Friday, March 18, 2005

Chapter 1


Day 1: A Spring day, any day, 1975

Temptation has been my undoing. Its fulfillment has been my downfall. And so I am left in its aftermath, too conscious of time’s passage. Painfully, so very excruciatingly aware of each day, each moment, I wish they would all pass more quickly and with them the pain. Time ticks away within my body like a pounding clock, I feel each second racing down the nerves of my legs, knotting my stomach, piercing my head which reverberates in stereo from lack of sleep. Who can remember the last time I slept through the night? Ah, Child, you feel compelled to run somewhere, but you don't know where, to do something, but you don’t know what to do. Or rather, you know where to go, but do not know how. It’s true, I want to run— fast and far— to scream and shout, loudly and unrestrained— to cry with violent shrieks and sobbings until my body is totally shaken into weakness, in a state where it can no longer want anything! To lie in quiet and peace, feeling no urgency, only stillness and weariness falling over me!

And where was it that I did go? Why to Graduation. Drab, soul-less Yale, the scene of my crime burst into activity today as he and the rest of the senior class desert the smother-love of Mother Yale for their new lives outside those clichéd ivy-covered walls. I couldn’t stay away, instead of riding out the storm from the safety of my desk at work, I called in sick— since sick is how I feel— then lost the will to stay home where I’m writing from tonight. The “bright college years” are ending for him, while I stay behind, a Cinderella with no glass slipper in sight, time stretching out before me like a wide lake, the memories of what came before hanging around my neck like a stone.

The crowd I’m sure measured 15,000, the yard of Old Campus swapping its Frisbees and sunbathers for a sea of folding chairs as Yale President Kingman Brewster and the other grandees pranced about in their ridiculous robes and funny caps, each residential college marching in while parents cheered. The bells of Harkness Tower pealed constantly, while silver flasks and joints in a profusion were passed around. One woman in the Saybrook contingent hiked up the hem of her graduation gown to flash a glimpse of stockings, garter belt and no panties. I’ll have to remember that when it’s my turn up there.

What possibly could have brought me there? Did I really think I’d see him? And then suddenly there he was, marching in with the rest of his classmates. Would it look especially tacky if I sat on his lap? Do I care? What about a good-bye kiss? This is, after all, probably the last time we’ll ever see one another. I could lift up my dress and make love to him right here on what’s left of the grass, I’m not wearing panties. That would be a Yale graduation they’d talk about for years.

“Cassie!” he waves with a smile. It looks a bit forced to me, tight around the mouth, as though he’s seen someone he’d rather avoid. Ah, Child, who would not be gracious today? He steps out of the group, motioning me toward a German-looking couple on the edge of the spectators. His parents, of course, the mother dressed in a sober, eminently sensible two-piece suit made of green wool, expensive and well-tailored, yet hopelessly old-fashioned. She’s handsome, I can see where he gets his good looks, she’s commanding the way she carries herself, she’ll be a formidable mother-in-law (not mine, thank God). The father’s nationality isn’t as obvious, he’s dressed in a snappy blazer and slacks, an outfit that doesn’t scream out “Deutschland über alles” like the wife’s.

“Cassie, I’d like you to meet my parents.” He says something in German to them I don’t quite catch in all the noise and tumult.

What’s the proper German thing for me to do? Curtsey? Or offer my hand? Is it Teutonic reserve or frostiness I detect from his mom when she doesn’t smile? What has he told her about me? She can see I’m not one of her son’s classmates— no cap and gown, a bit long in the tooth for a senior’s girlfriend, no slouch in the looks department, yet no obvious cultural refinements? Education? Mostly self-taught. A mere secretary? No “catch” for the male heir. Can she guess the truth? What should I say, it’s such a drag being Eyeore in the midst of all this happiness— no, not Eyeore, I’m Pooh’s little black rain cloud, drifting aimlessly across an otherwise perfect “Yale blue” sky. Having been an honorary Yalie these four years, I know God won’t allow it to rain on His alma mater’s graduation ceremonies. How much more awkward can it be as the two of them look me up and down?

“Who is this woman?” she must be asking herself. “Does she have no pride showing up after things are definitely over?”

Before I have a chance to stick my foot in my mouth or even say a single word, S. has stepped back into the flowing river of seniors heading for their chairs. Heraclitus was right, you can’t step into the same river of graduating Yalies twice. All the voices around me are drowned out by the damned Harkness bells, but I don’t want to hear anyone but him. His parents nod without saying anything more, then dissolve into the mass of spectators, too. It’s all so much like the one time I took acid, P. and I were still living in California then. The trees are breathing as audibly as the people, and all of us are bathed in a light breeze swirling about, with rustling of new leaves, graduation programs and clothes as everyone takes their seats like sighs of pleasure, or murmurs of scandalous disapproval directed my way, the foliage and their faces white and glowing like a photo taken with infrared film.

Kingman has called the commencement for the class of 1975 to order, and suddenly I feel more out of place than at any time in my life. Sadly, no hole obligingly opens up to swallow my utterly shameless form, this isn’t a dream where I can awaken somewhere else, I couldn’t feel more awkward if I was standing here naked. I have no choice but to slink out the Durfee gate. I start running, I know I’m running because I can feel the hem of my dress lifting away from my legs with air flowing over my thighs. I know so well I don’t belong here, don’t belong to Yale, any more than a servant belongs to the family she attends. I want to get as far away from the prying eyes of his parents and friends and classmates and all the thousands of strangers who must be wondering “who is that woman?”

Tears are burning my eyes, I hear a car honk and the driver curse me, “what the fuck, lady, you wanna get run over?” I don’t know where I am, until suddenly I can recognize the red sandstone façade of the gate of the Grove Street Cemetery, its familiar shape breaking through my desperation. Why did I come here?

I walk inside feeling compelled to revisit another scene of my crimes. This is insane, get yourself together, Child, P. will get home before you. What will he think if you show up in this state, disheveled, eyes red with crying. But I pay no attention to myself, no more than I did when paying attention might’ve saved me from all this.

I stand before some of the headstones with their grim, expressionless faces. They don’t need voices to condemn me. I turn to leave, but something stops me and I look around. Is there something on the wind? Am I recalling sounds or actually hearing them? Did someone whisper or call out my name? Calling me to do what? I can hear her, it’s a woman’s voice, husky with ecstasy, sounding like my own, the realization robbing me of all self-control and resolve.

I lean against a mausoleum wall, sliding down its rough exterior, uncaring of the abrasions it will leave on my back even through my dress. My skirt sticks to the wall as I sink onto my ass, bunching up around my waist, my legs spread apart like the careless little girl I was 20 years ago. I can feel the ground on my cheeks, the grass is poking me, but my hand is already between my legs, I close my eyes and I hear only my own voice moaning the same words and shapeless sounds that pour from my mouth when I’m climaxing. It’s wrong, it’s depraved, it’s the only thing that will drive off my demons for a little while.

Fortunately P. is not home when I get back to the apartment on Clark Street where I’m writing tonight. I crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, the last time I slept in the afternoon I was 12. It’s my first sleep in two days, broken with scenes from a movie now almost forgotten—

We rocked back and forth to a rhythm I set, I felt like the conductor of this orchestra now, he would play to my tempo. It was liquid oxygen poured onto the smoldering flame of my orgasm. Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me. I knew it better than I knew my name, I willed it with every thought, every mental trick I could think of, sending him telepathic “fuck-me-grams,” I was a snake charmer playing a mental melody trying to get that beautiful white snake between his legs to rise up and strike me with its delicious, deadly sting.

Finally I hear P.’s key in the door. Was the whole thing a dream?

“He’s gone!” I think I hear myself think I scream, I can’t be sure. It felt as if I did, but like the tree falling in the forest or the sound of one hand clapping, I can’t know. I can only hope P. didn’t hear me.

“Cassie, are you all right?” P.’S holding me in his arms. Oh, God, it’s the first time in how long since he’s held me or asked about me in the usual tender way he once did? Has it been two weeks? Or two years already? So much has changed, and so quickly.

“I’m OK,” I lie.

I’m sweating like I’ve got a fever of 104, and I feel dehydrated. Shit, I can feel another urinary tract infection coming on. But who’s had the presence of mind to think about drinking? I look around the bedroom and see it’s getting dark outside— how long have I been asleep? P. offers to go get pizza from The Spot, our favorite, and I’m glad to have the time alone to get my head back on straight. Can’t be moping around this way, it invites questions— and with questions, the risk of revelations. That’s when I see this journal on the dresser where it’s been since my birthday last November, I pick it up and the pen on my nightstand. This is my chance to pour all inside me onto these pages. I will master this! I must.

Where should I begin?