Starting with this post, the upcoming letters deal with the movement toward my leaving my marital home. They are thus intense
I have found that sequencing letters in February of 1982 is difficult because postmarks on envelopes during that period are unclear, often unreadable for the date of the month, although I can make out the latter. So while I can be certain that a particular letter was sent in February, I have to use context to get a sense of the back and forth of our correspondence. My solution is to look for narrative threads and present them without regard to precise dating. With that in mind, the following is my response to the ending of Carol’s letter in the last post, with its reference to a “beast,” she thinks lurks beneath my surface.
Certain things are clear, at least at first thought, but others are not, and these threaten to draw shadows over what had been plain and uncomplicated.
The shadows first, where lives the beast who rattles his chains and paces restlessly toward the bars, but rarely tests them ,meditating instead about the identify of his keeper, scratching shapes of likely candidates with razor sharp lines on the stone floor of his cage, unable to dismiss the possibility that he who dangles the keys to the cage door is the same as he who prowls inside, but this too could be false and maybe there is no cage but of the beast’s imagining, nurtured by him into the idea of imprisonment, an idea that is, on some level, as tangible as iron bars.
Whatever the nature of the cage, the beast live within, for he has thrown himself into Olf’s embrace, has invited him into the cage to break dry bread with him, to watch him turn sweet wine to vinegar.
What is clear is that the beast for some time has yearned to exercise his sinews, and that for too long he had subsisted on an insubstantial diet, which he mostly rejected, but the hunger remained in his belly, a hard knot of need that sustained him even in his hunger.
In shadows or light, the beast draws breath, and he does not seek idle conversation or empty pleasurings. He hopes he has found someone to trust, someone to/with he can express himself. Deception not his nature, his changes nothing but the range and moment of his presence. I’ve been studying this beast for many years and know his habits and his traits. He is sometimes shy to show himself, but he needs to, and he will emerge, wants to, and must, the course the same as yours–feeling and meaning–for without these there is no beast, no keeper, and the cage holds nothing but its own sterile air.
At this time in my professional life, I was involved in the SUNY Council on Writing, a newly formed organization aimed at improving the teaching of writing across the State University system. What I find in letters from that time is a plan for Carol to join me for a jaunt upstate for a committee meeting I was to attend. The meeting would be for a couple of hours but my absence from home could reasonably extend for a couple of days. The opening paragraph of this next letter refers to the possibility of that trip together. The end of the paragraph alludes to a visit to a counselor [the witch doctor] undertaken at the urging of my wife, hoping that intervention would refocus my attention homeward.
At my desk with 2nd cup of coffee, having just dropped off my car to be shod with two new tires, flushed and filled with new oil, and generally made ready for a ride up to Binghamton. Tonight I go to the witch doctor, perhaps to be flushed and refurbished as well…..
I’m about to go off to a meeting, to be followed at 3:30 by another, both of which will, I think, concern budget problems, and therefore will be attended by great moaning and gnashing of academic teeth, a very special kind of gnashing that is more like a constipated whine.
Played tennis last night but think that my strokes were much better last week–might have something to do with my partner, or the court….
I’m planning on using my car, just to round off a thought, next week because one person already called seeking a ride in the college car I have reserved I said I had business in the city I’ll tell the next person that my business is a doctor’s appointment to determine if the medication has cured my bubonic plague. Can’t leave anything to chance….
I’ve just picked up my car on the way back from lunch. It is ready, and so am I, very ready.
Have managed to obtain sanctuary of spare room after having been kicked out of bed at 4am last night accused of heavy and disruptive breathing. I was probably dreaming of you.
[That incident was probably the continuation of dinner time discussion concerning what the marriage counselor and I had talked about that afternoon. What follows is my summary of that meeting.]
Counselor seems pretty good, and I left in up mood. At this stage, he didn’t offer much reaction, a few pointed and precise questions and observations He agrees the situation is grim and will be difficult to sustain. I talked about you, some, and said that you are the woman I would have picked, if I had any sense at 22. Described my marriage in reasonably objective, but depressing detail. Did not talk about some important things, like kids. Next appt. is Monday afternoon. I asked if he thought that were too soon under the circumstances thinking that perhaps a time for internalization might be recommended, but he said no, under these conditions, not too soon at all.
I expect to talk to you tomorrow and so will stop now.
Toward the end of a long letter about reading Plato’s Republic, Carol turns her thoughts to joining me on my trip.
I’ve been thinking about your committee meeting. Unless you’ve already set it up, I can’t seem to justify missing two days of school and work, and think that the better plan would be the second one you suggested of coming here to the apartment. The margin for the apartment being “encumbered” [as with housemate] is great the second week of March, but very slim the first and third weeks. So slim, I think, that something monumentally irregular would have to occur for me to even begin to worry about it. But you decide; as I said before, I think the time and need has come for a long night together.
[I have found this undated poem by Carol which seems to fit this situation. Her letter continues below]
Somewhere I can feel little electrical impulses playing with my enjoyment switch about to switch to “off.” That’s a good indication that one of two are about to be turned on. One is marked “cigarettes” which begins to flash intermittently if I haven’t gone to the corner store yet, bought smokes yet and had my daily mis-discourse with Italian machoness yet; and the other is marked “Plato,” (another case of missed discourse). Enjoyment is best, and now I’ve written you a letter, and the other two are outstandingly demanding this morning so I’d best be off to hit the switches myself or the impulses will have a day of it. Take care–
[I remember attending that committee meeting, and I recall a trip upstate with Carol before we were living together, but I do not now know if these memories are for the same event.]
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