothing.
“I don’t think so,” I say.
“You’re lucky. You don’t have to work,” he says.
“I’m writing a book,” I say.
“What’s it about?”
“My life . . . Not just my life. Religion, philosophy are in it.”
“I put my faith in Jesus,” I say.
“That’s a good one,” he says, one of those to whom all religions are equal.
I didn’t have the presence of mind to say, “It’s the only way.” Forgive me, Jesus, for worrying excessively about myself and being distracted by my writing occupation to give it a greater reality than you at that moment. I love to write. It is keeping me awake, while I wait for my brother to come and move me back to Washington.
“You’re a cute woman,” he says, giving me the look again. “Let the bill collectors worry about the bills,” he says, “You just get healthy.” For that I respected him. It seemed to put the priorities back in order, in being a woman.
“Don’t be so glum. You’re very pretty when you smile.”
I am a woman born organically in such a way, made by a unique fashion to demonstrate the inner reality of beauty. When I smile, from inside, I am the most gorgeous woman in the world, and when I am unhappy, I look ugly — uglier than most look when unhappy. There couldn’t be a more vivid illustration of this ultimate reality of perception or truth than me. My face projects totally this interior picture of emotional truth — a reality which also contains the emotion of love, and outside of which there is nothing but deception, fraud, lies, disillusionment, slander, greed, envy, fear, ignorance, hunger, intellect alone.
Driving along the freeway from downtown towards Beverly Hills, I feel enlightened again. Is it too late to go back to being a carefree, frivolous woman? Then, I think about the serious purpose which has gripped me the past few years, including my willingness to continue paying old debts rather than go bankrupt, even though my credit is already shot. Perhaps the way I was doing it was necessary. Even a woman could benefit by developing character.
Later in the day my problem is an entirely new one. How to get to the Rally at Diablo Canyon (DEVIL canyon) against the building of the nuclear power plant. Friday evening this was the scene: Cara had been organizing the campaign against the power plant, talking people at work into going, passing out leaflets. At the last minute, her mother called and insisted she and her sister meet her on an island in Virginia. She was flying out of town Saturday morning, and mad that she was going to miss the rally. Eighteen years old, obedience to her mother’s command was the outweighing factor.
Monroe, over at the Auntie Ursula’s dress shop, was worried he’d have to stay at the shop as he promised his mother to sell the old clothes on the men’s side, a new addition. Doris wasn’t sure yet how to get there — whether by bus, or what. I figured I’d go with Doris. Tony was well-organized, a forty-year-old bachelor-playboy, in a rather sublime sense. He was leaving with two girlfriends Friday night and invited me, but Gordon wasn’t planning to pick up the boys ’til Saturday morning. I didn’t dare ask.
But, I did call him up and ask if he would pick the boys up earlier than usual — say about 8:30, so I’d be ready to go.
“Have you heard about the rally?” I ask him.
“Oh, yeah,” but he could see both pros and cons to the construction of a power plant at San Luis Obispo.
“What’s the pro?” I ask, not waiting for an answer. “If it’s built it’ll emit poisonous waste material every day. One accident could destroy the state. It’s three miles from an active earthquake fault.” I am ready to tear my hair out when confronted with the pusillanimous, non-committal, dangerously detached logic of Gordon, a person I used to read James Joyce with! Somebody I knew was actually defending, in a weird way, the conspicuous trespassing on human liberty. What can one say in a situation this frustrating? Something stupid, perhaps.
“My conscience wouldn’t let me ignore this one,” I say, thinking of my own obliviousness to social conditions in years past.
“So much for your conscience,” he dismisses me. “What time do you want me to pick the boys up?”
Now, I’m beginning to see the way to survive is not by avoiding or not confronting the reality expressed: it is by acknowledging it, and transcending it. Holding two realities at once.
I saw the smog and heat choking the city, I saw the strain on people’s faces, I heard their gravelly voices, I listened to them sneer or make jokes out of desperation to hold their own point of view, at all costs, and all these things frightened me. I knew I could choose not to see, too, but it was strengthening me to be able to see more, while there is yet time to make changes. And a test: can I still feel good, knowing that the alternatives exist.
I am a woman born organically in such a way, made by a unique fashion to demonstrate the inner reality of beauty. When I smile, from inside, I am the most gorgeous woman in the world, and when I am unhappy, I look ugly — uglier than most look when unhappy.
7/2/79 — Plans to go with Doris fall through. She doesn’t want me along. The last time I try to hustle anything. The cause is world peace, my intentions grand — Tony will be disappointed — but centered in a network of personal feelings, that enmesh my life with that of others, I have no success convincing anyone of the wisdom of doing anything. You have to let people be.