The  United States of the World

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                Whacks,Women and Wanderings in the Soul

                 A Novel by Daniel F. McNeill

                                ​           How a Man in His Time Discovered What Is Truly Real in Any Time


 
                                                                             Chapter 1



   The girl who opened for me the emotional depths within myself and gave me the hardest whack was named Anne-Marie. I was a freshman in college. Joe Alfano was not searching for girls only among college girls. He hung out sometimes in the North End of Boston, an Italian-American working-class area, where he knew a lot of girls. He took me one night in November in his car for a double date. We stopped in front of a store in the North End with a crowd of boys and girls standing around talking. We got out of the car and he arranged with a few words here and there a transfer of two girls into his car. I got in the back seat beside Anne-Marie and we sat close touching. She had long black hair with light white skin on a thin pretty face. I was wearing a brown suede leather jacket and she ran her fingers over it and said with a soft throaty voice that she liked suede. My friend Joe was a master at talking down to earth talk with girls and he did most of the talking. I was happy to listen to him and his girl in the front seat feeling excitement sitting close to Anne-Marie listening waiting. We drove towards a restaurant to have coffee and donuts and listen to music. I told Anne-Marie I went to Tufts College with Joe and she said she did not know what she was going to do after high school. The two girls had a way of talking with an odd intonation that was particular to the North End. Instead of “North End” they both ended up saying something close to “Nord Enda”. I did not care anything about the odd sounds they made when they spoke. I was holding Anne-Marie with my arm around her in the back seat. I was feeling her touching me. Joe got into a humorous talk with his girl about religion. His girl said she liked going to church and she said Joe should also go. She twisted in her seat to look back at us sitting touching and said, ‘Ah, you know how they are, Anne-Marie. They’re college (She pronounced it like it had a g, “gollege”.) boys. They got their own religion.” We had coffee and donuts and I sat close beside Anne-Marie in a well lit booth eating and drinking and listening to their favorite songs on the jukebox. I examined Anne-Marie’s face in the bright light happily. She had light green eyes in a long slender face balanced with a long pretty nose with a few acne spots near the right edge of her chin. I did not care how she looked, or, to put it differently, I only cared that I would soon be parking in the darkness near a lake and kissing the lips of a girl with a pretty face and green eyes and long beautiful black hair.
   As soon as Joe saw me later at school, he told me right away that Anne-Marie liked me a lot, so much that I could easily go steady with her. I felt great hearing the news but it did not cause in me any great explosion of excitement. When I telephoned her for a date, she said in her soft throaty voice that she had a girlfriend who could come with us if I had a friend. I took another friend with me and the four of us went parking. I held Anne-Marie in the darkness and kissed her again and again lovingly. On our third date with just her and me, I drove alone in my car to the North End to pick her up feeling very nervous and fearful. It was like my deepest feelings had been split in two and I was unable to hold myself together. I felt for some unknown reason that I could not live another day in the universe unless some magical power would all at once miraculously seize my inner being and make it whole and strong and balanced and without fear, but instead my fear increased because it told me that there was no such power and I was nothing but a fearful man and nothing more. When I got to the store in the North End where I was to meet Anne-Marie, I got out and looked through a crowd of boys and girls looking for her. I was fearful standing in front of the crowd and the fear must have shown on my face because when Anne-Marie came to the car from my right and got in the car and I got in and drove off, she said softly, “You were afraid, weren't you?” Logically I should have said quickly and boldly in a strong voice, “Of course not. What are you talking about?” But I drove along silently saying nothing because she was right.
   I had reached a point where the feelings inside me that made me who I am were all working against me. I felt totally bad in the depths of my soul. As we drove along towards a drive-in movie, we talked but my words did not come out of me confidently. I was still nervous and I became even more nervous because I knew Anne-Marie sensed how nervous I was and did not like it. Why could I not simply be, be normal, be in control of myself and be myself? I had always enjoyed living within myself, thinking and probing within myself and using what strengths I found there to protect myself from the world. I no longer wanted to belong to myself. I wanted to belong to Anne-Marie and for her to belong to me and for both of us to be ourselves joined together by love. But how could this happen if I could not get a grip on myself and offer her someone strong and confident who was worth joining with her body and her feelings? Yet if I knew as we drove towards the drive-in movie what it would feel like with the first kiss she gave me as we sat parked in the car and watched the movie begin on the huge screen, I would have felt so powerful and so brave that I might have returned right then to the North End and stood fearless before the crowd hanging around that store. It would have been even a joy to fight someone to win Anne-Marie because that first kiss that night was divine. Oh, I know a kiss is not supposed to be divine! A kiss is just a kiss, the gentle exciting pleasure of soft lips against the soft lips of an  other. But that first kiss that night was more than just a kiss. As soon as my lips joined hers, it was like a shot of divine electricity that flashed from my lips bringing with it a truly heavenly thrill all the way down into the depths of feeling within me that we call the soul. I drove along in the car feeling better and better because Anne-Marie was with me even though I was still nervous. I had no thought that a kiss was about to happen that would make all other kisses on women’s lips in my life merely pleasant and delightful sensual touches that always failed to equal the touch that night of Anne-Marie’s lips that sent rhythms of pleasure all the way down to my soul.
   I pulled into the line of cars at the drive-in movie. I paid the entrance fee and drove slowly until I found an empty space. I drove the car up a short incline and stopped with the car pointing up towards the huge screen. I pulled into the car the microphone that I set on the mirror in the top center of the car at the level near the top of our window. I put my arm around Anne-Marie and we settled back waiting for the movie to start. I was less nervous than before but still nervous. I knew I was going to kiss her soon but as I held her I wanted to join with her so passionately that for some reason I was afraid to kiss her. She was close to me touching me pressed even closer because of the pressure of my arm around her. She was mine for the taking by a kiss and I was afraid that the kiss that was about to happen might not be wonderful enough to make her respond deeply with her feelings to the confused, nervous feelings in me. But I suddenly took the plunge! I moved my head so my face was before hers and I found her lips with my lips. It was as though her emotions and my emotions melted and were replaced so that there remained within each of us for those divine moments nothing but the deepest possible thrill of love. I was sure as I held my lips lovingly against hers that it did not count at all that she had discovered that I was fearful. We both of us disappeared as separate beings and we cared nothing at all either of us who we were for those few moments while we kissed. She was mine and I was hers and neither of us were any longer anything except beings with no name and no identity thrilled to the roots of our beings by nothing but a kiss.


                                                                Chapter 2


    I had always a sense that I counted more than anything in the world outside of myself. The world could whack me and wound me but it could never kill me because within me a sense of well being always came back to my inner feelings that gave me strength to go forward  eager for new experiences.  I never got to know Anne-Marie as a person. I only wanted her to be mine and it did not matter who she was. When I had my arm around her and we talked, it was like we were in a separate universe that made the real universe disappear. Neither of us ever tried to explain ourselves to one another. While my lips were pressed against hers, the pleasure she gave me made me sure that the passion she felt on my lips said everything I had to say. I felt joined to her even when we were not touching and when we kissed I felt our pleasure drawing us so close together that I could not believe in any part of my mind and being that we could ever separate. She was my girl. The world around me that I escaped and hid from in myself had given her to me. What in the world could ever take her from me? Anne-Marie taught me eventually that I was a humpty dumpty sitting on a wall. The world loves walls but it hates anyone who tries to remain seated on one. Anne-Marie knew with her instincts that I needed to fall off my wall to see if I could ever put back together the pieces I became. She did not push me off. The world she lived in gave me the push. In Anne-Marie’s world actions were  more important than feelings. Her world used her as the instrument to give me the push.
   Her world told her she should date other boys. It did not want her to give her vote for fun and excitement to one candidate. It wanted her to look over all the candidates  who were seeking the pleasures that her youth and beauty might award them. She was all about enjoying the various campaigns and not voting to make any boy official with her in the politics of love while she was only 17. There were plenty of practical strategies I could have employed to possibly keep her including actual courtship. Courtship is what the world tells you you must undertake to convince girls you will have a solid future with a lot of money in a bank to go along with your kisses. Two of my friends from high school were already in relationships with marriage in the future assured. I was not apt at campaigning. I never gave courtship a thought at 19. I was amazed that I was united so easily to a girl who made my feelings seeth through my nerves with pleasure and I was stupid enough to believe some deeper communication with her was certain to follow that would put an unbreakable seal on our union.
    Our breakup was so painful for me that it taught me a truth that I did not want to know. Yet it was the truth. I refused it with my mind but my suffering was so deep when she was gone that it was like my painful feelings wrote down the truth by gouging words into my soul that would never leave me even though I always refused to read them. I would never arouse the feelings of a woman so deeply that she would give herself to me body and soul. That was the truth! But what man can accept such a truth?
   I could not. It meant I would always be alone, painfully alone, because emotionally, in the deep places in being where life has real meaning and everything else counts for nothing, I would always be only an I who could never draw into my soul another I to form a we. I could perhaps find another girl somewhere sometime and I could kiss her and make love to her day after day, year after year, but she would never be mine. Anne-Marie was gone but she had never been mine and that knowledge, the solid kind of knowledge that I hated, the truth that she was gone from me and that she had been gone from me all along, even when she was with me, even during our kisses, that knowledge whacked me so hard that I never again took the people around me seriously and I fell into total emotional despair knowing there was no escape any longer in myself from the cruel and meaningless world around me.
   Before my break with her, I passed my final exams at Tufts College with a B plus average and I earned a letter in Freshman football. Afterwards I spent the summer alone in my room with the door closed at the top floor of our three-decker house in Somerville, a city next to Boston. My best friend, Phil Malkowski,  was home out of the army and when he visited me, he could not believe the state I was in. My mother told him I never left my room, that I spent my time lying on my bed reading or listening to music. Phil was recently back from Korea where he had had all the regular manly adventures soldiers had with the war over drinking and convorting with the local girls. I was glad to see him but I could not explain why I spent my time alone. I told him I had lost a girl and he was sympathetic but for him winning or losing girls was either great or not so great but it did not in either case have anything to do with the soul. The Somerville Library just up the street was a better companion for my wanderings in my soul than Phil Malkowski and it was well stocked with famous books. I was reading Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment. I told him a Russian student our age in the novel murders an old woman with an axe to prove to himself he can do anything. Through my influence, Phil got the book and read it too. We had long talks about it. I did not care anymore about anything in the world around me but it was natural to turn to the world of music and literary and philosophical culture to compare my experiences with expressions of deep dramatic moments in life by great artists. I influenced Phil to cultivate himself by reading and by our discussions. I introduced him to friends from college  and they became his friends. Three or four of us sometimes drank together and talked in the bars in Davis Square. As the summer went by, my pain eased but the message it wrote in my soul never went away. I had no interest in constructing a future for myself. For the first time in my life my inner being no longer felt well being.
  What was real now in my world was suffering. Suffering taught me everything I needed to know and what the people around me knew and expressed by words with such certainty had nothing to do with suffering. I lay on my bed alone in my room for long hours feeling the suffering deep within me lecturing me wordlessly in the silence that I was not anything at all. Why should I leave my room? Where should I go to try to find some other self within myself that was mellow and good and happy? My suffering was not just some huge boulder that had fallen on me and wounded me so greatly that I could not eventually get out from under it. My suffering was me. I carried it with me when I did leave my room and socialized with friends. It eased when I talked and joked and drank with them but it never went away. Yes, even when the weeks went by and it eased and I had moments that grew into hours during which I no longer suffered I still suffered. Suffering filled up my soul and when it dripped and dripped away drop after drop and it was no longer within me as a feeling, it was still with me like a hollow, lifeless presence, a deathful sense that my soul was now empty and worthless, and then an added pain came over me that injected into my mind the thought that I was worthless because I would never again have any worthwhile feeling in my soul.
   The final result of that summer was that I no longer had any real interest in the world and the people around me or in myself. I became a creature who was no longer a genuine person because I no longer had the strength or the will to relate either to others or to myself. The world was nothing and I was nothing. That was it. When I returned to Tufts College in September, I appeared to my friends there and to my teachers no different from what I had been in June. But inside I felt different. I could no longer take myself seriously. The courses I signed up for seemed meaningless as I tried without success to follow them. I could not concentrate on my studies at Tufts or on the people at Tufts because there was no longer any foundation in myself that I could concentrate on.  A certain type of person did however seem real to me. I was sometimes in Davis Square drinking in the bars and frequently I discovered behind the sad looks on certain people’s faces the evidence of genuine suffering in them that they could not hide. It was a relief to me to discover that suffering had robbed people other than myself of their regular human feelings. I was not the only human in the world who had been reduced to a creature pretending to be human. At Tufts however I found no hints of suffering on any of the faces. People at Tufts had not learned what I had learned. They did not know what I now knew and what people in Davis Square also knew.
   I grew close that summer to my friend in Davis Square, Bob O'Connor, whom we all called Okie. He had no genuine interest in formal education and had left school after the tenth grade. He was full of life and I was not but like me he cared nothing at all about taking anything seriously. You did not have to tell Okie or most people in Davis Square that they had to forget the future and live for the day. That was the only way they knew how to live. Tomorrow? For Okie there was no tomorrow and life was being alive now, this minute. He was tall and thin but strong always with a bright amused look on his oval-shaped face. He was a great talker and he was beginning to take the necessary steps along with me to make himself a great drinker like his two  brothers whose drunken antics and talk were legendary in the square. Like them, Okie  was a great talker even with a small English vocabulary. He always came up with unusual expressions. He spoke with a kind of drawl in a voice that he made deeper than normal for a comic effect. For example, when someone was sick he would say, “He’s got mung of the lung.” When he had success with a girl, he would say with his drawl smiling, “She’s hot for my warm form.” By that summer, the time when my creaturehood began, I was very well educated in comparison to Okie. I had six years of Latin, four years of French in High School and another year at Tufts, a smattering of Classical Greek and a full successful year of college with courses in English, World History, Psychology and Philosophy. But with Okie I never once used any vocabulary or expressions or thoughts that derived from my higher education. We used regular, working-class expressions exclusively. It was the only way to speak with people in Davis Square. It was its own separate world. Its people were nowhere and going nowhere and yet they liked where they were. It was a relief for me to be among them and talk their language. Tufts was located only three miles from Davis Square but culturally speaking they were many miles apart.
    My suffering did not diminish a state of fearfulness within me that began in childhood and remained with me. I always feared death. When I told adults on a few occasions that I was afraid to die, they were not sympathetic. That summer I had a long telephone conversation with a good friend from high school that did me a lot of good. A kind of ferocious humanity was natural to Tom Barbieri. He was totally against  abstract notions about spirituality or idealistic religious beliefs about goodness and immortality. His father and mother were born in Italy in the town of Gaeta and his parent’s parents, Tom’s two grandfathers and grandmothers, lived with Tom and his sister Anita. They spoke at home the Gaeta dialect of Italian. Tom’s father worked in a meat-packing plant and he had accepted all the radical working-class ideas of the thirties and early forties. As a child Tom had been on weekends at working-class outings in the countryside where fiery speakers spoke to crowds of workers the party lines of communism. Tom was a communist and he had accepted Karl Marx's brilliant criticism of capitalist evils as his gospel. When I told Tom in our phone conversation that I feared death, for a communist with a ferocious and passionate belief in the here and now my words expressing my fear were nothing but an example of bourgeois decadence. But he was nonetheless sympathetic. He lectured me in a friendly way explaining away my fear as an illusion and something that I could easily overcome. Death was not a problem for him, life was the problem and it had to be fixed as quickly as possible by applying Karl Marx's ideas to reality. He turned the conversation from death to the brilliant hopes for humanity in the future in the classless society that for him was inevitable. He made me feel more positive. His humanism came through along with his communist ideas. Humanism was what I needed because I was in a state that was far from what is normally human. Human contact itself can not solve the deep problems that suffering awakens in the soul but I needed to be drawn out of myself and to reconnect as much as possible with the human world. Tom’s humanity was a great help. He made sure I borrowed the communist books he had including Marx's Communist Manifesto of 1848 and works about the trials of American Communists. I read the books. They made me take somewhat seriously the world around me but only while I was reading them. They did not make me a communist but they at least gave me a push towards the road I needed to travel if I were ever to become a real man.
   Frank Bellucci, another high school friend, had just finished his freshman year at Harvard and he was going full steam after a pretty blond Wasp girl from a middle-class family in Somerville. I had access to my mother’s car and he needed to visit her at her parent’s summer home on a lake in Maine. I agreed to take a trip with him in my car to visit his girl. He had no other transportation to get to Maine. It was pleasant to get away from my loneliness in my room and it was therapeutic to be with an intelligent good guy like Frank. I was not jealous at all that he had a tough-minded ambition to succeed in life by working hard at his studies at Harvard and by winning his pretty blond girlfriend. When we arrived at her parent’s house on a lake, the three of us went for a swim and Frank and his girl splashed one another and wrestled playfully in the water. Her parents had a big house and a great main room with long wooden rafters up above below the ceiling and a huge fireplace. We enjoyed a long dinner with pleasant talking and here and there laughed sometimes because of my wit. A future possible for me as well as Frank was all right there in front of me. Work at studies. Find a girl and work for a future with her. Head for the future. Construct a life for yourself. I did not envy Frank at all. He had a future mapped out for himself and I did not because I knew nothing in myself, nothing in all my being, cared anything about such a future. It was a pleasant trip, a getaway. I was soon back in my room with my music and my books and myself. In Somerville when any young man acted as I was acting, everyone without exception knew the solution: give the bum a boot in the ass. It was as good a possible solution to my creaturehood as any of the other more sophisticated solutions one might think up. No one understood that I did not have a problem that needed a solution. An ache in the soul is not a problem. It is an ache.
   My friend Joe Alfano knew about my breakup with Anne-Marie. He told me in a very friendly way what I had to do. I had to begin dating girls systematically. I should meet them at social functions on campus and date at least one new one every week. I should get in the mix like he. He always had his eyes wide open looking over the field for love critically and dating girls systematically. The business of love was Joe’s specialty. He tried to make his specialty my business. For him my bankruptcy was just part of the normal business cycle that caught up with investors who unwisely sunk all their money in one stock. Variety was his solution. Never invest any more than ten percent in any one girl. Play the field. Spread your money around. Joe knew how to talk to girls and get plenty of information about them. A wise investor. He did not understand that my soul was aching and penniless and I had nothing within me to offer a girl because I had offered all the wealth of the feelings in my soul to Anne-Marie and lost.
   I was worthless and the world was worthless. That was my gospel. Only the discovery in my music or my readings of expressions of suffering provided me with any wealth. The faces I passed back at Tufts in September had energetic and positive expressions  that told me that what was in their souls or not in them was not their problem. When I told Frank Ballucci at the end of October that I was leaving Tufts for good because I could not stand being there, he thought I had strong feelings against the people at Tufts. No doubt he had been himself battered around socially by the rich snobs at Harvard. He thought I should just say to hell with them and keep going like he bravely. I was really touched by his concern for me. I told him I had nothing at all against the people at Tufts. I just could not stand being there. If I had had a chip on my shoulder against them like he had at Harvard, that would have been the result of a positive feeling in me, a source of energy, that might have given me a firm ground to stand on to fight for my future. I needed to get away from Tufts, get away from myself, get away from everything. Like my friend Okie, for me there was no such thing as the future. In Davis Square among common, poor people I had learned that worthlessness had some merit to it if you not only felt worthless but lived worthlessly hand to mouth in poverty taking each day as it came getting by with the scraps the rich threw at you when they decided your work was worth a few dollars. My gospel of worthlessness had no devotees at Tufts. The girlfriend of a friend at Tufts told me at a fraternity party with genuine sympathy that I was someone who had to suffer but who would be remembered. My worthlessness was showing on my face at Tufts as suffering giving it merit for a girl who liked me but it must have appeared strikingly odd there among so many happy, positive souls. I had to get my face out of Tufts and find someplace where i could be just another face in the crowd.
   I remember taking my last walk over the open green spaces in the center of many Tufts buildings in November. It was a crisp bright beautiful Fall New England day with some brown leaves still spread here and there contrasting with the green of the grass and the clear blue in the sunlit sky. I felt a kind of romantic sadness at leaving because I could not escape the knowledge that I was cutting the rope with the tomorrow Tufts offered me. But I felt good. I wanted out. I had only one regret. In a philosophy class in my Freshman year while I was dating Anne-Marie, I came face to face in the confusion of a crowd entering the classroom with a pretty girl with blue eyes and short, thick black hair. We looked each other full in the eyes for a moment and we were both a little embarrassed because there was definitely a quick emotional connection. I remembered later in the year when things were going badly with Anne-Marie watching her leave the classroom. She had a slender white neck below her beautiful short black hair. She moved away from me and I never said a word to her but the beauty of her neck and hair remained an image that stuck in my mind and became exquisitely beautiful thinking of the love that might have happened between us that had never happened. I knew from my struggle with Anne-Marie that there are no words for love that I would ever find but as I walked across the green grass and away from Tufts forever, I saw again the image of the slender white neck and the beautiful black hair of the pretty girl. I did not think of Tufts much afterwards or regret leaving it but whenever Tufts came to mind, the image of the pretty neck of the girl with black hair came with it.


                                                              Chapter 3


   I walked to a bus stop from my house on Medford Street in Somerville to go to my new job as a shoe salesman at Corcoran’s department store in Central Square, Cambridge. I got on a bus and transferred to a bus that took me to Central Square. The first day on the second bus in the morning with others going to work, I could not avoid the thought of how stupid it was to be going to work when I could have been expanding my mind in the pleasant atmosphere at Tufts among young students my age. I brushed aside the thought. It was nothing more than a weak sense still active in me that I had merit, that I was worth a lot more than being just a shoe salesman. It’s difficult not to take yourself seriously. People all around you are serious and the disease is infectious. It makes you sick of your worthlessness and you become sicker and sicker until the disease conquers you and you feel serious. The dull, tired  faces on the bus and the day ahead of meaningless work soon made me feel immune from the disease. The bored and beaten expressions on the people around me showed me they were all as worthless as me. They looked unhealthy. Seriousness did nothing but ruin their health. The best thing for all of us was to let a healthy sense of our worthlessness invade us. It was the only way to escape a serious world bent on forcing us to take it seriously. I did not feel happy going to work. Far from it. But I needed something to do that tired me and wore me down and paid me a few dollars. Cash on the barrelhead. That was the only thing worth taking seriously. I had not had enough merit to win Anne-Marie’s love. What I was worth in the world inside myself where money counts for nothing was worth nothing.
   I had two bosses at the big shoe department where I worked. I don’t remember their names but they were both thin athletic-looking guys with dark hair in their thirties and they did none of the work. I sometimes couldn’t tell one from the other because whenever they were both in the big open space where we dealt with customers, they stood beside one another talking in a low voice and the same expression came to their faces making them look alike. It wasn’t greed because they were successful businessmen and as such they had their greed comfortably hidden alive and pleasurable in their gut located as far away from their hearts as possible. Greed appeared on their faces transformed to a look of calm satisfaction something like what shows on a rich man’s face when he has begun digesting a prime piece of steak that few people can afford. Either Mr. X or Mr. Y was always standing behind the counter where all the cash was surrendered. After a few days on the job, I didn’t notice either of them anymore. They never said anything even slightly personal to me and the drudgery of my pleasant interchange with customers, mostly female, helped keep the two of them out of my view. I had a talent for talking to ladies interested for a few minutes only in shoes. I measured their feet and put shoes on them. They rose and walked back and forth on the carpet looking down at a new pair of shoes. I had no difficulty finding words to praise the look of the shoes on women who were totally interested in shoes and interested in me not at all. I needed beer and cigarette money and the ladies and Mr. X and Mr. Y provided me a worthwhile commerce. I merited only 42 dollars a week but I lived at home rent free. I had to work six days a week however and I also did not like it when Mr. X or Mr.Y took me off the floor and made me work unloading boxes of shoes and fitting them by sizes, the lowest below and the highest above, into the shelves behind the walls out of sight of customers. I also didn’t like dressing with clean pants and a fresh shirt  and tie. It was an extra bother and an extra expense. But I kept at it week after week and had plenty of money to spend drinking in Davis Square and becoming as happy as possible being hopeless. Then one day Mr. X and Mr. Y together talked to me. I knew the look of sadness on my face that my phoney smiles could not erase did not please them. But I knew also that it did not affect my relationship with customers. Then Mr. X or Mr. Y, one of them, said, “We don’t like your approach to customers. There’s room for improvement.” Unholy words! No doubt about it! I had been trained by an experienced shoe salesman at the age of fifteen in the art of approaching customers out to buy shoes. I reached into myself to connect with my worthlessness to try to find support to quench my anger. It didn’t help. It’s impossible not to feel some merit in yourself when you are working hard to make a little money for yourself and a lot for other people. I needed my beer and cigarette money but there had to be other ways to merit them. I began looking around for new sources of cash.
   During my lunch hour, I walked around Central Square. A lot of people were on the go on the sidewalks dressed poorly like people in Davis Square. They had positive looks on their faces saying they had a lot of things going for them. New products were always coming out that they could buy and I passed two stores whose business was loaning working-class people money. All they needed was the energy to work hard and one way or another the economy would credit their work with the right to consume something. You couldn’t blame them. Really there was nothing else for them to do but work hard and take whatever the world gave them in return. The big new cars on the main street in the square, Massachusetts Avenue, had fish-tail fin extensions on their rear that were especially stimulating for people on the go. Everyone wanted a new big car with fish-tail fins. A car took you where you wanted to go and it was the biggest thing you ever owned in your life. It made you feel big too and you could buy one on credit if you had a job. They were not well dressed like the people in Davis Square and I felt a little uncomfortable walking around in Central Square with a dress shirt and a tie. I had already worked summers in two factories, one was a box factory and the other manufactured toilet paper. I knew there were places where I could work without a shirt and tie. I was a little too high up on the social ladder in the genteel business of selling ladies shoes. I knew from the humble, worn out  expressions on some of the people in Central Square that there was cash to be had too further down the steps of the social ladder. I was ready to take another step down.
   On my wanderings on the side streets off Central Square, I walked by a taxi business. Around ten cabs were parked in a lot, all white with blue stripes, beside a small brick building with a sign in front reading, “Drivers Wanted, Full and Part-time”. Two thoughts immediately rang through my head, first that Friday night was our big drinking night at the Crossing Lunch bar in Davis Square and it was a pain to get up Saturday mornings to go to work, second that I had already thrown away everything that had social merit and hence nothing prevented me from pursuing a career as a cab driver. I did not go in right away and apply for a job and when I asked myself why I had not, I shamed myself by admitting that I had recoiled, slightly but still significantly, from the lowly social status of driving people for hire. I conquered my shame and applied for the job. The boss at the cab office hired me on the spot. He gave me a letter to take to the police station just outside Central Square to apply for a hackney license. I went there and applied. They had my license ready three days later. Now as Mr. X and Mr. Y observed my approach to customers, I had a weapon in my pocket to fight against their totally unacceptable criticism of my conduct as a shoe salesman. I had a ticket in my pocket to a career as a cab driver.
    My time became free mornings, afternoons and nights. When I felt like it or when I was forced to it because I needed a few dollars, I was off in the middle of the afternoon to drive a cab around Cambridge, a city that borders Somerville. At bottom it was a tough job driving in traffic with people who had little or no respect for some stranger driving them where they had to go and taking some of their money. But I always had money right away every day I worked from the tips I earned. Around two out of every three passengers were either not bad or else did not act badly. Those who were annoying or out and out bad were quickly gone at the end of a trip and I was again alone behind the wheel free for a while from humans. When you drive a car, you make yourself the part of a machine that it needs to come to life. The car becomes human. Of course if it’s your car and you’re driving yourself somewhere, you don’t mind that a machine takes on human characteristics. But when someone gets in a cab, the car belongs to the cab rider for a few minutes and because he is paying for it, the car alone seems human because it’s difficult for most riders not to see the back of the head and part of the face of the human holding the wheel and driving as anything more than a machine. But my humanity had not merited much respect as a shoe salesman and at bottom I did not believe I deserved any respect at all. What was I good for? It was best for me to drive a car through city streets and to get rid of both the people who respected me and those who did not as soon as possible.
   By this time, I had listened alone in my room on records I borrowed from my library to most of the great operas and most of the great works of classical music. I had a strong need to find rhythmic sounds to touch me deeply with strange new feelings. Away from my music everything seemed decrepit and lifeless. The other stimulus I used to escape my memories of Anne-Marie was thinking. The kind of thinking I did was certainly a negative activity because it had nothing to do with the real world I lived in where our thoughts were mostly fashioned for us. I grew up in the 1940s and 50s with anticommunist thoughts blasting away at me and all Americans on the radio and television. We all got the message and it stuck in our minds because there was no such thing as any contrary message anywhere in public discourse that might have led to new different thoughts and to more complicated and more interesting developments. Nothing was developing around me except new products and they were all purchased and accepted as vital necessities even though people had lived without them for years, for centuries. I had grown up with a block of ice in our refrigerator and in the winter we kept food cold in a wooden box sticking out a window in our pantry. You were nothing if you didn’t have an electric refrigerator by 1950 and your hatred of communism made not desiring the new refrigerators and other new products that kept coming out unpatriotic. I had no desire to buy anything and it is true that, from the point of view of the thoughts fashioned for us, I was unpatriotic. But I was just one face in a huge crowd of buyers and in no danger. I was not interested at all in politics or in the anticommunist rhetoric although I took the patriots on the radio and television with their hues and cries against the evils of communism seriously. They were up to something. They were at war, a cold war but a war, and the only ideas allowed while the patriotic war against an evil economic system was being waged were theirs. I kept quiet. I tried to figure out what was going on behind the public banter but I never reached a reasonable explanation for the thoughtlessness forced on my generation. As far as I could see, we were the richest country in the world and we all had cars and electric refrigerators. I kept quiet but I began thinking on my own about everything. I had studied philosophy at Tufts. I read with great interest books about the history of philosophy that filled my mind with all the great ideas from the past. Thinking was a great way to escape the annoyance and tedium of the manufactured thoughts on radio and television. Thinking helped me escape the emptiness in my soul. I began thinking and thinking about everything. I kept at it.
   Whenever I met with friends for drinking in Davis Square, I had a lot to say. In college courses when I read pieces of literature or of history, philosophy and psychology for class I never enjoyed it because while reading I  was always storing up in some part of my mind what I might report about it in class. I would not read  freely but now I did read freely whatever I happened upon in the library near my house and I began enjoying it immensely. I found the German philosopher Hegel’s book, “The Philosophy of History”, in the library and read it  enjoyably. What a book! He took every major people in the whole history of the world beginning with Ancient China and explained the meaning of the main features of their culture. It was the kind of book that was much too complicated to read for some college class, but I plunged into it and it stimulated my thought in a powerful way because I did not have to relate anything I read to anyone but myself. In fact, it sent my mind off into a long and passionate mental whirl as Hegel’s great thoughts took root in me and set my imagination free to invent in reaction to his thoughts new thoughts of my own. My mind began going on uncharted excursions  aided by my imagination that were fiery. I became on a mental level like Phaeton in mythology who borrowed the chariot of his father, Helios, the sun God, and raced across the heavens so inspired by the excitement of his heavenly journey across the sky that he lost control of the chariot and fell to his ruin. I flew so far in my imagination with new thoughts that I did at times feel a kind of fear that I was going too far. There were so many books with so many strange thoughts to ingest. I sometimes wondered  where so many new thoughts were taking me and whether or not my mind was strong enough to receive them. Each time some new thought of some new thinker took hold of me, I would live with it a while as though it were my own. But then I struggled to free myself from it, to outthink the thought of each thinker, and it was exhilarating to be once again free and open to some new thoughts after successfully throwing some old thought out the window. The culture and thoughts of the whole world in the past were stored in books translated into English ready to be consumed by a cab driver who had no interest in consuming electric refrigerators and cars like other people. But where would it lead? Could I just dive into the experiences that intelligent men had left behind in books on my own? I did not worry about my mental excursions too much because so far they were enjoyable and they were the best means I had yet discovered to escape my memories of Anne-Marie. But I never stopped thinking of the difficulty of men and women relating to one another without causing each other pain. Love wasn’t working the way it should.
    I was often only an hour or so away from lying on my bed in my room thinking to sitting in my cab in Central Square waiting for a fare.  It might appear that as a cab driver I had a direct connection with the real world. It was not so at all. I had a few minutes of contact with strangers really going somewhere but I had no contact with them as real persons. We sometimes passed words back and forth because passengers were usually ill at ease sitting in silence if they were by themselves. But it was the kind of broken polite talk that strangers sometimes use with one another to keep themselves safe from any real personal communication. The truth is I wasn’t interested in them occupied trying to get them somewhere in traffic and they did not want anything to do with me because knowing they would be with me just a short time, no personal contact was possible. Anger at me was sometimes their prefered means of communication because  it was always easy to hate some stranger whom it was impossible to love given the short period of our interrelationship. The combination of the thoughts I conceived in my room that had no practical application and the tense lack of human communication with my customers in my cab was not psychologically healthy. It sometimes made me think of people too harshly. I was in danger of thinking myself superior because I thought all the time and they thought very little. Driving a cab did not give me knowledge of what was really going on but at least it brought me down from my ivory tower where I did my thinking to the business of transporting strangers to where they wanted to go for a price.
   The streets of Davis Square formed the city-state of my civil experience and the Crossing Lunch bar was the temple where we practiced a cult without any fixed rules to its rituals. Highland Avenue and Elm Street met in the square and the Crossing was located at the tip of the triangle they formed where they met at the beginning of Holland Street leaving an open space behind them where four other streets entered the square. I was at the temple often. Within its confines my ideas about various matters, inexpressible and inapplicable elsewhere, descended to earth in my conversations with friends and lived for moments scattered and broken into parts drifting about on our semi-drunken words.  The Crossing Lunch was full of young guys whom Okie knew and whom I got to know through him. Tom Barbieri  and Phil Malkowski and I worked most of them over with ideas that they had never heard anywhere. We threw out crazy thoughts at them in a good-natured way and it was fun to listen to them as they all defended their way of life in exactly the same way. I remember the one who positively loved his job in a factory. He was making good money and he had a car and a future. Tom told him he was being exploited and his life had no meaning except as a means to make evil men rich. He replied that he was making it on his own. He wanted no welfare handouts from the government. Tom told him he could get fired at any time and thrown out on the street. He was not worried. He could always find a job doing something. He had no problems. He had a car and everything was going great. They were all like that. You couldn’t budge them at all from where they stood. They all had one and the same idea: there was no crack in the grand canyon. If there was a crack anywhere it was in us, in Tom, Phil and me. The problems our ideas raised were ours not theirs. They were right in my case that the crack was in me and not in the grand canyon but the purity and passion and one-sided wholeness of their defense of the canyon was impressive and it was fun to listen to as we sipped our beer in the semi-darkness with the jukebox blaring, happy together for a while with our blameless and powerful America off somewhere completely out of sight crackless. What America was up to for everyone in Davis Square in 1956 was prosperity. Everyone had their chance and if they didn’t take it, it was their fault. That was it. The worst thing about communism was it took away the dream everyone had in the square to make a million dollars. You could always get lucky and make a million.The second worst thing about communism was it took away their cars. Everyone in the square loved their car and even if they spent their time working painting houses and getting drunk on what they earned, they still had their car or they could still always get one. I loved being with them. They had nothing and dreamed of having everything. Nothing could crack them as long as their dream lived. Darcy, the son of the Crossing Lunch’s owner, would often leave the bar and drink with us. He had money and he spent all his money on women even though he was married. His face beamed with happiness. We usually did not throw any of our ideas at him.  He firmly believed money and happiness and women were interrelated  concepts. He was sitting on top of the grand canyon and he could not see any cracks below. His temple provided us with a drunken mental glow as we drank his beer, some of which he provided free, and eventually as the night rolled on the glow increased divinely and sloshed away all the ideas from our brains that no one wanted and left us happy and intellectually numb like everyone else in our working-class city-state.


                                                                               Chapter 4

   

   Okie and I knew little more about Florida except that it was warm there in the winter. It was simple to see where it was located on a road map and we loaded some bags of clothing in a new car we contracted to deliver to a man in Boca Raton and took off. Once headed south I began a long journey with not much more living in my soul except silence. In my room with my books, I experienced often an intelligent conversation with great minds and with most of my friends I could talk meaningfully. I couldn’t carry on a conversation with Okie. Okie didn’t use words to converse. He used them to describe in his own way what was happening to him because of things going on around him. He loved to make up expressions to speak humorously about how people affected him. The two of us talked a lot but it was all about immediate things and everyday problems and pleasures. I didn’t mind the silence in my soul. It felt neither pleasant nor painful. It was just me there within myself  silent and alone and not concerned that I was silent and alone. It was good to feel as we drove south that I was holding together alright and in one piece. For Okie the question of whether or not he held together did not exist. He was Okie wherever we were going or whatever we did. It was good to be off headed south with him.
   We drove all day the first day and late into the night and early morning. At one or two in the morning, we ate at a diner in Fayetteville North Carolina. When we were outside in the parking lot, we started talking to a young man trying to get directions for the best route out of town. Okie talked to him and I talked to him but neither of us could understand  what he was saying. It was in English but there was such an odd twang to the sounds he made that it was incomprehensible. When we were in the car and off again, Okie began imitating the sounds the man made speaking in a long incomprehensible parade of crazy words from his mouth that was hilarious. We laughed and laughed uncontrollably. I tried my hand speaking some gobbledygook in imitation of the man’s southern twang. We shook with laughter. Of course the young man outside the diner had it over us because he at least had spoken in a real language whereas we were talking to one another in meaningless gibberish. But still it was fun to invent sounds that were not real words in any language.
   At Boca Raton in Florida, we delivered the car to a well-dressed old man in front of his hotel. He tipped us and asked us with a touch of concern as we turned to walk away where we were going.  Okie said we were on our way to Miami. We were badly dressed and could easily have passed for tramps. I saw a look of real sympathy in the old man’s eyes as we were leaving him. He may have thought of his own youth and of how frightful our adventure now seemed to him as an old man although it might not have seemed such in his youth. We stopped beside the main highway and hitchhiked south. Okie said we had to buy a car. He kept at it and I did not object but we did not have a lot of money and it seemed to me impossible to find a car in our circumstances. But when we were further south walking a short distance through a small town, we passed  a bare rocky field with four cars for sale and a black man poorly dressed sitting before a small shack. We asked him what he had for sale. He showed us a 1947 four-door Hudson brown with yellow stripes and with small sleek slanted side windows that was perfectly beautiful. We asked him how much it was and he said seventy-five dollars. We got up the money between us from our pockets fast. We had our clothes and bodies in a big beautiful car and we were off on the road with it within an hour. Not all talk needs to be a deep conversation. A few words and some money got us into a great car. Our few words developed to a fine conclusion. We were off roaring down the highway towards Miami with our spinning wheels telling the world what we were up to.
   Most people in Miami did not live in Miami but in a place called Myamha. Okie could not get enough of the delight it gave him to say Myamha with various new sounds he invented for the word none of which made it sound like Miami. We got a room in the downtown area near Flagler Street. We ate breakfast in a small chain restaurant that specialized in burghers and had great breakfasts with eggs cooked in front of us on a grill. Then we took our car out over the ocean on the causeway to Miami Beach to the beach. The beach had very few beachgoers and the sun and the ocean were beautiful. Okie was lucky he could tan quickly. For me it took longer but I didn’t care that I got sunburned lying idly on the beach hearing only the regular splash nearby of waves hitting the sand. I liked the general silence. It made the silence within me seem perfectly normal. I felt good and I didn’t care if I never spoke to anyone a long series of meaningful words. As time passed and I talked to people and kept my ears open listening to strangers talk, I found out most people in Florida talked little about things that touch the soul. They talked and talked but said nothing of any real importance. They were creatures like me. They talked enough to get along but very rarely deeply enough to prove they were real men or real women. Okie and I lay on the beach doing nothing to distinguish ourselves from the many creatures before us swimming hidden in the deep.
   We found a bar on Flagler Street and went there every night. One night in the early evening with light still outside, a man about twenty-four walked in with a smiling tanned face. People at the bar where we were sitting were happy and surprised to see him. He shook hands with people near us and we heard from their talk that he had been arrested by the police one night after the bar closed for drunkenness and vagrancy. A judge had sentenced him to a month on the chain gang. He had spent a month working all day under the hot sun and people joked that it had been good for him because he now looked in great physical condition. I enjoyed hearing the genuine happy talk because before in Florida I had heard nothing in talk coming from people that was much more than indifferent communication. I was not myself of course a model of human effusiveness because I was shut up within myself in my creaturehood. But nonetheless there was a kind of stillness in the air among people in Florida that seemed odd to me because I sometimes had the weird thought that  none of them had anything at all to say. But the man who had been on the chain gang proved me wrong. He sat beside me and began an open and deep talk with the bartender and people who came up and stood beside him to talk. He was from Brooklyn New York and he kept talking with a New York accent about what he called his “hurts”. He used other words to express his suffering but when he used the word “hurts”, he said it with deep feeling that touched me. His “hurts” had been caused like mine from a try for love that had failed. I admired how bravely and openly he talked about it. Even though he was confessing a profound failure, it made him a man because he was not afraid to talk about it to others. It gave me hope, since another man had failed like me, that failure was perhaps a necessary part to be experienced and acted out in the drama of becoming human. I gathered from what he said that he had been drinking himself to death because of his “hurts”. The chain gang had stopped him from destroying himself. Punishment working under the hot sun had made him healthy again and gave him at least a hint that some kind of salvation from his “hurts” might be still possible. A man communicated his pain and touched another man, me. For the first time, I understood that expressing real feelings human to human was the heart of human culture. My listening to music in my room and my readings were avenues to cultural experiences that brought moments of inspiration to the soul but meaningful words from the soul between humans was the real thing.
   When our money was close to running out, Okie and I drove a few miles north to the city of Hollywood and took jobs as busboys in a great hotel on the ocean named the Hollywood Beach Hotel. We worked and ate in the hotel and lived in the help quarters in a room that held six men on three bunk beds. The first night after work, we took a ride towards downtown Hollywood and a police car stopped our 1947 Hudson. A policeman ordered us out of the car and told us to lean against it. We leaned over and he searched us by tapping his hands down the length of our bodies over our well worn and unkempt clothes. He examined our documents and questioned us at length with a very hostile tone to his words. He communicated between us man to man nothing but the kind of contempt for other humans that easily turns to hatred. The day before we had had another lesson in man’s lack of humanity to man. Okie and I had to be examined by a doctor before we could start work as busboys in the hotel’s restaurant. We drove to the doctor’s office, reported to the doctor’s secretary and took seats in the waiting room. While we waited, I noticed through the open door before me that there were other men sitting in another waiting room across the hall. I looked again at the three men sitting near Okie and me. They were black. Okie and I did not get up and walk across the corridor to the other waiting room for whites. We sat with our fellow men filled from our heads to our toes with the cruel knowledge of man’s inhumanity to man.
   Life in the Hollywood Beach Hotel was like being locked up in prison except it was not too difficult to put up with  because we could leave at night after work and take a refreshing walk to a bar on a narrow road beside the beach with the wind blowing in steadily off the sea. The hotel was full of rich people enjoying themselves and Okie and I went among them at lunch and dinner dressed in white jackets with green stripes carrying trays of dirty dishes away to the kitchen. It was amazing how we could stand near or walk among so many people and have no human contact with them at all. They existed and we did not. It was that simple. Fine food was put on dishes, carried to them on trays, served to them by waitresses, and finally deposited by us behind doors in the kitchen on a big metal shelve before a crew of Cuban dishwashers shouting continually to one another in Spanish. There was a group of humans at the top  and a group of slaves at the bottom. Life was doing its thing and you had to get by mentally and emotionally as best you could wherever it deposited you. I cared nothing about where I was on the social ladder but the cultural superficiality of the Florida lifestyle by this time had  impoverished my thoughts and feelings and the slave society of the Hollywood Beach Hotel  had gradually put a choke hold on my soul.
   A cultural miracle happened within me one afternoon sitting outside with free time after working lunch. At the local library, I had discovered a book of short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne and took it out. Sitting near the door to the hotel’s kitchen in a small fenced in area, I was not expecting any relief from the psychological depression of my life regulated in a society designed to produce pleasures for some and pain for others. I began reading Hawthorne’s tale, The Great Stone Face. It was about a rocky mountain in New Hampshire that had a stone ridge near its top in a shape that resembled the face of a man. A young man in a valley below grew up thinking about the stone face and drawing inspiration from it that over his life gave him ever and ever a clearer vision of what the face meant. I followed the story with the hero’s spiritual inspiration caused by various visions of the face over his life beginning to inspire me. I forgot I was in prison and the story broke loose from my heart garbage that had gathered there becoming the refuse that was choking my soul. The young man’s inspiration grew gradually more powerful as his soul opened up and took on new larger dimensions matching the greatness of the great stone face up above on a mountain looking out over open fields towards the grandeur of the sky.  Hawthorne’s words touched me. They made me start flying inside. A writer, a man, spoke great words to me man to man. The great words in his soul became great words in my soul. Hawthorne's young man was searching for the truth and the great stone face taught him when he reached the end of his spiritual journey that the poet’s truth was the truest truth. What a powerful effect it had on me! It taught me that culture was not dead even though I saw little evidence of its existence in the life around me. Culture was words, thoughts, inspiration, beauty, poetry. Culture was life, a necessary and true part of life even if  most of the people living did nothing but kill themselves with their superficial lives and kill culture at the same time. Even if I was worthless in the eyes of women and the world, I could still be something of value in my own eyes if I never gave up my search for culture which at bottom was nothing more and nothing less than the will to meet soul to soul with the deepest creative thoughts and feelings of another person. I closed my book and got up inspired. My eyes had looked straight into the heart of Nathaniel Hawthorne and he had allowed me to look there because he had a great heart and he was not afraid to open it to others and make them feel as great as the great stone face on top of the mountain.
     The experience made me feel I was worth something and deprived me suddenly of the sense of worthlessness which was my main weapon against feeling depressed fulfilling my duties as a busboy. As I worked at my job, my feelings of creative release sobered and gradually disappeared. I became again nothing but a creature. I spoke to no one standing to the side in the large dining room watching guests talking and eating. Nothing that was truly alive in the whole universe, if there was anything anywhere that was truly alive, had anything to do with us, they because they were merely filling themselves with food, I because I was not free to do anything with my body or mind but carry away their leftovers. The only pleasure I had was taking a cigarette break. It was all right for us busboys to stand behind the doors in the kitchen and smoke when the dining room was not too busy. The captain of the busboys, a man of around 50 with a big face reddened by drunkenness, had caught me smoking while the dining room was busy and commanded me rudely to get back on the floor. I obeyed. He caught me again a few days later and commanded me rudely again this time with anger. I ignored him. I could not fashion for myself the kind of smiling positive face that was generally required of busboys. I knew the captain of the busboys did not like it. My expression was not as smiling and subservient as it should have been. I had agreed to act as a slave and I was not playing the role with the appropriate expression. I knew his anger was not only because I was smoking but also because my expression told him I was not completely buckling under his authority. “You’re fired,” he told me with anger because I had continued smoking and had not hopped quickly away back to the dining room as he had commanded.
   Okie quit and when we collected the pay due us we had enough to take some time off before again hiring ourselves out to some lowly job in a hotel or restaurant. Northern Florida did not interest us and we had been around southern Florida long enough to be more or less indifferent to the people. However we loved the natural beauty of Florida and the sea and the warm weather. We looked over our road map and discovered at the southern end of the state the string of islands that lead out over the ocean for a long distance ending at the last island, Key West. It was clear from our road map that there was a road built over the sea from island to island and that was all we needed to know. We were off for a trip across the ocean to Key West. We dared to do it because by this time we loved driving our 1947 Hudson and we had such confidence in its reliability that it seemed natural  to allow our trusted friend to prove itself on a voyage to the southernmost tip of the East Coast of America. Okie bought himself a new sports shirt and new pants. I splurged on a new sports shirt and we were off. Once out on the narrow cement road over the ocean  from island to island it was like we were on a plane flying low over water. The ocean all around us had a light green color and it was smooth with just light ripples over its surface. Birds flew around us as though dancing in the clear air delighting themselves by swoops in different directions under the blue sky with the sun shining brightly on the green sea. I felt totally free and happy listening to the Hudson’s motor steadily turning pulling us from island to island with no end in sight as though it were wonderful if there were no end and we could just go on and on forever carelessly over the green sea. We were nowhere and everywhere at the same time not knowing where we were and happy being there. We were simply out on the sea flying slowly to wherever the sea led and not caring if it went on forever and led nowhere. What a great need humans have to live without feeling the presence of time in some short moment of timelessness and how hard it is to find such a moment and truly live there! Okie and I found the moment and lived the same moment over and over rolling along with no sense of time or place surrounded by the sea and the sky joined together.
    Okie and I loved bars but there were so many bars in Key West and so much drinking that it seemed to me odd that people in such a beautiful natural location turned their backs on the  beauty around them and imprisoned themselves behind four walls drinking alcohol. However we drugged ourselves like the locals with a lot of beer our first night there and slept in a motel. But we could not afford another day and we were off in the morning back over the sea to Miami. We stayed in a room near Flagler Street for a week and then took jobs in a big new restaurant that had just opened in the town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a suburb on the ocean of the big city of Fort Lauderdale. Okie was a busboy and I became a dishwasher. The dishwashing machine was big and brand new. I prefered scraping dishes free of bits of food and loading them on racks to clean the dishes rather than being out in the dining room near customers. We found nearby a trailer for rent in a trailer park. The trailer itself could sleep two people and outside we stepped down onto a large cement patio with chairs and a table under a roof with screen windows and canvas walls on three sides. It was pleasant sitting on the patio mornings and at night living with much more room than we had in the Hollywood Beach Hotel or in our room near Flagler Street. One night while Okie and I were sitting on  the patio, our friend from Davis Square, Jack Murphy, arrived and joined us. We got Murph a job in our restaurant but the trailer was too small for the three of us. We found a big room for rent in a private house near the restaurant.
   We lived in a room with a private entrance that led out to a large green lawn with comfortable lawn chairs for basking in the sun. We lounged there every morning after breakfast and worked the lunch shift at the big restaurant. Then we went to the beach that was a two minute walk away or rested in our room. At five we reported again to the restaurant and ate a big meal with other employees. The food and the desserts were excellent, formed from leftovers the restaurant had not sold. Murph and I worked the dishwashing machine and Okie bused dirty dishes to us. The head chef was a tough guy from New England who liked the three of us because we were quiet and gave no one any trouble. He took our part in disputes waitresses started with us to try to get more work out of us and shouted at them with anger that we were not like them  because we were “Boston boys”. He was right. We weren’t like Florida people but we had plenty of money, great food, a beautiful beach, a bar to drink in at night and a big lawn to sit on and enjoy the sun in the morning. I was experiencing how a physical environment can change your attitude and your way of thinking. The Florida way of living can be so pleasant in the clear and warm air that it starts reshaping your character. You become less yourself and more like the people around you who are not themselves either and so all of you lose together the genuine persons you should be. The sun and the warmth and the peacefulness and the silence start taking over. Okie was literally attacked one night in the bar by a Dutch girl. She came over to the table where we were sitting, sat on his lap, put her arms around him roughly and kissed him. He did not sleep in our room with us that night. The next day in the afternoon, he showed up at work with a big smile on his face and he said of the Dutch girl in a deep humorous voice, “She liked my warm form”. However he slept with us that night and every night and Murph and I never found any girl of any nationality that liked our warm forms. Otherwise, we were something like Homer’s hero Ulysses who spent years with the goddess Calypso trapped by her enjoying perfect bliss on an island in the middle of the sea. We were trapped like Ulysses in a way of life that was too perfect. We gradually felt a need to find again the imperfect and hopeless lives we had left behind in New England in Davis Square. There were no mountains in Florida. Nathaniel Hawthorne would never have written The Great Stone Face if he had been born in Lauderdale-by-the Sea. Ulysses made himself a raft and left Calypso and her blissful island to face the dangers of the open sea. At the end of March, we sold our Hudson and headed north to escape the bliss that held us trapped in Florida.


                                                                 Chapter 5

     

   Phil Malkowski had a car and he was close to completing work for his high-school diploma. His girl Ginny had him well on his way to where she wanted him to go and she was herself  enrolled in a Junior College. Phil persuaded her to find a date for me from her friends at the college and two weeks after my job as a dishwasher in Florida, I was out on a double date with Phil and Ginny with a college girl who touched my soul because of her beautiful personhood as deeply as Anne-Marie had penetrated the seat of my emotions because of her beautiful body.
   Gita was a pretty blond girl from Cologne, Germany. As soon as we spoke a few words to each other, we both knew we were joined together soul to soul. A miracle happened deep within each of us and neither of us knew why or how it happened. Both of us immediately, instinctively refused to let the world’s knowledge of how love should work between a man and a woman influence the way we related to one another. Knowledge said if we loved one another, we should touch each other lovingly. We loved each other and never touched lovingly. Knowledge said if we loved one another, we should speak to one another of our love. We loved each other and never spoke to one another of our love. I never felt a strong sexual surge towards her as knowledge demands that a man in love should feel. I never kissed her and yet when she was gone from me for good a year after we met, I never regretted not kissing her. Knowledge told me I did not love her because I never felt for her a deep burning of love in my heart but I loved her. Knowledge doesn’t care about the human soul and even denies that there is a soul. What Gita and I felt in our souls had nothing to do with the truths spread around by knowledge. We loved each other deeply and profoundly wordlessly without touches and kisses and without a desire for one another making our hearts burn. When we were together or apart, one and the same spirit inhabited each of us even though we never succeeded in expressing that spirit by words in our conversations or in the many letters we wrote one another. We did not know ever what was happening to us but it was enough always that we felt something miraculous was happening. Knowledge told us that, because we were not loving one another in the way it demanded that we love, we had no future together. That was the only knowledge that did influence us. We knew that we were destined for one another eternally but not practically.
     I don’t know how or why people love but loving Gita taught me that no one knows. Love should make knowledge shut up about love but it keeps talking. Knowledge says that beauty in women is a purely physical thing and they either have it or they don’t. That’s it. Gita was for me the most beautiful person in the world but physically she was just pretty. She had short blond hair and blue eyes but her smile added a touch of nervousness to her eyes that hinted there was much more to be discovered in her than what was on her surface. The look in her eyes invited me to look through them into her soul. Her invitation made her beautiful. I dove down into her by saying something casual but deeply sympathetic and the words I drew out of her in response, each one of no particular importance, bubbled out over her lips as if from some divine well of feeling. She was beautiful to me right away Gita because every word she spoke made me sure that at last I was not alone. I felt as close to her as I was to myself because we both sensed deeply that the pleasure of talking to one another was vastly more important than what we said. Words bubbled up from us from our wells of feeling within us that seemed as soon as I met her like the same well. Why should I have cared that knowledge says that a woman’s beauty is physical? Knowledge’s talk didn’t come from the soul but Gita’s did.
   I was still a weakling of a man but the deep interest she took in me made me feel strong in my soul. Men all try to love in the same way. They show a woman they are hard and strong rather than weak and emotional. A woman’s beauty makes a man’s heart burn with love and desire and a man’s strength provides her as she takes a place beside him with a solid place where she can let her emotions loose securely. Some men and some women don’t fit themselves into the pattern easily but the pattern is there and they fit themselves into it as best they can. Phil Malkowski and his girl Ginny were tramping their way through the wide fields full of flocks of lovers all moving in the same direction. But why should there be one path, one pattern that love must follow? Anne-Marie let me kiss her but when we weren’t kissing she studied me closely and found no strength coming from me that her feelings could hold onto securely. Gita saw my weak exterior as a door to the strength and beauty in my soul. She opened the door that Anne-Marie had closed and walked right in. Love does not fit any pattern. Love that leads to kissing and touching and union in bed is love with something added to it that it does not need. The reason that makes a man and a woman a couple and marries them has a side to it that is merely practical, a reason that often forces love to take a back seat. Gita and I never tried to name what we felt for each other. Our words when we talked sometimes trembled with excitement. We loved to talk. We loved to watch one another’s lips bubbling with words that expressed our love without expressing it. Love needs some pattern to wrap itself in if the world is to go on as usual. Gita and I were in our own world  and what we felt did not need any of the world’s practical patterns.
  The look in Gita’s eyes that made me certain that she was happy to be with me punched holes in my creaturehood. I was still a failure and weak and worthless but with her beside me I thought with my heart as well as my mind. I was still fearful but Gita’s eyes told me I was brave and looking in her eyes made me begin feeling in my heart that she was right. It was like she added another me to me. Her self was so necessary to me that as we talked and eagerly agreed with each others sentiments, it seemed like another self became my self. What a simple and complicated thing it is to become human, simple because all you need do is reach out and find another you in an other, complicated because so many others feel that it is so much easier and so much more advantageous to keep their heart held strangled in an iron grip rather than give it away to another. The hearts of lovers burn and they tend the fire by clutching and holding each others body. The hearts of Gita and I opened holes and let in air. Our minds flew on waves of fanciful and deep thoughts that whirled through our hearts and never slowed enough to fan the fire of love and desire. I don’t know why we never kissed or never held each other in any of the regular physical unions of lovers. Not every question needs an answer and my relationship with Gita proved to me that all the answers to all the questions about love are wrong.
   At the end of our first date, she made me write down her phone number to call her at her college dorm. She also made me write out my address. She smiled as she took the piece of paper saying  that she loved to write letters and that she would write me. Her smile said more directly than her words that she was my girl. We already belonged to each other even though in the car with Phil and Ginny, we had talked little to each other and had spent most of that date at a movie. As we waited in line to buy tickets, I looked down to my left at her looking up at me with an expression of interest for me in her eyes that warmed my heart and made me happier than I had ever been before. She told me with her eyes she was happy to be with me. Later at the end of our date when I took her telephone number and she took my address, we were just going through with loving smiles the technical details. She was mine and I was hers. We both knew it. We dated for over a year. Neither of us ever knew how or why we joined or why we separated but together or apart we were a couple. If there is not something in the soul that joins humans forever spiritually, then we are all worthless and our knowledge is no more than the result of a mean habit and a waste of our time. Even the loving unions of our bodies can become a hell if we do not at least believe that there must be some place in the universe where souls are united spiritually forever in a pure love. Our love was a mystery to us. As we dated it became so sacred that we feared that expressing it by touching would be a crucifixion of something holy.
   Gita wrote me a long letter just after our first date with descriptions of her life in Germany in the city of Cologne and about her activities at school. Here and there she asked openly and naively questions about me, questions with not much practical importance and mostly with no answers. She asked what I had been thinking about in the back of Phil’s car and also while we stood in line for tickets to the movie. It felt wonderful to be a wonder to her and it made me more than ever a wonder to myself. She felt it important to know what I was thinking when I was thinking only about her. She was looking for herself in me and it was a delight to know I was someone worth looking into and a satisfying place for her to find herself. She loved classical music and especially a violin concerto by Brahms full of the exquisite sounds of deep suffering. I could feel that writing to me and letting loose her thoughts and feelings to me freely set her happily beyond any suffering. I was thrilled when I picked up her letter in our mail. I read her words that were clear and focused as though they were each tasty spoonfuls of some divine ice cream. My mind licked each word hungrily tasting the sugar of a pretty girl’s presence in every bit of her writing. I gulped down her letter quickly and it was deeply enjoyable to lay on my bed and digest with a warm feeling in my heart the fact that another being in the world, a pretty German girl with blue eyes and blond hair, created a series of words out of the loneliness of her soul only for me.
   When we dated, I would drive my mother’s car to her Junior College with nervous excitement. I gave her name to a girl at a desk in the hall at the entrance to her dorm and waited for her to appear. I was always unable to fix in my mind some exact image of what she looked like. Her presence was so full already in my soul that her sudden appearance and the smile for me that came to her face was a delight that was also a slight shock. I was amazed  that the girl walking towards me who lived in my soul was also real physically. Then we would walk to the car beside one another speaking a few everyday words that did not do much more than communicate to one another that we were two bodies. For those moments we were just like everyone else. We were bodies divorced from our souls. There were always solemn moments of a painful silence between us at first when we were out on a date. I could not stand it so I would soon say something odd or witty to try to give us both a boost away from the real world. Gita’s imagination was as open as mine and she would answer me with some imaginative thought she created. Then as we talked for some wonderful reason our words never again seemed odd or merely the result of imagination because simply by being close for a short time opened us up to each other and we did not feel the other was strange  no matter what we said. Some men are strong and silent and some women like only such men. I was stronger and more attractive in Gita’s eyes the more I expressed myself freely. I held nothing back and it was like I was continually throwing a lifeline to her soul. She loved catching it and she held onto it tightly.
    We dated three times before she went back to Germany in May for the summer. We went to art films and foreign films in Harvard Square. We loved to sit together afterwards over coffee and have long talks. When I looked into her blue eyes as we talked, words bubbled up between her pretty lips from her soul.  I loved her with my eyes. My eyes seemed to take me through her eyes straight to her soul. I loved her so much with my eyes that I was sure that our deep feelings for one another would burst out one day into ordinary love. Meanwhile her personality and inner being were totally open to my bodiless penetration. It was purifying that I could enter her freely without touching her body. It did not seem the right thing to do on those first dates to embrace her and kiss her. Her feelings were the only thing that touched me and then she was gone untouched and unkissed back to Germany. But I was sure touching and kissing were in our future when she returned in September.
    All summer I drove my cab, read my books and hung around Davis Square but I lived only for Gita’s letters. I watched out my window every afternoon at the same time when I had not had a letter for a few days for the mailman. When I saw him down on Medford Street, I walked down the stairs to see what he had delivered boiling with excitement. We both wrote back as soon as we read a new letter and the airmail system of the time worked so well that I received a new letter every five or six days. She told me she was mine with every word she wrote no matter what her subject. Every letter was a new shot of fresh air for my soul. I wrote long letters back to her with thoughts racing through my mind struggling to become words that failed to express what was in my soul but assuring Gita nonetheless that she was there with me.What exactly did we feel for one another? When she returned in September, would we connect physically and emotionally as well as spiritually? We had never asked those questions while we were together in April and May and then separated for the summer it was natural and pleasant not to ask them and not to be bothered not asking them.
    For our first date in September, I took her to a party  that Tom Barbieri, a friend from High School, invited us to.  He was studying at Boston University and was in with a few students who lived in Boston near the university. Gita and I stood with drinks in a living room crowded with students drinking and talking loudly. I put my right hand gently on the back of her neck below her short blond hair. It was the first time I touched her. She twisted her head left towards me and the look in her eyes was so hostile that in an instant they injected down into my feelings a spasm of negativity and dread. I took away my hand. Her look changed to a softer expression and she smiled at me but it did not erase what I was feeling. Her hostile look had come from something within her that was not open to me at all. I was sure that the look I returned to her as she smiled at me expressed my negativity. The thoughts in my mind that she had caused had nothing to do with the deep connection we had with one another in the soul. I understood in a flash that something was within her that I would have to pry into forcibly if I wished to possess her totally. I had reached very far into Gita already but still I saw clearly that there was a part of her that was boxed full of the regular desires that are in everyone and that I would have to break open the box to get inside her completely. A few minutes later as we stood joking with Tom Barbieri, I put my arm around her waist. Right away she twisted to face me so that I could no longer keep my arm there. It told me she did not want me to touch her.  She smiled at me but it was no longer the naive and defenseless smile that I loved and that told me all her inner feelings were open to me. A knowledge now ruled her smile, a knowledge that told me that like every girl she had a body that could be penetrated as well as a soul. She was now standing before me no longer as my spiritual partner but as game fearful that the beauty of her body might turn me from a spiritual lover into a man transformed by his desires into a hunter. It was the brutal kind of knowledge that I hated. A pretty girl’s smile told me that if I jammed my masculinity into a hole in her body, it would make me a man but her an enemy.
   I was in a new state of mind all week as I waited for our date the following Saturday. I asked myself again and again whether our close union of common sympathies was really love. I answered to myself that it was but then the terrible knowledge hit me that if it were love, it had to find some common ground for itself also in our bodies by touching and communicating by kissing. I wanted to hold her and kiss her but some terrible dread in my feelings warned me that I should not try because she had shown me by her hostile look that she was against it. I needed some weapon to cut through her defenses and help me break her free from the place within her where bodily desires were imprisoned that were the enemies of the lofty love for me she felt in her soul. I faced the fact that a kind of love exists that is brutal by its very nature because it can not live unless it conquers either gently or crudely the person who is its object. Could I love Gita that way and not disturb or even destroy the love we already possessed in our souls?
   I waited for Gita at six o’clock on Saturday at the exit from the subway in Harvard Square. I waited looking expectantly into all kinds of faces walking up the stairs from the exit. When my eyes finally caught Gita’s eyes looking up at me, her smile took away all the worry I had had all week about our love. I smiled at her and was very happy seeing her hurry towards me. Why did I need to force myself on her by kissing her to express my love? She was smiling at me and I was smiling at her. It was enough. It was love and it was all we needed. At parties I went to around Davis Square, we drank all night crowded in rooms of three-decker houses and I found girls whom it was easy to start kissing and to take somewhere off from the crowd to continue holding one another and kissing. It was great but it was no more than body touching body and was nowhere near what Gita and I already had. It was still at six o’clock a bright fresh September afternoon. We walked away from Harvard Square down a street towards the banks of the Charles River which was nearby. She was very happy to see me. We kept talking excitedly. When we got to the edge of the river, we sat on a bench looking down at the water over the green grass of the river bank.
  I took her hand and I was surprised and happy that she let me hold it. But then I put my arm around her shoulder and she jumped up without looking at me and began walking down over the grass away from me. It angered me. I wanted to love her. I wanted to keep my arm around her and hold her and kiss her. It angered me that I did no more than put my arm around her shoulder and she walked away. She stopped walking and looked back at me smiling. “Let’s go play along the river,” she cried. Her voice had a tone of childish playfulness. She turned away and began walking down towards the river. She began skipping over the grass. I followed after her walking slowly. She saw a white flower growing out through the grass. She stopped over it and looked down at it as though puzzled. She looked back at me with a smile on her face that was impish and childish and full of the innocence that made her beautiful. “Shall I pull up the flower?” she asked as though it were the only question in the world that mattered. “Shall I?”. “Yes,” I said. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know where I was anymore. Gita pulled up the flower. She put the stem between her teeth and closed her lips over it. Her cheeks puffed out into a smile of total delight like that of a child whose mischief has suddenly resulted in a moment of divine happiness. I should have loved her in some new way at that moment. My heart should have started burning with love and desire. But the innocence on her face made me love her without desiring her even though I knew that I could have reached out to her and pulled her to me and kissed her passionately as I had done with other girls. The innocent look on her face faded. She stopped smiling and sat on the grass with her lips still pressing against the flower. I knew that I had had a moment when the box full of desire within her had opened slightly and behind her innocent look something in the way she smiled had called to me discretely to take her. But I had not. I stood in front of her and looked down at her. The skin on the top of her nose was wrinkled up. She held her lips tightly pressed together. She smiled up at me a childish smile. It was now totally beautiful without any suggestion in it of desire. Her box within her had closed. Her blue eyes and her blond hair and her pretty face now with an expression of defenseless innocence let my eyes draw in her beauty and warm my soul. The skin on her nose smoothed and she nodded. She took the flower from her mouth and moved her pretty lips. “We are like drops of water in the river,” she said. “We flow along and sometimes when the sun hits us we sparkle.” I said nothing. There was nothing to say. The moment had arrived when I might have loved her completely and I had let it pass. I had condemned us to continue being united only in our souls.
   After that day on our dates, we both understood that we were soul partners only. We enjoyed going to parties and films and visiting museums. As the year went on a kind of romantic melancholy injected itself as a new tone into our words. We both loved nineteenth century romantic music by Chopin and Liszt. Its waves of romantic melodies spoke hauntingly to us of a tragic love that could not find any place in the world. We were living with that kind of love and the only weapon we had against being deeply sad was being together. I often felt looking into her eyes both very happy and very sad. Knowledge told me that I should be either sad or happy but I fought against separating myself into one feeling or an other and I felt a kind of melancholy happiness in Gita’s presence. We knew we would be cut off from each other in May when she finished her studies and went back to Germany. We tried our best not to think about the end that was coming but we felt it coming and then it came and Gita was gone.


                                                                    Chapter 6



   A pretty girl had penetrated my soul and with her disappearance something new that had filled my soul and given me hope was now gone. I felt empty. A knowledge from which there was no escape forced me to accept the fact that love would never work between me and a woman if I could not unite with her with my body as well as my soul. I had failed in the case of Anne-Marie to conquer her soul. With Gita, I failed to conquer her body. The truth was simple and devastating. No man can ever be truly human if he can not put his own body and soul together harmoniously enough to awaken goodness and love in a woman’s soul and at the same time awaken enough desire in her body to satisfy his sexual needs. The truth is that the game of love is a game of all or nothing. A man either brings everything to the game and wins or he brings too little and loses. I had lost twice at the game. I became again the mere creature pining away alone in his room with his books and his music that I had been before I met Gita.
    I felt empty but I also felt free. I had no future of any value socially or economically, but I did not care about the future because after my two failures in love, I knew I had none of the weapons necessary to create a worthwhile union with a woman. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice had meaning for me. Eurydice died from a snake bite on the day of their marriage. The musician Orpheus went down to the land of the dead and so charmed with his music the dead souls in the underworld that they allowed him to take Eurydice back with him to the world of the living. He was warned not to look back as he climbed with his love out of hell but something made him look back and as a result the woman he loved slipped back to the land of the dead. Never again did he have any relationship with a woman. I had let Gita slip away from me back to Germany unloved  by me in the only way possible for humans to love one another in the world of living beings.
   Phil Malkowski had broken with his girl Ginny. We found ourselves both together out on the same highway, young, womanless and in need of adventures to give some meaning, even if it were a crazy meaning, to compensate for our loses. The world around us in 1957 was so normal and so conformist that it needed a few shoves to keep it off our backs. I switched from driving a cab part-time in Cambridge to a cab company in Somerville located across Highland Avenue from Somerville High School. Phil gave up his full-time job and also drove a cab part-time with the same company. We began doing things that were not ordinary and regular for fun. He had a late-model Oldsmobile and was always behind making monthly payments but Phil was a schemer with his eye always out for some clever way to make a quick buck. He always found ways to keep his car and afternoons we drove it to the small golf course on the grounds at Tufts College to play golf. When we met girls in some social situation, we sometimes turned the conversation to the subject of employment and we astonished them by asserting that we did not work and advised them that work was a waste of time. When the two of us were 16, we had hooked school together, dared to cheat a Boston bookie out of money, ran away to New York and now at 22 with nothing going for us we tried to live imaginatively and by our wits. We decided we should live in an apartment in an upper-class section of Boston in the Back Bay to impress girls and to prove to ourselves we could do anything if we had the courage to dare anything. Phil convinced a Boston real estate agent that he was a thriving young businessman with a chain of dry-cleaning stores and we moved into a fine furnished apartment on Marlborough Street. We lived there rent-free for two weeks. We took up tennis as well as golf and hunted for girls who came to the tennis courts. While I was in Florida, Phil became good friends with Joe Alfano. Joe was a schemer too and they got along very well together. Phil had gone regularly with Joe to fraternity parties at Tufts. He still did not have his high school equivalency but with Joe’s influence and my influence, he read widely and held his own very well socially among college students. Then in the middle of June, Joe wrote Phil from Lake Placid in upstate New York describing the opportunities for work and for romantic adventures with college girls working for the summer in the hotels around the Lake. He convinced the both of us that we might just as well live crazily with nothing left to lose at Lake Placid as in Somerville. We took off for upstate New York in Phil’s Oldsmobile.
   I was then very interested in anything foreign. Whatever was going on in America at the time did not interest me because I lived in my own inner world almost exclusively. But whatever was going on around us did influence us all in some way or another. You had to act and think like everyone else or go your own way. But really there was no way to go on your own because if you lived on your own as I did you ended up in a kind of cultural vacuum. The only possible relief I had from the cultural nothingness in America was European culture. I was not aware at the time that the Second World War had been the historical end of traditional European culture but I jumped into it wholeheartedly anyway. I read  widely European books in translation and those by English and Irish writers. I was eager to travel to Europe and experience directly whatever was there. France was the objective I had in mind because I had studied French for four years in high school and one year at Tufts. As a result, I was turning myself even while still in America into a European. Phil followed me down the road to cultural expatriation. He memorized quotes I discovered in my readings and mentioned to him and he used them to impress girls. In a word, for our adventure in Lake Placid we were both prepared to act like educated young men from Boston with smatterings of European culture.
   Joe Alfano worked as a waiter in the big Marcy Hotel in the center of the town of Lake Placid. Up behind the hotel on a big wooden porch before the quarters for the help, he had set himself up as a barber and was making additional money cutting hair. He knew a lot of people and introduced Phil and me to a man of 35 who was also like Joe a champion in the hunt for love. He was a Hungarian who had lived all over Europe and was a master waiter at the main dining room at the Marcy Hotel. Imre had a European accent that Phil and I found attractive and sometimes imitated. We would have liked to imitate his performances with women too because he was as much a master dealing with them as he was a master waiter performing French service in the Marcy dining room. Next to the Marcy Hotel, on the main street at the top of a long flight of stairs, was the Lake Placid Lounge. Imre appeared there after work almost always accompanied by some new female that he was charming. Phil and I had fun trying to imitate his accent but his performances with women were inimitable. We got to know him well. Imre did not like me at first, most likely because I was cold and aloof locked up firmly in my creaturehood. But as we drank together and talked his attitude to me changed. One night we had a long talk and he told me in a very sincere voice that I was a deep and sensitive person. It pleased me that another man, a new acquaintance, recognized not only that there was a soul but that I had a deep one. He gave me hope that meeting Europeans and travelling to Europe could open new worlds to me culturally and personally. Imre spoke French fluently. Among the hotel workers there were many Europeans that had lived through like Imre the Second World War in Europe and were making new lives for themselves in America. There were always people around Imre speaking European languages and I found it exciting to be among them.
   Imre made a lot of money as a waiter and he had a very expensive sports car. He kept it parked on the street near the Lake Placid Lounge and it was great theater for Phil and Joe and me to watch Imre when the lounge closed escorting a new or about to be made conquest down the stairs. He whisked the object of his lust carefully and elegantly down the stairs like she was a princess and he a prince into his sports car  and then off together into the night to try to match with their bodies whatever romantic dreams Imre’s continental manners had aroused in a lady’s soul.  Luckily for Phil and me, Imre was in love with a French-Canadian girl who lived in Montreal. He was driving up to Montreal in his sports car to visit her and he invited Phil and me to go with him. We jumped at the chance. We hung out with Imre in Montreal at a Hungarian restaurant full of Hungarian immigrants who had escaped recently from Budapest after an armed revolt of Hungarians had been put down by the Russian army. We sat at a table with Imre together with several Hungarians. They were all of them artists. They all had some kind of art and it seemed to me listening to them that they used the words art or artist in every other sentence. They charmed me. It was like being in Europe. Sometimes they spoke phrases in French. I spoke a sentence in French to a Hungarian woman and she said in French to me that I spoke French charmingly. Imre spoke French to his French-Canadian girlfriend and he told Phil and me racy stories of his adventures with rich French women when he had lived in their houses in Paris as a servant. The European atmosphere at the restaurant was so warm and friendly that Imre generously let two young Hungarians borrow his car. They had an accident with it and we had to take a bus back to Lake Placid, but the trip burned my heart with a desire to escape to Europe.  
   Back at Lake Placid, Phil got a job like Joe as a waiter at the Marcy Hotel. I got a great job just a few steps from the Marcy down the main street at the Chicken Coop restaurant as a kitchen helper. I worked in a room below the restaurant preparing food that I carried up to the restaurant to be cooked. To the rear, the room led out to a big garage that opened onto a large parking space where trucks pulled in to make deliveries. Just beyond the space was a small one-room cottage with a bed and a bathroom that was included with my job. It was perfect for a loner like me. I got up around nine and had the breakfast that was included in my job at the restaurant. I worked from ten to two in the afternoon and had off three hours. Just at the door to my cottage, a path lead through a small grove of trees to a small beach before a small lake named Mirror Lake. I went to the beach every afternoon. I had dinner at five, which was also included in my job, worked till ten and then went to the Lake Placid Lounge which  always had late at night many college girls who were working in the hotels.
   The song that played all summer on the jukebox was Pat Boone singing, Love Letters In The Sand. Phil and I talked to girls with a romantic carefree bravado that made us much more popular than we deserved to be. For some reason most of the girls were college girls from Milwaukee who had never been east before and they had a naive but serious interest in Boston and New England. They had read Thoreau and Emerson and Hawthorne at college and some of them had an almost saintly reverence for New England culture. The profound thoughts of the great men of our region’s culture fully justified their interest. Phil and I were both proud to admit we were from Boston and ready upon the instant to press our lips against the lips of pretty heathens from the midwest or to reap any other benefits they might bestow on us because of our culture. Phil liked to punctuate his remarks to girls about his arrival in Lake Placid by saying that he had come to the resort “to acquire a mistress for the summer”. Most of the girls were decent and not seduceable but it was a great and unusual pleasure to talk and drink and dance every night and listen to Love Letters In the Sand.

                     We made a vow that we would ever be true.
                      Now my broken heart means nothing to you.

For a few weeks our mood became beyond just carefree. It was rapturous. Phil and I felt joyful being nowhere and everywhere at the same time and letting our thoughts and feelings roam in all sorts of different directions imaginatively. Nights at the Lake Placid Lounge we were like actors playing a romantic role among people who also felt the romance of the summer passing slowly with casual relationships forming doomed to end in a short time. Phil and I were winding our emotions up and letting them fly. Then Phil did acquire a mistress and as a result the wheel I was spinning on came to an abrupt and fatal stop.
   She was a girl of 26, a flute player who was studying music at an academy in Cleveland. She was a waitress working beside Phil in the Marcy dining room. The two of them took to one another quickly. They shared Phil’s room in the help quarters. I did not see anything odd in their relationship. When they were together drinking at the Lake Placid Lounge, they positively swooned emotionally looking in one another’s eyes soulfully. I was happy for Phil although his success contrasted sharply with my failure. I did develop a relationship with one of the Milwaukee girls but it came to nothing. She was pretty enough and I enjoyed sitting beside her afternoons at the beach talking about literature. She was determined to read all of Wordsworth’s poems by the end of the summer. We did some kissing and hand holding but our talk of poetry and symbols and literary ideas made me compare again Orpheus’s tragic fate told in Classical Literature to my fate. She had much stronger feelings for me than I had for her. The emptiness in me caused by Anne-Marie and Gita left a hole in me that she could not fill with her love. My only feeling for her was a desire to go to bed with her and that did not work out either. She wrote me a long letter after the summer was over confessing that she loved me but by that time I was in the fearful grip of a dreadful emotional panic that was driving my mind very far away from the thought of any possible love for a girl now back in Milwaukee. The panic itself had its beginning in a visit Phil’s mistress made to my cottage one day at about five in the morning.
   A knocking at my door woke me up. It surprised me because it was so early in the morning and because no one had ever visited me at my cottage except Imre and Phil. I put on my jeans and went to the door and opened it. Outside on the face of Phil’s mistress was an extraordinary expression of fear that told me she had lost control of herself. She was standing a few feet back from the door and I moved closer to her. I stopped and looked full into her eyes. Her eyes had a light brown color with very small patches of yellow. They told me that they no longer belonged to her. The sure knowledge struck me instantly in my heart and mind that she was no longer a human person and had become something else. The sound of her voice was the same but her words did not come forward naturally as though she needed to be evasive and not reveal the it that she had become. Her eyes proved instantly that she was no longer a human being and the few words she said were extraordinary and senseless as though they came from a person who had somehow become a thing. “I have had an immaculate conception...Phil is the father of my baby and he is now dead…” I was completely calm. I asked her where Phil was and she said slowly and fearfully, “He’s in our room dead”. I did not turn away my eyes from her eyes because I had never before seen any human being who was no longer a person. I could not stop looking her directly in the eyes even though they revealed clearly that something horrible within her had stolen from her the power in her soul that made her a person. I had thought of myself as inwardly empty but never really believed it fully. Here before me was someone empty of its very self, a no self that was alive without being a self. She was not a person. She was a living nothing. She said in her evasive way of speaking that I had to come to their room and take away the body. She did not stop looking at me but nothing in her eyes communicated anything real to me because they were not real eyes. They belonged to someone who seemed dead and was pretending to be alive. Logically, following the dictates of knowledge, I should have been shaken with terror and waves of fear should have started running through my whole body. It was horrifying to stand before a human who was no longer a person. Knowledge told me that no one ever loses whatever is in our makeup that makes us persons  but the eyes of the poor soul standing before me screamed at me without screaming that knowledge was wrong, that every human has a soul and that she had lost her soul and was no longer a person. No knowledge can explain how I could be calm looking at her but I was. I said calmly that I would come to her room with her and take Phil’s body away.
   She waited outside while I went inside for a shirt to put over my jeans. When I came back outside and looked at her, she turned away. We walked up the driveway that sloped down from the street. She walked beside me silently on the sidewalk down to the path beside the Marcy Hotel that led up a hill towards the old wooden building with rooms for the help. As we walked, my thoughts drifted away from her awful condition to thoughts of concern for Phil. I could not believe he was dead and her voice had seemed to come from some place within her so full of nothingness and fear that it was not trustworthy. Still I had to face the possibility that I might enter his room and find him dead. We went up a long flight of wooden stairs, through a door and down a corridor. I was concerned but not fearful. She stopped before a door and said he was inside. I opened the door and saw Phil’s body lying on the bed in pyjamas uncovered  with his face turned away from me. My first impression was that he was dead because his body was motionless. I stared at him a moment and was just about to move closer and touch him when I saw his chest move breathing. I turned to his mistress and said calmly, “Phil is not dead”. I had avoided looking at her expression as we walked to the hotel but now I looked fully again into her eyes. Her expression was so awful that for the first time it was like it punctured a hole into my being. It began filling me with a feeling of dread. I was no longer fearful for Phil. I remained calm but still I was now beginning to be fearful for myself. I touched Phil’s shoulder and pushed against it until he woke up. He turned and looked at me with half-awake eyes and then saw his mistress who had also come to the side of his bed. His eyes beamed now fully awake with an expression as he looked at her that told me he already knew about her problem. He got up quickly still looking at her. He stood before her and put his two hands on her shoulders. Neither of them had any need of me and I was happy to walk out of the room at once leaving them alone. I walked down the corridor and back down the steps. I walked alone back along the street and down to my cottage. I was very happy that Phil was alright, but I had looked full into eyes no longer connected to anything human, into a soul that had lost the power to be a person. I began asking myself alone again in my cottage trying to sleep if I could also lose my soul and somehow drift away into a world where life itself becomes a nightmare.
   Phil drove down beside my cottage with his car in the middle of the afternoon and told me that he had taken her to a hospital and she was under a doctor’s care. He visited her in the hospital the next day and told me that she had had a history of mental problems and that parents were on their way from Cleveland to take her back home. The next day he invited me to come with him to visit her in the hospital. I could tell from the anxiety in his voice that he wanted someone to be with him for the visit, that he did not want to face her alone. I told him point blank that I was afraid to look at her again. I described to him the expression I had seen in her eyes, that it was horrible, that she had lost her identity, that she had become depersonalized. He kept shaking his head in agreement and I could see that the fear I expressed was not helping him and making him more nervous and anxious. But I was absolutely and completely afraid of ever again seeing  the terrible look I had seen on her face. I had been struggling with myself to restore my feelings to the calm state that her visit to my cottage had interrupted. I was certain that I would never forget the look in her eyes but I had been with her only for around a half hour and once back alone in my cottage, I had remained calm although mentally I was disturbed. I could not help thinking that if she could lose whatever in her made her an authentic person with a real human personality, then possibly anyone could lose it. I did not want to see her ever again. I did not want to know as a fact that the deepest thing within us in our souls that makes each of us a distinct person can be wiped away and turn us from a human being into a being that is a living non being. Phil understood my fear. He got Joe Alfano to go with him on his visit to the poor suffering girl.
   I was with the two of them in the Lake Placid Lounge the night after their visit. I would have liked to have had a long conversation with them about her condition and what it meant. We spoke about her but only for a short time. For them it was over and done with because everything that had happened to her was not something that needed to be thought about deeply. She had had a prior mental condition and she had had a relapse. Medical knowledge knew everything that needed to be known about her state of being and that was it. I was secretly happy for Phil and Joe that they accepted what had happened as normal in the sense that even though it was extraordinary, it could be understood rationally. That was exactly how I could not understand it. For me it had nothing to do with rationality. Something had eaten away the living stamina in her soul that had nothing to do with reason and could not be understood logically.  But being with two friends who were their normal selves after being witnesses to a psychological disaster had a calming effect on me. I needed every calming influence I could find. A worry that did not seem yet a worry that could become a fear had seeped into my feelings. I was worried that something within me had the power to destroy what made me a person just as it had destroyed the personhood of Phil’s mistress. She was gone in a few days back to Cleveland but my memory of her and my worry remained with me permanently.


                                                                        Chapter 7


   What is there in our mind that allows us to begin thinking about things that our mind does not want to know about because they have nothing to do with the mind? If we begin thinking that our being has areas of illogical experience that our mind can not accept as real, then we either slam shut the door leading to such experience and retreat back to the safety of our mind or else we start on a dangerous emotional adventure within ourself with no signs telling us where we are going. Our mind does not like the small cracks in it that threaten to let in and out elements that disrupt its logical processes. Even when we say we are going out of our mind, it is not really so. Our mind is like a prison that keeps us locked up securely within it. It opens sometimes to let in new prisoners and it quickly and efficiently assigns them a cell and keeps them under lock and key. But what if our prison suddenly for some unknown reason no longer seems strong enough to hold us imprisoned? What if the prison itself remains solid, rational and secure but a crack appears in its outer wall large enough for a prisoner to slip through and yet none of the prisoners see it except one? It would be logical and natural for that one prisoner to pass through the crack and to try to live beyond prison walls. He would be forced to face at his risk the dangers of a world completely different from the prison world and he would not be concerned about trying to explain to others still with a prison mentality how it happened that he no longer had one.
   When I was back home in Somerville, a fear began seeping its way into my being.
I had always been even as a child fearful and afraid of death but then I had happy and good feelings that counterbalanced my negative feelings.  Now I had accepted that I was worthless and the emptiness in my soul began letting into it waves of fear. The eyes of Phil Malkowski’s mistress taught me that she had stopped being a person and had become something else. I would have been very pleased with my mind if it had assured me as it had Phil and Joe Alfano that the same thing could not happen to me. My mind did the opposite. It told me not only that I could stop being a person but also that it had no power to help me prevent becoming as depersonalized and as riddled with fear as the poor girl who had knocked on my cottage door. I became even more fearful not because I was losing my mind but because I realized as my fear increased that my mind  was functioning perfectly but was powerless to help me conquer my fear. I began fearing something and my fear became more fearful because I did not know where it came from, and, as I began living with my fear day in and day out, it eventually turned into a panic when I became sure that there was nothing I could do to stop it. My mind had produced a crack that let me escape it to the world where the light of the mind lives side by side with the darkness of a nightmare. The eyes of Phil Malkowski’s mistress had taught me that like she we are all persons, all distinct and complete persons, because of some power within us that does not come from us or from our minds and that like she we can lose it. I feared that I could lose being myself and the logical process going on in my mind that never stopped going on logically told me I was right.
   At Lake Placid with Phil and Joe and other young people, I was worried and thinking about what had happened but more or less calm. Phil had fun applying for a job at a hotel to the north of Lake Placid at Saranac Lake. He lied that he had knowledge of how to use advanced technology taking reservations and got a good job at the front desk at the Saranac Lake Hotel. His motto was “tell them you can do it and before they know you can’t you can”. I got a job at the same hotel doing lower-level bookkeeping work in the hotel’s office. We were off on another adventure and being with Phil with his strong and bold attitude helped me remain secure with myself. We soon were bored with life at the hotel and rose to new level of enjoyable craziness by deciding to leave all behind us and emigrate to Montreal in Canada. We decided we could just as well drive taxis in Montreal as in Somerville. We drove to Montreal and stayed a week drinking and chasing girls until the craziness wore off and we drove back to Somerville. At home I was again living a lonely life. Phil and other friends were around but we usually did not have any regular day to day meeting with one another because we were all busy with some individual activity. My father was gone because he had died the previous May of a heart attack. I had watched him die in his bedroom with Doctor Katz who lived on our street trying to revive his heart by pumping the heel of his hand against it. I was always as a child fearful and worried about death. Seeing my father’s body laid out dead in his casket had shaken me and now on top of it I was alone in the house where he had died with the fearful image of a girl’s depersonalized eyes expressing her state of nothingness rooted in my mind. My sister was married and living elsewhere. My mother was off on a long visit to Ireland. My brother John was home but he was out working all day and in and out. I was alone. I had my books and my music and now a worry that I feared would change to fear did change to fear because I could not stop worrying that it would happen.
   I went one night with Phil and Tom Barbieri to see the film Moby Dick. I had always enjoyed at films sitting alone in the dark free to let my imagination follow the film but free also to keep myself apart from the action if I wished. It was a liberating experience either way. That night something was completely different. I could neither engage myself happily in the action nor remain aloof from it. The hero, Ismail, goes to a church before sailing away to hunt whales and hears a fiery sermon. I listened to the words coming from the preacher and wanted them to tune themselves to my imagination and touch my emotions but they did nothing but isolate me from the film and the people sitting around me. I suddenly felt cut off both from the film and from myself. I did not want to be there because being there was taking life from me rather than giving me new life. Then I listened to Captain Ahab roaring with hatred against the great white whale and it plunged me inwardly into some strangely mixed-up universe within myself that seemed to have no center and no foundation. What was wrong with me? What did it matter to me what was happening in the film? Why did I not have a strong separate existence free from all harm like everyone else? The scenes came on where the sailors man wooden boats and harpoon whales. A harpooned whale swims away pulling a boat fighting with all its strength to escape death. I could not watch it. Some fear within me made me feel I was dying and about to die. I got up. I had to leave. Outside I waited for Phil and Tom. They did not ask me why I had left and I was glad they did not. I did not know how to explain a fear that comes from nowhere.
   I was afraid of death. I was afraid I was going to die and become in one instant nothing. Something in my heart and soul that was like a thing but in reality a nothing, a no thing, had turned my normal feelings to fear. How do you fight against something within you that does not exist and has power over you precisely because it does not exist but nonetheless has taken on a presence within you that you have no power to control? I was alive but nothing within me seemed capable any longer of producing anything good either for myself or for others. Some nothingness was attacking my will and threatening to take away completely my power to will anything at all. How could I ever again be myself if I lost the power to will myself? I was becoming a living defect who could not effect anything because fear was pounding into me the idea that I was no longer good for anything and about to become nothing.
    I drank enough beer at night to calm myself down and sleep. When I awoke, I waited with my eyes open to sense whether my feelings became positive or negative. For a few moments they seemed steady and not moving in either direction. My mind as usual was clear and unaffected by events in the rest of my being. I told myself that what might happen to me if my fear again started rising within me was illogical and against common sense. I wanted my senses to be common and sensible and fearless and the clear state of my mind upon waking always gave me moments of hope. But my fear always came back and the knowledge that my mind was powerless to stop it helped strengthen my fear.
   One morning I awoke and my fear rose up so strongly that a panic came over me. I decided I needed to get a drink right away to stop it. I remembered as I dressed quickly that I had no money. I rushed down the stairs to the big kitchen on the floor below where I found my brother John eating breakfast. I told him with a fearful look in my eyes that I was going through something bad and I needed a drink. His look showed no concern for me  but he lent me two dollars. I sat beside him in his car as he drove towards Boston in a lot of traffic. I kept my eyes open anxiously for us to come near a bar. He was silent and caught up in the level morning mood of people on their way to work. I suddenly told him because I was desperate to find sympathy with someone because of my condition that I was going crazy. He could not react sympathetically. It was not his fault. Nothing in his mind or his experience could give him even a slight clue to what I was going through. He answered with annoyance that I should get hold of myself with no doubt in his mind but that it was possible. We stopped at a traffic light near the edge of an old part of Boston called the West End. I got out of the car and walked feeling very bad and in a panic through the traffic and down a narrow street beside old run-down four-story brick apartment buildings.
   I was in such a panic as I hurried along looking for a bar that it was like I did not feel my feet touching the ground. It seemed that my body had no weight as though there was nothing inside it except weightless waves of fear. I saw the front of a small bar. I opened the door and stepped in. A short squat man with dark hair was behind the small bar on the left. He did not look over at me. I turned to the right and my eyes looked straight into the eyes of the old wrinkled face of a slovenly dressed man of about 60. His eyes were the most beautiful things I could ever have seen with my eyes at that moment because they gleamed suddenly at me with total human sympathy. He was sitting at one side of a booth facing the door. He pointed to the seat in front of him. “Sit down,” he said. “You can get a drink in a few minutes when the bar opens”. He understood. His eyes had already made it clear that he understood and the tone of his voice, so sympathetic, made it just as clear. He understood what it was like to be nowhere and to need a morning drink to try to arrive somewhere, anywhere where you no longer felt you were nowhere. I sat down across from him. I could not speak because my fear was so strong. It had driven me so far from the world of regular human speech that it had made me speechless. He tried to smile at me but a smile did not come fully to his face. It made me feel better because I knew he was trying to help me by smiling and his failure to smile meant he understood how badly I felt. The man behind the bar said in a loud sympathetic voice, “Come over and sit here, kid. I’ll give you a drink in ten minutes at eight o’clock.” I got up feeling even better because I knew they both were concerned for me. I sat at a high seat in front of the bar. The bartender was short with dark hair and a round face. He said to me that he was trying to decide what the menu would be for lunch. He held a slate with wooden edges that he could write on with chalk. He looked at me steadily a few moments. He pointed to the clock behind him on the wall that had its hands set at ten to eight. He said he would give me a drink as soon as it was eight and something in his voice was very sympathetic and said he cared. He had a pile of nickels and dimes in front of him that he was collecting together and fitting into rolls of paper. He pushed the pile to the right two or three feet down the bar until the paper and the coins were in front of me. “You can help me put these coins together,” he said. He stood in front of me close. We worked both of us bent over  putting coins in paper rolls. I needed more than a drink something in the outside world that would create something good for me from humans who understood that everything inside me was going badly. Two men that morning who were well enough to create good did it and I felt it.
   I got a glass of beer at eight and it calmed me. I stayed there seated at the bar nursing beer after beer until I had only enough money left to pay for my subway and bus fare home. I said nothing all the while. The bartender knew I felt too bad to talk about anything. When he had the menu written out on his chalkboard, he came in front of me and held it before me and explained why he had chosen it as he had. He was able to get a forced smile from me and I said trying to be good-natured, “Good”. I should have shouted out  to the two of them that I loved them for treating a stranger with such real sympathy but I could not. Fear had me in a death grip and it made it impossible for me in my despair to be anything but a creature. I did not want to leave the bar but at ten I did leave because I had no money left for beer. I just got off my seat and walked towards the door incapable of saying anything. “Don’t knock yourself out, kid, “ the bartender shouted at me with good-natured encouragement. He had a will that was not defective and could affect good. I had no such will and had no hope of ever finding one.
    I took a streetcar to Lechmere Station and stood at the same spot waiting for a bus to Somerville where I had stood many times. I had first stood there at around the age of 12 in the seventh grade whole with normal feelings and now ten years later at the age of 22 I stood there feeling I was nothing and dreading that my fear would come back. I did not have any regret that I had thrown away all opportunities to make something of myself but I felt deeply sorry standing there alone in the morning that I had come to nothing. All I wanted out of life was that it let me be myself and now a strange fear that I could not control was taking away from me whatever made me myself. For the moment I felt calm enough but fear had been shearing apart my being for so long that I knew it would come back. I went home and was able to sleep but then I woke up alone in my room knowing a fear that came from nowhere was still within me somewhere ready to rise up and torture me.
   I no longer believed anything good could come from myself to conquer it. The good  that the two men in the bar had done to me had come from the outside world. I had to find something good outside and foreign to help me fight what was bad and foreign inside me. I began to think I needed not just psychological help but spiritual help. I had been raised as a Catholic but I was indifferent to religion. In my readings however I had come in contact with spiritual and religious themes and I thought that now I should read writers again who had dealt with them. I went to the library and found again the book by Hegel, “The Philosophy of History”. I had read all the books that my library had by Dostoevsky but I found by chance a book about Dostoevsky by a Russian writer named Nicholas Berdyaev. At home I read again passages from Hegel’s book but when he wrote about the spirit that he said was active in history, it did nothing but make me fearful spiritually because Hegel insisted that spirit was rational and logical. I could not continue reading Hegel. I understood immediately that if Hegel was right, if spirit was rational, then there was no hope for me. Dostoevsky on the other hand had created characters who despised reason and rationality. In his book, Notes From the Underground, his hero argues that reason and rationality occupy only about ten percent of man’s nature and that the rest is spontaneous and free to live any way at all. Dostoevsky was a Christian. In the book, Dostoevsky, by Nicholas Berdyaev I experienced moments of relief from my fear because he plunges right into Dostoevsky’s work in spiritual sympathy with his creation invoking Dostoevsky’s profound belief that Christianity was a religion of grace and freedom.
   I needed freedom from my fear and grace to lift me magically to some place beyond the reach of fear but it was the enthusiastic and creative way Berdyaev wrote about freedom and grace that gave me momentary relief and hope, not the Christian religion itself which was a possibility of help for my soul that was dead in me. When I finished Berdyaev’s book, I was soon hopeless again and ravaged by fear. One night I panicked again. My fear became like the gulp. gulp,gulp a person feels when his stomach is severely upset, but it was a spiritual gulp,gulp,gulp caused by some monster in my soul torturing me. It seems very trite to say I was at the end of my wits, but that’s where I was, and my wit was telling me clearly that where our wit ends a fear takes over that robs us of any sense that we are any longer humans who are persons. What was I to do? It was around eleven at night. I was alone and in a panic. I stripped off all my clothes and got in the shower. I turned off the hot water and let it go cold hoping it would shock away my fear. It did not work. I got out of the shower and dressed. I still felt terrible and still in a panic but strangely and without any extended process of my thoughts, in an instant, I knew, as though it were not myself knowing and as though something was directing my thought, what I was going to do.
   I did it like a machine going through automatic motions yet looking back I do remember that something in my mind had given me the option either to do it or not do it. It was completely irrational what I did but it had started as a rational decision that I made in an instant and that my mind had allowed me to make proving to me that something in our minds allows us to act irrationally if we dare. I decided in the flash of a quick instant to abandon my mind completely. I  knew what to do and I went about it automatically. In my readings in my favorite novel, Crime And Punishment, by Dostoevsky there is a scene late at night between Raskolnikov, who has murdered two women with an axe, and Sonia, a gentle soulful girl who has become a prostitute to save her family from extreme poverty. Sonia has attached herself emotionally to Raskolnikov and in their long conversation in a dark room by candlelight, she takes her bible and reads to the deranged young man passages in the New Testament from Saint John. She reads him the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The sister of Lazarus, Martha, implores Jesus with deep faith to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus in their talk asks Martha, “Who do you believe that I am?” She says, “I believe that thou art Christ, the son of God who has come into the world.” When I thought of the story and the death of Lazarus it intensified my fear. I was certain that no power existed that could raise me from the death grip my fear had on my soul, but my decision was nonetheless already made about what I was going to do and I did it. I found my family’s copy of the New Testament and turned to the passage in Saint John where Jesus and Martha meet and talk about the death of her brother. I stood alone in the middle of the front room of my home late at night with my fear and a book. I read. Jesus says to Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha says, “I know he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day”. Jesus says, “ I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”.  Martha says, “Yes Lord: I believe thou art the Christ, the son of God, which should come into the world.” I read the words to myself sick to death with my fear but they were but words. They each  affected me like a lifeless tap somewhere in my mind and they seemed so far from touching the dreadful seething in my soul that I shut the book in despair. But I had decided already what I was going to do thinking of the scene between Raskolnikov and Sonia in Dostoevsky’s novel. Sonia was trying to save Raskolnikov by getting him to say  what Martha had said to Jesus, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the son of God, who has come into the world”. I had somehow already decided even before I opened the bible that that was what I was going to say. I said from memory out loud, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the son of God, who has come into the world.”
   Everything within me instantly was new and alive and free of fear. I became myself again with a joy starting to ring within me that I had never felt before in my old myself. I was reborn as though I had been living just seconds before in a womb nurturing me with endless injections of fear and about to throw me out alone and screaming into a new world that could offer me only death. Instead I was suddenly born into a new world where I knew the only thing worth knowing in the new world. I knew Christ was God and that God alone made me myself and that I myself without God within me could do no good either for myself or others. This knowledge expressed itself wordlessly in the liberating joy that was now radiating in waves through me. I could not believe in my mind that what happened happened but I had such a deep sense in my soul that I was now and forever free of all fear and so full of everlasting life that my joy forced my mind to yield and accept as true what it did not want to believe. I was saved. It was both a simple direct knowledge that I understood immediately and at the same time a mystery so complex that it was beyond my understanding. But simply and mysteriously it had happened. Inside myself my whole being was flying. God was wrapping himself with his divine warmth around every nerve in my body and was teaching both my body and soul that nothing was impossible and that they could fly. My legs felt light as though they did not need my feet to walk and my head felt like it was a cloud floating free and carefree in a divine air.
   Within I was silently screaming with joy knowing no power existed that could ever again take away who I was because the power of God was who I was. I was a new myself because it seemed because of my belief in Christ that God was permanently and eternally within me. I was free to do anything at all because my fear had shut me up in a prison  but God had broken down the walls of the prison. Nothing seemed impossible for me because my I was no longer an I attached only to itself. I walked out of the living room of my house, down the stairs and out to Medford Street thrilled that  my body was moving as if with its own momentum as though the joy in my soul was causing my feet to bounce up and down again and again pushed by a  divine power. I did not know where my feet were taking me and I did not care. I had in my soul everything that was worth having and walking along was a joy added to the divine joy within me because my legs bouncing up and down proved I was free to take my joy anywhere. I went across Medford Street and right on Highland Avenue that ended about two miles away in Davis Square. I crossed Walnut Street and walked along on the sidewalk across from the Somerville Library. I thought of the book, Dostoevsky, by Nicholas Berdyaev that I had found there. It had helped me greatly to make a decision for Christ and it seemed miraculous that I had found it. Everything that morning was miraculous. I soon reached the sidewalk across from the Somerville High School. To my left on the other side of Highland Ave. was the small office of the taxi company where I worked. I had not driven a  taxi for ten days because in my fearful condition I could not trust myself with driving myself and others. It was about two am. and there was a light on in the building because the dispatcher worked all the time. Just as I reached the building, a man came out the door and saw me across the street. He recognized me as a fellow driver and called to me. I stopped and he crossed Highland Ave.. He asked me if I would drive him in the taxi that was parked a few feet from us to Davis Square. He said that he would pay me the dollar fifty for the fare and that I could then drive it back to the taxi office and park it for the night. I had no money at all. In ten minutes I had miraculously money. But the miracle did not end there and then. I let off the man in Davis Square and made a u turn to drive back down Highland Ave.. When I was approaching the Waldorf Cafeteria, a man hailed me. I stopped beside him. He explained that he needed a ride to Billerica. It was about thirty miles distant. He said he would pay me a flat rate of eleven dollars. I agreed and less than an hour later he paid me and my pockets were full miraculously with money. The universe had nothing left that I needed. My body and soul had acquired everything God’s universe provides to give us the power to be good and perhaps do good for others.


                                                                  Chapter 8

   

   What a blessing it was to fall asleep that morning near dawn with my soul at peace! When my eyes opened, the peace in my soul was like some delicious divine immaterial food that calmly nourished me and made me so secure from fear that I knew again instantly that my self had become a new myself. I was whole and complete because God was whole and complete and the two of us were now somehow mysteriously united because I had dared believe that Jesus Christ was God’s son. I lay in bed for a long time in the grip of a heavenly peace that I wanted to remain with me forever. Then I began thinking about what had happened. It seemed like the natural thing to do. What harm could come to me by thinking about God? I lay there thinking about God and all that day all my thoughts were happy.
   I felt at peace within myself. As days went by and I began again living as before, I did not appear changed to my friends. Before I had been a creature rather than a whole man. Now as a Christian I did not act outwardly like some new person even though inwardly I was changed completely. I thought about my new condition but I could not find any words to express it.
I said nothing new to my friends about my change. I was more or less certain that speaking of my experience would not seem to them real in their state of mind and my words might even seem absurd. I kept my old  personality as a false representation of myself among my friends and other people. I was no longer within myself merely a creature because Christ had made me a whole person but I found no strength or courage to express the person I had become in the world of rational knowledge and rational behavior that most people believed was the only real world.
    I took my time about deciding how I should act in the future. In my life before finding Christ, I was mainly interested in experiences within myself that strengthened me inwardly against the outside world that threatened me and caused me suffering. Now after my conversion, I was still interested mainly in inner experiences and a whole new world of Christian experience lay before me to explore where I could find spiritual nourishment and protection from the world. I had already decided that the world and myself were worthless before my conversion and I was therefore already far down along the path that a true Christian was urged by Christ to follow. But what had happened to me had been a purely personal business between myself and God. It did not seem necessary for me to attach myself to some religious organization or some particular religious doctrine after having experienced over many days such deep fear alone with myself with little help from the world.  Christ said somewhere in the New Testament that you had to lose your life to find it. My failure in love had helped me make a decision to leave my studies at Tufts and abandon the life the world offered me. I had already lost my life and then in one divine instant through belief in Christ I had found it. I did not feel a need for foreign guidance because I believed I had been guided directly by God.
   For days after my conversion I went about with a kind of quiet peaceful joy within me. It was a delight to know I was truly myself because God’s spirit was in me. At moments in my talks with friends, I sometimes drifted away from the subject we were discussing and went off somewhere within myself where I felt the presence of something divine but those moments were not by any means as full with the divine as was the moment of my conversion. Something divine seemed to graze my soul rather than fill it. How could that instant of the certain knowledge of God and the real experience of his presence become like some spiritual seed in me growing into some divine plant that I could graft myself onto in order to experience more and more fully God? My experience as time passed proved to me it was possible for God to be present fully and completely within us for an instant but that he does not grant himself to us permanently in the form he takes as a presence at the moment of our conversion. I realized as time passed that I was again on my own. I was myself again with God’s brand on my soul but I had to find the right path for my future by myself. I continued living as before reading books and driving a taxi with the exception that now I sought, mainly but not exclusively, books by thinkers who dealt with religious themes. My outlook on life before had been somewhat rough and contentious but now it was serene. I had given up any successful future and I was now glad I had given it up. Before my failures with women had been a problem and I still had no hope of ever finding a permanent relationship with one, but as a Christian celibacy was desirable. I had everything I needed. I had plenty of free time and gradually my mind opened again to various cultural influences of all kinds although I always remained fascinated with finding the road back to the God who had shown himself to me fully for only an instant.
   One day I got sick with a high temperature and a fever. I lay in my bed worried that some serious sickness was coming over me that would take away my freedom. I hated the idea of having to rely on a doctor or going to a hospital. I began calling on God with a prayerful feeling in my soul to help me and I felt that he did. A strong generalized sense of well-being began surging through me that seemed mysterious in origin. The sensation was so powerful that I was sure it came from God and I began saying a prayer to him with devotion. I began feeling better and slept peacefully. In the morning I felt well and had no temperature. I was overwhelmed with happiness because I was sure God had helped me. I felt spiritual joy and then I told myself in my thoughts that I should always remember the experience because it proved that God existed.  But why did I need to assure myself that God existed if two months previously God had wiped away my fear and raised my soul up out of hell?
    I became spiritually and intellectually fascinated with the divine-human nature of Christ. He was both a man and a God. His self-sacrifice on the cross had mysteriously given humans through belief in him a path to conversion from a purely human life to a divine-human life. I had myself travelled far in my inner experience through many of the emotional experiences and sufferings that humans are subject to and it had led me to worthlessness and nothingness and fear. I had needed more than the merely human to find my true self. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross had added a new revolutionary experience to normal human experience and it had made me personally a new human. Christ could have lived a purely divine life while he was on earth by living apart from men and refusing to converse with them. But he did the opposite. He went among men and experienced what they were experiencing in order to add his divine nature to their human nature and transform the world.
   Phil Malkowski and I  took off after Christmas to try our luck in Florida. I was glad to be off for a new adventure to test the new condition within me against the hard knocks of getting by working in hotels. We worked and drank and did this or that for fun but I did not experience things with the old zip and the naive openness to adventure that I had had with Okie on my first trip south. We made two friends in Florida and in the Spring of 1958 back in Massachusetts, the four of us rented an apartment in Boston on Beacon Hill. One of our new friends was an amateur boxer from Milwaukee and the other a Wasp from a small town in Vermont. We had a merry time of it and it felt good to just take life as it came. I got a Boston hackney licence and drove a taxi in Boston.
   But my Christianity did produce a major change. I was peaceful enough now emotionally to again study at a university. My mother was always eager to finance any attempt I might make to earn a college degree. I had done so much reading however that studying for a Liberal Arts degree was no longer attractive. My brother John had graduated from a small Catholic college in Providence Rhode Island. My mother, a hardworking nurse, had always hoped that I would study to be a doctor. She was ready to finance me through premedical studies. I decided to study to be a doctor and to try to live as a Catholic in order to use the Christian experience I had gone through to produce good for myself and to do good for other people in some ordered fashion. I was accepted by Providence College and went there to study in September 1958.


                                                                     Chapter 9


   Catholic religion at Providence College was not about religion but about being happy. I attended  a talk after Mass one evening during orientation sitting with my fellow students in a large audience listening to a young Dominican monk. He told us that he had joined the Dominicans to be happy. Religion worked for students. It made them happy. It freed them from any profound religious questions or experiences and let them go about the business of living without any connection with the supernatural. Religion was going to Mass on Sundays and receiving communion after going to confession. I tried it. I confessed my sins to a priest but I did not feel spiritual release and renewal. I felt peaceful at Mass and tried to believe Christ was present in the communion wafer I received into my mouth. I thought of Christ at the moment I took communion but I did not experience anything even near the joy he had spread through my soul a year previously at the moment of my conversion. It felt good however that I had actually done something with whatever religious feeling was left within me by receiving a sacrament in a Christian community among Christians kneeling beside them at an altar. It would have made me happy if anything could have made me happy. I did not want to be happy. Christ said he was the way, the truth and the life. I wanted to find a way to live life truthfully by imitating him. I wanted to be worthwhile rather than happy. I felt a strong need in my mind and soul to be forever worthless and free and alone if I could not discover some new way with Christ’s help to become worthwhile and perhaps help make the world worthwhile.
   Since religion did not count for very much at Providence College, my life there was the same as it had been in Somerville except I did not have to drive a taxi. I had books to read and a room in the house of an elderly widowed Irish-Catholic woman. I had a short walk to the campus and a meal ticket to eat dinner nights at a cafeteria on campus. The bold and aggressively ambitious way some students went about the business of education startled me sometimes but I got over it. They were just doing what young Americans did naturally. They were trying to get ahead. I once got it out in scattered talk I had with them that I was taking premedical courses to become a doctor in order to help people. I said it once and never again because it drew silent looks from those who heard me that told me coldly that my feet did not touch the same ground as theirs. It told me I was alone just as I was in Somerville but more alone without friends and without the right kind of talk to make them. I could not sooth my loneliness by thinking myself better and superior because I had had a born-again religious experience and other students had not. I felt peaceful within and secure from fear but little more. In my own way, religion had made me happy too. Since it was a college run by the Dominican order, as a first-year student I was forced to take a course that was an introduction to the great Dominican medieval thinker, Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Dominican who gave the course told our class at its first meeting that he could not understand Saint Thomas Aquinas but he would do the best he could trying to explain  his thoughts. I should have been angry but I was not. I learned from my experience at Providence College not to judge people regarding their religious experience. No one seemed to have any interest or knowledge of the deep things of the Christian religion, but how could I be sure? I did have an occasion to tell a priest that I had had a religious conversion. I expected that he would be impressed but he was not. He reacted with an indifferent look and made no comment about it. Should I condemn him because he had not been converted? I did not appear to others as I went about the campus as being religious. I went about with an indifferent look. I learned not to judge people. No one knew what was going on in my soul. I decided I should not pretend to know what was within people because of the way they looked from the outside. I studied my books and kept to myself in my room. I judged only myself.
   A simple knowledge ended my stay at Providence College. I learned after trying my best for two weeks that I could not work successfully in the biology laboratory. The first day at the lab my fellow premedical students went right to work skillfully doing the assigned experiment. I was at a total loss. I did not know where to begin. It was a very competitive crowd because the professor in charge of studies had made it clear to us that he would recommend to medical schools only students who met his high standards. I asked a student for help with getting started on the experiment but he brushed me aside and went right ahead quickly with his work. I struck out in the lab. It was that simple. The biology lab threw a ball at me and I could not hit it. I knew I was out by the end of September but I kept at it half-heartedly for another month. I used the college library and read books alone in my room about deep subjects that had nothing to do with setting up slides under a microscope to study and classify minute forms of  life. One night in my room I felt so alone and so strung out mentally pushing my thought to the end of my wit that spiritually something exploded within me and I felt suddenly filled inside with something like waves of a divine radiation. I felt light-hearted and joyful and radiantly alive. I again told myself that I should remember the experience because it proved beyond doubt that there was a god. I again tried to force my mind to accept as proved that God exists even though again God had given me directly by union with him for a few moments proof of his existence. I was elated to feel again liberated in my soul by a power that did not come from me. I left Providence College at the end of October grateful that it had given me a second chance to earn a college degree. I was off again out into a universe where I could be open to new experience and free because I had no ties to anyone or anything except God.
   I had given organized religion a try at Providence College and now, even though I did not deny in my thoughts that Christ was a divine person and my savior, I lived as a free spirit. Life for me was a search for new creative thoughts and experiences. It had been impossible for me to enjoy reading a book for a college course, but now I took a room in Boston near the Boston Library and read any book I wanted freely whenever I wanted. I had nothing at all, no money, no love life, no full-time job, no path to some secure future and yet when I was finished with my brief effort to become a doctor, I loved my life. I loved living alone in a room and feeling totally free and open in my soul to whatever God or the devil might activate there. I knew that, whatever happened to me that might cause me difficulties or torments, that I could again appeal to Christ to help me. I believed God would not abandon me but I found that the freedom to either abandon God or to find him again was necessary. I had to find out why God had disappeared from my soul and left me alone to make a path for myself alone. If I acted with real freedom, with real complete free openness to everything, I had faith that although it would not be traditional religious behavior it would not be irreligious either. I was out to experience everything the cultural achievements of Europe and America had to offer and I was convinced that that was what God wanted me to do even if it meant at times abandoning him.
   I confess however that I was too weak spiritually to accomplish this on my own. For example, I had read Hegel, the German philosopher, and I had been so influenced by
him that his thought had been as though grafted onto me. Freedom meant that I had to find some way to free myself from his influence and go beyond him to some new influence. I believe something within us blocks this kind of development. We like to find some system of thought or of religion and make it our own. We convince ourselves we have found the truth and we close ourselves off to new influences. There are so many cultural influences open to us and they contradict one another to such an extent that free cultural development across a thousand years of history with various influences seems impossible and even terrifying. Shakespeare’s influence helps to transcend Dante’s but to go from the two of them to Descartes and Pascal and then Voltaire and Ibsen is a rough trip, an adventure of the spirit that only brave souls dare to try. I had a guide. Nicholas Berdyaev developed culturally within circles in Russia in the late nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century that sought to both integrate western culture and also transcend it. Bold Russian spirits of the time delighted in both integrating European thoughts in their outlook and at the same time in finding creative ways to go beyond them. The highest value in Berdyaev was freedom and I tried as best I could to make it my highest value. He used various European philosophers and writers and artists as, so to speak, vehicles to drive himself to new discoveries beyond any one particular influence. I read every book I could find by Berdyaev. The great European spirits he refers to in his writings as well as his creative reactions to them became sources for my discoveries. Berdyaev had influenced my conversion by laying the groundwork for my decision for Christ in his book on Dostoevsky. Now his other books helped guide me to steps I needed to take to live spiritually free.
   My room was in a nineteenth-century building on the first floor on Saint Botolph Street. Beside my bed, I had a desk and a padded chair next to three bay windows beside the sidewalk. When I was back early in the morning from driving a taxi and laying in bed, I could hear voices of people outside still up talking. A commerce went on in the area selling African-American women for sex. I tried as I lay there to pull the sounds of humans and the darkness of the night into my soul. It was a weird pleasure to be afraid because of strange voices talking with darkness covering everything and to feel the nothingness of being alone. I was searching in the night for the presence of God somewhere and not finding him but I found an odd peacefulness in not finding him because I did believe he was with me still even as an absence. I loved the rare moments when I reached the heart of real loneliness which is not the same as living apart isolated from meaningful contact with others. The real loneliness I sometimes experienced was spiritual because I lost at moments the sense of being alive. Something in me was so alone that it died and was instantly reborn. It was a split-second spiritual conversion that made me feel  totally alone but  totally myself. Aristotle taught that it is man’s nature to be sociable and that a man alone is either a god or an animal. I was neither. Moments of real loneliness freed me from the kind of knowledge Aristotle invented and made me feel good knowing only that I had survived non-existence and was myself.
   In the morning, light came back and I slept as long as I felt like sleeping. I awoke to no day when I was forced to go to work. I was a little like Henry Thoreau except that instead of living in a self-made cabin beside Walden pond, I was living in an eight-dollar-a-week room on Saint Botolph street. He awoke to the sounds of birds and I to the sounds of people and cars but we both awaited freely a new day’s adventures. Once I went three days without reporting at three in the afternoon at Town Taxi to wait to be assigned a taxi. On the fourth day I was penniless and when I received money from my first fare around four o’clock, I parked the taxi beside a restaurant and used the money I had received for a meal. Freedom is more precious than money and food. Everyone can find money somehow and get food but no one can be free who has not discovered and faced true loneliness.
   My mornings out the door to Saint Botolph Street young and fancy free were happy times. Saint Botolph is parallel to Huntington Avenue. I would go around the corner down West Newton street a few steps to the avenue and then, after breakfast, would walk down to Copley Square. The square was wonderfully open and beautifully designed dominated by the grand Trinity Church, a Protestant cathedral. One side was filled mostly with the wide face of the  Boston Public Library. I had invented a cultural game, with rules known only to myself, that I often played in the morning. Across the whole width of the library building were engraved in stone near the roof the names of great writers. I would walk along the sidewalk in front of the building and at random stop, turn and look up to the area where the names were written. I then completed the game by going in the library and finding a book to read written by the first writer whose name my look had fallen upon by chance outside. Nicholas Berdyaev was the main guide I used to discover new writers and new writing. The stone inscriptions on the Boston Library were also a guide. It was wonderful in the morning to feel poor and alone and free with such a rich cultural institution just a short walk away down the street open to everyone.
   I did not meet the poor face to face very often in my taxi because of their poverty. Like all Americans in 1958, it was rooted in my being that the poor and their condition were sinful. We hated a foreign people, Russians, because they were communists and, Christians or not Christians, we ignored Christ’s words that “the poor you will always have with you”. To enter the kingdom of heaven, which is not of this world, we had, Christ said, “to become like little children” and we had to accept deeply in our souls that in our human world a true path towards God’s world begins among those souls who are nothing because they have nothing. Little children and the poor have something sacred about them that Christ loved. The search for money that we Americans were addicted to had nothing childish about it and we were running down a road heading headlong towards the blissful world of riches and success that did not go through poverty-ridden parts of our towns and cities and left the poor behind. My poverty had a touch of egotism about it because it had not chosen me but I it. But sometimes circumstances forced the genuinely poor to get in my taxi and I had to decide from the signs they flashed at me if they were as sinful as we Americans believed. One night a middle-aged woman, not pretty, dressed well, took my taxi to a Boston hotel where it was well known that hookers gathered about the bar. She assumed that I was as poor as she and she said as she was getting out the door in a friendly voice, “It’s back to school time. I have to get some shoes for my kids.” I loved her that she shared that confidence with me. I loved the poverty in both our souls that made us open to love. Another woman, well built , poorly dressed with unkempt long light-red Irish hair, was standing before a cheap apartment house door just two houses down a side street. She was talking to two children who were leaning out a window and when she saw my taxi approaching on the main street near the beginning of her street, she waved to me. She looked at me only a few moments and turned back to continue talking to the children leaning out the window. It was in a very poor area inhabited mostly by
African-Americans. As I pulled up beside her house, I was finally sure from her swollen front that she was pregnant and needed help fast. Even when she opened the door, she still continued talking to the kids at the window. She was reassuring them and telling them what to do. She told me to take her to the emergency entrance at Boston City Hospital. She explained to me as we went that she felt bad about leaving her children alone.  But her voice was calm and bold expressing a self-confidence that rubbed off on me. I felt calm and good like her because I was helping a new person open its eyes for the first time and see the goodness and beauty of God’s universe. We were both close to God as we drove along. I felt it. There was something sacred about the nothingness and the boldness of a woman so poor she had to leave her children alone and unprotected to deliver a new being to the world in an emergency room to live poor but with a better chance than the rich to one day live in God’s world which is not of this world.
   The African-American poor suffered in addition to their poverty the misery of being falsely and continually underrated by us whites who viewed them as second-class humans. We treated them as a separate inferior race apart from and below us whites who were superior simply because we had white skin. Naturally as a free thinker, I tried to accept them as equals and as fully human as we whites but the prejudice within me against them that I struggled against was nonetheless so deeply rooted in me and so strong and so inhuman that I had no doubt but that it came from some inescapable inhuman evil power. The truth is that in all of us whites there was something set and fixed against blacks that even the best of us could not fully exterminate. I felt nothing against blacks who used my taxi but still I treated them with a kind of free and easy going indifference that had a touch of falsity about it. I was almost fully open with blacks whereas with whites I was always fully open. Some Saturdays I worked a day shift with my taxi in an African-American section of Boston at Dudley Square. We lined up our taxis at a supermarket and worked all day taking black ladies with their food purchases short distances home for 55 or 65 cents because they were too poor to run cars. We whites made a day’s pay out of them but I said nothing against my fellow cabbies who all used the same expression to describe how we were earning money, “taking a load of coal up the hill.”
But despite their added misery because of racial hatred, poor African-Americans like poor whites sometimes rose up to spiritual greatness out of their nothingness to divine places in the soul closed to the rich and successful. I often worked from the taxi stand at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue. One day late in the afternoon, a black man got in my taxi. “I got tickets to the World Series,” he said excitedly. “Stay with me now, I got money. I’m goin’ to New York. I gotta get my things.” That area of Boston never had enough taxis on Friday afternoons for African-Americans who were too poor to run cars and had just got a week’s pay. We drove left a few blocks on Massachusetts Avenue and right on Washington Street to the pawn shop. The man hung over the top of the front seat to my right all the way. “You stay with me now. You with me? I’m goin’ to the World Series. Don’t worry. I got money. I’m goin’ to New York.” I waited with the meter running at the curb under the elevated railway near the pawn shop. He came out finally with clothes on hangers over his shoulder. He opened the door and arranged the clothes to rest folded over the top of the front seat. Then he hurried off down the sidewalk to the liquor store and came back carrying his bottle in a brown bag. He had a belt and offered me one. I refused smiling. We were off again back up to where we had started on Columbus Avenue and then left into a short, dead-end street. He hung over the front seat all the way. “This is the greatest day of my life,” he said. “I’m goin’ to the World Series.” He went in a red-brick building and came out after a long wait well dressed. We were off again to the bus station, to New York, baseball, the World Series, to the universe. I stopped in front of the bus station. He paid me well and then he was gone. A poor black man despised by whites got his clothes out of hock, bought a bottle, dressed and took a bus to New York as happy as a medieval pilgrim on a journey to a holy place.
   However I mainly met people in my taxi who were on top socially or were on their way up avid to get where I had no interest in going and where the poor had no power to go.


                                                              Chapter 10


   

    I was happy that year driving a cab as little as I could and living as freely as I could with no desire to go anywhere. Then 1958 turned into 1959 and in early May as I waited for a fare at the taxi stand in front of the Copley Plaza Hotel, I picked up a newspaper that a customer had left behind in my cab. I don’t know why I glanced through the classified ads in the section offering jobs. I never bought a newspaper and I was not looking to change jobs but one ad did interest me. It was a fairly long ad for a Kitchen Helper at a hotel in upstate New York near Lake George. I had already worked  as a Kitchen Helper in Lake Placid and as a free spirit living in a room rented by the week I had nothing to lose. I sent a letter applying for the job and the owner of the hotel wrote back hiring me. I put on my only suit, put all my clothes in one suitcase, took a bus to Albany, New York, and transferred to another bus that left me off in the center of the town of Lake George.
   The hotel was a dude ranch located off one of the main highways leading to Lake George about six miles to the west. I telephoned the hotel and they sent the car to pick me up that regularly met buses with vacationers with reservations at the dude ranch. It was a big vacation complex with a large main building and smaller buildings and cabins. It was a dude ranch meaning it had a big barn, men dressed like cowboys and a large corral for horses. Vacationers could ride on trails lead by a cowboy but other than that it was a large vacation site in the country for around 250 guests with an outdoor swimming pool, beautiful surroundings, a big dining room and a big bar with entertainment.
   I fit in well. I lived in a big room with two bunk beds with three other employees. I got along fine with them even though one of them in casual conversation said I shouldn’t be there. He could not understand why a good-looking healthy young man of twenty-three from Boston who had polite manners and spoke sometimes an educated English was working as a kitchen helper in the northern part of New York. I could not explain to him that I had given up trying to know rationally what I was doing or what I should do. Still less could I explain to him that life for me was an adventure in the soul and that my present adventure at a dude ranch was but a minor side adventure. In the kitchen, I worked eight hours a day helping the cook prepare lunch and dinner. I got along well with him. He sensed after two weeks talking to me casually about things other than the business of preparing meals that I was a thinker. One day he confessed with a serious look and with feeling what he thought was the meaning of life. He said that life was work. He said it calmly but in a way that showed that strong feeling was a part of his belief and that he meant it. I nodded looking at him in the eyes in a way that told him I was in sympathy with him.
   I met the owner of the hotel and his wife at my arrival. She was a middle-aged woman with light brown hair. She had an office that she could reach by exiting a rear door of the kitchen. It became clear my first day on the job that she handled all the reservations to the hotel that came in by telephone. A bell would ring that we could hear in the kitchen and she would appear through the door to the dining room and pass hurriedly by us and exit the rear door to get to her office to answer the telephone. She passed by us several times everyday hurrying to her telephone. I got so used to seeing her that I paid no attention to her at all as she went by except I was sometimes attracted to the calculating and eager look she gave off as she hurried to the telephone to secure new profits for her business. After two weeks on the job, I reported for work one morning and the cook who was becoming a friend had a worried and sad expression. He told me I was fired because the wife of the hotel’s owner did not like my attitude.
   Years later when I had seen in museums in Europe and America portraits painted by great artists of successful,  middle-class people who had battled their way to riches, I noticed a difference. The European bourgeoisie had expressions that expressed a solid and unabashed contentment with themselves. Their faces said they lived in a world that they had created by their own natural superior effort and that they had kicked everyone else out of their world because they were inferior. The American bourgeoisie had the same tough and solid self-satisfied look but there was always a touch of something added to their look that seemed to add to it another dimension. They had a touch of spiritual superiority added to their look of material superiority. Just a touch but it was there. The French bourgeoisie were Catholic and wealth was just wealth. Centuries of living poorly under a royalty with wealthy nobles had taught them that there was nothing divine about wealth since it was something that only a few people were tough enough to grab by hard work and by sly marketplace manipulations. The American bourgeoisie were Protestant. They were taught that they were on their own to earn salvation on their own and those few who gained riches on their own felt a kind of religious and even divine side to their gain. Thus the difference in the expressions of the European and American bourgeoisie. I did not have such thoughts back on the day I was fired but the Protestant businesswoman who fired me had such a lasting effect on my fate that I feel it is important to explain that my attitude to her expressed my refusal to accept as worthwhile both the bourgeois class in general and its unusual development in America. Every time she passed through the kitchen she expected a slight subservient smile on my face telling her not only that I accepted her superiority to me but even that I honored it. She kicked me out of her dude ranch because knowledge told her she was divinely superior because she was devoted to making money using the poor and my expression told her her knowledge was false.
   I got my check for the money they owed me, put on my suit and walked away from the dude ranch in the middle of a sunny morning down the street that lead to the main road that went east to downtown Lake George. I was free to sleep that night back at the dude ranch and I decided to leave with my suitcase the next morning to return to Boston. I was off to cash my check in Lake George and get information about buses to Albany where I could transfer to a bus for Boston. I was alone in a strange area of New York with no job and no local acquaintances but I was not worried. I could telephone Phil Malkowski when I reached Boston and he would help me with his car to transport me and my things around until I found a room and began again driving a taxi. When I reached the main road, I waited until I saw a car coming and put out my right arm with my thumb sticking up from my hand hitchhiking. The car stopped. I got in beside the driver and told him I was going to Lake George. He was going there also. He asked if I were staying at the dude ranch located nearby. I said I had been working there but I had just been fired. I was not looking for any sympathy. It just came out naturally in talk. As we drove along, he told me he owned a dude ranch located further back west with access from the highway we were driving along. We chatted about this and that. He was from Brooklyn. He was an Italian-American named John Tassinari. He said he was in the process of opening up his dude ranch and that I could work for him if I wanted but he could not pay me much only 25 dollars a week. He said I would have to do all sorts of things, whatever was necessary, but that the pay included room and board. I agreed to take the job. Just like that on the same morning fate kicked me out of one dude ranch and bounced me right back into another one.
   We spent some time in Lake George and on the return trip John drove me to the dude ranch that had rejected me for my suitcase. I put it in the back of the station wagon he drove that he explained he used to pick up vacationers in Lake George who were staying at his ranch. It was further down the main road about three miles west that you reached by driving up a wide steep dirt road. At the top of the hill the ground flattened out and the Purple Sage Ranch appeared on the left. First was a big 12 room grey house beside a big barn of the same color next to a fenced corral with horses. A hundred yards further appeared 6 cabins and then the very large main house with a wide porch and a wide entrance door. Beside the house was another building that I learned later was used for assemblies of guests and dancing. I also learned later that the large substantial house across the road also was John Tassinari’s property. He lived there with his father, an elderly Italian, and with his wife who came up from New York weekends to join him. His setup was clearly a lower end dude ranch compared to the rich one I had just left. For me it was priceless. It was a ticket to some new future that saved me from the defeat of having to buy a ticket to a bus back to Boston.
   I put my suitcase in my room in the big house next to the barn and the corral. I went through the main door through a big empty room and up a stairway to a small room with a bed and a bureau. I heard noise downstairs as I lay on the bed to try it out. I went downstairs and found a big man dressed in cowboy clothes, jeans and western boots with a rough cloth shirt. He was struggling alone to carry a large double bed into a room off the main room. I gave him a hand. He held the bed on one side and together we carried it into the room. I said as he went to work arranging the bed that I had just been hired and had a room upstairs. He did not say anything and I left leaving him there to attend to his business. Later in the day I came in contact with him in the house again and introduced myself. His name was Lee Townsend. He was a big guy about 6 foot 3. He was the ranch’s head cowboy. He ran everything to do with the horses and the business of taking the guests out on horseback rides through the trails in the surrounding forest.
   The ranch was a basic rough and ready dude ranch much more authentic than the one I had left. The swimming pool in front of the main building was relatively small and it was old without any modern filtration system. Inside the main building was a large open room with on the left a reception desk, just a big desk and a chair, and to the right eight long tables with chairs where the guests ate. Beyond the tables was a door to the small kitchen. A stairway lead to the six rooms for guests upstairs. There was no bar. It was a small and bare operation. The main thing to do was ride horses. It was a real dude ranch.
    All the help ate at the long table in the main room nearest the kitchen. At first since it was early in the season, there was just the cook and his helper, a boy of 18, Lee Townsend and myself. Lee was very direct and honest. He said to me during our first dinner conversation in a full voice smiling, “I got you figured out. Some girl split you right up the middle, right?” “Right,” I said in a flat voice that showed I didn’t want to be reminded of it. “Split up the whole damn you just like that and sent you away from her pretty face walking and not talking.” I said nothing. He put a hand to the edge of my left shoulder for a second and went back to his eating. “It happens to all of us,” he said after he had finished chewing and swallowing some food. I found out there was a local rodeo somewhere in the area during the summer. Lee rode bucking horses in it and later I learned that a few years before, he himself had put on and ran the rodeo. He was about thirty-three and seemed because he worked at a lowly dude ranch down on his luck, but it was not true. Later he told me there was always money around that he could get for a new venture. One of his principles was never to try to make it in a big city. He was a permanent country boy. He advised me that there was no way I wouldn’t be successful if I operated only in the country away from cities.
   For two weeks until near the end of May, I worked on the grounds cutting grass, repairing buildings and attending to the swimming pool. Then as reservations started coming in, John Tassinari had me working mostly at the main desk. I became at twenty-five dollars a week his assistant manager. I took reservations on the phone, welcomed guests who came to us by car, and drove down to Lake George to pick up guests who arrived by bus. At Memorial Day at the end of May, a large group of young people arrived in a big bus. It was a complicated business to get more than fifty college boys and girls off their bus and into their rooms quickly and efficiently. I worked out a system writing their names and room numbers on separate cards so we quickly got everyone settled. John was pleased that it went well. Two college girls from Indonesia, students at a Catholic college in Pennsylvania, had arrived to work as waitresses for the summer and another cowboy had arrived to work under Lee. June arrived and with it more and more guests.
   I used the dude ranch station wagon to drive to Lake George to pick up guests, but otherwise, unless I asked to borrow the station wagon to go out drinking, there was no way to leave at night except by horseback. Lee and the other cowboy, a squat fat young guy from New York state who fancied himself a cowboy, saddled their horses after dinner and rode off through trails in the woods to a bar. I told Lee I needed to do some drinking and he saddled a horse for me. I had never been on a horse before. He explained they were western broke horses and how to turn them left and right and I knew already from watching cowboys in movies how to pull them to a stop. We set out with the sun very low in the sky. I followed them. We rode at a walk through narrow dirt roads and paths through a thick forest. It felt odd to be sitting so high up  feeling an animal moving below me for the first time but it was pleasant until the New York cowboy goaded Lee in front of him to get going into a gallop. They started galloping and my horse went into a gallop racing after them. The trees beside the path seemed to start rushing by me on both sides because we went so fast. The saddle below me went forward and back, forward and back to the rhythm of my horse moving his shoulder and his backside forward and back in harmony with his legs pounding the ground and rising above into the air and pounding it again. I was amazed that I could stay connected somehow to the saddle with everything around me in a sudden rush of movement as though there was nothing anywhere fixed and stopped. We galloped and galloped and I was so excited I could not tell whether I wanted to stop or did not want to stop. I guess I wanted both. Finally, after watching so many cowboy movies as a kid in the Somerville Theater, screaming at cowboys galloping and firing their guns while crunching popcorn, I found out what it was like to be a real cowboy. I liked galloping and I also liked it when we stopped and began moving the horses again at a walk. I could not decide which I liked more. The bar was beside a wide dirt road somewhere in the country. In front of it was a hitching rail where we tied our horses just as in the hollywood movies. Lee and the New York cowboy had cowboy hats and cowboy boots just like real cowboys. We went in the bar and got as drunk as we could as fast as we could like real cowboys. On our way back, we galloped again and I survived another gallop. Ever since I believed my ancestors in Ireland must have had a way with horses. Galloping safely must have been a skill registered in my genes.
   Every day the phone rang several times and I took reservations. One day a girl’s voice answered who said she was calling from Montreal to make reservations for three girls. She asked whether or not our dude ranch had any negative prejudices against Jews. I said immediately and firmly no. Her question somehow for some reason broke the regularity of the calm way I went about taking reservations. I loved Montreal and remembered the romance of meeting Hungarian exiles there and now three Jewish girls were on their way to stay with us. I was excited because, despite my failures in love and even though I felt I had little to offer a girl, I loved beauty in women and never was indifferent to it. We ran dances nights for guests in the building next to the main building where there was a dance floor. As I talked to the Jewish girl on the phone, I felt a certain familiarity begin between us because we had talked about prejudice. It produced excitement in me. John Tassinari had made it clear that he wanted me to attend all his dances for guests and I was happy to obey him. It was almost certain that I would soon be dancing with a girl from Montreal. An international meeting with foreign girls was about to happen.
    I met the bus one afternoon that came regularly from Montreal and other cities to our north. I knew the three girls from Montreal were on it because they had notified us in advance. I stood near the bus door as people came down the steps and off to the ground. Three girls came down the steps. I was attracted at once to one of them and did not pay attention to the other two. I watched her legs below her skirt and blouse aiming themselves to touch the bus steps at the correct spots and my look then followed the movement of her body above her legs revealed by slight changes of direction in her clothes to her dark eyes looking down guiding her. It was as if I swallowed into my whole being her whole being in one gulp. She reached the ground and looked to the right at her friends with a slight smile. Then she moved to the section of the bus that the driver was opening where luggage was stored but before she moved she turned to the left and discovered me. She looked at me eye to eye for a moment and I saw a change come to them, a sudden flicker shot out of her eyes for a few seconds that expressed surprise at finding me and at the same time a kind of shiver of nervousness caused perhaps by a momentary communication with a stranger.  Everyone knows that beautiful women love to display their beauty and often move with a sexy strut. There was nothing like that in the beauty of this girl. I stood three feet behind her as she stood with her girl friends looking in under the bus for her suitcase. I could see uncovered only her short black hair and her thin neck and part of her shoulder above her blouse but I had already seen her whole body in movement as she stepped down off the bus and then walked a few steps to her right. It was this totality of her being in a kind of nonchalant, casual and natural display of itself without any hint about it that it lived to arouse men’s desires that was beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. I would have jumped into bed with her immediately if I could have. It was simply that not making any conscious effort with any particular part of her body to be beautiful made her beautiful. She was short, under five feet, thin but not boney with a very shapely figure crowning her small body. I loved her immediately with everything in my being that was not heart. Knowledge told me the beauty of the girl came from her heart as well as the shape of her body and that I had no heart ready to share with another. As usual I did not listen to knowledge especially when it made rules about the heart. I did not even recognize I was heartless because heartlessness can be discovered only when love in the heart finally awakens someone who is heartless. I helped the girls put their suitcases in John Tassinari’s station wagon. I talked with them and answered their questions on the drive to the ranch. I knew I had to make some move on the beautiful girl. I did not know that my chances were poor because my previous failures with girls had shut and closed my heart and left me alone to fight the battle for love without the weapon needed for the battle, an open heart.
      Ruth Gold had a cute and pretty face that was beautiful but so particularly beautiful that it is nearly impossible to describe it in its particularity. She had high cheekbones but as you looked at them they did not seem so high as at first and they added a kind of quaint prettiness to her face. She had brown eyes of no special beauty in themselves but there was an openness to them that was playful and serious at the same time and combined with the rest of her face they made something in a  man who looked at them go ah. Ruth’s beauty was a very unique combination of features. It was almost as though the seed that evolved into her was very casual at first about putting her together and then during the last hours before her birth the seed got inspired and created her beautiful. She was an ordinary cute little person who seemed so made to be kissed that her ordinary composition made her beautiful. Lee Townsend had installed a tall statuesque pretty Jewish girl from New York city in his room a few days before Ruth and her friends arrived. I heard him make a gushing remark about how he would like to get after that little Ruth. He was well occupied with one Jewish girl and did not need another one but he could not help gushing. Ruth was cutely beautiful and beautifully cute with small lips over a  narrow chin  and she made men desire her strongly because her whole being made clear with its every movement that she did not care what she looked like and did not desire anything more than just being her natural self.
   The three girls probably went to sleep early after dinner because I did not see them about until after breakfast the next day at the swimming pool. I was talking to a young immigrant from Belgium beside the pool who revealed in talk that he spoke French. He said that two of the girls swimming in the pool, Ruth and her sister Esther were also French-speaking and that they were born in Paris. Naturally that added a foreign romantic air to the excitement alive in me as I watched Ruth swimming in the pool. She displayed only a dog-paddle manner of swimming but she was succeeding in moving her small body all around the pool. I saw her again later in the day in the afternoon on a horse following other horses in a line behind Lee. I watched her black hair waving and her bottom bouncing an inch and then another inch off the saddle prettily. In the early evening after dinner, I walked in the recreation building where we were putting on a dance for the guests and she was sitting just to the left as I came in the door. I got a full quick look at her black hair and then her brown eyes looking at me and a whole flash of unconquerable emotional need and longing for her lit up my nerves and my mind with something like a spiritual electrical charge. Everything in me said ah but I continued walking past her and another ah spoke within me as I moved further away from her and this ah said painfully that I would never have her, that she was too beautiful for me. My feelings for her went on fighting with one another positively and negatively until their struggle pushed me to ask her to dance as though that were the only way to get rid of my painful struggle. We danced together awkwardly. She was a foot shorter than me. We talked back and forth short comments that said nothing of importance. When we separated after the dance was over, I felt so frustrated with saying so little that something out of control within me took a grip on my mind. It commanded me to seek her out and somehow get her off alone and say everything even though I did not know exactly what this everything was or how to say it. I burned all day the next day with frustration. I had to act. At night after dinner we lit the fire in the outdoor fireplace where we sometimes had barbecue dinners. We stood around in a group roasting marshmellows. I stood for a long time doing nothing looking for her in the crowd and then turning away from her after watching her a few moments. I didn’t know what to do. I felt a continual sinking feeling of excitement mixed with pain that made me finally walk up to her and stand beside her. I held her left arm with my hand and looked down at her in the semi-darkness. I asked her with my voice full of emotion if she would take a walk with me and she said yes with a nervousness that she could not hide. I put my arm around her shoulder and we walked away from the crowd in the darkness slowly towards the corral. She told me with great nervousness immediately that she was looking for a change in her life, that her husband had just left her. I told her, also with nervousness, “I need you, I need you.” I kept saying I need you so  many times it seemed like it was not me talking I was so out of control. When we arrived at the corral fence, I twisted to stand in front of her and held her with my arms around her looking down at her. I reached down and kissed her on the lips but it was such an awkward move in the semi-darkness with just the light from the half moon and the stars that it did not work well. But I held onto her tightly. I told her again I needed her and that the two of us had to go out on a date so that we could be alone with each other. I told her I could use the ranch’s car and take her out somewhere the next night after dinner. She promised me that she would go out on the date. It calmed us both down to make some concrete plan and we put aside our feelings until the next day.We were both a little embarrassed holding one another in the dark after speaking both of us nervously and after the kiss that had not worked well. We began walking back towards the crowd at the fire. I searched for her hand as we walked and found it and held it.
   I told John Tassinari the next day that I needed the station wagon to go downtown on a date with such strong feeling that he let me take it. We drove after dinner to a bar along the main road with a big crowd drinking and listening to a dixieland band. We talked and talked easily and I think we both sensed it was a marvel that we had found one another and were together. Ruth was a very honest person and when I told her as we sat separated by a small table  with emotion that I needed her, she looked at me with her bright brown eyes and said that she did not love me and that she had only a warm feeling for me and pitied me. I told her with passion that I did not care and that she was alone, since her husband had left her, and I was alone. I said still with passion that we had to go to bed together that night, that we needed to become intimate right away, that time was short and she would be leaving the ranch soon. She said she could not go to bed with me, that that was not something she ever did and that her sister Esther back at the ranch would find out and be shocked. I said we had to go to bed with each other. I said I needed her. I said that something at the moment when I first saw her stepping down the stairs off the bus had joined us. I remembered my spiritual union with Gita and how it had failed because we had not joined physically with our bodies and the memory of her added passion to my plea to Ruth to go to bed with me. She said she could not. I said she had to, she had to. She said she could not, she could not. I said we had little time to spend together and she would be gone soon back to Montreal. We had to do something with the chance fate had given us to be a couple. She told me again she did not love me and I told her again I did not care, that we should join anyway. When we left the bar and she sat beside me in the car, I pulled her to me somewhat roughly but this time we managed to kiss smoothly. I kissed her two times more and held her close and again said we had to go to  bed together, that I had my own private room in a big house and it could be done easily. She said strongly that she could not. I drove back to the ranch, kissed her after I had stopped and parked the car, and said please, please come to my room. We got out of the car and walked towards the main house holding hands. I stopped on the field on the far side of the swimming pool in front of the main building. I held her hand tightly and said please come to bed with me. She looked up at me and said, “I can’t”, but in the very next moment she said,  “Alright, alright, I will”.
   It was 1959 and by then the Hollywood movies had sex in them with beautiful young nude bodies clinging to one another rapturously. Strong handsome young male stars, totally fearless of anyone and of any danger, met fantastically beautiful women who immediately loved them and soon were in bed with them giving themselves to a heroic man and causing for them both extraordinary bodily pleasures so natural that they seemed to transcend mere lust. No one could view such scenes and not want to experience the same with a lover. Knowledge in the movies said that great sex luxurious beyond all our imaginations was possible and we all accepted the knowledge as true even though we knew it was false. Ruth and I walked in the dark to the big house where I had my room and when we were nude together in my bed, the touches of my hands on her small body and the movement of myself joined finally to her in her proved once again the Hollywood movies false. We had squirmed together kissing and holding one another tightly  in the darkness enjoying the intimacy of each other’s body but I failed miserably to bring her to any pleasure. She would have been right to feel anger because of my failure but she was not angry. She whispered in my ear a few minutes after my failed attempt that I was someone who could never satisfy a woman. She said it so warmly and so sympathetically that it did not hurt my masculine self-esteem at all. No one anyway could shatter my self-confidence because I had no self-confidence. I had learned for all time that God was everything and myself nothing and that it was only by trying to make this idea somehow a reality that I might become truly myself. I already knew I was nothing without God, and Ruth, who had no knowledge of my religious experience, merely told me I was nothing sexually.  I felt happy holding her after sex in the darkness. I had lived so long chastely that it seemed miraculous that a woman had given herself to me. What did it matter if our pleasure had not been great if seeking it had caused us to join so intimately and to know one another in a way that we could never have discovered if we had not dared to strip off our clothes and join our nude bodies in bed? We lay in bed talking. We talked in very low voices because the room of the waitresses, the Indonesian girls, was above mine and we heard sounds of them talking and walking. Ruth and I heard sounds around us of a world beyond ourselves and we lay together in the darkness enjoying the world we had created by our boldness for ourselves.
   After eating breakfast the next morning in the big main room of the hotel, she walked down to my end of the room where I was sitting at the reception desk typing. She stood beside me and asked me if I needed any help, smiling and with a look in her eyes telling me she needed to be near me that filled me with joy. I got up and kissed her on the cheek. I had her sit in my chair and showed her what I needed typed and she began working. I put my hand around her bare skin at the back of her neck and it was a delight for me to see her shiver through her arms and shoulders with pleasure. Later in the day, we sat beside one another in a crowd and I put my arm around her. I leaned forward and kissed her cheek with pleasure and I held her closer eager to kiss her again on her lips. She told me in a whisper to please not touch her in public. She said that her sister Esther was shocked learning she had gone to bed with me. Her sister was so moved she had started crying. A woman from New York, a friend of John Tassinari’s wife, made a crack at dinner that night that she had never known in her time of anyone getting in bed as fast as some people now did. Another time, while Ruth and I were in a small group now not touching, a boy of 11 or 12 had blurted out what a lot of people around us were thinking, “Ruth is in love with Larry”. I did not know what the two of us were in but we were together in something. I was thrilled that my failure in bed had not meant from her side that we could not be a couple. I was naturally very concerned that she was scheduled to be only four nights at the ranch. She said she did not want to go to bed with me again because she was uncomfortable with it. It hurt her sister morally and made people talk. She said however that she had an apartment in Montreal and that I could come and spend some time with her there. I told her at once that I would come. My new life at the new dude ranch that I found after being forced out  of the old one seemed to be turning into a new life pure and simple. I was overjoyed at finding Ruth Gold.




                                                                    Chapter 11




     Nothing is quite like the excited happiness a man feels travelling to an apartment to visit a woman and sure to be welcomed into her bed. I left the dude ranch for three days and headed north to Montreal on a bus feeling confident and more pleased with myself than I had ever been. I suppose in some sense my feelings toward Ruth meant I was abandoning God but I felt free and I believed that any real experience of freedom was both a movement away from God and at the same time mysteriously a movement towards him. I felt mystery mixed with my happiness. I loved travelling feeling every mile that I travelled like a steady unravelling of the knot of a rope strung around my being that would soon inevitably be gone and replaced by Ruth’s arms around me. I loved the bus I was riding because it was taking me to her. I loved the taxi going through the streets of Montreal and about to  deposit me at her door.
  She opened the door to her apartment with a big broad smile for me on her cutely beautiful face that expressed also nervousness. She shut the door behind me and I pulled her to me and embraced her awkwardly. I reached down and kissed her on the lips but something in both of us prevented us from continuing kissing again and again and getting in bed right away to get at our lovemaking. We separated each standing back a step and I looked around her small tidy apartment. She said she had bought plenty of food for us and beer for me and insisted with concern in her voice that she did not want to go out with me in the neighborhood because she had relatives nearby and acquaintances and did not want to be seen with a man so soon after her breakup with her husband. I looked at her with a puzzled look. I felt like telling her the hell with everyone and everything which was how I felt. But I understood she was concerned  and it was enough for me that we would inevitably at some time of the day be nude together in her bed. I still had within me some of the light-hearted excitement I had had during my ride on the bus and in the taxi but I felt it nonetheless slipping away. Something about her in her apartment dressed in a nice dress like a regular young housewife made her seem a new person unlike the one I had met carefree and casual at the dude ranch. I also felt something of the presence of her husband in the apartment despite his absence. But I didn’t care how I felt, carefree or not, because I was with her and we were lovers. She had me sit on her sofa. She went in her kitchen and came back with a bottle of beer for me and a plate of crackers with French cheeses.
   She sat near me on the sofa and we talked. I knew the most important things about her, that she was born in Paris, that she had left France with her father and mother and sister at 14 in 1950 and settled as immigrants in Montreal where her father had two brothers and a sister. At the ranch in our talk it had come up that I was Irish-Catholic and she Jewish but our different backgrounds there seemed amusing and of no importance. When I said she was Jewish during the beginning of our talk on the sofa, her face lit up brightly and she told me with enthusiasm that growing up in Paris playing with French boys and girls on the streets of Paris and going to schools with them she had never thought of herself as Jewish. She said emphatically with some anger that it was Hitler and the nazis who taught her she was Jewish. She said they had occupied Paris and made her and her sister wear a star pinned to their clothes indicating to everyone that they were Jews. Her father and mother were immigrants to France from Poland. They were Jewish but did not practice the Jewish religion. I asked if she had any relatives back in Paris. She said her mother had had a brother in Paris, also an immigrant from Poland, married with two children. She had talked up until then with a calm even voice but then its tone became grim. She said her uncle and his wife and her two cousins, Jacob and Cecile, had been caught by the French police and turned over to the nazis. She said her father had printed evidence that they had been put on a train in Paris by the French police and sent to Germany and eventually to a death camp at Auschwitz where the four were murdered, gassed to death by the Germans.
   As I sat there taking sips of beer listening to her, a sadness began coming over me, a strange sadness much stronger than what I should have felt because of the sad fact she had just whacked me with. I told myself I should hold her right away and kiss her and keep kissing her and carry her into her bedroom and make love to her. But she was cooking dinner for us and it was late afternoon and I sensed that she wished very strongly to go on telling me about her experiences in France during the war. I let her go on. I enjoyed looking at the sort of bold expression that came over her as she talked as though she were very proud to tell her story to a strange man from Boston who had suddenly entered her life from nowhere. I could see it was good for her to talk and I felt very selfishly in my heartless heart that the more of herself that she revealed to me, the more I would be closer to possessing her psychologically and emotionally as well as physically when I had her later after dinner in bed.
   But as I listened to her, I wished that my selfish desires might be even stronger if they could have helped me drive away from my feelings the waves of deep sadness that came over me, drowning me in the deepest sorrow I had ever felt. It was like I had stepped into and had been received as an intimate member of a Jewish family with all its members feeling a powerful sadness that only a genuine Jew can feel. I felt very deeply listening to Ruth Gold how a Jew suffers in a way only a Jew can suffer. Knowledge told me immediately that the sadness I felt was nothing but the result of my weak and deranged imagination and also that there were plenty of well adapted intelligent Jews who suffered not at all and might very well laugh at the idea that a gentile can suffer  like a Jew. I didn’t care, listening to my beautiful Ruth telling the story of the mortal dangers she had lived through hiding from the Nazis in France, what knowledge said. I know how sad she made me feel and I know I suffered like only a Jew can suffer.
   Her family was as poor in Paris as poor can be. Her father worked moving furniture through the streets of Paris pulling a cart with a strap wrapped against his forehead. They lived the four of them in a one room apartment with the toilet located down three flights of stairs outside in a courtyard. She insisted right away before she began her story that the reason the four survived was because they were so poor. People did not notice them or care anything about them because they were  poor, and as a result no one denounced them by notifying the police that they were Jews. It became dangerous under the Germans for Jews to remain in Paris and the French police ordered every Jew to come to a police station and register as a Jew. Ruth’s father sensed he should not register and he went alone to the south of Paris to the town of Ouny to a work camp for foreign born men. His wife and his daughters, six and seven years old, could not buy train tickets because it was against the law for Jews to buy them. They had a gentile friend buy them and the three left Paris to join their father. Ruth turned to me as she spoke and said with a gleam in her eyes that her mother believed that three miracles had saved them from capture by the police and extermination in some German death camp. The first miracle happened on the train they took south. When the train was about 80 kilometers from Paris, it made an unscheduled stop. Her mother looked outside and saw a group of policemen waiting to board the train to check everyone’s identity and to see if there were any Jews. Her mother led her two girls out of their compartment and down a corridor to the woman’s toilet. Luckily there was no one inside. Madame Gold pulled her two daughters inside and shut the door. They could hear the policemen going by outside in the corridor making a lot of noise. The three of them huddled together shaking with fear that the door would open and that they would be seized and arrested. For some reason the police did not open the door. They waited there a long time until her mother felt the train moving and opened the door. “That was the first miracle”, Ruth said to me with a bright gleam of satisfaction in her brown eyes.
   I had no doubt as I looked sympathetically at her where the sadness I felt came from. It came from my soul. I felt for the first time in my life how terrible it can be to have a soul. When we feel our soul, feel it deeply, we understand we are partly supernatural beings capable of supernatural feelings that can drive away the happy normal everyday feelings of the self we create that hangs dangerously near the edge of an abyss that can drop us into the depths within us that knowledge is always eager to tell us do not exist. The soul is not itself terrible but it was an awful experience to fall deep down into my soul and find it  full of sadness. I looked at Ruth’s eyes that revealed her beautiful person that I was free to enjoy intimately for two nights. I felt sad but at the same time I felt happy. I was sure her being also with a soul would soon sooth all the sadness out of my soul when she  selflessly let me press my nude body against her nude body for as long as it took to forget we had souls. She did not feel sad as she talked. She was telling me as she went on not only what fearful things had happened to her but also who she was. At the dude ranch, I had joined my body with a woman  I did not know, a stranger from nowhere out for an adventure. Now the same woman was clothing herself with the sad details of her prior life, covering the body I had touched intimately with the person she wanted me to also know intimately along with her body.
   Her father spent weekends with the three of them in the room they rented in Ouny. When he came near the internment camp on a bus to report on a Monday morning, he and the bus driver discovered workers from the camp marching out to the street from the camp with their arms raised over their heads and policemen moving along with them guarding them with rifles. The bus driver told Monsieur Gold, “You don’t want to get off here, my friend”. He returned to his family shaking with fear. He had to leave Ouny right away because the police would be looking for him when they discovered he was not among the men they had marched away. He decided to go off immediately on his own and try to get across the Loire River and into unoccupied France where it was safe because the German’s had no rights or power there. He planned to send the three back in Ouny a postcard when he crossed the Loire to safety with the words, “The weather is fine here”. On the day they received the postcard, the mayor and the chief of police of Ouny came to where they were living and told her mother they had to leave town right away. The chief of police told them the Germans had ordered him to arrest the three of them the next day. The mayor told them to leave as soon as possible and take no suitcase but only the clothes they could wear because otherwise they could easily be identified as fugitives. They took a train and reached a town on the Loire River  in the late afternoon.
   She was sitting on the sofa with a space between us. I pulled her to me. I held my right arm around her and kissed her. I told her I was sure she and her mother and sister had gotten safely across the Loire River because she was with me. I told her I wanted to go to bed with her. She said with a coy but full smile that took away a good part of my sadness that she would stay in bed with me for two days if I wished but first she had to finish cooking dinner. I kissed her again and felt her letting herself go as our lips pressed one another. I sensed her giving herself to me more than she had ever before. She was mine sadness and all. She got up and went into the kitchen to attend to what I smelt cooking on her stove. I did not mind waiting. It’s great time the time spent with a woman however long when a man knows it’s sure she is his and he is hers. We did not know what joined us but we felt joined. Whatever it was it soothed our souls. The soul never feels terrible when the body it is united with is soon about to unite with a body also united to a soul.
   At dinner we sat opposite one another at a small table. Ruth lit the candle she had placed at the side of the table. She had put a bottle of wine on the table and I poured  wine in our glasses. I raised my glass to drink and she raised hers. I wanted to get rid of whatever sadness was left in me so I said jokingly, “Let’s drink to dude ranches”. She smiled but I could see she was not pleased with the toast because it was not serious. I said, “No, let’s drink to the the three miracles”. “To the three miracles”, we both said and we drank some wine. I thought as we ate looking at my prize before me flashing her beauty at me that we were celebrating our marriage. But it seemed we were entering into a kind of arranged marriage because we had not first confessed that we loved one another. I did feel joined to her and was sure she felt joined to me and now it was like we were celebrating the arranged marriage that the two of us had arranged. I felt a bit sad because being united to another being overwhelmed my feelings. I was very happy to be with her but she had completely ripped me out of the deep loneliness that I lived with up until meeting her and my soul was floundering. In my mind as we ate and talked, I became certain that we were joined forever by some accident in our fate that neither of us could understand. I accepted in my mind that we were joined  but I felt deeply overwhelmed in my feelings as though some strange force that I could not control had suddenly dropped a huge weight of happiness on my soul that made me sadly happy. Also it did not help the confused state of my feelings that my bride sitting opposite me smiling was still married to another man.
   I wanted my soul to become completely free as it had been before I met her. I wanted her to be just a beautiful body that I could enjoy for two nights and  then walk away from free. That was no longer possible. My fate had a hand and its hand had a grip on me that I sensed  I could never again break out of  because it would mean I would be alone again and without Ruth. I felt I had no choice but to be happy with her. Drinking wine made me feel more relaxed. After dinner we sat again on the sofa and I pulled her to me. I kissed her feeling the grip fate had on me easing away as we held our lips together lovingly. I kept my arm around her holding her close. I told her I wanted to hear the rest of the story of the second miracle. I said I knew because she was with me that she had crossed the Loire River to safety and that when she explained how she had reached safety that day in 1941, she had to give me another kiss. That would be my miracle.
    She smiled and continued her story. I held her close as though to tell her that I would experience it with her as she experienced it again. Her father had already crossed the Loire to safety and now the three had to find some way to also get across. They reached a town near the river. They went into a hotel and her mother asked the woman at the front desk if she knew how they could get across the river. She took the three of them into the kitchen to talk in private because near the hotel front desk off in a dining room was a crowd of German soldiers. She gave them directions to a cafe in town where they could find a passeur, a man who would take them across the Loire for a thousand francs. They found the man in the cafe. He said he had a group of people he was taking across that night and he would take them across too. But her mother went crazy out of her mind when he told her it was a thousand francs for each of them. She begged him with tears in her eyes to take the three of them across for a thousand francs because it was all that she had. He refused to take them. That night he took a group of Jews across who were rich enough to afford it. “Do you know what happened to them?” Ruth asked me. I gave her a kiss softly on her cheek. “The Germans caught them”, I said. “Yes”, she said. “We were saved because we were poor”.
   Her mother asked the waitress in the cafe where they had met the passeur if she knew of a farm where they could find food and perhaps some place to sleep for the night. She said there were two farms nearby. The first one on the right on the road out of town was big and prosperous with plenty of rooms and a great deal of food. The next one on the left further down the road was just an average farm. It was raining and getting dark. They were worn out and hungry with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Her mother walked them by the first farm, the big and prosperous one. She walked them past it a good distance down the road to the poorer farm on the left. She knocked on the door with her little girls Ruth and Esther standing behind her in the pouring rain. A man named Weis opened the door. Monsieur Weis looked at them for a few moments. “Are you Jews?” he asked. “Yes,” said her mother. “Come in,” he said. I said, “Wow”, and gave her another kiss on the cheek.
   The Weis farm was so close to the river that German patrols came by every day and stopped at their farm for eggs and milk. Monsieur and Madame Weis gave the three Jews food and a place to sleep. The next day they told  them that the passeur and his customers had been arrested and that it was unsafe to remain at their house. They decided they would take them across the river. Monsieur Weis led and the three walked in a single line with Madame Weis in the rear. They kept close to bushes and trees and tried to stay away from open areas. They reached a place where the river was not as wide as in other places. Monsieur Weis walked into the river. He walked to the middle and raised his hands to show that the river came up only to just below his shoulders. He took her mother across first because, as he had explained, if they were caught by the Germans, he might have been  able to save Ruth and Esther by claiming they were his children. Her mother followed him into the water and crossed slowly with her purse hung around her neck and finally reached the other side. He lifted up Ruth and Madame Weis lifted up Esther and carried them to the other side. She stopped talking and looked me in the eyes. “They were saints”, she said. “It was a miracle”. “You’re my miracle”, I said. I kissed her a long kiss that took away the last traces in me of sadness. I felt happy in my body and soul pressing her as close to me as possible. We were meant for each other. We both felt it and I was happy both because I could not do anything about it and because pressing my lips to hers I did not want to do anything about it. I was hooked. It seemed really a miracle that I was no longer alone.
    I asked her to make the story of the third miracle as short as possible because when she was finished, I wanted to celebrate the miracle this time with much more than just a kiss. She smiled at me happily.  She explained that after the second miracle they lived very poorly in a very small town called Beynat Ambrugeat in the south in the department of Correze. Her father lived nearby in the forest with a group of French resistance fighters called the maquis and visited them regularly. Her mother travelled around from farmhouse to farmhouse offering to work in the kitchen or the fields in exchange for food or coins. Her special talent was making pasta. She rolled out dough, cut it into strips and hung it on the back of chairs in kitchens to dry. They found out that the World Jewish Congress had set up places for the children of Jewish refugees south of the Loire in unoccupied France. Her mother got her two girls admitted to one of them, a chateau in the town of Le Mangelier. Ruth and Esther were very happy there. Ruth loved acting in the plays the children put on and she was the star actress. When her mother arrived at the chateau one day for a visit, she found Ruth out in the courtyard. Her mother was angry with her because she did not know where her sister Esther was. Someone told them she had seen Esther in the kitchen. They found Esther outside the kitchen in the refectory. It was a large, dark room. Esther was on her knees scrubbing the floor. There was a bucket of sudsy water next to her. She told her mother and sister that they made her scrub the floor. When her mother asked Esther why, she explained that they had caught her stealing a carrot. After breakfast she had seen a carrot on the kitchen counter and had taken it because she was so hungry. Immediately their mother who was as poor as possible decided to take her two daughters out of the chateau and back to Beynat Ambrugeat where she had to struggle every day just to find enough food for them to eat. The director of the chateau protested furiously against her mother. She thought she was crazy. Her mother got all their things together as soon as possible and took them back with her. Ruth looked at me in the eyes and said she was very angry with her mother. She had been very happy living in the chateau. She said that was the third miracle. She looked at me smiling coyly and said that she was not sure she should tell me why it was a miracle because she had agreed to reward me with more than a kiss when I found out. I gave her a kiss and we held one another passionately. “Why was it a miracle?” I asked holding her and ready to carry her to the bedroom I was so excited. I took my arms off her and she looked at me with a gleam in her dark eyes. “It was a miracle”, she said, “because the Germans eventually occupied all of the south of France and they took all the teachers and students out of the chateau at Le Mangelier and sent them to an internment camp. Then they all ended up dead sent to the gas chambers”. I said, “You were saved because your sister stole a carrot”. “Esther was hungry”, she said. I got up and reached down for her two hands. I pulled her up towards me. A few minutes later I had my living miracle, Ruth Gold, nude beside me in bed.
   Everything that first day in her apartment taught me that I had gotten to know her very little at the dude ranch. Talking to her before we went to bed had been disturbing and at times very sad although also pleasant and exciting. We were alone sitting on a sofa exhibiting to one another across our words our persons without holding anything back. It was like we were going through a hurried courtship with emotional ups and downs. I was like an excited and nervous groom sometimes sad but knowing happiness was before me that would take away all my worries and doubts once the ceremony marrying us was past and I could be alone and united with my bride. She was nervous about getting into bed like a bride about to consummate her marriage. She made me turn away my eyes as she undressed. When she was finally lying beside me, I pulled back the blanket and sheet covering her to examine her nude beauty and she did not like it. She pulled up the sheet and blanket quickly. I understood in a flash that giving herself to me at the dude ranch had been completely foreign to her character and that was why going to bed with me had made her sister Esther cry. She was still married to another man and she had made love to me already against her will, but her modesty about showing her body helped me imagine that she was still in her soul as regards me a virgin. We were not in love with one another but it did not matter that love did not marry us because something stronger than love did. What it was could not be named with words but it was real. It had pushed us together at the dude ranch and it had made us talk about the terrible dangers she had passed through after it had moved us both to meet together in her apartment. Knowledge preaches that  people are joined by love and part of the rational wisdom in its sermon is that lovemaking must be like all the firecrackers going off on the Fourth of July with hundreds of rockets exploding and lighting up the night sky. We squirmed together lovingly and kissed and I enjoyed touching her wonderfully smooth skin wherever I wished. When I joined her and was united with her physically, I felt holding her body below me like an emperor commanding with his power everything in the universe worth possessing. I did not want to stop ever moving myself within her and I cared nothing for whatever pleasure came over me and forced me eventually to stop moving. All the firecrackers that knowledge demanded that lovers set off did not go off and no rockets exploding lit up the sky but my pleasure being with the first woman who gave her whole self to me made me feel anyway it was the Fourth of July.



                                                             Chapter 12




   I loved neither God nor Ruth Gold but I knew they were both worth loving and I wanted to stay related to them in any way possible. What did I know about God? Nothing except I knew he existed because of my act of belief in Jesus Christ. What did I know about Ruth? Her beauty and her person forced me to seek a relationship with her and she had given herself to me. I did not want to be ever again separated from either God or her. But something about being united permanently to God or her was a problem that had no easy solution. In the deepest part of my nature I was alone and it was only there that another being could reach me truly. Was it possible? God had reached me there but he had remained there only a moment and left. Ruth had stretched her hand deep into my being and touched a region of my soul but even in her company I still felt a part of me that remained alone. The best way for me to act with God or Ruth was selflessly. My life with them should have been an everlasting prayer that they take charge of my being and make it their own. That was the only way possible to rid me of the ache of loneliness in the bottom of my soul and it seemed impossible.
   Ruth and I never told one another that she was mine and I was hers but it came out in the way we acted towards one another and that was enough. No doubt not being in love with one another made talking specifically about our union as difficult as our love for one another would have made easy. We were happy being together. It was that simple. Actual marriage was not possible because she had been married in the Province of Quebec. Divorce in the province was still illegal and could be granted only by a lengthy legal process through the national government in Ottawa. I did not tell Ruth that I had failed completely with two other women that I wanted to be with and that it meant everything in the world that she was with me. In a word, our union was hard to define and it never should have happened, but it had happened and that was enough for us.
   The first thing we decided was that she come down soon to Lake George and live with me there for a week. After our second day and night together in Montreal, the next morning she called a taxi for me and stood outside her door waving goodbye smiling. When I reached Lake George, I went to a restaurant downtown and asked the owner, an Italian-American woman I knew casually, if I could work for her as a kitchen helper. I knew that when Ruth arrived, we would need to stay in Lake George at a motel because the dude ranch was seven miles away and I had no transportation of my own to go back and forth. The woman was sitting at her bar at her restaurant and she said she had no opening but another woman, her friend, was sitting beside her. She explained that she owned a ship that took people for trips up and down Lake George daily and she needed a dishwater. She was a middle-aged woman, fairly attractive. She waited for my answer and looked me over and added pleasantly in a way that made me like her, “If you’re willing to do that kind of work.” I took the job. She owned a big ship that had been used to land soldiers on  beaches in the war. It had rooms where I could live on board and meals included with the job. In a few days, I had left the dude ranch and Ruth had taken a week’s vacation from her job in Montreal. We settled into a room at a motel and enjoyed being together greatly. I got up early and walked down to the ship and went on a trip of around thirty miles up and down a beautiful lake. Around five o’clock I was back in Lake George, soon off the ship and later had Ruth in my arms.
   My experience with the lady who owned the ship taught me that Lee Townsend was right when he told me I could succeed easily if I stayed away from big cities and tried my luck in the country. It also taught me how far the loneliness in a deep part of my soul had estranged me from any practical economic considerations about my future or any realistic judgement about how to deal with marriage or long-term relationships with women. On the lady’s ship, I worked at one end of the small kitchen washing dishes and pots by hand at a sink. Three college girls, waitresses for the summer, went in and out the door beside my sink to the kitchen to pick up their orders. They had like me quarters below where they lived but they were not friendly and ignored me because I had the lowest job on the ship. One day in the morning, one of them stopped at my sink. She smiled at me and said she had found out I was going to be a bartender in the ship’s bar. She congratulated me. How she found out so quickly I never discovered but the lady who owned the ship came shortly afterwards to my sink and told me she wanted me to be a bartender. She had a beautiful calm aristocratic quality to her voice. She was raising me up like a queen from a lowly position and anointing me as worthy of a higher position and she did it with an indifference to her voice without a demeaning smile that was noble. I followed her down the wide stairs from the big open area of the ship to the circular bar. She introduced me to the bartender on duty, a young guy my age, and told him to teach me what I needed to know to help him tend the bar. Every day she came to the bar and sat with the captain of the ship. They sipped drinks together with intelligent restraint and chatted. Eventually, as I stood near her behind the bar, she began speaking to me in an off-handed and friendly manner. Her daughter was my age. When the ship was docked, she would dive in the water from the deck and enjoy swimming. She was an athletic, good-looking girl. When she came in the bar one day, her mother introduced her to me. Another time, her mother told me her daughter rode horses in horse shows and that her father had recently bought her an Irish jumping horse worth $25,000. I genuinely liked her mother for her interest in me but I definitely did not want to marry anyone. Something in me feared being related permanently to one woman. I wanted to love them if possible, go to bed with them when I could and at the same time be free of them. I wanted the impossible and it caused a great deal of trouble with my relationship with Ruth that should never have happened. Meanwhile I was indifferent to the idea of courting the lady’s daughter as I was sure she wished. Lee Townsend was right. I had prospects for success if I stayed away from cities and operated like he only in the country. But I did not operate anywhere logically. That was my problem. It was alright when I was alone, but now united with Ruth my illogical plan for us came out bad.
   After our week together at the motel, she was about to go back to Montreal to her job and we had to form some plan for the future. She left it up to me to decide on a plan. That was important to her. She wanted me to be a man and decide for her. The logical thing to do was to tell her to go back to Montreal, pack her things, quit her job and come back and live with me. We could have made it economically while we were at Lake George and then she could have come with me to Boston to live with me. It would have meant supporting us by my driving a taxi full-time. I could have done it but full-time it would have meant driving six days a week. She had on her side some difficulty with leaving Montreal and her family, her father, mother and sister as well as aunts, uncles and cousins. What should we do? I decided we should both continue working, her in Montreal and I in Lake George and then Boston. Then in two months we should take whatever money we could save and travel to France. It was a bold and exciting plan. I wanted to experience living in a foreign country and she had in mind some day returning to Paris where she was born. It meant we would be apart for two months but then united again in France and free to form there some future.
    We agreed on the plan but it turned out to be on my part a bad mistake. I should never have let her go off alone separated from me for two months. She was going through a difficult period in her life, alone, separated from her husband and now from me. As a plan in the abstract it made sense but as a reality for her it was an adventure hard to face on her own. She returned to Montreal to her job and I worked on the ship in Lake George saving all the money I could. When they closed down the ship in September, I returned to Boston, took a room and drove a taxi seven days a week. I dreamed all the time of seeing her again and seeing Paris for the first time. We wrote letters back and forth. Everything went fine until in the middle of October she left behind her family and travelled on a ship to France. She wrote me when she had been in Paris a few days an angry letter. She felt alone and abandoned and adrift in Paris. I thought that for her knowing French as her native language Paris would be no more a foreign and strange place than Boston or some other Canadian city like Toronto. She could not stand being alone living in a hotel room far from her family with no friends. She felt abandoned and she wrote me with great anger that I should never have sent her off to Paris alone. The worst of it was that it would still be at least two weeks before my ship arrived and I could join her in Paris.
   When I finally reached Paris near the middle of November, she was not there. She had written me that she had taken a position as an assistant in English at a small college in the province of Brittany in the town of Vannes . She had room and board at the college and wrote me that I should travel to Vannes and contact her from my hotel when I arrived. She came to my room and we kissed and made love in a grand old bed in a room with exposed beams below a high ceiling that were perhaps 400 years old. Then we went out and had dinner in a restaurant in another ancient building that had a wooden second floor hanging out into the street a foot or so over a stone wall before the first floor. Ruth smiled at me when she saw me and kissed me and made love with me but everything was not alright. I could sense it. We sat across the table from one another in a restaurant and there were silent moments in our talk that should not have been there. She was mine but something about the look that came to her eyes or the indifference behind some of the things she said told me she was not mine. I hoped I was wrong and the love making we did in my room in the big bed at my hotel for three days gave some proof I was wrong but I still doubted. Something was not right between us. Her college where she lived was in Vannes. She decided I should take a room in the main city in Brittany, Rennes, that was nearby. She explained it was best that she live in her room at her college and visit me on weekends. She helped me install myself in a large room on the second floor of a house with a family living below. She stayed with me in my room for the first weekend and the second weekend we visited the city of Lorient that had been destroyed by bombing in the war and rebuilt. During the week back at my room in Rennes, the woman of the house where I lived pushed a thick letter to me under the door. It was a whack, a hard emotional whack.
  It was a letter from Ruth. She poured out all her thoughts in a kind of frenzy of honesty. She said that I was very intelligent and she admired the way I lived freely but she was not happy with me. She spoke of her past and her hopes for the future and said she had thought I could be part of her future but no longer thought it was possible. It was a long passionate letter full of remorse that she had come to a painful decision for her future but she wrote she was sure it was the best decision for both of us. She said she was breaking with me forever. She regretted it but said strongly it was something she had to do. It hurt me and then she struck me another painful emotional blow when she confessed that her husband had met with her in Vannes before my arrival and she had slept with him. The pain learning that helped me deal with the pain of losing her. It had been very difficult getting her into my bed at the dude ranch. Then in Montreal, she had given herself to me expressing modesty before our lovemaking, making her in my mind virginal in spirit in her relationship with me even though I knew she was married. Now she had given herself to another man and she had broken the purity of our feelings for one another. I was not such a prude that I could not still have accepted her as my lover especially since she had given herself to me when I arrived in Vannes after making love with her husband. But something was broken in our relationship and she told me with strong emotion that it was broken forever. I was hurt and I cursed myself for my stupidity in sending her away to be without me in Montreal for two months and then in letting her go off alone to Paris. Her honest letter made me look honestly at myself. I had to admit to myself that some part of me did not want a permanent relationship with any woman. But given my circumstances, being in a foreign country, I knew I never could have found the courage or the desire to break with her. Now she was gone and the only positive thing I felt in my pain was that now I was again completely free. I left my room in Rennes and took a train to Paris. I had the beauty of Paris before me but it was not a worthy exchange for the beauty of Ruth Gold that remained behind and cut off from me in Vannes.



                                                               Chapter 13



   On the train from Rennes to Paris, I sat in a compartment beside a French girl to my left sitting next to the window. She talked back and forth to her girlfriend sitting opposite her also next to the window all the way to Paris. One of them had a movie magazine that had pictures of a movie with captions indicating what the stars in the movie were saying. She giggled happily from time to time and passed the magazine to her friend pointing to a picture that made her friend also giggle. They giggled and laughed and talked until we reached Paris and I could understand very few a words of what they said. Knowledge all the while was buzzing in my head that I was worthless with women, a weakling, that I would always be alone, that I was good for nothing. I told knowledge back that I accepted without it telling me that I was worthless, that I knew I was an inept weakling with women and that I was good for nothing.  I also told knowledge that I was always alone anyway even though this time Ruth had forced me to be alone. But as the train rolled on and the girls laughed and giggled, knowledge’s buzz went away and with it went away also my sense of being a nothing. A rich woman at Lake George had raised me up from a lowly social status and made it clear that I was worthy of marrying her daughter. Ruth had touched my feelings and I had touched hers. Perhaps if she had not been married and her husband had not reentered her life, we might have succeeded as a couple. I began feeling a bit confident. My pain would pass and I had always been able to live and even be happy alone. I had lost Ruth but I still had God. Who knew what might happen in my soul where God through Jesus Christ had once visited me mysteriously? I was only 24 and had still a world of experiences personal, religious and cultural before me. The girls giggling and laughing beside me told me it was easy and natural to escape the crushing weight of the exterior world and enjoy being oneself. Excitement ruled my feelings as the train went through the outskirts of Paris.
   Some part of me was always, even as a child, pretending to be living. I never felt myself completely rooted to myself and with my feet solidly on the ground. The part of me that was always pretending was a liability in the English-speaking world but in the French-speaking world it was an asset. In 1959 in Paris, the English language did not exist. English was not only not spoken but was positively hated by the French because they were still suffering morally from their defeat and occupation by the Germans. They hated their English-speaking liberators. To survive in Paris, I had to pretend I spoke French and when I pulled off the fakery successfully, I succeeded in  pretending that I was French. This new pretension added to the part of me that was always pretending anyway gave me a quirky new personal exterior living and getting along among the French. For as long as I could talk to Parisiens in their language, for those short moments when they could not discover that I was not one of them, I became one of them. There’s nothing anywhere in the world as satisfying socially as being a Parisian and it’s an exciting cultural accomplishment when a phoney Parisian succeeds for a short time in not revealing to Parisians that he’s not one of them.
   My first night in Paris, the night before I took the train to Vannes in Brittany, I gained possession of an important weapon in the linguistic war I had to wage against Parisians. I went to the counter of a small cafe near the Gare du Nord and ordered a beer saying in French, “une biere”. The Parisians are a tribal people with basic customs and knowledge known to everyone in the tribe. No Parisian ever orders a beer using that expression because they know that if you do, every waiter or barman in every cafe in Paris will bring you a bottle of the most expensive beer they have, preferably an imported beer which would be even more expensive. There were just seven people in the little cafe and they all discovered immediately by hearing what I said that I was not one of them. They all seemed indifferent and aloof and even hostile to me. I knew I could not drink beer at the price I had to pay for the bottle and I was angry that I had been outwitted by the barman. A man came in and stood near me at the bar and ordered “un demi”. I watched closely what the barman served him. He poured a draft beer from a  nozzle and brushed off the foam with a wooden stick to fill a glass completely. I repeated over and over to myself  the expression the man had used, “un demi”. I paid the barman in francs worth a little over a dollar for the bottle of beer he had served me and said to him, “un demi”. I could see from the slight surprise in his expression that I had gained a small victory. He served me a large glass of beer that was twice or three times the quality of beer in Somerville and charged me just the equivalent of 15 cents. When I got off the train that afternoon coming back to Paris, I checked my two suitcases in a section in the station named Consigne and later in the day went into a cafe to the counter and said, “un demi’. I showed with this short expression that I was just like the others in the cafe. We were all Parisians.
   I had little money and had no choice when I talked in hotels looking for a cheap room but to speak French. I soon discovered the linguistic rule that I lived by in Paris religiously: never give anyone in conversation the impression that you do not understand what they are saying and therefore that you are a foreigner who does not speak French. The second key phrase I learned after “un demi” was the word “comment?” pronounced with a rise in the voice on the last syllable. In my first weeks whenever I said anything to anyone, I assumed correctly that I would not understand what they said back to me, but I listened as though I did understand and then said automatically, “comment?”. This meant not that I did not understand but simply that I was slightly confused about what exactly they meant and they always repeated what they said giving me a second chance to try to understand them. If I did not understand them, I then said something simple like “vous pensez?”, “you think?”, which would keep the conversation going. Here is an example of my method. I found eventually a big room in a hotel with a large bed and a desk with a big French window opening to a wide view of the surrounding buildings and the street four stories below. It was on the Rue Delambre within easy walking distance of the Boulevard Montparnasse in an area that was at that time full of artists and writers. It cost the equivalent of only a dollar and ten cents a day. I had gone in a small front office. I asked a woman behind the counter in French if she had a room. She got up from a chair where she was knitting. She came over to the counter and talked to me in a very pleasant tone of voice giving me a full answer that involved several details. I understood some words here and there but I could not understand her. I listened to her politely as if I did understand. Then I asked pleasantly in French, “Do you have a room?” She talked for about half a minute. When she stopped, I said, “Yes, I understand” although I did not understand. But I was keeping the conversation going. She was feeding me words and expressions that I could later remember and memorize. She spoke again at length and again I did not understand her. But when she was finished, I asked, “Then can I please see the room?” She said, “Certainly”, which I did understand. We went up four flights of stairs. She stopped and turned to me twice and looked down at me behind her. She said something I could not understand. I nodded my head to her as though I understood. She showed me the room. I looked around. I opened the window and looked down four stories to the Rue Delambre. She said something briefly and then something at length as she watched me. I went near her and stood in front of her. I listened to her talk with polite attention but still did not understand her although I was making sense out of groups of words here and there. She said things to me on the stairs going back down that I did not understand. When she went behind the counter in the office, I gambled that she had already given me the room. I asked the price as though I wanted to make sure we understood each other clearly. It was five hundred francs or about a dollar ten cents. I registered for the room and showed her my passport. When she gave me the key to my room, she asked me why I had come to Paris. I said, “I am here to learn to speak French”. “But,” she said with a smile, “you already speak French”. I understood that. I was good at pretending. In Paris in 1959 for an English-speaking man it was a required activity.
   Once I accepted that most Parisians spoke a colloquial tribal gibberish that I would never understand and that it would take years of study to ever communicate meaningfully with those who spoke an intelligent French, I became like a lonely foreign thief who lived only to steal into his soul every bit of Parisian beauty he could find.  After a few days, I could get by easily speaking French to satisfy my practical everyday needs. Every morning I sat in the Le Select cafe on the Boulevard Montparnasse with a coffee. I relaxed letting my senses drink in everything that was attractive in the scene before me. I looked for beauty in the face and stature and dress of every woman who walked by on the sidewalk. My foreign and thieving eyes stole at least a bit of beauty from the appearance of them all. The short spurts of beauty that my eyes grabbed for my lonely pleasure suggested that there might be much more beauty hidden somewhere in secret places that a thief could lay his unworthy hands on. The beauty of Paris made me feel that below her surface lived a secret world of beauty. I felt out of touch with Parisians because I did not know their language but I enjoyed the loneliness I experienced among them. In Boston when I lived alone in my room, I could not feel the pleasure of complete loneliness when I was among people on the streets or at work because knowing their language I became annoyingly jumbled with them. I was jumbled with the Parisians too but their unknown language with its beautiful soft sounds made the lonely world within me blossom beautifully knowing it was permanently protected from any rough words that might attack it from outside because they could be clearly and knowingly  understood. I was a thief of beauty sitting out in front of everyone mornings on the terrace of the Le Select Cafe. Paris was an accomplice of my thievery. She kept me silent surrounded by her beauty and happily alone by not letting me know what her people were saying.
   I wanted however to learn French. I read newspapers and worked with a dictionary reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace in a French translation. I found a young woman interested in learning English and we met at a cafe twice a week exchanging conversations for her in English and for me in French. I was soon able to have a simple conversation with her. Otherwise I had little or no contact with people. I had a small breakfast at the counter of a cafe where the prices were the cheapest. Then I sat on the terrace of a cafe for over an hour with just a black coffee. I had a sandwich for lunch and ate a meal every night at the Alliance Francaise on the Boulevard Raspail. Dinner was served cafeteria-style at a very low price for the foreign students at the Alliance. Beginning around nine at night, I walked around the Montparnasse area where there were several cafes drinking a beer in each one at the counter. Much later in the evening, I ordered a beer at a terrace of a cafe on the boulevard which cost three times what was charged at the counter and sat there for an hour watching the life going by on the boulevard and the sidewalk.
   I thought of Ruth often and despite our break a part of me inside held on to her and would not let her go. But religion and thoughts about religion and culture became my main mental occupation. Jesus Christ had made me religious and I was living irreligiously. But I felt no need to adopt some traditional manner of acting as a Christian. In my loneliness, I would have loved to find some way to experience God’s presence within me but I did not pray or enter any of the old and beautiful churches in Paris to hear mass. The intellectual currents in Paris influenced my thought. Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher, published a book that year called in English translation, “Criticism of Dialectical Reason”. It was not yet translated however and I could not read it very well in French, but I read reviews of it in newspapers. It was a monumental work that struggled to synthesise Hegel’s rational dialectic with Kierkegaard’s anti-rational Christian existentialism. Hegel’s “Philosophy of History” showed his dialectical logic at work expressing itself universally throughout all the various important periods of human history. I was sure there was some truth in it but it was difficult for me to accept that spirit at work in history was, as he believed, a purely logical phenomenon because it eliminated anything mysterious and personal in God’s makeup. I had escaped the mind with its logic in my experience of religious conversion somewhat like Kierkegaard. The attempt to synthesize both logical experience based on reason and spontaneous and free human experience was a problem for me as well as Jean-Paul Sartre. He was still alive at the time and living in Paris a short walking distance from my hotel. He favored Hegel over Kierkegaard. I favored Kierkegaard.
   At the beginning of December, I realized as we approached Christmas that Ruth at her college would soon have a vacation break and possibly would be coming up to Paris. I wrote her describing my life in Paris and avoiding any expression of feelings for her. I wrote that I would like to meet with her if she was coming to Paris. She wrote me back that she was coming with a friend later in the month for a three-day visit. She said she would meet me at eight o’clock on a Thursday evening at a famous cafe on the  Boulevard Saint Germain named Aux Deux Magots. She explained that the cafe had become famous because in it Jean-Paul Sartre had spent a lot of time writing.
   That night, a cold night in winter, all my feelings for her began exploding hotly within me. I was getting along by then smoothly with Parisians with my French. I possessed Paris with its beauty and it seemed in my soul an enormous and terrible injustice that I should be living alone in a grand and beautiful city without the beauty of Ruth to enjoy as well. Why should we not be a couple? I had written my mother that I could study for a degree at the University of Paris and she had agreed to send me a small sum each month. Ruth could leave her job and we could move into my hotel room and enjoy our pleasures together in my big bed. We could have Paris and each other and it was all that we needed. I waited for her in the cafe on fire emotionally. I wanted something more in my life. I wanted Ruth. When I discovered her walking forward on the sidewalk towards the terrace of the cafe where I was sitting, she was so beautiful and I needed her so badly that something within me was so full of desire and so sad that she was not mine that it was like my whole soul was weeping. She went by the glass-enclosed terrace without turning to the right to look at people sitting at tables. Her black hair was now longer than it had been in the summer and her beautiful face was surrounded below with a black and grey scarf and a black coat. She came in the door to my right in the center of the terrace. She stopped and looked to the left and then to the right. She saw me and I looked straight into her dark brown eyes with a look in my eyes that showed her immediately my emotion and my desire. She smiled at me but it was a quick smile and her expression immediately became level and plain as though I were no more than a friend and had no hope of ever again being her lover.
  I rose as she came to my table and we embraced quickly and somewhat awkwardly grazing each other’s left and right cheek with our lips. She sat and put out a smile for me that was no more than a friendly smile. Her cutely beautiful face with its lips that I had kissed so often planted on top of her small shapely body that I had embraced several times nude were just a foot away. It absolutely smothered my soul in pain that for some reason I did not tell her at once that I loved her. What was wrong with me? Why did I not have at perhaps the most critical and important moment in my life and perhaps hers a heart? I could not tell her I loved her because it was not true. I wanted her more than anything else in life and her plain and friendly look told me that she did not want only to be wanted, that she wanted much more. Her plain and level expression said she was worthy to be loved and that I did not love her. I was boiling with desire for her, but as we talked and talked in a friendly manner as friends, my desire levelled off pushed down and away from the surface of my being by her friendly expression. She was my friend but her friendly words as we drank coffee together for an hour told me solemnly in my cold heart that she would never again get in with me to my bed.
   We walked together after leaving the cafe down the Boulevard Saint Germain in the cold and dark night. We took a left on the Boulevard Saint Michel and then walked on a stone bridge over the Seine River. Her hotel was nearby on the other side of the river on the right bank. We stopped a moment on the bridge and looked up the river at the darkness surrounded and pierced by many lights all over Paris, the city of light. I asked her if she would be my girl again and live with me in Paris. She said no, that it was over between us. She used words to express what her eyes and her friendly and detached words had been telling me all night. I said in that case we might as well separate now. She said yes and turned and walked away. I stood motionless and watched her black hair bouncing slightly on her scarf and her body below covered by a black coat leaving me.



                                                                        Chapter 14




    I felt it would be good for me to get away from the place where I received my latest whack. Three days later I left Paris to visit Ireland where all my grandparents had been born. I travelled north from Paris over flat farmlands on a train pulled by a coal-fed engine that sent back at times black smoke that blocked part of my view. At Calais on the coast, I transferred to a ferry and crossed the English Channel. On the other side in England I began hearing for the first time in three months a language that I understood completely. On the train up to London the talk of some of the people around me in my language made them feel so familiar that it was almost as though I were returning home. At the end of the line in London, I walked among a crowd of people towards the exit past signs that at first seemed slightly odd because they were written in English. I took the metro that Londoners named the Underground to a bed and breakfast hotel near Russell Square. I registered for a room and when I looked for my friend Richard who was also staying there and discovered he was not in his room, I asked the woman who ran the hotel if she knew when he would be back. She was offended. She informed me haughtily that she knew nothing of his whereabouts. She was in the right and I in the wrong. I had acted too familiarly finding myself suddenly able to speak fluently in the language of strangers. She made me miss the strangers I had left behind in Paris but still it felt good to be in a place where I was in no danger linguistically. I was as authentic speaking English in England as I was false speaking French in France.
   My friend Richard, whom I had met on the ship over, was a big and heavy ugly young Polish-American from Chicago. He had a Master's degree in English from a Catholic University and was out to see the world unhindered by his religious background. He had shown me on the ship a map of Europe where he had penciled in on all the European countries either Sex or No-Sex. Most of the Catholic countries like Spain or Portugal were marked No-Sex. But France earned a Sex rating along with England and Holland and the Scandinavian countries. Ireland where I was going was judged No-Sex. His sexual adventures were regulated by an iron rule: forget about all beautiful women and go after only women with average or poor looks. He had come over from London to visit  Paris. I helped him with my French to find a hotel and he scored very quickly with a woman of no beauty from Amsterdam experimenting with free sex for a few days while away from her husband. I could not abide his iron rule. Beauty in women made my feelings rush to imaginative extremes. I wanted nothing to do with a world that was without beauty and inhabited by people with average looks and average thoughts.
  Richard hung out and hunted for girls in the cafeteria of the University of London. I went there with him often. I met and talked with both white English students and black African students from former English colonies. Africans were very proud and extremely confident about the progress they were about to bring about in their recently independent countries. “My people are a free people,”one of them said to Richard and me once in a strong voice, “who believe in the principles of Jeffersonian democracy”. I wished him well with his principles. I violated Richard’s principle and looked all around the cafeteria to rest my eyes on the beauty of a girl’s face and hair. Richard warned me that the English considered it bad form to gawk at beautiful women. I told him I was Irish.
   But I learned I was more like the English in England than I was like the Irish in Ireland. Growing up speaking English in New England and listening to teachers for years at the Boston Latin School speaking the best New England English, I enjoyed an ease speaking to Londoners. The Londoners lived as though their social life was organized so rationally and so intelligently because it was obvious to them that any people anywhere ought to aspire to such perfectly civilized intercourse. When I interacted with them speaking intelligently the same language, it was natural and easy to become like them. In London all a man had to do was dress well  and speak well to feel superior. It was not a false feeling and it did not require wealth. Bank clerks and teachers walked around London talking like the upper-class rich and dressed like them. It was easy to slip into a sense of being successful even if you were poor. Londoners acted as though they were players in a richly costumed well constructed drama and the more they played the role they were assigned, the more the perfect logic of the drama made them feel authentically successful. I could have become English. My New England background had prepared me for it. The upper-class Irish in Dublin acted in the same social drama as the Londonians with the same dress and the same level of English. But that was it. The rest of the Irish were themselves. They all spoke English but they acted as though there were a lot more important things to do in life than act like puppets in a highly intelligent logically organized social drama. They had their own way of life and they lived it completely careless of what foreigners thought of how they acted. The Irish were no longer ruled by the English and they felt free after centuries of a painful slavery to live as joyfully as they could ruled by their hearts more than their minds. I felt their openness and their friendliness as soon as I established myself in Dublin and interacted with them. I was heartless. They had hearts.
   I stayed my first night in Dublin in a hotel in a very old brick building with a straight front without any fancy architectural design. The other brick buildings in the area were also bare and old. In the morning an Irish girl came in my room uninvited, lifted the two thick blankets covering my feet and deposited a rubber hot water bottle on the sheet with a smile. She was in and out in less than a half minute and although I was in a shabby area, it made me feel that the people there were good and that goodness was more important to them than well designed brick buildings. I took a furnished room in the north of Dublin in a poor area in another bare brick building. It had a fireplace that I could activate to escape the cold by depositing a coin in a meter. In the mornings I walked down to a market on  Grafton Street near the center of Dublin to buy eggs and sausages and fresh bread for breakfast that I could cook in my room. The Irish had fresh farm food for great breakfasts but the other meals served in their restaurants were as plain and unadorned as most of their buildings. I felt walking around Dublin that it was still the nineteenth century which was a very unhappy century. There was fine architecture in the area around Trinity College, a stalwart Protestant vanguard of English learning, but I kept away from the area because its ambiance seemed alien. I did however walk downtown every day to sit and read at the National Library. It had a large quiet reading room and a great supply of books. At night when I drank in the pubs, I heard around me laughter often breaking out and conversations between drinkers buzzing. Night life was the heart of Dublin life. During the day the plain and bare buildings and the people just managing to get by working low-paying jobs produced a general sort of pointless plodding along that seemed stifling. But darkness awakened Dubliners to life. Their souls were their richest possessions and their bold talk in pubs showed they were worth more than what any soulless day job could ever pay them.
   My money to finance my living and wanderings in Dublin was running low. I decided I should try to get a job working on a farm. It could possibly pay me a little money beside giving me room and board. I put an add in a newspaper and a farmer in the west of Ireland said he had a job and invited me to come to his farm in a place named Loughrea in County Galway. I took a train in the late afternoon heading west across most of the width of Ireland. It was soon dark and I saw out my window nothing of the Irish countryside. However the people on the crowded train gave me an open window to view closely the workings of the Irish personality. Everywhere they were talking loudly and laughing and drinking. The train was carrying a noisy festival of happy people thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. I felt like an uninvited guest at a wild and uninhibited party. My creaturehood personality was painful to me sitting quietly isolated from the happy turmoil. I felt like throwing my soul with its ingrained inhumanity off the train and into the darkness where it belonged. But I could do nothing but sit repressed and silent. I got off the train into a cold and dark night in a town 15 miles from the farmer’s location in Loughrea. I walked around and went in the first hotel. The woman of the hotel told me she had no room available and that all the other hotels in town were also full. I turned to walk away as any American would do but this was Ireland. The woman was surprised that I turned to leave because of course she would not let anyone walk away late at night into the cold who needed help. She had me sit and worked telephoning for nearly a quarter of an hour to find me a room. Finally she found me one and explained to me carefully at the door how to get to it. I thanked her heartily but a friendly twinkle in her eyes showed me I was overdoing it by thanking her so much for doing what for her was natural. I slept well in a big room and had a large breakfast in a small dining room among Irish as quiet and peaceful as they had been noisy and boisterous on the train. I ask someone after breakfast where I could find the bus to Loughrea. He told me there was no bus but explained pleasantly that that was not a problem. All I had to do was go left on the road in front of the hotel out of town and continue straight ahead on the same road fifteen miles to Loughrea. My expression showed I was depressed at the thought of walking fifteen miles but he happily soothed my depression by explaining that anyone in a car driving in that direction was sure to pick me up.
    Out of the hotel under a bright sky, I walked left down a street between bare grey cement buildings without the slightest thought in my mind that the deeply green fields of Ireland were in seconds about to drive a deep shaft of beauty into my soul. I went up a slight hill still between grey buildings and on the other side I was suddenly and magically at home in the land of my grandparents because the wonderful green color all around me told me that green is only truly green in Ireland where it is a beautiful green greener than green elsewhere. My Irish grandmother in Massachusetts lived on a small farm that had green fields but she had abandoned forever truly green fields. I walked stunned by beauty down the road. My race had suffered slavery under a foreign race for eight hundred years in paradise. I was very far from my destination in Loughrea but the green, green paradise around me freed me and made me careless. A car stopped after I walked about a mile. I got in the back seat of a small old four-door black car. The two men dressed in black suits in the front seat looked like brothers. They talked continually to me and to one another in English but I could not understand most of what they were saying. They let me off about four miles down the road because they had to turn to the right, but they had understood my English when I told them I was going to Laughrea. I got out and walked straight ahead again carelessly and free under a bright blue sky in my green paradise.
  Two young people, a boy and a girl, passed me coming from the opposite direction on horseback. I walked on but the next car that came up behind me also stopped and picked me up. The middle-aged couple told me they were going to a town two miles from Loughrea and that they would leave me off there at the pub. They explained that a couple drove into the town everyday to get mail and that they would drive me back with them to Loughrea. I went in the pub in the town and walked to the bar. I told a big man standing behind the bar that I was waiting for the couple for a ride to Loughrea. He said they always came in his pub and immediately said he had worked for years in New York as a hall porter in a hotel. In the next breath, he said it was very peaceful in Ireland compared to life in the states. In other words, he understood right away that I was an American from my New England accent speaking English and also from my style of dress which was different from the local style. I drank a beer and we talked with an openness and friendly freedom that I became convinced was unique to Ireland. The couple arrived in their car. They came in the pub and the bar man explained that I was going to Loughrea. They let me off at a short road up a slight hill that led to the farmer’s farm.
   A big man in a rough dark shirt and pants came out the door of a one story old farmhouse before I reached it. I smiled at him and said I had come for the job. I could tell from his expression he was disappointed. He took me for a walk into a nearby field and said he wanted someone who could clear his fields of large rocks that stuck out here and there from the green ground. He told me still with a disappointed expression that I could not do that work. He was a big solid middle-aged man who lived in a small house with a bare stone floor with his mother. He took me from the field back to his house and when we were inside he said to his mother, a woman of sixty or seventy with white hair, “He’s a yank”. He invited me to sit inside the big main room with a log burning in the fireplace. We did not speak more than a few words for two hours. He said he had no room for me and would take me after dinner to the center of Loughrea to a hotel. He explained I could get a bus to Dublin from the town in the morning. His mother cooked a meal of blood pudding with potatoes and bread and tea. Before the meal, the both of them got down on their knees side by side and said outloud an Our Father and a Hail Mary. I saw my religion at work in a lonely small old farmhouse in the west of Ireland as it had been working for centuries. They kneeled and prayed just as if I were not in the room. We ate the food and afterwards the man drove me about two miles to town to a hotel. He told me as we drove that an Irish farmer did very well because there was a large market for farm goods. He let me off and drove away from a Yank whom he understood as soon as he saw him could not fit into his way of life.
   I took a ride the next day beginning in the middle of the morning on a big old green bus to Dublin. Two men worked the bus wearing the same uniform. One drove and the other was stationed at the rear collecting tickets or money from  passengers when they entered. It was a clear day and a long three hour ride. I was happy I had taken the time to have an adventure in western Ireland. I enjoyed watching the scenery and the people as the bus rolled along. I thought of the hard life the farmer and his mother lived. I thought of the joyful doings I had witnessed on the train. I thought my experiences in Dublin and on my trip west had taken me close to the heart of the Irish. I did not expect to reach the very heart itself of the Irish on a bus ride but I did. The bus man who worked the rear of the bus came over to my seat as we travelled and pointed out for me points of interest. He was a short man who rolled the words off his tongue and mouth with a kind of soft musical accent because of the joy that came to him from making his land more familiar to a foreigner. I was certain he knew I was not Irish. I do not know exactly how he knew but he knew. I think even that he saw from my aloof expression and my cold unsmiling face that I needed to feel not so sad and so alone by connecting with another human. I thought however that he was just being nice by pointing out points of interest, that it was something he did regularly when he recognized someone who was a tourist. Then the bus stopped in the center of a small town. The twenty or so people on the bus remained seated but the driver opened the front door and got off. The bus man in the rear stopped at my seat and said, “Come with me. We’re going to have tea”. I followed him off the bus leaving the passengers behind. We crossed the street and went into a small store where there were booths to sit and eat. The driver sat in a booth and the other bus man told me with a smile to have a seat and he would get the tea. I sat opposite the driver and he came back after a few moments with cups and cakes and a pot of tea. He sat down and explained that the two of them stopped there every morning. We ate the cakes and drank tea for about twenty minutes while the other passengers sat on the bus. I offered to pay for my cake and tea but they would not hear of it. They went to the counter and payed and the three of us got back on the bus. Some people open their hearts to strangers everywhere in the world but no one will ever make me believe that the heart opens to them anywhere wider than it does in Ireland.


                                                             
                                                                   Chapter 15



   When I was off the train back in Paris, I went in a cafe and ordered a drink and a sandwich at the counter in flawless French. I was amazed at how happy it made me feel to be back in Paris and to be able to talk easily to Parisians in common everyday circumstances in short sentences in French. I could not only see a beautiful city. I could now talk to it! I did not need to understand everything it said just as I did not need to understand precisely everything a woman I wanted to be with said. Four months ago Paris was full of the sounds of incomprehensible words and I was like a thief in a foreign neighborhood looking on and cut off from most of its goods. Now the neighborhood belonged to me as well as to its inhabitants because we could exchange  some words and goods with one another. An indescribable lightness comes over the spirit of a foreigner who can speak French in Paris. As soon as I was back, Paris lightened me up. I did not miss England or Ireland. I enjoyed the foreign words that came out of my mouth that made me no longer a foreigner.
   The goods Paris made available to me were limited but they were enough. I took again a room on the Rue Delambre in the Montparnasse district in the hotel where I had stayed previously. I signed up for a humanities course of study for foreigners at the Sorbonne, the University of Paris, and attended lectures given by French professors. I arranged with my mother to be sent a hundred dollars a month while I pursued my studies. I entered a new language-sharing relationship with a Jewish divorced lady originally from Morocco who wished to perfect her English. I began again eating every evening the meals at a reduced price offered at the Alliance Francaise on the Boulevard Raspail. I walked there every evening past the same three older prostitutes standing at intervals on the Rue Montparnasse that I had passed by every evening during my previous stay in Paris. Each of them said sweetly as I passed, “Bonsoir, cherie”,“Good evening, dearie”. It was good to be back. I felt a light hearted satisfaction being in Paris because I was happy even doing without the many goods that I could not afford.
  The cold weather passed slowly and when April arrived I had an inspiration related to the green leaves that were appearing on trees. I went to a florist and sent six red roses to Ruth at her school. I wrote on the card accompanying them my address and a  note saying I would love to see her if she came to Paris for a spring break. She wrote me back that she was coming for three days and she wanted me to meet her train. She appeared among a crowd of people walking towards me from the train. She smiled a slightly nervous smile when she saw me that gave me a hint that this time our meeting in Paris might be different. Then something about her mood that expressed itself in her words as we talked told me that she was at least my close friend. After we left a cafe near the railroad station where we had stopped for coffee, she said that she would stay with me at my hotel. It was not clear whether she meant she would sleep with me in my room or take her own room when we reached my hotel. As we travelled to it on the metro, I was afraid to ask her. But as we were walking on the Rue Delambre and were close to the hotel, I dared to ask her if she would take a room for herself or stay with me in my room. A slightly puzzled look came to her face that showed me I had asked a question that did not need to be asked. But I was still nervous and worried until she said simply in a calm voice, “I’ll stay with you”. In my room as soon as I put down her suitcase, we came together so naturally and kissed so passionately that I knew with joy that we had been united as soon as she had gotten off the bus in Lake George and discovered one another and nothing since then had broken our union permanently. We got in bed right away and made love.
  We did not speak about our relationship for the three days we were together. Since we were not in love, we both realized without speaking about it directly that we had no need to plot some plan for a future together. Love was not forcing us to be a couple even though we were a couple anyway for some reason that neither of us understood clearly. We took it easy about the future. It was enough for us to hold one another nude in bed and sleep together and enjoy whatever pleasures her short body and my long one allowed us. It was difficult for us to give ourselves to one another away from our bed by talking about making our relationship permanent but it was easy in bed where our union was easy and pleasurable. I loved discovering that she enjoyed being with me in bed. It was wonderful that she gave her body to me and even more wonderful that at times neither of us cared about the degree of pleasure sex gave us. All the knowledge ever created about why a female and a male join was wrong. We proved it. Knowledge said we should not be a couple but we were one anyway. The only problem was whether or not our union should be permanent. We did not face it head on for those happy three days in Paris.
    Ruth had two sides to her. One side came to her from her mother and father who were uneducated Polish Jews. Her mother was illiterate and had grown up very unhappily under a stepmother. Her father was a self-educated wandering Jew who had worked at lower end  jobs in both Germany and France and could speak five languages. Her other side came from growing up as an intelligent French girl in Paris who was a star pupil in French schools until the age of fourteen. She had a year of College in Canada. Her two sides made her a modern liberal Canadian woman who at the same time had strong and simple notions of life and behavior like a girl from a Jewish ghetto in Eastern Europe. An Irish-Catholic from Boston added to her life was pushing the two sides forming her in a new and odd direction and she was still not divorced from a Jew whom she had married before a rabbi. Something did unite us that was beyond either of us and that neither of us knew how to deal with because we came from such different backgrounds. In her extended Jewish family of aunts and uncles and cousins in Montreal, no one ever married a non-Jew.  Where were we now going? Neither of us knew and since we were soon about to go back home, her on a ship to Montreal and Canada, I on one to Boston and the US, we let things hang loose. Without doubt, if we were having powerful bouts of sex like great lovers, our sexual need for each other would have sealed our fate together in some precise form. We enjoyed touching and kissing and taking pleasure joined but I was too naive and inexperienced sexually to help a woman of 26 who had been married decide for me once and for all. Sex is much more complicated than knowledge supposes. Any couple with any sexual equipment who enjoy lying nude together and touching each other generously as we did will eventually find techniques to fully satisfy one another. It was a question of time. Neither time nor our different backgrounds were on our side in Paris. We separated again in Paris but she agreed to visit me in Boston when I was back there and she was back in Montreal.
   Back in the states, I stayed with my brother and his wife in the bottom floor apartment on Medford Street for a few days. Tom Barbieri told me there was room for me at an apartment near Boston University on Mountfort Street with a drinking friend of his named Earl Brown.  Tom and his friends used Earl’s apartment as a place to hang out and drink at less cost than at the bar named The Dugout that they drank at around the corner on Commonwealth Ave.. Earl turned out  to be a very friendly educated easy-going guy who loved like others in Tom’s gang to talk and drink. It was an old six story apartment building that was about to be torn down to make room for an expressway. Earl was set to leave in September to take a teaching job. I moved in. I drove a cab as little as possible and threw in some money for liquor and rent. We had groups there daily talking and drinking. Summer was beginning and I was all set to let it go by as free as I could be.
   There was big news. Phil Malkowski was engaged to be married to an upper-class Yankee Wasp girl from Cape Cod. She was a lively short girl with brown hair and keen eyes who was a graduate of Wellesley College. Phil carried off successfully his theft of a place in the upper-class sun and his capture of a pretty girl named Judy was partly the result of speaking an educated English that he had learned mostly from me, Joe Alfano and Tom Barbieri. Earl and I drove down to Cape Cod to the town of West Dennis and feasted after a Protestant marriage ceremony at a reception on a lawn before a fine large house near the ocean.
   All that summer my mind drifted about lazily and freely wherever it wished and I enjoyed being again free to do what I wished except when I had to drive a taxi. For a few weeks, I did not write to Ruth because some part of me was afraid of becoming attached to her permanently. I was divided in my feelings. I wanted her and I did not want her. I was just as divided in relation to her as I was in my relation with God. I did  feel some sense in my soul that God was with me and at the same time something fundamental within me did not want to be close to God. I wanted God and I did not want him. The thing that still made sense to me was freedom. I did not want to choose anything or settle into some regular pattern of sex or emotion or spirituality. It seemed best to simply let life come at me. When I did write to Ruth, she wrote me back an emotional letter blaming me for not writing sooner and expressing how much she missed me and how greatly she had worried about losing me. She said she loved me madly using an expression in French, “Je t’aime a la folie.” ( “I’m crazy in love with you”.) I wrote that I was living in an apartment, that there was room for her and that she should come and live with me. I did not know myself whether I was offering her a permanent union or not. She came and we had a deeper and more passionate joining out of and in bed than we had ever had before. We both understood again we were a couple but we could not again get a solid hold on our relationship and give it some permanent form. We enjoyed being together but a month into our love making, it cooled, although it did not ever become cold. We enjoyed having dinner with Phil and his bride Judy at their apartment and the four of us watched together in a restaurant the debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon on the television. We had some social life to go with our life in Earl Brown’s apartment but we did not have enough money or any practical prospects for the future to give our relationship a boost. Ruth went so far as to suggest that what I really wanted as a love partner was a tall blond girlfriend. Our relationship by that time was still good but not great. We both sensed it needed a boost like great sex or deep love to go on. Ruth decided to end it at the end of August. She had a program starting in September in Montreal to practice teach to become an elementary school teacher. We kissed and hugged and said good-bye breaking our union without knowing why we were breaking it although we both understood it was again broken.
   I moved out of Earl’s apartment when he left in September for a teacher’s job in another state. I took a room and again lived as freely as I could. I met with Tom Barbieri and other friends regularly at the Dugout bar near Boston University. I got to know a friend of his, Crocker Easting. For some reason on occasions, he turned the talk of our drinking group to sexual techniques. I listened to what he knew and took the knowledge he gave out seriously. He had a former girlfriend that he introduced to me who was extremely open and loose in choosing sexual partners. I asked Crocker if he minded if I took advantage of her availability to experiment with her with some of his sexual techniques. He said that he had broken with her and that it was okay by him. I dated her and learned a lot from her in bed. The knowledge that the movies had taught us about love between men and women was all wrong. Love was natural but love making was not necessarily natural. Sex could be almost always very pleasurable using correct techniques.
  Crocker had escaped from the lowly occupations of our gang at the Dugout by taking a job with the US government at an airbase tracking satellites. He had money and bought himself a car. At the beginning of the summer in 1961, I told him I knew a girl in Montreal and suggested we drive there for a visit in his car. I contacted Ruth and Crocker and I met with her and a girlfriend for lunch in downtown Montreal. Ruth and I had not been together for several months but I put my arm around her and held her close and we warmed up to one another. She and a girlfriend and her sister knew of a camp in the Laurentian  mountains beside a lake run by a communist. The five of us drove in Crocker's car thirty miles to the north of Montreal to a beautiful sight in the woods. All during the drive, Ruth talked happily back and forth to people in our group in a very free mood that made me nervous about our relationship and worried that now finally, after months away from each other, we had no relationship at all.
   The camp owner was proud to be a communist and proud to welcome to his camp  morally free people. When we arrived and presented ourselves to him to be assigned cabins, he asked us right away boldy who was sleeping with whom. Ruth whispered to me that she was sleeping with me and a shot of deep joy ran through me. We moved together into a small cabin. Later after dinner and after talking and singing with a group of revolutionary Canadians, we went back holding hands to our cabin. I was very eager to get at her with my new sexual techniques and very confident that I knew now what to do to satisfy her. I was overjoyed to feel her below me going through at last explosions of pleasure caused by me. We had never ever in our relationship that was now three years old talked of marriage. As soon as our sex that night was over, Ruth kissed me on the cheek again and again and said enthusiastically that she would marry me. It was what she wanted. I was sure as she said it that that was what she had wanted all along but had never been sure it was a good thing to do until that night after that sex. I said, “We’ll get married”.
    When I was back in Boston, I explained to my mother that I was going to get married but that the girl I was marrying was not yet divorced because it took a long time to get divorced in Canada. She agreed to let us live in the smallest apartment on Medford Street on the third floor. I borrowed her car and drove to Montreal to bring Ruth back. I met her parents and had lunch with them. It happened to be July 2, 1961, the day Ernest Hemingway ended his life with a shotgun. We drove south through Vermont and New Hampshire to begin a life together in Somerville.



                                                  
                                                                 Chapter 16



   Life moves in opposites. An action causes a reaction, an opposite action, that then itself causes a reaction and so on. Permanence is an illusion because everything is always temporary. Our knowledge tries to abstract something and fix it logically in our minds safely away from the rhythmic swirl of our lives from one pole of behavior to an opposite pole. Knowledge tries to escape all illusions but it is the illusionary sense of permanence in the rush of contradictory moments in life that inspires it. We know nothing. Our thoughts are as fleeting as our actions and both actions and thoughts create opposite actions and thoughts endlessly.
    I had lived 25 years of my life. I accepted that the way I had lived in the past was meaningless and although I was now married to a beautiful Jewish girl from Montreal and Paris, I did not find any solid meaning in marriage and I did not look for any. I should have experienced a wonderful upburst in my mind and feelings because a young woman of beauty and strong honest character had married a part-time taxi driver without a college degree but I felt no profound positive change. I was happy with Ruth. It was a new way to live. Another person was living with me, eating with me, sleeping with me. The only thing that had ever happened to me up till then of real importance and real meaning was the split second when God touched my soul and revealed to me my true self. Ruth and I went along living happily. We went to dinner parties with Phil and Judy Malkowski at their apartment and met new people from Judy’s circle of friends. The Steins, a couple from Montreal, visited us and stayed with us in Somerville a few days and spent a weekend with us and Phil and Judy at her summer house on Cape Cod. Phil convinced me that I had to get a college degree, that it was senseless to try to live my life as a taxi driver. He was working for a degree at Suffolk University, a small school in downtown Boston. He introduced me to a friend at one of his dinners, Robert Marshall, who was a professor of Economics at Suffolk. I took with Phil that Summer a course Marshall was giving named Comparative Economic Systems and I made an application to Suffolk to be admitted as a regular student in September. Ruth and I invited my friends to dinner at our apartment and one night that summer we had a loud and exciting party with happy talk and drinking and singing with a large group of friends. Temporary things as usual were doing their best to appear permanent and our fleeting happiness struggled as best it could not to appear temporary. We were happy even though nothing important with real meaning was happening. And then an afternoon in November miraculously another split second full of profound meaning happened to Ruth and me almost as important as the split second when God had wiped away all my fear and freed my soul.
   Ruth used a system of birth control that she installed before sex. A sunny afternoon in November about three in the afternoon, I looked at her and she seemed so beautiful that I had to have her right away. She was still my beautiful Ruth that I saw every day but at that moment her beauty was more than just beauty. It was beauty that called to me, that cried out to me, that told me the body of a beautiful person could somehow merge and become one with the desire rising powerfully within me. I could see from her expression and the ordinary look of her eyes that she felt nothing unusual. But I did. I had to have her. I wanted her so badly that, foolish as it was, some part of me even worried she would not give herself to me even though as an honest and good married Jewish girl she always did. I got up and went to the lounge chair where she was sitting. I put my hands on the arms of the chair to brace myself and leaned my face forward and kissed her, seeing the surprised amused look in her eyes as I aimed my lips at hers. She had no idea nor did I of the importance of the moment that was about to come, a moment as temporary as all moments, a moment far removed from any hope of permanence, a moment that had nothing to do with ordinary knowledge but was  full of importance and meaning even though its duration was short. I pulled her up from her chair. I kissed her again and took her hand pulling her after me out the door and down the corridor to our bedroom. I helped her undress pulling off her clothes gently. As she was getting into bed, I saw the whole sweep of the back of her lovely body with her small waist and the beautiful shape of her hips. I slipped into bed under the sheet beside her. I had not given her time to go to the bathroom and get ready her birth control device. I did not care about anything but having her. I did not take time as I usually did to touch her very smooth skin and enjoy her kisses. I kissed her and went after her to accomplish what my desire was forcing me to accomplish as though my desire itself was being commanded by some extraordinary unknowable force that ruled somewhere beyond all mere desire. I had her and in a moment of pleasure that ended in a deathlike ending of all my desire my seeds escaped from me and fell alive in her. It was years before I understood fully the profound meaning of that moment. It was the moment that created a daughter. My desire and Ruth’s beauty played their parts in her creation. God did the rest. I firmly believe that she was conceived spiritually by Ruth and me at the moment she got off the bus in Lake George. We had looked at one another each discovering another person by means of a quick moment of intimacy that had flashed for a second between one another's eyes. I know for certain that in all my life before and including that afternoon in November, I had only three moments of real meaning. First God had entered my soul. Second a beautiful girl got off a bus and looked at me uniting with me spiritually in a split second. Third I entered the same girl completely forgetful of all meaning in life and yet I was blessed with real authentic meaning at the moment when I released the seeds necessary to create my daughter.
   But moments don’t count. That’s the rule. We go on living aimlessly letting moments become minutes and minutes hours. Then we sometimes ask ourselves what happened on that day or this day during a twenty-four hour period. No one single happening alone can happen during any whole day but we think our knowledge can tell us for sure what happened on this or that day anyway. That day in November was not a great day. It was a day that had a great moment but afterwards the moment slipped away from us into our past.  I remembered it but I did not know its real meaning until days and months later. Knowledge as usual cared nothing for that moment or for any moment. Knowledge is always after big blotches of life that logic can structure in a phoney block endowed with an unreal permanence. Knowledge and a sculptor creating a statue of a human have a lot in common. They both end up with something that seems perfectly alive that is perfectly dead.
   Ruth and I went on aimlessly like everyone else except that here and there we had to use logic and knowledge to take care of our practical needs. We had to move out of the apartment on Medford Street after Christmas because of a minor problem that came up between me and my Mother’s second husband. We moved to a one bedroom apartment on Peterborough Street in the Back Bay section of Boston just a few steps from Fenway Park where the Red Sox played baseball. I had been accepted as a regular student at Suffolk University and was attending classes. The dean in an interview had said after examining my scholastic record that it was my last chance. He was right but I did not see my reemergence as a college student at 26 as a desperate adventure and I was never grateful to Suffolk for giving me a chance. The school allowed me a year of credit from my studies at Tufts but it meant I would have to take 30 classes for a degree. I was mainly indifferent to the classes I took and sometimes annoyed. I had by that time read so many great works of authors from so many sources in the humanities that I was well beyond mentally the petty kind of easy acceptance of the organized knowledge professors doled out in rational chunks to students. I avoided as best I could courses in Literature or Philosophy or History. I hated Psychology because the idea of using scientific logic to study rationally the inner workings of a human seemed to me an outrageous attack on the free explorations of the soul expressed poetically by great artists like Dante and Shakespeare  or Hawthorne and Dostoevsky. Luckily, Phil Malkowski’s friend, Robert Marshall, was a brilliant and inspiring professor of Economics at Suffolk. I majored in Economics because I knew nothing about the subject and I could take most of my classes with him. For a minor, I chose to take 6 French courses. That was an easy decision for someone indifferent to college studies because I already knew French well and often spoke it with Ruth. My object was clear. Get by as easily as possible and with a college degree perhaps get a better job. One day I saw a beautiful young woman tall with an athletic well developed body riding up to school on a bicycle and then entering our school. I found out soon she was a French teacher. Every action has a reaction. She was later the opposite reaction to my marriage to Ruth who found out in January that she was pregnant.
   I drove a taxi part-time at night and took a bus and the subway mornings to my classes in downtown Boston in a building behind the Massachusetts State House. Ruth had a job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, working as a secretary for a visiting professor from France. We had expenses and were both very active but we got by. I was no longer free and alone living in a room trying to nourish my soul with cultural experiences by my readings in great books that I undertook freely. I was now married and storing away bits of knowledge from professors’ lectures that I could use on final exams to pass courses. I missed being free and alone. When our daughter Rivka was born in August 1962, I was not fit to be a father because I had never loved anyone. Marriage for me was great when it was drinking beer and wine or having sex with Ruth but otherwise it was mostly the constraints of work and classes. I did not care that marriage led nowhere because I had always before lived going nowhere. But now, with a child noisy in her crib and playpen, we were the three of us forced by circumstances to go somewhere. I would have gone straight to the future laid out for the three of us if I were the type of man who has a natural skill in attracting women. I did not have the skill. I was inept at dealing with women. Something about the beauty of a woman when she came close to me made me long to possess her so passionately that my insides fell apart and floundered. A man who can attract a beautiful woman usually has enough strength to resist a  beautiful woman’s advances. I had no such strength. I could not love and I was empty and defenseless in the face of a woman’s advances. A beautiful one advanced on me and it ended my marriage.
   I had an eye for my French teacher, Cynthia Caldwell, the first time I saw her and the first time we stood face to face talking, I saw that she had an eye for me. There was no doubt about it. She had a thin pretty face with short brown hair and the straight shoulders and staunch hips and firm thin legs of a human goddess. I knew my ineptitude with women and it was a deep emotional shock to me that a woman with such a statuesque beautiful body was interested in me. At first she was just my French teacher leading our class. Then once when I spoke in class to her and the others about some point at issue, I saw a special look of interest for me in her eyes. She made at another time a comment to me about something I had said in class as students were leaving her room. I stopped and talked to her about the subject we had taken up in class and as we talked on one level at a deeper level our eyes bounced back and forth to one another half-concealed looks of interest and desire and emotion. Later she started promoting me beyond other students in a way that made me sure I was someone special in her eyes. She made me president of the French Club and I addressed meetings of students in French with her sitting among the students watching me approvingly. I became more certain every time I came in contact with her that she wanted a relationship with me as much as I wanted one with her. But it was not so much that I wanted to connect with her as much as I felt no power within myself to resist her. I was a Christian and I was married. To keep my religious feelings alive and develop them I had read all the inspiring words by holy men in the
New Testament. I was devoted to Christ and I knew I could never deny his divinity that had saved my soul. Ruth by her steady support for me sexually and by her work bringing home every week the money from her job was supporting our marriage. But neither my religion nor my marriage nourished something within me that gave power to my soul to do what was good and right. I was unable to live guided by traditional moral codes. Anything that came from outside that imposed moral laws or any kind of laws on my soul was wrong. I wanted to do what was right but I was totally against stacking my mind with rational principles about what was right. I was empty in my soul.  I found a release from my emptiness only in free flights of my imagination towards the possibility for some kind of creative fulfillment that I was powerless to define in some exact form and that was closer to what was miraculous and impossible rather than to anything real. My marriage worked against creativity and freedom. It was making me like everyone else, keeping me at the surface of being and preventing me from confronting the deeper problems of the soul. I was plodding along working for a more successful future like everyone else. Religion and my marriage sent flashes of happiness within me but the light from the flashes always soon dimmed and went out. I did not even know that my empty soul needed love to sustain it. I had never loved God or any human. My worthless insides were wide open for beautiful Cynthia to walk in and make herself at home. It took a while but eventually her availability and my empty soul ended my marriage.
  It broke in August of 1963. Ruth took our daughter Rivka to Montreal for a week. Alone in our apartment on a hot night, I drank a great deal to give me enough courage to write her a letter. In many ways it was like the letter she had written me in 1959 in Brittany breaking with me and sending me alone to Paris. It was somewhat to my credit that when I wrote it I was not yet in a relationship with Cynthia although I was nearly sure that one was possible. I wrote about more than our lack of love for each other in my letter but it all came down to our lack of love. I said we did not love one another and that I was through with our marriage. We were still not legally married and that made our divorce convenient but we both considered ourselves married. It was painful to write the letter. I put it in an envelope with a stamp and went outside to find a mailbox. As I walked along, I was not sure I would dare put it in a mailbox. I hesitated when I found one and stood before it thinking. I was weak and inept and a failure with all the girls I had known. Only Ruth had accepted me permanently and by her faith in me had made me a man. I was throwing her away and my beautiful little daughter Rivka along with her like I was a king and the universe was at my feet. In reality, I was a powerless and worthless and loveless man who had decided bravely and as usual without any help from knowledge that if he had to be nothing, he had to be nothing and free or else his soul would rot away imprisoned in a marriage and the routine deadly to the soul that is the usual fate of a man in modern life. I opened the mailbox and dropped in my letter. Ruth and Rivka were gone. I had no one in life but myself.
   I looked up Cynthia’s’s telephone number and found it because I knew the name of the town, Brookline, where she lived. I called her the next day. She was surprised to hear my voice over the phone but her voice quickly became pleasant and friendly. I told her I had never found at school a place where I could talk with her openly about what I felt for her and that was why I called. She listened and for a few minutes she heard me pour out to her desperate words expressing with many wild emotional flourishes my need for her. I overwhelmed her. I put her on the spot. She understood that it was difficult for us to communicate our feelings for one another at school and as a result my telephone call allowed her to make a decision over the phone. She invited me to come to her apartment to dinner and said that she would be willing to at least help satisfy the needs for her that I had just expressed by going to bed with me. We arranged the night for the dinner and the time. I hung up the phone and walked away from the booth a free man feeling directly in touch with the miraculous and the impossible. A statuesque beauty agreed to give herself to a weak man loveless and inept at love. Anything was possible. I felt like my feet were not touching the ground. I felt the whole universe belonged to me and that if I wanted I could grab the whole universe and squeeze it in my fist until it gave me divine pleasure.


                                                                    Chapter 17

  

   I don’t know why God created me a weak man. I don’t know why he let my failure to win the love of a girl drive me away from normal life and eventually fill my soul with a fear that drove me to despair. Did he create me weak and abnormal and worthless because he knew that it was only by wrapping me in the grip of a deadly fear that I could find him? I took the path to freedom that he allows everyone and it split my soul apart until at one miraculous moment he entered my soul and made it whole. I felt because of his divine act that I had become the self I needed to be, that I would always be with his help truly myself. But the personal security that God gave me did not tie me securely to him. I was still free to do whatever I wished and I went on ahead in life freely not knowing where I was going. I had had special moments meeting God and Ruth and another special moment helping conceive my daughter. Now instead of meaningful moments, I had not much more than an empty soul and moments of pleasure with Cynthia.
   I neither liked her nor disliked her as a person. We became good with one another in bed and friends without becoming good friends. Love was so far removed from our love making that I am sure that when I took my pleasure on top of her voluptuous body, every press of my nude body against hers made her sure it was only her body I loved and not her. But it did not bother her too much. She had been in an arranged marriage as a virgin at seventeen with a man she detested and later divorced. She was used to some rough trips in bed if indeed any woman ever gets used to them. She was all about her career as a college professor. She had struggled mightily alone to earn her PhD and she was not about to let anything stop her advancement, especially in her special area, modern French literature. She had all of modern and nineteenth century French writers wrapped up neatly in bundles. In class she opened the appropriate bundle and distributed to her students French literary periods nicely wrapped in prettily simplistic packages. She did not encourage her students to create their own packages and they were all happy, knowing little about the subject, to explore only what was inside hers. Without any doubt, she was attracted to me physically and with my sexual techniques and a particular one she knew, she was off regularly in her pleasure where she needed to go. But my promise for the future as an intellectual and possibly as a writer attracted her much more than my skills in bed. I elaborated for her once after sex my theory about baseball. I found out after a lengthy exposition of the symbolic and metaphysical meanings I was extrapolating from baseball that she understood neither baseball nor Christianity. I did not hold it against her. Most people do not understand either baseball or Christianity. She encouraged me however to write out my ideas. She thought my theory would make a nice piece for the Atlantic Monthly. Cynthia liked to bundle up things in pretty packages. I was a package in her bundle for two months. I broke loose from the strings she had tied around me. On November 21, 1963 when I turned on the television and heard that President Kennedy had been murdered in Dallas, I was again womanless and alone and shocked to the bottom of my bones like every other American.
   By 1963 Phil Malkowski’s marriage was nearing a break. He had been financed by his wife’s family to open a BMW auto dealership. He was making money and his wife Judy and his two children were living in an expensive house in the suburbs. But he was drinking too much like me and searching for something more. We both came from loveless  broken families and it was catching up with us. He had a girl and he needed an apartment where he could meet with her freely. We decided that Tom Barbieri and Phil and I would share expenses as best we could on an apartment in Brookline not far from where Cynthia lived. It was a luxurious two bedroom apartment well furnished with an elevator that connected directly with a corridor in it. I put in some money as well as Tom who had a full-time teaching job for a year, but Phil paid most of it. We had lots of parties and entertained girls one at a time or in groups. We had, as the expression goes, a blast. I even had a quick reconnection with Cynthia that was soon again disconnected. I was open to everything. I was free and I would soon own a college degree.
   I received my degree at the beginning of 1964 and thought actively of finding a good job. I graduated from Suffolk cum laude and because of Cynthia’s influence, I had been elected president of the National Honor Society. I answered an ad by Honeywell, a computer company, that seemed perfect for me. They said  that they wanted ten recent college graduates with high academic averages to be trained for computer-related jobs. No technical knowledge of computers was required. On the application I had to account for time in the last eight years during which I had not been a student. I decided to write honestly that I had been a taxi driver. I am sure that and my age of twenty-nine doomed me to be rejected by Honeywell. It hurt me deeply because for the first time I had wanted to be in on the inside of the regular workings of American life. I had chosen before not to be in on it and had enjoyed being free from it and living on the outside at the edges of the economy. I found out it’s one thing to reject regular American life when you don’t want it and quite another thing to be rejected by it when you want in. It hurt. I was willing to sacrifice the freedom in my soul and mind to live as I wanted and  to become an object fixed with permanence in a regular job. I wanted to become a regular American. The willingness to work day in and day out at the same job makes anyone an American. I had majored in Economics and was ready and eager to be like every true American one of the factors of production. Honeywell didn’t want me even though I was qualified. The economic system did not allow me to be an economic patriot. It was a whack.
   I applied for other trainee jobs with the same result. A kind of death-like mood came over me. Before I had enjoyed being alone and free. Even though I had no money, life and a whole world of cultural and spiritual experiences seemed open to me. I had been miraculously reborn by the power of God. More miracles were possible. But I had agreed to limit my experience by accepting disciplined learning at a college and then I had agreed to limit it even more by searching for a regular job. I had given away a part of myself and the self I now lived with was death-like whereas before it had been life-like. Before I had truly and freely cared nothing about doing anything but now anything I cared to do turned to nothing. I had been in control of myself before but now it seemed like something was in control of me. I had a fate. It felt death-like.
   One night while waiting at a cab stand a driver in the cab behind me came to my open window to chat. He was old and well-dressed and explained that he had a good state job and worked as a cab driver once a week to be sure he also received a social security pension when he retired. I told him I had a college degree and could not find a job. We both decided that the best thing for me was to get a job as a teacher. I said I was not qualified to be a teacher but he said he knew how to get me a teaching job. He arranged to meet me one morning at a bar near the Massachusetts State House. The bar was full of men wearing suits and when I met Tom Reilly there he explained they were mostly men like himself with political connections. We walked up to the State House and through the corridors. We went by a wide corridor before a big closed door where men were sitting around on benches waiting. Tom said they were men waiting to talk to politicians to get favors or jobs. He took me into a very large room where he explained the Governor’s Council was located. A man in a suit was seated at the back of the room at a desk. Tom took me up to him and he immediately showed he knew Tom by using his first name when he said hello. Tom gave him quickly information. He gave him my name and said I was a college graduate who could teach several subjects and needed a high school teaching job. The man immediately dialed a number which turned out to be the office of the Superintendent of Boston Schools. A secretary must have answered and said the Superintendent was not available in a manner that indicated she did not know she was talking to a very important man. He gave her in an angry voice his name and commanded her to take down information and give it to the Superintendent. He gave her my name and phone number and qualifications which I had written out for Tom and he had passed to his friend who had the title of Secretary of the Governor’s Council. Tom thanked him and I thanked him. Two weeks later I received a telephone call at our luxury apartment in Brookline. I picked up the phone beside my bed and heard a woman’s voice who asked for me by name and offered me a full-time job teaching in a Boston high school. I had had talks with Tom Barbieri about the death-like mood I was in. He understood my mood because the way the three of us lived at the apartment escaping from regular life drinking and partying had a side to it that was death-like. Tom used the Greek word for death, thanatos, to describe it. Thanatos in Greek mythology is the God of death who is  closely linked with Hypnos, sleep, who is the Greek God of sleep. Both of the Greek Gods influenced my answer to the offer on the phone of a teaching job. I said I was not interested and hung up. When I told Tom later that I had been offered a teaching job and refused, he said,“Thanatos”.
   I sensed now that I had a college degree that some fate was closing in and taking over my life. I threw away the offer of a full-time job as my way of getting fate off my back. Something within me did not want a regular job to slip into my life and seal me with a fate I did not want. It was not just the job but also where the job led. Economic advancement and marriage. A pleasant and happy way of life that was the slow death of freedom. When freedom is out the door, beauty and imagination and the miraculous world where God is present risk going out the door with it. But I had a college degree. It was a ticket to a better economic future whether I liked it or not. I refused the job offer. Something in my gut had the courage to push fate aside for a while. But fate soon rose up again with a new challenge. Tom had been also fighting against the fate of getting a regular job. It had taken him eight years to receive his degree from Boston University because he was always dropping out of classes and spending half his time across the street drinking and talking at the Dugout bar. Now studying at a university and being free from a regular job had become for him almost complementary activities. He was looking around for opportunities to get into a Master’s Degree program in mathematics. Crocker Easting had used his studies in mathematics to get a good job working for the government tracking satellites. Tom wanted to regain the freedom as a student that he had enjoyed for eight years by now studying for a Master’s degree. While he looked through potential programs, he found one at Boston College that fit me. He brought fate back into my picture. It was not his fault. Sooner or later with a college degree, fate was bound to catch up with me.
   He influenced me to apply for a Masters of Arts in Teaching at Boston College. It consisted of five classes in the subject to be taught at the high school level, which for me was French, and 5 classes in education, some of which would be earned the following Summer practice teaching at a local high school. Tom insisted it was perfect for me. He knew that I as well as he would never fit into the regular, non-academic economy. What he especially liked about the program was that it guaranteed to each student a year of practice teaching at a local high school with half a teaching load and half pay. The program inspired my mother as well as Tom. It meant that in spite of her son’s wayward life and academic disinterest, he would end up with a Masters Degree and a job. She agreed to finance my studies. I began in January 1965 by taking graduate French classes at Boston College. I was off to where fate was leading me and I became resigned and even a bit happy that I did not have in my soul the heroic resolution necessary to stop it.
  I and a girl named Patricia were the only potential French teachers in the program. We both interviewed for the best teaching position available at an excellent public school in an upscale city at Wellesley High School. I met with the head of the Foreign Language department who conducted the interview in French. I knew I had a better chance for the best job than Patricia because my French was better. My accent was almost perfect since I had worked at imitating Ruth’s native accent. But I blew the interview. My worthlessness that had been gradually sinking below my surface came up and wiped away some of my confidence. I was timid and hesitant speaking French. The problem was that the department head’s French was fluent but it was a combination of Canadian-American French and academic French. I was really good talking French to native French speakers because I was well practiced at fitting in quickly with the rhythm of their expressions which called forth from me fluent responses. I thought too much about what I was saying during the interview in order to be sure to make no errors and my excessive thinking instead caused a few grammatical errors. Patricia got the job at Wellesley High and I received the inferior job at a Catholic private school named Saint Jeromes.
   During the summer for eight weeks, both Patricia and I did practice teaching in a French class at Wellesley High under a woman who was a colleague of the Foreign Language Department Head who had rejected me for the teaching job there the following year and had chosen Patricia. She and her department head had written a French textbook together and they were close friends. She assumed since her friend had rejected me that I was more or less unworthy to teach French. She was sometimes upset and concerned that the Boston College program allowed me to sit with Patricia at the rear of her class observing her. She put on for us a tremendous performance. She was a great teacher. She worked over the students and kept them firmly disciplined and on task. Patricia went eventually to the front of her class and taught a ten minute section of the lesson. She gave signs of approval to Patricia but she went through a kind of nervous shuddering when she finally had to allow me after sitting observing her for a week to stand before her class and teach for ten minutes. The poor lady did not understand that she was sending up to the front of her class someone who had already rejected everything regular and conformist in life as trivial and unimportant and was now armed with a firm indifference to the harsh criticism of his first performance as a teacher that she no doubt would soon hand him. When I reached the front of her class, I turned and looked at eyes in young faces looking at me that I not only liked immediately and instinctively but also, much more importantly, I wanted to teach. I started speaking and helping them through the difficulties of a grammatical drill. They all kept their eyes on me. They all paid attention to me. I knew from their positive reaction to me that French could be really taught to them and something within me that was very pleasant emotionally pushed me to do it and was enthusiastic about doing it.  The ten minutes went very well. The students were with me. When I went back afterwards to the rear of the class and sat beside Patricia, she whispered to me that she liked the way I had conducted the class.
   The positive reaction of students to my teaching on that day and following days when I taught larger and larger segments of the class made me a deadly serious student of the art of teaching. The teacher whom I was working under, Frances, had methods that worked. I paid attention to every detail of her techniques because I became genuinely enthusiastic about the prospect of not only having my own classes in September at another high school but of having a subject that I could teach successfully and that I loved and knew well, the French language. A teacher who knows a subject expertly and loves it genuinely can not fail as a high school teacher even without suitable methods. I had not only those qualifications but also, by the end of the eight weeks I spent working with Frances, advanced methods. Patricia and I and Frances talked French at lunch. Frances became a friend. She admitted by the end of the eight weeks of practice teaching that my French was excellent and that I should never have been rejected as a candidate to teach at her school. She volunteered to recommend me for a regular teaching position at Wellesley High if one became available. I liked students. They all paid attention to me when I stood before them teaching with enthusiasm. Fate was forcing me towards a future that might not be as bad as I thought.
   I taught three French classes beginning in September for a year with half pay at a small private high school in Newton, a rich suburban city bordering Boston. The school had about 250 students from grades 7 to 12 and the teachers were Catholic priests. I and two other male teachers from the Boston College program appeared unusual to students among a large body of priests. The students were mostly Irish-Catholic boys whose fathers had fought their way up to success and riches in the tough world of Boston politics and business. They were strong-minded boys whose goals were to be tough and realistic and ready to fight any obstacle. They had generally not received any higher educational or cultural values from their parents. They had money and they were used to enjoying life without making much effort in their studies. The priests who taught them had no discipline problems simply because they were respected naturally as priests. For the three of us, young laymen, our success with them was far from guaranteed. The students played football and hockey and baseball. None of the expensive private schools in the Boston area had high academic standards. Instead they were designed to support students of any academic ability and they all emphasized participating in sports as an important means of development.
   I had no idea what kind of an environment I was getting into. Ten weeks previously I was a Boston cab driver and now I was teaching French at an expensive private school. I made friends with one of the other lay teachers in our program, Bob Sommers, and I learned from him most of what was going on around me. He was Catholic from a well-off family and a graduate  of Boston College. He knew what was going on. I had no real interest in anything around me except teaching French. It fascinated me. I had the chance to mould  the minds of young students forced by circumstances to sit listening to me for fifty minutes each school day. The boys were rough on the finer and more cultural subjects like French. I did not know I might fail because I was a lay teacher and could become the butt of the undisciplined pranks in class of rich students whose fathers supported the school with their money. From the first day of classes, I did not spend any time battling students. I taught them from the first moment I was with them and during every moment afterwards because I knew that what I was teaching them was worthwhile and I loved teaching it. My students had doubting and amused expressions on their faces as I began as though they thought that for some reason I did not understand that I was supposed to merely go through the motions of teaching them French but not really teach it. I cared nothing any longer about cab driving or religion or being worthless or living freely or how much money I had or the talk going on around me behind my back in a small  Catholic private school. I cared about teaching them French and nothing else. It was stupid to be so one-sided. I should have known better. I should have proceeded slowly in class. I should have made friends with students and played an academic game with them. We could have all acted calmly and they could have received passing grades easily. I could not operate like that. I was on fire. They could see in my eyes and feel from my words that I loved what I was trying to teach them and nothing nor no one was going to stop me. They caught my fire. I soon had students doing homework seriously that they had never before taken seriously. I took them seriously as students and I took myself seriously as a teacher. One Sunday Phil Malkowski took Tom Barbieri and me and his girlfriend to a rich waterfront restaurant on Boston harbour. We ate large amounts of food and drank bottle after bottle of wine. Then we raced in his car to a wedding 60 miles away in Rhode Island and drank heavily all afternoon into the evening. Afterwards we drove back to the same waterfront restaurant where we had had lunch and had an elaborate dinner with more drinking. At four a.m. the next morning, I got up with a bad hangover and spent an hour and a half at a typewriter writing out a mid-year test for my students that I gave them later that morning. They had studied for the test and I refused to let them down. In the Spring talking to my friend Bob Sommers, he told me that I had had everything working against me at the school but I had succeeded nonetheless and had proved that I was the best teacher the school had.
    I had made applications for teaching positions for the following year in public schools. The dean of studies at Saint Jeromes, a priest with a PhD in Education, wrote me an excellent recommendation. I told him about a job offer I received with the highest possible pay at a fine high school. He told me he would like to steal me from the school and get me to come back the next year at his school as a full-time teacher. Bob Sommers, who taught English, had already decided to come back full-time. It was an attractive place to teach because the class sizes were small and the teaching load was just four classes instead of the five normal in public schools. The dean set up an interview for me with the rector of our school. He had the rank of Monsignor and lived at the top floor of the school in expensively furnished  rooms.  When I sat beside him and we began speaking, I was amazed at the swaths of praise he lavished on me. He revealed that he knew the low level of effort that his teachers and students normally put out without mentioning it specifically. He said it was wonderful that my students were so positive about my teaching and that I had succeeded in making them approach learning so enthusiastically. Then we talked money. I told him I had a job offer at $5800. He said with warm feelings that I deserved such a high salary and that he would pay me the same amount if I returned to teach the following year. At that moment in the talk, all the freedom that I had ever tried to find somehow magically grabbed hold of my mind and soul and I went crazy inside without showing outside to the Monsignor the wild flights of my imagination within myself. I suddenly thought only of Paris. I thought of being there soon, that summer, with money. I thought of all the cafes on the Boulevard Montparnasse that I could sit at watching for pretty girls some of whom had little money. I remembered what Dostoevsky had written about what Russians always did as soon as a lot of money had fallen into their hands. They immediately took a train to Paris. They spent all their money on women and champagne and learned to do the can-can dance. That is what my craziness told me I should do. Go to Paris as soon as possible loaded with money and learn the can-can. I sensed I had power over the Monsignor. I knew it was a small school and that he controlled directly all the money. I said I would agree to come back the following year if he would agree to start the monthly payments of my salary in June rather than September. No public school would ever agree to such a proposition and I expected that he would also not agree. But I was wrong. He agreed. I got set to run off to Paris loaded with money and ready, so to speak, to learn the can-can.
   I dreamed of Paris. I went crazy imagining how different it would be to return there this time with money. My French was a lot better because I had minored in it at Suffolk and had completed two graduate courses at Boston College in French Literature. Love and pleasures and happiness seemed bound to happen. I had a vision of becoming so complete and so fulfilled in some strange new way that my craziness decided me to buy a one-way ticket for the flight to Paris and never come back. It was all an illusion. Even with my improved French, I found it impossible to slip into the interior of French life and communicate meaningfully like a native. I realized sadly that I had been much more at home in Paris six years before when I lived outside most of Parisian life prevented by insufficient knowledge of the language from gaining much ground advancing towards its center. Not having knowledge of a nation’s language can idealize its culture for a foreign visitor. What my knowledge of the language and culture of France allowed me to experience in Paris was not so great as I had imagined and I was often simply bored and alone. I could have instead used my money at home chasing girls among my friends where I now had the means to buy a new car. I had some fun in Paris. I made the rounds of cafes and clubs drinking and dancing. I met a blonde Swiss girl in a club and worked at getting her to bed in Paris unsuccessfully. I followed her to Lucerne in Switzerland and finally had her after spending a lot of money on her financing the chase. I also made it to intimacy with a fifty-year-old beautiful Dutch woman in Amsterdam. She invited me to her house and showed me all the books in her husband’s study that he read studiously. His love of books and his indifference to her escapades at night in the bars of downtown Amsterdam helped give some substance to their marriage. I had two sexual trophies when I reached the last stage of my summer wanderings in Italy. I idealized Italy. I was so uninspired by what I had tasted of real life in Paris, Amsterdam and Lucerne that I let Italy and the Italians charm me. I was not interested in a single thing real in Italian life. I took an Italian ship out of the port of Naples headed for New York the first week in August. The bay of Naples was really beautiful. It was the only real beauty that touched me that summer.
    I was living then in Somerville sharing the second-floor floor apartment with my mother whose second husband had died. I did nothing much more with the three weeks left of summer vacation than drink beer, read and watch television. I calculated with a kind of melancholy feeling that since my daughter Rivka’s birth in August 1962, I had been intimate with six women other than her mother. I had also been intimate with Ruth on one of the trips I made to Montreal to visit her. We were still friends and still attracted to each other but neither of us had mentioned reuniting. On another trip to Montreal, I had lunch with Rivka and her mother. Ruth told me that a man had begged her to marry him but she had refused. None of my intimacies with seven women had led anywhere and as I drank my beer and rested ready to go all out teaching French, nothing other than teaching mattered to me. Or, to put it differently, I had a regular job doing something I liked doing and I accepted that that gave me more support than I would ever find with a woman.
   My sister Mary lived in the first floor apartment with her husband, Paul Grimes.
Paul told me he had been with Ruth and my daughter earlier that summer at a second home my Mother had bought in New Hampshire. My mother had invited the two of them to come down from Canada for a visit. Paul told me with feeling that the two of them seemed lost and that they needed me to help them manage their lives. I felt touched in my feelings by his honest observation. Then in December during Christmas time, my sister invited the two of them to come to Somerville for a visit and they came. When I entered my sister’s apartment, I saw my five-year-old daughter sitting at a piano. She was beautiful and I imagined that the look in her eye that she gave me when I went close to her and said that I was her father was the look of a child alone and deeply lost. It made me feel alone and deeply lost too. I met with Ruth without any emotions aroused in either of us and the evening went by happily in a group of friendly people celebrating the holidays. My mother arranged for Ruth to sleep in our upstairs apartment in the bedroom across the corridor from mine. When I said good-night to her, I believed I could get in bed and sleep normally. I could not. She was sleeping alone and I was sleeping alone just steps away from her. After lying alone in the darkness for  half hour, I got up and crossed the corridor and opened her door. I knelt down beside her bed and stretched out my hands to her pressing her body that I could feel under the blankets. I did not cry but my voice was full of remorse and desire and close to tears. I told her that I needed her. She told me she could not have sex with me because she was in her period but she got up and came with me to my bed. We held one another in the darkness and kissed and remained together until the morning. We did not discuss  anything about our future but we both knew we had one together. Two days later she was alright for sex and we joined as often as we could until it was time for her and Rivka to go back to Canada. I drove them back. For all the time we were together in Somerville and were in the car driving, we did not discuss reuniting. Something within me was deeply against marriage. I wanted to begin talking about it with her but I could not. I remember the exact spot on our trip through Vermont where finally the subject of marriage burst out in a simple question by Ruth. She asked it in French so that Rivka in the back seat would not understand. We were just past the city of Saint Albans located on Lake Champlain. I could see part of the large lake off to my left with the sun low in the sky in a beautiful orange glow. “Shall we get married?” Ruth  asked. I said, “Yes.”


                                                             Chapter 18



   The flat ground in the backyard of the house in Somerville where I grew up ended next to a steep bank of land that went down seventy-five feet to a cement barrier next to seven parallel railroad tracks. I could look out from the edge of my yard a great distance over roads and the tops of houses. One winter day when I was nine I found myself standing at the edge of my yard looking out at the vast panorama and I did not stop looking standing motionless for a very long time. I felt during those moments that I was, I was, I was, I was, and as I stood motionless I felt this was that I was as myself and strangely for the first time as something other than myself that was also I. Who is standing here I asked myself but I did not use any words to ask myself the question for the very way I was standing motionless not wishing to move as though something new had hold of me was itself the question. I know I stood there wondering what was being and what was my being and I felt deeply some unknown being that was also my being. I was not communicating with some other being separate from myself because if that were the case, my solitude, that I found so intensely mine alone, would have been interrupted and I would have moved from the spot. No, it was myself that made me myself stand motionless but I stood motionless  fixed by an overpowering sense of wonder that I myself could wonder so intensely about nothing more than myself. There was something in myself not only mysterious but in fact very mysterious because it was myself. I stood there motionless in the cold without feeling the cold for a long long time. I was  looking out beyond the railroad tracks to the stretch of sky and land that went away and away and then further away to form the universe and all the while this view before me made me myself seem more and more expansive because some strange new sense within me was teaching me how expansive was I.
   I did not move for so long! I just stood there motionless staring! I was suddenly in a state of superhuman calm that told me without words that I was good and alive and that it was profoundly good that I was alive. That was all. It told me nothing I did not already know. But this knowledge came from nowhere but myself. It did not whack me or hurt me with some certainty that came from outside myself. This kind of knowledge  was so deeply in the roots of my being that it was no longer ordinary knowledge. Was I just an idiot? Did everyone already understand that their self was more than just themselves even though they remain most of their lives nothing more than the limited self that they themselves decide they must be? I had a spiritual experience but, watch out, it was just a spiritual experience. Spirit is the Latin word spiritus which is directly related to the verb spirare, to breathe. The Romans felt they were spiritual when they were breathing deeply. My strange breathes of new air that day when I was nine did not give me even a hint that there might also be within myself something that was not myself at all, something that was frightening because it was a nothing that could give itself the power of a something. Compared to the terrors I discovered later within myself, my discovery of myself that day was idiotic. I don’t know why I finally moved from my spot in my yard. But even though I stood there so long motionless and idiotically, I at least learned by the experience that the buried treasure I found in myself was myself and that in the future I should search for more treasure.
   My marriage to Ruth was a blessing but I had had before many deep experiences within myself like that day when I was  nine or those days later when fear was raging through me and threatening to rob me of the very sense I had that I was myself. She had not had such experiences and the people around me also had not. I had never been like other people and I did not want to be like them. Now however, married with a full-time job and a daughter, I had to go about among people and learn to act like them in order to get by and bring home regularly a paycheck. In other words, I had to become for part of my time a living pretense. I acted the role that I had to act as best I could but something within me that needed more, that needed some contact with the miraculous and the impossible, robbed me of the full enjoyment of my blessing. I could not give up my belief that  life should not happen following the outlines of some regular rational scheme. God, the creator of the universe, had taken a human body and died nailed to a wooden cross. A woman had carried the same God, in the form of the man Jesus Christ, in her womb for nine months. I had said one horrible night in the grip of an uncontrollable fear that I believed that the man, Christ, was the son of God. God had miraculously wiped away all my fear and made me again whole. Anything was possible. I went along in my new life like people around me as though it were perfectly normal to be no more than normal but my experience of God had taught me that something irrational was alive hidden below my surface and everyone’s surface.
   Ruth had a position teaching French at a high school in Montreal that, once we had agreed to marry, we  decided she should keep for the rest of the school year. I bought a small car and drove up to Montreal every weekend. When I crossed the border into Canada, I always stopped and bought a case of Canadian beer, which was better quality than American, to be well equipped for the weekend. I took a room in a motel and picked up Ruth the next day for a day and night of enjoyments and pleasures. It was wonderful. It was a blessing. She was beautiful and good and mine, but at the  beginning of the summer when she and Rivka came to join me, I was sad as the day of our marriage approached. What good existed in my life greater than our marriage? None, but it made me sad. I was giving up my freedom. I was shutting myself off from some unknowable and mysterious experience that might lead me finally to what was truly real in life. Ruth had finally been divorced by a court in Ottawa, Canada. She was free to marry me. Phil Malkowski drove up with his girlfriend to Derry, New Hampshire, near the small town where we were living, to be best man at our wedding before a Justice of the Peace. Afterwards we had dinner and drinks at the farm house in the countryside that my mother let us use for the summer. I was married. I had a wife and a family. I was blessed but I did not feel blessed.
   The miraculous and the impossible were happening before my eyes but I could not see the hand of God at work. Knowledge knows nothing about the workings of God either in the universe or in our souls. Knowledge is a form of blindness and it was not letting me see things clearly. How did it happen that I had a full-time well paid job in a private school just a year and a few months after I had been a cab driver and had refused the teaching job that Tom Reilly had helped me get? How did it happen that when my daughter Rivka had been born, I was a cab driver with one year of college and Ruth was a secretary with one year of college, but now we were both college graduates? That summer after our marriage, she applied for a job teaching French in Massachusetts and was hired in a suburban town. How did it happen that as a result we were both working full-time as teachers with good salaries? She had used her time away from me in Montreal to get a college degree. How did that happen? We visited the town, Swampscott, where she was to start teaching in September. It was ten miles north of Boston on the ocean with three beaches and a big old wooden hotel where Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States in the nineteen-twenties, had vacationed summers. We rented a five room well-furnished apartment on the first floor of a house directly on the ocean. It had a long and wide grass lawn surrounded by bushes and rock fences that gave directly through a gate onto a beach. How did that happen? Ruth was absolutely astonished when we examined the sight and she realized she would be living there. In Paris she had grown up and lived until she was fourteen in a one-room apartment with the toilet outside down three flights of stairs. How did that happen? How did she find a good job in a suburban school and a fine house in a beautiful town on the ocean? Knowledge said it was all luck. That’s what I thought too although I did have some doubts. Not enough however to give me the strength in my heart to feel blessed.
   Ruth and I one night in July at the house in New Hampshire had had together another one of those odd and unusual sexual moments when we could not sit near each other clothed and had to get at each other nude in bed. I looked at her sitting near me and her beauty that I saw every day regularly had nothing about it anymore that was regular. God’s universe looking at me through her eyes told me for a few seconds that every moment in human life is blessed, that we are all blind men and women seeing nothing of God’s kingdom although we are all in it. Even my sexual need for Ruth was blessed because it freed me of all thoughts about how normal and regular life was forcing me to live inauthentically and filled me with a desire beyond my control to do with her what some mysterious power in the universe demanded be done. My first daughter, Rivka, was conceived at the moment I saw Ruth descending the steps of a bus in Lake George, New York. My second daughter, Rhea, was conceived one night at a farmhouse in Raymond, New Hampshire. When I turned to Ruth to my right as she sat on a sofa, I discovered a person so beautiful that I had to mould my body nude to her body nude. I did not sense that God himself was with me but I did sense that all of his creation was present in what Ruth and I created pressing our nude bodies together. God was with us because he had created me and he had also created the seeds that escaped from me and became living members of Ruth’s body. Ruth and I had not predetermined our joining that day but looking back I believe that God had. The miraculous result was the birth the following May of our second daughter. She was born in a hospital in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s city, Salem, and opened her eyes every day to God’s good and beautiful world in a pretty neighboring town, Swampscott, in a house by the sea.
    Thoughts of God and sex with Ruth and life by the sea with my daughters and my job teaching French and my thoughts about the meaning of life as well as a lot of beer drinking were the main elements of my now very regular and happy life.  I thought I was living a life completely different from my previous life, especially when I had lived alone in a room on Saint Botolph street and drove a taxi. But was it so different? I still had to drive a car for two hours on school days to and from the city of Newton located a few miles past Boston. I drove only ten hours a week in order to make a better living teaching French but a good part of my weekly work was still driving a car in traffic. I had previously escaped from the regular world by entering my taxi and closing the door to all its people except those willing to pay me money. Now I escaped from the world by entering a classroom and keeping the world of adults off my back for three hours every working day teaching teenagers French. I was the same person. No doubt about it. I still wanted to have nothing to do with the normal world. After driving my taxi, I used to escape back to my room and shut myself off from the world outside free to explore myself aided by the larger world of culture delivered to me by my readings. After teaching French, I escaped now back to a house free again from the alien things in the world outside but now no longer lonely because of my family. It was worse now in the sense that I no longer had loneliness to force me to seek nourishment by communicating only with myself. It was much better living with my family with a new member about to arrive in May  but regular work and regular family business left me with much less time to explore myself. Ruth was a wonderful escape in bed from my lonely wanderings in my soul and in the souls of great writers through my readings. I needed both types of pleasures but those of her body combined  with other pleasures of the body like food and drink gradually dulled my need for the pleasures of the soul. In short, everything was alright. I was married. I had a world around me to fight and I had a family and a job as weapons to use in the fight. I was like everyone else. I was off to the future leaving my soul behind to fend for itself.

   On May 5, 1968 my second daughter, Rhea,  was born and took up residence at her house by the sea. A month later on June 6, 1968, Robert Kennedy, a candidate for the Presidency, was assassinated. It was done for a political purpose but since knowledge could find no evidence of a conspiratorial plot behind the scenes, a political assassination found a convenient place in the public mind as merely a murder by one crazy man. A month before Rhea’s birth, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, a great man, a great prophetic mouth hurling into the universe God’s words proclaiming passionately every man’s divine right to live in a just kingdom, was assassinated. Since one man admitted he had committed the murder, knowledge cooly suppressed a laugh and convinced everyone with a straight face that the great man’s death was not the result of any political plot. My daughter slept quietly in her crib for long hours during the summer and did not disturb us often with her cries when for some reason she felt unhappy. Young people all over America, just two or three decennies older than her, were doing what Rhea’s father had done 12 years previously, “dropping out and turning on”. In Boston, the Boston Common in June was occupied and lived on by all kinds of drop-outs and would-be drop-outs, hippies and runaways from suburbia trying to find some deeper meaning in themselves than the meaning American life offered them on the surface. They used drugs to help transport themselves from the regular experiences of the American mind to the drug-induced hallucinations caused by chemically redirecting the pathways of the mind that lead us regularly away from our souls. I was very far from dropping out from any kind of regular behavior that summer of widespread political and spiritual discontent and in my house by the sea my only drug was a great deal of beer. A colleague, a priest from Salem who taught at Saint Jeromes, had a sailboat docked in Salem harbor. I spent many happy days sailing with him out of Salem Harbor. We often sailed out from the same harbor where a century before big Salem  sailing ships had left for trade in the East Indies. We sailed along the coast north past the small islands, “Little Misery” and “Big Misery”, well removed from any miseries enjoying the sun’s warmth under the blue sky gliding along over the sea pushed by the wind. Sometimes we sailed south down along the coast and tied up his sailboat at the wharf in Swampscott a few steps away over the sand to the gate that led into my large green lawn before my family’s apartment. We went inside and enjoyed lunch and tea with Ruth who was recovering from her ordeal giving birth and happy to have a summer to rest near cool breezes off the sea.
   That summer Ruth’s father, Kiva Gold, came down from Montreal to meet his second granddaughter for the first time with a friend, a woman from Paris. Ruth’s mother had died five years previously on the same day as President Kennedy’s assassination. Kiva had been a wandering Jew and was now living in retirement in Montreal with Ruth’s sister Esther. He had been born in Poland in an area controlled by Russia. He had learned Russian in schools and had gone alone from Poland to Germany to escape being drafted into the Russian army. From Germany where he learned his fourth language after Yiddish, Polish and Russian, he walked over the border into France and stayed there living in poverty but creating a family until its four members emigrated to Canada in 1948. He had survived the German occupation of France by living and fighting in a French resistance group called a marquis. He was a solid, no-nonsense man, self-educated, who spoke six languages and had seen the world. His daughter’s house by the sea, the pretty home of his two granddaughters, must have delighted him but he was from a generation that hard knocks had schooled not to express delight. He had a nice stay with us. His friend, Madame Larue, was the widow of a French General. We laughed and talked happily in French while America was exploding off somewhere far distant from our happy summer by the sea.  



                                                            Chapter 19




   Most American high schools fail because most teachers do not know, or are not actively trying to know, the subject they teach and worse most do not love the subject they teach. The administrators of high schools fail consistently to place students in classes where they fit appropriately with their level of intelligence and with their level of potential interest in a subject. The result is a kind of organized debacle. Teachers, students and administrators are jumbled together in a confused mass and all are busy trying to create some type of organized meaning out of the jumble rather than concentrating all of them all the time on the business of learning. Saint Jeromes where I taught jumbled together the three ingredients like other schools.  No one cared that the education of young men was going badly or ever tried to improve it to at least reach the higher level of failure of other high schools where some administrators falsely  promoted their moderate achievements as outstanding. Everything at Saint Jeromes went on with just enough sparse and careless organization to take away the uneasiness that sometimes pervaded us that everything might be coming apart.
   At the top of the hill in Newton, where the school was located, stood a large brick building that held a big gym beside four classrooms for the lower school. Outside next to the building was the hockey rink. Successful Catholic men with money and construction skills had devoted their time to building it. Saint Jerome’s hockey teams played hockey teams from public schools with much larger numbers of students and beat them all. Hockey was the heart of Saint Jeromes and the hockey rink at the top of the hill overlooking  the school’s main building below was the symbol of the school’s greatness, the only one since it was far below greatness in any other area, especially in education.
   A narrow public street ran up the hill on one side and continued to the other side of the hill splitting the school’s property before it descended. Before the street stood a massive old New England mansion with three floors. Inside the main door on the left was a large chapel and to the right the school’s office. The rest of the three floors, except for the Rector’s suite of rooms and one other room occupied by one of the priests, was used for classrooms. Behind the main building was a large flat field with on the left a fenced backstop for a baseball field and to the right a football field. Beyond the far end of the field was another old New England mansion with enough rooms to house many priests. There were two parking lots near the main building and that was it except for a large building down to the right of the main building that served as the refectory where teachers and students were served lunch. It was a small private Catholic school for students from rich families. The hockey rink located at the highest point of the property was its heart. One day a student that I was friendly with told me that on the back side of the main building below on the slope leading down to the athletic field was a cement-filled pole helping to prop up the building. He told me smiling broadly that if he and other students got together and pulled out the pole, that the whole building would collapse. Of course he was kidding. There was no danger of a collapse. The hockey team, aided by good baseball, football and basketball teams, held the school together. The athletic teams proved that groups of young men could be well organized to reach good ends. At least some things at our school were successfully organized.
   I had just four small classes and our school was open only 150 days a year instead of 185 as in a public school. Everyone accepted that I was as a layman a regular member of the community because they believed I was an excellent teacher, but I had to do more than just teach successfully to fit in and keep my place. I had to project some kind of personal style of behavior that expressed a good attitude towards the religious life of the community and I also had to learn to act as a fully developed, mature man to give students a model for their development to manhood. In other words, I could not just be myself. My religious life was very open to new and even miraculous experiences. In  conversations with priests, I did sometimes introduce some unusual notions I had about Christianity but I realized quickly that they were unwilling to travel with me down some untried religious path. In fact, everything went on in my personal dealings with priests just as if they and I had little interest in religion. They were parish priests. They were a means provided to Catholics to become religious through the sacraments they offered. In their contact with me, they did not usually reveal any of their religious beliefs. We discussed regular subjects of the day just as did ordinary people. They may have assumed I was a practicing Catholic but no priest ever questioned me about the subject. They let me alone. It was nonetheless for me an awkward situation spiritually. Religious ceremonies were always going on that I had to attend with students in the chapel. I had sometimes to attend masses at school but I never received communion. I was always indifferent to the religious ceremonies  going on around me while at the same time secretly I felt that God was always somehow present in my soul. I pretended interest in masses at school but my belief that God had found me and would never leave me was no pretense. It was me, it was a me that was linked to God permanently even though this me could never be me publically at school.
   I had never before thought of acting only in a manly way. My inner experiences had long ago taught me that the wholeness I sometimes experienced in myself because of God’s influence was neither male nor female nor a combination of the two. It was obvious to me that every person has male and female characteristics but I had discovered that wholeness is what is true and worthwhile and that division between  male and the female characteristics or their combination is secondary. For me, even a person born male or female who chooses to act as a male or a female as he or she is supposed to act has made a bad choice. It is bad for anyone to act exclusively as a male or exclusively as a female because it drastically limits the full potentiality of personality unnecessarily. I wanted wholeness and it made no sense to me to repress either the male or female side of my being. I had been sometimes when very young the victim of bullies who discovered something mild or soft in my nature that aroused something brutal in their nature. But I refused to repress or hide this part of me. Men can decide if they wish that they are exclusively male but it is not true. They are less manly when they accept that there is something unmanly and feminine in their nature but they are better persons because of it. The fathers of Saint Jeromes boys wanted their sons to become tough, athletic men strong enough to beat their way to victory in the human jungle. The thought that their son might turn out to be an asshole aroused horror in their souls. They paid my salary. I had a teaching job with more freedom and leisure than I would have had as a college professor. I had to learn to act at school exclusively as a man. I had never before cultivated some type of behavior that excluded other types of possible behavior. But it was vital for my security in my job that I develop some consistency in my actions in the community. Also, secretly, I was my own man anyway and any techniques of manly behavior that I expressed could never alter who I was in my authentic inner being.
   I ate lunch every day surrounded by priests at the head table in the refectory served to us by students. Twice a year in the same refectory at night we hosted their fathers. The gathering was supposed to be about education but it was not. We teachers mingled among fathers holding a drink like them from the open bar until a bell rang and we occupied the tables for dinner that their sons had sat at for lunch. Catholic businessmen and lawyers, advisors and supporters of the school financially and legally, sat at the head table with our Rector and the priest who was our chief administrator. Drinking a few strong drinks before sitting at a table with fathers helped me handle the evening well socially and it usually worked out that the time passed pleasantly. I could not express myself truly in our conversations but neither did any of the men I talked and joked with at a table eating dinner. They were out only for economic success, had attained it and were not bothered at all that the price they paid to reach the top of the economic heap had eliminated from the bargain the freedom to go on lengthy wanderings in their souls. The conduct and talk of the priests I worked with expressed on a personal level with me no religious beliefs and almost all our students valued only becoming as one-sidedly male as they could be. But I fit in as best I could days with teachers and students and on father’s nights rubbing elbows with fathers. When I had left a day’s work in my taxi, I would go back to my room and my loneliness. When I left work at Saint Jeromes, I went home to my family. I no longer ever felt lonely. If living in my family meant I could no longer also live in God’s kingdom, my heart told me to leave God’s kingdom and live with my family. It was years before I learned that the heart that connected me to my family was also the only means to truly connect myself with God.


                                                                  Chapter 20

   

   I got through the authoritarian rule of President Nixon’s presidency, which featured the continuation of the war in Vietnam along with his merciless massive bombings of Cambodia, by cultivating as much indifference to politics as I could aided by work, family, food, sex, alcohol, television, baseball, vacations and travel. Just like the hippies of the period, I dropped out except that I was forced to teach French a few hours a day for 150 days a year. My family was my commune. Our lives were enriched by the regular economy and also by the good feelings we gave one another. In the summer of 1969, we  vacationed with my sister Mary and her husband, Paul Grimes, at a cottage they rented beside a lake in New Hampshire. While there one night. we watched on television an American astronaut walk on the moon. Paul Grimes had convinced me that we both had to give up smoking. He was already trying to kick the cigarette habit and I vowed that night as a man walked on the moon to do the same. I had been smoking regularly for 25 years and stopping was extremely difficult. But I stopped. I went flat out without cigarettes. I suffered a very painful withdrawal but I succeeded. Knowledge of course said it had been purely the result of my strong character, but I still did not believe in knowledge. I had never judged my character strong and so I had my doubts. Putting a man on the moon was a miraculous achievement of science. Freeing me forever from addiction to cigarettes was also a momentous event, less miraculous perhaps than the moonwalk but still with at least a touch of the miraculous.
   We took a very pleasant ride every summer through beautiful scenery in New Hampshire and Vermont to Montreal in Canada. For the world exposition in Montreal in 1969, we rented a furnished apartment for a month in downtown Montreal to visit exposition events and sites. Other years during summers, we spent a week crammed into Ruth’s father and sister’s Montreal apartment in a district within walking distance of Mount Royal. It gives its name to the city of Montreal and at its top we often visited  a pretty park with ducks and a pond. The biggest thing in 1971 was our purchase of a six-room house in Swampscott. It was located at a short distance from the ocean. It guaranteed to us a residence at a fixed price per month for years to come and a fixed location for our daughters to go to school through high school. In 1972, the four of us took a chartered flight to France in July and rented for the rest of the month a small furnished apartment in Paris. We spent the whole month of August at Frejus-Plage in the south of France on the seacoast about twenty miles from Cannes and near other well known towns and cities. In 1976 I stopped drinking. My drinking had gone beyond my control. I was drinking every day and I had reached the point where the drug was giving me no pleasure and satisfying only my craving for it. It was another very painful escape from an addiction. I was thankful to God for my success because I was incapable of believing it resulted only from my strong character. In 1977 we again spent two months in France, July at an apartment in Paris and August at one in Biarritz. It was amazing to me that I could spend two months in France without drinking wine. But I did.  
   I was free of drugs about the time when circumstances forced me to become again a student. In 1977 Ruth and I both had to take courses to learn Spanish which was being introduced more and more in high schools and was lessening the numbers of students studying French. If we wanted our jobs to remain secure, he had to become qualified to teach Spanish. In September, Ruth and I  both took a course in Spanish at the Harvard Extension School. I discovered from the experience the great number of courses meeting in the late afternoon or at night offered by Harvard University. Anyone could earn college credits for a small tuition in courses offered mainly by Harvard professors. We both took another course in Spanish in the Spring of 1978. By then I had decided with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm on a bold new plan for my teaching career. Since I had to learn another foreign language to teach to be secure in my job, it made sense to also begin studying Latin which I had already studied in High School. It was not, like Spanish, for me a new subject. I needed only six courses in Spanish to become certified to teach it so I decided also to take 6 courses and become certified to teach Latin. I did not smoke or drink any longer. I knew I had enough discipline and time to make myself a French/Spanish/ Latin teacher. It was a good thing that I was on a path to become a teacher qualified in three languages. In May of 1978, after thirteen years of teaching with maximum effort at Saint Jeromes, the man recently appointed Rector at Saint Jeromes fired me.  



                                                             Chapter 21


   I had been vulnerable. No doubt about it. I was a lay teacher with a good salary working among priests earning half my salary in a religious school. The only other full-time regular lay teacher was the hockey coach. His job was more secure than mine as a very successful hockey coach but neither of us had any job security. It would have been reasonable for me to have worked one or two years at Saint Jeromes and then have taken a job in a public school and been placed towards the lower end of a salary scale with tenure after three years. I was unreasonable. I enjoyed teaching and getting great results so much that I concentrated only on the creativity that I experienced often in the classroom. I was indifferent to what others in our community thought of me and I was indifferent also to job security and the development of my teaching career to perhaps earn more money.When I produced good results and succeeded in getting students to work with me, I experienced creativity and freedom. I did not care  what others in our community thought of me. If the priest teachers were envious of my success or my higher salary, so be it. I was a force in the school. I made such a strong impression on students that the class of 1973 dedicated their yearbook to me. Previously only priests earned such an honor. In 1974 the hockey coach and I met with the priest who administered the school and a layman in the insurance business who was a friend of the school. They assured us in a friendly meeting that they valued both of us and that they were going to do everything possible to keep us on the faculty permanently. They made us feel secure. Saint Jeromes was the first community I had ever felt genuinely a part of. That day they made the hockey coach and me feel we were secure members of the Saint Jerome’s family. I got kicked out four years later. It was a hard whack.
   The priest who fired me was a short thin man who wore sometimes a white robe and had a dry sense of humour that I found somewhat snide. He cultivated friendships with rich ladies in our community. A lot of extracurricular social activities were open to him and he took advantage of them all to put himself at the side of people with power. He took over the room that became available on the third floor of the main building. He lived there and often met there privately with students. No doubt he gave students help and advice with their problems. In those years, we were well before the scandals that broke out later revealing the sexual abuse of boys by Catholic priests. He had a sign pinned to the door of his room that I read once. “I love the Christ in you”, it said. He told me in an interview I had with him about my firing that I had not developed any close relationships with students. That was why he was firing me. He was right. My students had total respect for me and I had total respect for them. That was enough. It was not my job to love them or even love the Christ in them as he did. My students were tough young men. I could not get very close to them and also teach them. He had some way of making them his boys but I did not want my boys in class to become my boys personally. That would not have been right either for them or for me. I had started a cross-country team and had coached it for eight years without any addition to my salary. Once I went with eight boys a Saturday afternoon in the school van to a cross-country race at a beautiful private school campus. We had worked very hard preparing for the race. We won it and were exhausted, I along with them because I ran at full speed to two points on the course to cheer them on as they ran past me. We were all hungry because we had not eaten since breakfast. We stopped on the way home and bought submarine sandwiches and drinks. We ate sitting in the van happy together and at peace. I loved being there sitting with them proud of what they had done, what we had done together, and I felt happy in a spiritual and pure way because they were also happy being with me and with one another feeling the same happiness in the same pure way. It was as close as I wanted to get to students. Close personal relationships are not automatically good, especially between  adult men and vulnerable boys.
I told the priest at the interview I had with him that his firing me was an evil thing.
   It was a whack. It was like waking up from a pleasant dream where everything was orderly and in its proper place and finding myself in a world where everything was unbalanced  and even frightening because it offered no longer security for me or my family. I felt again for the first time in thirteen years totally worthless. It was very much as I had felt when I abandoned my life at Tufts College and stepped off from a secure course into the unknown. I had gained then a wonderful balance within myself by  my born-again experience but now a priest who professed the same religion as myself had thrown me out of the secure precincts of his religious community to deal again with life on my own.
   I interviewed for teaching jobs in public schools all summer and failed to find one. It was difficult to find a job teaching only French classes because some jobs required someone to teach both French and Spanish. I was not yet certified in Spanish and when I had to speak Spanish at an interview, I did not do well. Still there were jobs open teaching just French and I was well qualified. The problem was that in the Greater Boston area, an area with many colleges and many educated people, there was a big supply of people who wished to teach French and had no experience. Such people fit at the bottom of the pay scale whereas I with thirteen years of experience had to be placed ,according to teacher union contracts, at a spot on the scale with a much higher salary. The business office at public schools influenced who should be hired by superintendents of schools more than did the need for highly qualified teachers. The rock that held my family secure was Ruth’s tenured job at her school. But I kept looking. I found a job in September at a low salary teaching English as a second language in a small private school in Boston on Boylston Street near the Boston Public Library.
   By then we were over the first whacks of my sudden unemployment. I at least had found a job and I was determined to keep interviewing until I found a better one. But one result of my predicament was that I now had to study Latin and take enough courses to become certified. My family could not leave the Boston area because Ruth’s job was in Swampscott and my daughters were in school there. I had to find a regular teaching job that I could commute to from Swampscott. The key to my success in finding one was Latin. Jobs were available teaching Latin and few people could teach it. Also most Latin jobs were combined with another language. They were usually Latin/French or Latin/Spanish. The result of it all was that I had to become a regular student at Harvard and I  studied there at night for several years.
   At the job in September at the small school on Boylston Street, I taught foreign students English from twelve to four every day. Then, three days a week , I walked up the street to Massachusetts Avenue  and took a bus across the Charles River and then further along Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge to Harvard Square. I was forty-three years old and I was again a student. At least I was studying to gain knowledge in a restricted area, foreign languages. I was not eager to gain knowledge in  other subject areas because I did not believe it could be truly gained. By this time my reasoning about knowledge told me that one should love some subject and study it as far as possible and try to become expert in it. But if one did, I was sure a student would reach an ultimate point in any subject that would teach definitively that the subject was unknowable. Knowledge leads us on and makes us love what it offers but if we follow its charms all the way to the object it entices us towards, we find there is nothing there. We reach a kind of black hole that teaches us we will never really know anything. The education towards the black hole however is valuable and worthwhile. If we follow some subject far enough to learn we will never know it, then we at least know that so-called experts in various areas of knowledge really have found like we nothing for their efforts. I already knew enough French to know I would never know French but it did not dissuade me at all from now trying to learn Latin.
   My Latin class was a full-year course that met for two hours one night a week for the whole academic year. It was an introductory course in Latin but it covered all the grammar of Latin. Since I had not studied Latin for twenty-five years, I needed the review. About 70 students met in the first class in September and by the last class in May there were only five of us left. It demanded a great deal of home study and for someone who knew no Latin to begin with it was very difficult. It was not much of a challenge to me and I worked at doing my homework faithfully and with great enthusiasm. I enjoyed it. I memorized again all my forms and as the course progressed, I began reading and translating Latin sentences of greater and greater complexity.
   I loved being in Harvard Square three nights a week and studying at Harvard. The square had all types of shops and restaurants and was full of young students and people from all over. The atmosphere was very positive and almost festive because the people you passed in the street somehow seemed to be all going somewhere to do something unusual but creative and important. Once I passed through the opening in the wall around Harvard Yard and was on the inside and on my way to class, I felt excited and uplifted in my spirit. Studying Latin at Harvard struck a chord in my being. It began giving me the sense that I was doing something worthwhile that was sure to give my teaching career a new and exciting new development. Some instrument in my mind began playing the comforting and peaceful melody that had sounded once before in my spirit when I was very young and very alone at the Boston Latin School. Nothing had seemed so real to me in the seventh grade as Latin. It sucked me into a special world of strange new words with strange forms that became just as real in my mind as my own native language. It had given me a whole new well ordered and peaceful place to go to in my being. Now at Harvard in my Latin class, I was rediscovering at moments this lost place where I had once been young and at peace. I never had any personal conversation with anyone at Harvard and never made any friends there but I did not care. I loved both being there and being alone. I walked along on the many paths in Harvard Yard a stranger to everyone but I was perfectly at home with myself. I had my Latin textbook with me and my completed homework and I was on my way to a class to sit in a crowd silently, ready and eager to show when called on that I fit perfectly with the Latin language by translating a passage correctly. I was letting Harvard do its job. It was educating me in a subject that I loved because it had long ago seized a place for itself in my soul.
   All the Latin classes I took after the first one were translations in class of works by great Latin authors. I plunged into the readings and prepared to translate them in class. I worked very hard learning word by word how to understand long passages in Latin that were structurally much more complicated than anything in English. I began to understand that Shakespeare had constructed his wonderful poetic phrases partly by imitating Latin writers, especially Ovid.
   I took a one-year job in a Junior high school teaching French and Spanish. I did not like it. I made a point of earning outstanding letters of recommendation from administrators to use to find a better job. I became more and more convinced that, with my experience teaching all levels of French and certification in Spanish along with future certification in Latin, I would certainly find a high-school job. Then in the summer of 1980, the ineptitude of the Rector at Saint Jeromes who had fired me caused him to be fired. A friend who was teaching English at the school contacted me and told me the foreign language department was unravelling. He said that my former students in French had named their new French teacher “Napoleon” and that some days they had locked him in their classroom in a closet. In a word, my firmer approach to teaching was needed. He told me I should contact the new temporary head of school and I would have my job back. There had been a shakeup at school. I got back my job and was named department head in foreign languages.
  Back at Saint Jeromes, I had a new attitude and a much freer manner of behavior among administrators and teachers. A new Rector was hired, a middle-aged priest from Baltimore. He hired a young layman, a PhD from the Harvard School of education, to administer the school. I did not like being supervised by them. There were now five young lay teachers  and I joked and talked freely with them. I respected everyone but I could not help acting with a kind of free and easy going superiority. I did not overplay my importance as someone who was in his 14th year and was a department head, but still I did not downplay it either. I was certified now in Spanish and I had completed three courses in Latin at Harvard. Even though I had not found a regular job in a public school, I did not fear failure if I had to try again to find one.
   An afternoon in September of 1980, I went to Harvard to register for classes and experienced deep perplexity and great hesitation about my choice of subjects. I had spent the whole preceding year reading great Latin authors. I was now thinking about studying Latin further, not only to become a high-school Latin teacher but also to become a classical scholar. The thought and history and literature of the ancient world had found a home in me and I wanted to immerse myself in ancient culture with my whole mind and soul. But I could not become a genuine classicist without studying and learning Ancient Greek. I knew how difficult Ancient Greek was with many more regular and irregular forms of words than Latin. I had decided to sign up that afternoon for an Introduction to Ancient Greek class. I was so enthusiastic about classical studies that I knew that once I started studying Greek, I would not stop. I hesitated about signing up for the class. I was perplexed. I was about to commit myself to exploring deeply and extensively the culture and languages of the ancient world which was pagan. Important Christian writings were in Latin or Greek but still I would be devoting most of my time to a literature that was not Christian and in many respects antichristian. What should I do? Should I register for the Greek class? My mind was as though split up the middle. I was starting down a path that required a great deal of study and I would be on it for many years in my future. It was a very difficult decision. All I had to do was not register for the Greek course and walk away free. But not knowing Greek would mean I could never become a true classicist and I would deprive myself of all the wonderful readings in the Ancient Greek language that were known to be at the summit of human language and culture. My classical studies were already giving me a sense that I was doing something genuinely worthwhile that was making me feel genuinely worthwhile. I signed up for the course.
   Harvard University became my church. A Latin course one night and a Greek course another night were like going, so to speak, to pagan masses. It was not really religious but still it was something close to it. The huge complex of Harvard buildings and the Harvard Yard containing the great Widener library with millions of books was like a kind of Vatican City of knowledge. It was its own intellectual nation. I was always touched and moved by the contact I had with teachers and students pursuing knowledge at the highest possible levels in various subjects. They were like priests who had become Monsignors of learning and were eager to attain the rank of Cardinal and sit in the college of Cardinals with a Pope. But Harvard was a Vatican City with no Pope. No one could be elected in a society of such advanced learners to a position that granted one human the right to announce the ultimate truth about anything. I really believe the great thing about Harvard was that it was an organisation that constructed temples of learning in every area of knowledge without reaching ever in any of the areas some conclusive truths. No knowledge ever reaches an ultimate truth and Harvard was a kind of divine institution of learning established to eternally let anyone who wished  seek truth through knowledge and fail. I knew I was never going to know Latin and certainly never know Ancient Greek. But trying as hard as you can to find out you can never know anything is a divine adventure. Harvard offered knowledge and also freed students from knowledge by proving to the best of them that it does not exist. I worked eagerly at my studies at Harvard to try to reach along with other avid learners the purified heights where truth and knowledge finally part company.
   One day I discovered in the Extension School booklet that I was eligible to become admitted to a program of studies that lead to a certificate. I had not completed work at Boston College in the master’s degree program. I was not interested in studying for any degree but I learned that once admitted to the certificate program, I would have all regular benefits for Harvard students. It cost me only a small amount of money to be admitted and I received a student identification card that included full privileges in the grand Widener library. The great building with eight huge classical columns across its front was a temple. I walked for the first time up its several steps and inside and up the marble staircase of its vestibule to the entrance to its stacks like a priest of learning without a cassock. There were eight floors of stacks and an elevator to ease my search to touch and to open one book with my hands out of the millions that were waiting around me sitting silently in the semi-darkness ready to speak once my eyes looked at and began reading their words. I was in Widener’s stacks often. The thousands of books I walked by spoke to me in the silence. They told me that no one would ever read all of them but once I opened one and began reading, they disappeared as millions of books and reappeared before my eyes transubstantiated to two white printed pages. The great library held millions of books sitting each one unopened on its shelves in order to allow two eyes to look for a few seconds occasionally at one page. I stepped up to the altar regularly and did my part. I opened book after book for years. I regularly received the communion that Widener library offered.



                                                             Chapter 22

  

   I discovered 20 years ahead in my future when I was teaching Latin in a High School in Virginia what is truly real. I will try to explain my discovery bit by bit referring to it here and there as I go along with my story. What happened in my past before my discovery seems to me mostly worthless. If I had it to do over again and I were free not to do what I did, I would choose not to have experienced any of it except for three things that happened to me briefly, momentarily. It was worthwhile and real when I kissed Anne-Marie in the drive-in movie and the same, worthwhile and real, when I was joined with Ruth and was filling her with the seeds that created my two daughters. The rest of my life was nothing. The experience of God was a something but I did nothing with the self that God restored to me. By my actions, I turned the possibility of some relationship to God into a nothing that merely combined with my other nothings. Naturally I would not choose not to have been saved by God. But I had nothing to do with it. He did it.  The things that were worthwhile in my life happened either by sharing my life momentarily with God or with two women. Everything else I did was worthless.
    Our struggle all our lives to create a strong and useful self is weak and useless. I was weak and fearful and worthless, as I have admitted, and others are strong and brave and worthwhile. They are real because they fight and overcome. I agree that they carve out an identity for themselves but I claim that whatever they become by their strong efforts is based, like my weak efforts, on nothing. We are worthless by our very nature or, to put it differently, we are all a nothing driven by fear to make ourselves a something. I was not completely unsuccessful participating like others in the swindle to present myself to others in the world as a something. My hand in the swindle went on and on dishonestly. When I discovered the truly real at sixty, I became certain that my worthlessness was always forcing me to escape it by tricking myself into becoming a trickster playing tricks on myself designed to falsify the real. I found at sixty that there is something real. It is not me and unfortunately it is revealed only by an unusual experience that is difficult to express in a believable way and is unknowable.
  Our knowledge is limited to our rational and mental experience but this experience is not what is truly real and so our knowledge is worthless. We get by using this knowledge anyway because it is too terrible to admit we know nothing. Everything we can find out seems to make us stronger.  Look at me and listen to what I know! Even if we succeed in massing together a great deal of material from human thought and experience into a great book brimming with erudite knowledge, someone will skilfully amass, if given the chance, an opposite knowledge. Everything we know is wrong. When we finally learn everything that can be learned about something, we arrive at where we started with nothing. My mind consented, gave way and allowed me to use the part of my being that finally at sixty gave me an experience of the real. But the experience was not the kind that can be tested by processes in the mind and pronounced true. I have in fact spoken of this experience to sympathetic and friendly people. Their minds assimilated my thoughts about it and immediately rejected it as unreal.  I will describe the experience later and declare the reality of its existence but I know it will be of no use.  No one will accept the most important experience in my life as real. Their minds will not let them.
   So we go on seeking security in our knowledge or whatever other inventions our minds will allow us to accept as real to hide our nothingness. In my forties, I went on just like everyone else getting by with this or that taste of pleasure here or there, sometimes positively excited about where my life was going. I was going towards the only thing real and I did not know it. It was many years ahead in my future.
   The impossibility of our union with another being gives us a hint of what is real. We can desire another being, we can love another being but we can never achieve a union that makes us truly become the other and at the same time remain truly ourselves. We want to lose ourselves and find ourselves in the other but we always remain only ourselves and inwardly alone. The two momentary unions of Ruth and myself that produced my two daughters were certainly the closest we ever came to the kind of union that we all need. We lost our normal selves and sought passionately with our bodies to become the other whom our pleasure forced us to grip tightly in our arms as though we wished not only to press against another body but actually become the being in the other body. When our pleasure ended, I pulled out of her my member that for a few moments had been also hers. I had put everything within her that I could but in the end it proved I did not have the real means to be myself and also be her. We lay beside one another disunited and conscious that yielding our bodies to one another yielded not a bit of what was in ourselves that might produce a divine experience if joined. Secretly within her a living seed from me had united fully with another living seed in order to become eventually a human life and discover then in the great warp of universal time that union with another human being is logically and scientifically impossible. Ruth and I rested nude beside one another. Our bodies had done all that the universe will let them do to transform our seeds to a new being when one of them overcame isolation and death by union with another living seed, a permanent union of being with being that became  impossible for us once we were born.
   In the early summer of 1983, a living being born from our joining, my youngest daughter Rhea, was diagnosed as having  a tumor growing in her brain. It turned out to be a great tumor, the size of a golf ball, but at least it was operable. Ruth never left the Children's Hospital in Boston sleeping there every night for months. Rhea had three operations. During the first we sat the three of us for five hours in a waiting room knowing every moment with dread that her young brain was open and that doctors were trying to cut away bad parts of her brain that were wrapped around good parts. She survived the operation but the tumor was so big they decided to close the brain and open it again several days later when she had recovered some strength. The second operation was long also with more long hours of dreadful waiting for news. The head surgeon told me afterwards that he had taken out as much of the tumor as he could. We waited with her daily watching her hoping she would regain her strength after her ordeal which was just as though her brain had suffered, like a soldier in a war, a severe wound. She was unable to recover. One night she stopped breathing and they rushed her to the operating room for emergency treatment. She regained her breathing but fell totally asleep in a coma. When we were able to visit her in the ICU, the intensive care unit, she had a hole in her throat that allowed her to breathe through a tube. We stood around her, Ruth, Rivka and I, watching the beautiful brown eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl looking straight ahead seeing nothing. She no longer had any idea who she was or where she was. She did not know the three of us were there. The doctors had done all they could. One of them said that the stroke she suffered was so severe that because her brain had had no oxygen for several minutes, she would never afterwards be able to learn beyond the level of someone in the third grade. We did not care about anything in the universe except whether or not she would one day come back from her coma and see us. No one will ever convince me after looking for days at my daughter in such a condition that the universe where we all seek happiness gives a damn about us. Rhea was off somewhere completely alone defenseless and if there was not someone or something alive where she was with the power to overcome the evil that had a death grip on her heart, then she was nothing because she, alone and powerless, lacked the power to be anything. Knowledge, even the beneficial kind the doctors used, no longer helped give meaning to her being. She was off from us far away in a place where it is impossible and unnecessary to know anything.
   A great spiritual thinker, Dostoevsky, created a man, Ivan in his novel, The Brothers Karamazov, who became an atheist because he was so deeply touched and enraged by the sufferings of children. Ruth and I and Rivka witnessed all summer and late into the fall children at Children’s Hospital in terrible, deadly conditions. A little girl named Lazara with a thin wasted body and big eyes glowing with hope and life waited among us week after week for death and finally did die. A large group of wealthy Indians, over a dozen, dressed in magnificent clothes arrived from India with a mother and her baby that they hoped a world-famous Boston hospital could save. The baby died and the gloom and despair I saw on all their faces must have arisen from a profound suffering in their hearts. But I did not share Ivan Karamazov’s belief that the sufferings of children means that there is no God. Everyone eventually suffers cruelly from some sudden whack that fate gives them. My daughter’s suffering proved to me that there must be a God. Every day when I was in despair I said to myself something I had read that John the Baptist says in the gospel, “God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham”. I felt because of the suffering of children around me that there is no hope for any of us unless a God exists who can do anything. God is able to raise up children out of stones! Our worthlessness should make us seek God and seek what is impossible but instead it forces us to seek only what is possible in order to be happy. Ernest Hemingway was not as profound a thinker as Dostoevsky but he was closer to the truth when he wrote about the inevitability of something arriving in the lives of all of us that will break us. “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” We can think that God might exist or he might not exist. We can think something we know might be true or it might not be true. But the only thing truly certain is that all of us will one day break. Then we will know in an instant if there is anything truly real. Then our being will find perhaps at last another being that it can unite with totally and also remain totally itself. Then we will know if we must be worthless for eternity or only for when we are alive.
   Rhea opened her eyes one day and saw us. She came back to us from nowhere. Wherever she had been when she was nowhere did not disturb her when she was back at the place she had left. It was like she had been asleep for a very long time and woke up after dreaming sweet things forgetting with wakefulness where she had been or what she had dreamed. She spent weeks then in a rehabilitation hospital until she had recovered enough of her former self to return home. She had to have a permanent shunt, a tube attached to her brain hidden below her skin, to guard her permanently from a build up of water in her brain that could be fatal. She suffered from a ringing in her ears and headaches but she recovered. She was able to go back to her high school and graduate with her class. Her body and her mind sought equilibrium in their own healthy functioning. Ruth, Rivka and I sought the same kind of equilibrium too. Our worthlessness does not help us get along in the world and it keeps us from going where the world forces us to go so we act as though we are worthwhile. While Ruth and I were suffering through Rhea’s ordeal, we gave up caring about anything in the world. We valued nothing at all except Rhea’s life and the hopes life gives us all for happiness. I left Saint Jeromes that year where I no longer fit in with the new crowd of teachers and administrators and took a one-year job teaching French in the best High School in Greater Boston, Newton South High in the suburb of Newton. Ruth went back to her teaching job after a year’s absence. Things went back to normal. We put up as best we could with what being we had. Like everyone else, the thought never entered my mind at the time that my being, my me, could become a new and real me transformed radically by union with another being that would allow me to remain at the same time whole and independent. The consciousness and the knowledge that my mind gave me and that everyone’s mind gives everyone forbids such a thought.
   I tried to start an affair with an attractive 26 -year-old girl in my Greek class. We had coffee and muffins in Harvard Square after class one night and that was the closest I ever came to her. She dropped out of the class and was soon gone from me forever.  It helped me  understand, even with the brief and mild pain that separation from her caused, what poets meant when they claimed that the only real inspiration for a real poet is the suffering felt by the impossibility of satisfying the desire to unite with a woman in love. An impossible union with a divine woman like his Beatrice was what Dante wanted with his whole soul and never reached. Two human bodies can love one another but it is impossible precisely because they are bodies to unite spiritually. If there is anywhere in the universe a power to overcome our worthlessness it must be love. Even our rational knowledge must accept that. We can love a woman with our whole heart and she can love us in return with her whole heart so that our hearts join but even this very joining of our hearts reveals that our beings are still separated. We can love another person so deeply  that the power of our love mysteriously creates love for us in the person loved but even then we can reach a union only of our hearts and bodies. A woman’s  love does not free me to be myself but instead enslaves me by my desire mixed with my love to unite with her body. I can not be myself and be in love with someone with a body. I can only remain myself if I can love someone who is bodiless. My worthlessness needs to find love to become worthwhile but only the love of something that does not exist can reveal to me who I am truly by a love that does not enslave me to human desires. But I am worthless precisely because I feel that in the depths of my being I am totally loveless. Only a non-existing body, a spirit, who can love me and also create love in me for it can free me to love and  also let me remain independent of this non-existent being that I love. It is logical what the poets say. No matter how deeply we love a woman we lose ourselves completely and suffer a tragic separation. But can anyone accept the logic that goes a step further than the well-documented logic of great poets? Only the love of a bodiless being who has the power to love us and create love for itself by loving us can satisfy our need for love and make us free and whole?The logic of human love leads us nowhere and reaffirms our worthlessness. But who can accept the logic that only our complete worthlessness can lead us to real love? And how can a non-existing being create love in us for itself which can make us totally worthwhile? It means the impossible is possible. It means our normal consciousness and its knowledge is as worthless as our normal being. It means we are all fools trying to love only bodies. It means that the universe we see around us teaches us truths that are lies and that another universe exists that our paltry consciousness fortified by knowledge prevents us from knowing because it can only be known by opening our hearts wide to it and letting it come inside us.
   But I had no such thoughts in my forties and fifties. I hid myself spiritually and intellectually in my classical studies and passed my time on the surface of my being working at my teaching to make money. Any connection I had to Christianity and God faded away as though it no longer existed. My marriage and my family gave me an essential emotional foundation in my struggle to keep my being’s equilibrium and to succeed practically but my secret experience of desire and possibly love for someone outside my family proved I was a moral nothing. Modern consciousness treats the Christian doctrine of original sin with scorn and derision. Evil breaks out daily right before our eyes but we refuse to believe evil is rooted in our nature because of some spiritual cataclysm that happened sometime in humanity’s common past. Nathaniel Hawthorne said that even just one evil action by one of us makes all of us capable of evil. I think one of the reasons I loved reading classical literature in Latin or Greek was that the evils of the period could no longer reach me. Evil was alive all around me and in me but I did my best to escape it by focusing only on the evils of the distant past which were dead along with the people who committed them. There is nothing as good as being good but we are none of us good. If we really believe we are good we must ask ourselves why. If we ourselves can make ourselves good then evil and sin are illusions, original sin is a kind of intellectual joke that stupid churchmen in the past invented, and of course it means that Jesus  Christ sacrificed his life on a cross to save us from sin uselessly and for no good reason. I loved to read Ovid and Homer. Ovid’s poetry fits all the goods and evils of human and divine life into perfectly metered lines that free us from normal life by metamorphosing it to an unending divine rhythm. Homer treats Gods with such an easy familiarity that you feel reading his perfectly metered lines that words alone are real and that they make a true poet who uses them beautifully divine. I did not feel I was sinning or anyone else was sinning. We were all trying to shape our lives into beautiful and successful events. The police and the army took care of evil. It never entered my mind that I might be sinning. I was off like everyone else travelling as happily as I could down a long lonesome highway to nowhere.
   I taught French at Newton South High in 1983-84. I looked all summer unsuccessfully for a job and three days before school started in September, a secretary in the Newton Education Department told me by chance in a phone conversation that there was an opening for a Latin teacher at Newton North High that was not filled. Three days before school started, I had an interview with the principal. She told me that one of the classes contained a small number of brilliant, advanced Latin students about to read Virgil’s Aeneid and she could not find a Latin teacher able to teach Virgil. I said I could teach Virgil although I did not confess that I had never read more than a few lines here and there of the most difficult and beautiful lines of poetry written in Latin. I got the job. I became for the first time a full-time Latin teacher in the best school system in Greater Boston. I had to prepare by studying Virgil’s lines in detail word by word for at least an hour before each Virgil class. There were just four students and they were indeed brilliant. They were never satisfied with just an English translation. They questioned me about the forms of words and how precisely words related to one another grammatically to produce the translation to English we made. It was not an Advanced Placement class but two of my students decided to take the exam in Virgil anyway. They received both of them 5 on the exam, the highest possible score. I taught Latin again the following year. I encouraged all my students to take the National Latin Exam given nationally and internationally in the spring. The results were exceptional. I had already taught in five schools and I felt certain that I had found a good and permanent home in my sixth school. That year Newton North cut the whole German program because of declining enrollment. The teacher, a German national, had certification in Latin. She replaced me. I was whacked. I was out.
   For two years, from 1986 to 1988, I continued studying Latin and Greek at Harvard and taught Latin and then French/Spanish in two High Schools part-time, my seventh and eighth schools. It was impossible to find a full-time Latin job in the Boston area. But Ruth, now with twenty years teaching, decided to retire and begin receiving her pension. I began applying for Latin jobs outside of New England where many were available. I was hired by a school in New York on Long Island. I stayed there for four years but it was an unsuccessful adventure because I was unable to build up the Latin program to a full-time job and I was frustrated because I had to teach as many Spanish classes as Latin. During my four years there in my ninth school, I applied and was accepted by Fordham University in a Master’s Degree program in Latin and Greek. I travelled to the Bronx from Long Island once a week and completed six graduate courses in three years, three in Latin and three in Ancient Greek. By the end of 1992, I, a college dropout, had studied at six universities and taught at nine schools. I was certified and fully qualified to teach Latin but I had no Latin job.
   I took a job travelling between two high schools near Baltimore in Baltimore County teaching Latin, my tenth and eleventh schools, but it did not work out because I also had to teach Spanish and I resigned in the Spring in frustration. Ruth and I had rented our house in Swampscott. One of our daughters was off at school and the other was living independently. We went to Florida and lived in my sister Mary’s house in Ocala along with her husband, Paul Grimes. We lived off Ruth’s pension and enjoyed a Florida vacation for the spring, summer and fall. I had many opportunities to teach French and Spanish but I knew I could be satisfied only by a job in a High School with a well-developed Latin program solidly in place. I was willing to go anywhere and I was hired at last by a High School in Virginia that had four Latin classes and just one French Class. Ruth and I were off at the beginning of December 1993 to Nottoway County, a rural community in southern Virginia about fifty miles south of Richmond.



                                                                     Chapter 23



   Ruth and I on our way to my new Latin job in Virginia turned off the Interstate near Richmond and began a trip of more than 40 miles south on a state highway towards Nottoway County. As we went further and further south away from the suburbs of Richmond, the land around us opened up into areas with few houses and green fields. Along the side of the highway  appeared signs saying we were travelling the route of general Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia retreating from Richmond in 1864 heading south and west. I felt with excitement that I was in a foreign country. I was in Virginia. I was in the land of Jefferson and Washington, the land also of generals Lee and Jackson. I was on the road that Lee’s army had travelled in retreat. An hour later when we reached Nottoway County, we turned off the state highway onto a narrower road at Jetersville. During Lee’s retreat, a train had been sent out to Nottoway County with vital supplies of food and equipment for Lee’s army which was reduced to 9000 men but still in fighting shape. Union cavalry reached the train at Jetersville and prevented Lee from using it. It was the main reason for his surrender later further west at Appomattox Courthouse. I told Ruth excitedly as we drove along the narrow roads past open fields and at intervals houses that we were in historical Civil War places. She was not interested. She had lived in Paris, Montreal, Boston and recently on Long Island and in Baltimore. Virginia for her was just some isolated place we were headed to far out in the country.
   We lived in the small town of Crewe in Nottoway County for five and a half years. We rented a small single-level four-room house in Crewe with a big front porch and a small porch in back before a long and wide grassy field between trees that led to a small dirt road going by parallel to railroad tracks. It was very peaceful and quiet in Crewe except when we heard the trains going by. I jogged along the dirt road in back that led to a small railroad yard with freight cars waiting on tracks. Crewe had been founded as a small railroad town. I ran along the main road, a state highway that ran through the center of town, and then along town streets that led out into open country. On my way back at the end of my run, I ran down my street, Custis Street. I passed a small trailer at one end where a very shy and timid young white woman lived in poverty with a little boy of four with brown skin. The house I passed next to our house was inhabited by a very fat young woman with a burly sort of heavy-set husband who was a guard in a nearby prison that held mostly African-Americans. Across the street from our house was a dilapidated house where an old woman lived who told us she got by with social security. She loved cats and four or five of them were always in and out of open spaces under her small, unpainted porch. One day we were sitting on our front porch and a girl of ten who lived in the big ten-room house at a good distance to the right of us told us with a gorgeous smile in a joyous voice, “My grandmother is wonderful”. We met her grandmother. She told us she was born in her house in 1928 and had lived there ever since. Near our house to the left, with a parking lot entrance off the small side street that connected our street to the state highway, was a church in a red-brick building with a flat roof. On Sunday mornings the parking lot always filled with cars. Most of the families in Crewe were members of Protestant churches. I fit in easily to my job at Nottoway High because by this time I was a very skilled teacher and although the previous teacher had taught her students very little Latin, I was happy with the prospect of developing the program. I got along well with the teachers who observed to me in a friendly way at our first general meeting that I spoke with an accent. I observed for them smiling that, no, I spoke with an accent normal in New England and that they had an accent. The high school was 65 percent African-American and 35 percent white but I felt no racial tension among my students in the general atmosphere of the school, which pleased me greatly. Everything in Nottoway County life was very pleasant and at the same time for me very odd because I fit into it so easily. It was a very pleasant feeling living there for someone like myself used to the stiff and cold interpersonal  dealings with people in New England. When you passed face to face with people in Nottoway County, they put on a smile and you did too and you greeted one another pleasantly . That never happened in New England. When I was two months in Crewe, I had to register my car in Virginia and obtain insurance. I went into an insurance office in the center of town where there were three gas stations, two barber shops, a small restaurant and four stores. The man I dealt with in the insurance office never asked my name. I had never seen him before yet he knew it. The clerk I dealt with, a woman, used my name among the first words she spoke. I had never seen her before. Of course I did not believe for a minute that the friendly, pleasant behavior of the people meant there were no unhappy feelings or racial tensions below the surface. But it was in Nottoway County that I first came in contact in my soul with what is truly real which revealed to me that it is impossible to find who you are really unless you open your heart completely to God. Did the pleasant atmosphere in Nottoway County help me open my heart? I do not think so.  I was no longer completely heartless and I did not trust my mind to lead me to the real, but that there was a path to the truth through my heart and only through my heart did not seem even a possibility. The Virginian people I lived among softened my heart around its surface but below it was still as hard as a rock.
   We did not rent our house in New England while I worked in Virginia. We went back to our house in Swampscott every summer. One year Ruth took a teaching job in Massachusetts and I was alone in Crewe except for school holidays. I occupied myself with my teaching, my jogging and my readings in classical literature. At Fordham University, I had completed a course reading Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, a long poem in Latin expounding the philosophy of Epicurus, a Greek writer famous for the doctrine that the whole purpose of life was to be happy day in and day out at every hour, at every minute. Epicurus, whose writings in Greek survive only in pieces here and there, apparently really lived his philosophy. Even when he was sick near death with a severe stomach ailment he was believed to have made himself happy by willing his happiness just as he had practiced all his life by using logic and reason and by never giving way to any possible negative feelings that might lead to unhappiness. He was supposed to have been completely happy on the day of his death. His philosophy had produced a kind of deathlike peace in my soul even though I still believed the very opposite. Despite my lack of interest that was near indifference, I still felt God alive in some part my soul. I did not know how to enliven and expand the presence of God within me but I knew he could not be reached only by relying,as did Epicurus, on logic and reason. Also, Epicurians like Lucretius did not provide any solution to the problem of human sexual desire. Lucretius says a man should simply satisfy himself as best he can with whatever is at hand. Without Ruth living with me, I had temptations. Pagan philosophy was no help. I turned my mind away from Epicurian philosophy and read a lot of the writings in Latin of the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca. He based human behavior in reason but advocated not pleasure as did Epicurus but honesty. For him honesty, total and absolute honesty, was the single most important thing in human life and the basis of moral behavior. He was a very wealthy Roman who advised the emperor Nero. I read and read alone in my house in Crewe his forceful essays about honesty. He believed like Epicurus that any problem in life can be dealt with by a strong and determined use of reason. Seneca believed even that any physical suffering could be endured. Extreme pain should not weaken the center of our being and force us to give up our integrity and strength. He believed we could live with any degree of pain and that a pain that was too extreme to be endured would knock us out and that would be the end of it. I became genuinely inspired by Seneca. Honesty in all matters is surely possible and extreme honesty followed faithfully as a principle can make a man good and great. But he believed that desire for sexual satisfaction could be overcome, that an honest man would always be strong enough to never be enslaved by the desire for sex with a woman. I spent many weekends alone, jogging, eating, watching television and reading Seneca. I genuinely tried to be strong and honest and free from what is base in a man. But one evening on a Saturday night my sexual desire came roaring up within me. I realized I could never conquer it and pass on to some higher plane of being following pagan philosophy. I drove all the way to Richmond and looked over people walking the sidewalks for some chance to pay a woman for quick sex. I was able to use my reason neither to be happy nor to be honest. I was good for nothing. I was disgusting. God had long ago, years ago, revealed himself within me and restored me to myself. But I had never found the strength in myself to make myself truly worthwhile.  
   I taught Latin, I jogged long distances, I read books. That was all I was good for. Farmville, a big town ten miles from Crewe, had two small liberal arts colleges. I went there on weekends to shop at its big Walmart and to visit the library at one of the colleges. It was small but had a good collection of many of the most important books valuable for studies in the humanities. I loved to walk through stacks of books hoping to find some book that might change my life dramatically. It had happened to me only once. During my fearful crisis, I had discovered by chance in the Somerville library Nicholas Berdyaev’s book on Dostoevsky that had given me the strength to at least think of belief in Christ as an option. I wandered through the stacks at the library in Farmville knowing that I needed some transformation but not believing that one was possible. In the stacks one weekend I found a book in French titled, “Lettres Inedites” by Duvergier de  Hauranne. It transformed me. It changed me miraculously. Because my French was by this time good enough to read it fluently in French, I have since believed that the main purpose God had in mind for my learning French was to be able to read this book. Jean Duvergier De Hauranne was the abbey of Saint-Cyran and the spiritual leader of the Jansenist movement within the Catholic church in France in the 17th century. He was a priest who believed the priestly state was the most holy state in the Christian religion. In letter 4 of his book containing 135 of his letters, he says that the state of a priest should be stable and permanent not measured by time and a state which passes all the way into eternity, that the disposition of a real priest produces a virtue printed in the bottom of his soul that extends all the way into the soul’s immortality and is more interior than all the actions and movements that it can produce. Then Saint-Cyran (He is commonly known as Saint-Cyran, the name of his abbey, rather than Duvergier de Hauranne.) says that this is a subject that can not be explained to men and that can not be known except by a divine light flashed into the soul from God. Back home in Crewe alone in my house, I read letter after letter. I had long ago given up human knowledge and I was ready for a knowledge that comes directly from God to the soul that can not be explained to men. I devoured letter after letter consumed by a hunger in my soul to know a truth that can not be known by  humans because it can have its origin purely and simply only in God.
   I can not express the transformation I experienced reading Saint-Cyran’s letters because it did not originate in me. It had a cause and an effect but I was not the cause and no other human was the cause. My transformation came from a reality that is not interested in negating or defying our logic because it is able to cause a movement that touches our soul with a love that is so different from human love that it must come from a being that is beyond the limits of our consciousness which is a human consciousness that is defined and limited by our reason and our logic. But I express it badly trying to express it in human words. How can I express a love I received in my soul by reading Saint-Cyran’s letters that touched me deeply yet has a nature that can not be believed to be truly existing by others who have unfortunately never received it? Worse, my words will seem designed to convert others and make them begin living by obeying religious laws. I say that whether there is a God or not is merely an abstract and useless question. What does exist is a real experience of love that makes us know immediately because it is so wonderful and so unworldly that we can because of it become really good. It makes us want to be good and to do good and no human who has ever experienced human love for another adult can claim its upsurge directs us only towards the good.
   I heard as a boy priests talking about this love again and again, over and over. They called it grace or charity as well as love. At Saint Jeromes I heard the same words over and over in masses I attended as a faculty member. The words meant nothing to me. The priests that I talked to at Saint Jeromes never spoke to me a word that seemed at all like the words of Saint-Cyran that came from his heart. Grace which is divine love experienced in a human soul was everything for him. Without it we are nothing. Without it we condemn ourselves to be sinners who use our mind to help us pretend we are not sinners. Grace is everything. Love from God is the only true reality. The real experience of grace leaves no doubt in our mind. We come directly in touch with the real. Yet it does not exist. Logic says it does not exist. The nothingness in our souls tell us it does not exist and the logic and reason regulating most of our experience prove to us day in and day out that it can not exist. Saint Augustine, the greatest thinker in the history of the Catholic church, believed in God’s love so deeply as the only path to the truth that he went so far as to say that any words in the Bible that do not express God’s grace are false. But my transformation by this grace will seem unreal and therefore false and I can do nothing about it. I have only a few poor human words to express what happened to me the day I found Saint-Cyran’s book by chance and went home and sat on my couch in Crewe Virginia and read it.
   My heart opened. That is what happened. Saint-Cyran’s writings used the word heart in almost every letter as the door that must be opened wide to let in God. He opened my heart. His words dug their way into my heart and punched and kicked it open so that finally I gave way and opened it completely. Really he was so sincere about the necessity of finding God only by opening our heart that he gave me no choice. Saint-Cyran could not come in contact with anyone and not take at least the first steps to get his priestly influence into another heart. Once he got just a slight hold on someone’s heart he used his skills as a surgeon of God’s grace  to operate on it and cut away away all its sinful and cancerous outgrowths. He was a master plumber using skillfully God’s grace to blast evil out of the pipes of poor humans dumbed by their mind’s and their heart’s faulty plumbing to attach themselves only to the sinful practices of a world guided by a false knowledge. My heart opened. God’s love flowed in. I remained nothing but myself as before but I was now attached to a being who made me love it by a love that it created in me and did not come from me. I was myself still but I was now joined to another whose love was so genuine and true that it did not demand that I give up being myself and become its slave.
   Saint-Cyran said I must die to sin. I did. He said I should humiliate myself. I did. He said that Jesus Christ said that sinners will never enter into the kingdom of God unless they become again like little children. I became again in my heart like a little child, like the child from next door who had come up to our porch and said to us with joyous childish love, “My grandmother is wonderful”. He said that if I made a perfect submission of myself to God and asked him to forgive my sins, God would forgive them if my heart was truly repentant and I would experience a perfect resurrection and a totally new life. I did not even need to ask God with words to absolve me from my years of sin because my heart became because of Saint-Cyran’s influence so fully open that God’s divine love poured into it just an instant after the instant when I felt genuinely repentant and admitted to him that I was totally sorry for my sins.
   Because of that experience, I felt born again by God a second time. I still did not
know anything and I did not want to know anything. If my experience that day was a knowable experience, then everyone would know it and it would mean that divine experience is a regular and normal experience in human life. It is not. God wants us to do not what we will but submit totally to him and do only what he wills. God wants his will to be done in our world by us and he helps us do it by pouring his love into our souls but his kingdom itself is not of this world. He will have nothing to do with the many kingdoms we are forever busy constructing for ourselves
in our world. So I do not know what I experienced that day and I am not offering my experience as a knowledge others can count on like the regular knowledge they count on. Neither am I asking anyone because of my experience to become religious and believe in God. It seems to me that scientific knowledge shows neatly and conclusively that our universe extends infinitely into space and that there are planets and perhaps life billions of light years away from our small planet. My experience that day proves only that there is no God unless for some unknown reason in our cold and infinite and heartless universe we find the grace within us to open our hearts to a being who should not exist and can not be known. I claim neither that such a being exists or that I know it exists. I do claim however, as I have
proved describing key experiences in my life, that I was a worthless being. That I know. I was a loveless being. That I also know. The only way that I could have experienced the heavenly love I felt that day in Crewe was by means of some force coming from some source that is non existent and unknowable with the power to create love for itself in a living loveless being.


​The end of "Whacks, Women and  Wanderings in the Soul". If you have completed a reading of the novel, please indicate it to the author at dmcneillstuff@gmail.com

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