[It is early May. We are both back in our increasingly untenable situations, each being dealt with in different ways as best we could at the time.]
An unanticipated opportunity to write to you. Party preparation preoccupation deflected the cutting edge of tension and led to early bedtime, thus giving me these moments.
Suffered an almost instant attack of CD after leaving you, and it is spreading into my marrow, even as I write. “Parting,” quoth the bard, “is such sweet sorrow.” Bullshit say I, the only poet–alive or dead–in Ft. Salonga, bullshit. Sweet yes, I suppose, those last moments, the last hug, but sorrow doesn’t really catch it, and sweet in memory mixed with the present need adds up to something far more intense than Willie’s slick phrase.
As a distraction from which I turn to the front page of the Times and skim headlines that document continuing lunacy: Ronnie getting stubborn and demanding more spending cuts, economic analysts fearing for the continued decline of the feeble patient, England and Argentina sparring with each other over a pile of rocks, getting serious enough to actually escalate to an armed confrontation. Two pictures on the front page–an Argentinian soldier, looking grim and three elephants at the Bronx Zoo looking very much at ease. The elephants, two females and a baby, have my respect–they seem to be enjoying the weather, to have a proper perspective on things. The soldier, on the other hand, with arms clasped over his weapon, and eyes set, appears unnatural and arrogantly ridiculous.
I’ll go to bed, now, and sweeten my slide into sleep by conjuring images of a park bench on a sunny afternoon….
The weekend was miserable–misery in all its colors and moods–sullen, hostile, desperate, stupid etc.
I went into a spasm of rage at our swimming pool today. I was beginning the yearly torture of opening it up, draining the murky shit off the cover, hooking up the filter, and I was tense because the day had been bad, and in fact I started working on the pool to do something useful, something that would let me get out some energy in a positive way. So, of course, everything went wrong–I dropped a connecting piece into the water where I couldn’t get it without taking the damn cover off, and it still has four inches of water crawling with all forms of obnoxious life to be disposed of first. I wanted a stick of dynamite then to blow the whole thing away. I settled down finally, and managed to make some progress, but the rage was very real and the pool was only a cause, a moment’s opportunity.
Saturday night we played the charade of the happy couple, after an afternoon during which we discussed lawyers again. Today, we all went to May Arts [an annual festival at Suffolk College, one I was largely responsible for developing] sullenly, with no enthusiasm or interest, and left after an uncomfortable hour. Then came the pool episode, followed by a couple of hours of quiet, but finally teary conversation. I am drained again. She’s mostly convinced of the inevitability of things, but will not accept and dissolves during moments of realization into a pitiful vulnerability. I told her I didn’t love her anymore, and she beats her breast in agony of self-accusal and hatred. Justifies her life and her concerns, talks of her mother’s death [a few years before] and on and on. I do not want to be moved, but I am not stone. I know these are not, any of them, reasons to stay married, and I will not accept them as such.
I move the situation ahead–counseling is still the only available lever to pull, and I will yank it this week. Coming back was, perhaps, a mistake, but maybe not. The game will have to be played out, and I will feel much better once I draw the next card–forgive the poor metaphor.
Forgive me also this letter. It’s been a literal hell of a weekend, one made all the more intolerable for the day which began it.
Remember my stubbornness–I bend but do not break, and you are the core of my will now.
I have been waiting all day to write to you, and thus the frantic energy of the above [including a cigarette smudge]. I am calmer now. You do that for me. I think I will sleep pleasantly tonight, even with the welcome pain of CD.
I was going to mail this this morning but didn’t have a stamp.
At my desk now, and I’ve just read your”abuse” letter and smiled broadly at the sketch.
I’m feeling good because of the letter–strange as that might sound, but it confirms some of my own thoughts, and too, because this morning early brought a potent, difficult, symbolic act of rejection from me. The woman who didn’t want to be disturbed at 5am by my writing, woke me up at about that time to make love. I remember half screaming “Shit, no”…and then having unlidded the venom, watched it spill harmlessly because the venom was the cause of it all. And then even a little almost rational conversation as the why’s and wherefore’s. And I begin to see an end to this mess, an end which will still be an agony, but an end nonetheless….
In all of this, you are, as I said, the catalyst, the good agent causing to happen a little sooner that which had to be.
[Carol’s turn, in a letter that crossed in the mail with mine above since both reference the May Arts Festival, which I unhappily attended and she almost did. Picking up on my formulation of CD for Carol Deprivation, she begins with SLD, the L necessary to distinguish me from housemate. This letter, even by Carol’s generous standards is voluminous, eight full sides of her neat hand, to be precise, but also so good that I will only lightly edit it for length . Her exploration of her own feelings are so rich and honest they deserves to be read. My solution is to present what I can in this post and continue it in the next toward its end that offers a a wonderfully apt, puckish question, that somehow makes sense.]
SLD mounts, winds through the veins, seeps into the muscle, heading toward the core. It arrives. Frustration deepens like a black cloud & produces FOG (frustration or gratification syndrome–a difficult thing demanding immediate gratification or eternal frustration.
I leave you w/a smile on my face making me walk funny down the street–halfway through FOG w/a kiss (–if you don’t understand, but I’m sure you must, I’ll tell you). Give myself til Sackett St. to enjoy, then re-arrange thoughts & face for an appropriate appearance at the ap’t. door. Silence. Still life of an ap’t. not on canvas simmering w/discontent. A seemingly distinct advantage that’s no advantage. Throw myself in a chair in a morbid stupor & proceed to feel worse for the transition time it offers.
Thoughts make the transition from you to Housemate. It is not a pretty transformation, scowl-producing at its best. Lights out. TV on to numb. This must be worse than death. Strange poetry wanders through, descriptive of life here:
In the aftermath, the residue
retains its position on the bottom
of the bottle of musky colored wine–
minuscule stones & pieces of grit
like those crunched between teeth
from uncleaned shellfish.
They grate against the glass like gravel
and shift, lingeringly through the wine
by a finger tapping slowly, rhythmically,
relentlessly against the outer glass walls.
Inside, wine turns to vinegar & time passes.
Housemate comes, wants to talk. We’ll talk. Olf sits heavily on my head & shoulders. I respond lethargically. He is quietly persistent (both Housemate & Olf): “What are your expectations of me?” (I want him to go away). “Do you respect me?” (an unfortunate occurrence), and on–until I’ve had enough, until I can’t tolerate the tomorrows & how-can-we-make-it work’s & how-do-you-feel-about-me’s, until I can’t tolerate Olf, the SLD, the frustration building like more & more gunpowder being packed into a cannon, which already has its fuse lit & the final question comes, a loaded one: “Why did you have an affair?” (question disguised for how can we make this relationship work”). It starts quietly–a quiet rap of light machine gun fire in an open field–I needed this. I needed that, I still do, it’s not here…but the cannon’s fuse reached its mark & the frustration of SLD, the frustration of too much tolerance, the frustration of final, total discontent explodes in a scream that echoes through the open windows: where were you when I needed you?! Ominous silence pervades; I think that even the clock on the tower miles away in Prospect Park must have stopped for a moment. He will cry; I will forgive him for a few things, but not, it’s futile. The thread is picked up again, we will discuss this. This is good information, it will help us. No.
3 weeks will pass very slowly–very slowly[I think a reference to housemate going upstate to join his family]
Re-reading this I wonder what you must think as I ease into talking more openly of my situation here–not an easy thing since I’m hesitant to confront it straight & directly all the time & my comprehension often follows the willingness to evade some feelings, particularly guilt-producing one. It seems easy on one hand because the moment right after I confront a feeling–like, for example, I really don’t want to be here at all w /Steve–the guilt gives way–is forced to. I’m not sure it makes it less–just shoves it aside. Maybe it does make it less. The more he knows, the better he feels & the worse he feels, I feel mostly better. Wondering what you think–I’m never quite sure what impressions come across to you–, curiosity for the most part, some possibly reasonably worry for the other part.
Letter moves on at this point to a long recapitulation of a conversation she had with a woman friend, who was also a grad student of housemate Steve. Will pick it up in the next post.