[Moving into April, the tone in our letters loses the occasional light or humorous touch, replaced by increasing expressions of emotional need for an end to our separateness. My letter from early in the month is filled with news, first carpenter ants, then college business, and finally a trip to Connecticut to attend a wedding of no particular interest to me at that time. The telling of all this, I think, was a necessary distraction from what was really on my mind, which was ending this impossible situation while going through the motions of continuance. Both letters in this post are edited for length and focus.]
Sitting here, mind numbing from exhaustion, watching a mindless cops’n’robbers show on TV, perfect addition of 0+0 =brain death, to save myself from which I turn mental radar in your direction, anticipating some days vulnerability to Olf, who comes in many guises, even this pad, which holds pages from the novel I have placed in storage, or the ants I have been combating with pesticides strong enough to fell a bull elephant on which the little bastards seem to batten and thrive…or administrative chatter about faculty parking violations sparked by some conversation about sex on campus, which roused me from my stupor to ask where among the ashes and corpses, and then to proclaim the propriety of English teachers teaching literature, or having my friend, the dean on the eastern campus, tell me I’m not a dean now because I frighten the person I would work for…and I shake my admittedly receding and curly locks and howl, and find solace, that I am not a dean, that I might finish that novel some day…that I can suffer artists marching to their own tune though I try to nudge them in the common direction for our own good, that even ants are part of the natural order, that somebody has to tilt at administrative windmills…and that finally I am writing to you and feeling better immediately.
And so an ashtray full of butts for Olf, and an empty wrapper from some mediocre cheese–he will have to wait for better garbage left over from a better day, beneath a gold web….
Soon to be on the road in this lousy rain riding to Connecticut to be counted among the family witnessing the nuptials of a young man whose name I do not know marry some young woman. Prospects for good company are not quite marginal; possibility of good food and drink somewhat better….
Olf paid an unexpected–well never entirely unexpected, so let us say sudden visit yesterday afternoon, probably arriving to trigger Friday’s memory and turn need, for a while, into distraction….Bridgeport will call him away almost as easily as Secaucus, and then will come the Scotch, and all should be well.
There wasn’t enough Scotch to drain the ennui which followed a three hour ride in a blinding rain over flooded roads to arrive late, mean tempered, hoping fondly that the bride and groom would have drowned in one of the monstrous potholes that had all but swallowed the front end of my car, and then enduring the conversation of people who had recently spent many thousands of dollars refurbishing their homes but not a penny on the interiors of their minds, which were bare and comfortless, the few sticks of furniture cracked and cobwebbed….
Chance of snow tomorrow night, but only inner ice matters, and that thaw is encouraged by a far more constant and growing warmth
[For some reason, this next letter is dated. Also for the first time, Carol names her housemate. His name is also Steve. I label him Steve1 in this letter to avoid confusion, which makes me, Steve 2, the new and improved version Carol, too, is struggling with ending her relationship with Steve 1 and deals with sharing that news with her family]
There’s a mistiness hanging over Manhattan today–easy to see whether from the ground or here on the 10th floor smoking lounge that looks off uptown somewhere. I think I’m tired today–or weary–a temporary lull in some undefined progression. Not the outer, external one, but some inner soul oriented one that rests for a while, drops its head & moves away from the restraining bars back into a corner–reflective, tired, wondering if it’s wrong somehow–I think sometimes that I really have no right to do what I’m doing, no right at all to choose my life as I see fit & necessary. This is a moody letter, isn’t it? I spoke w/ my sister last night & listened to her support which is always ready, always there, but thought afterwards–sensing a touch of irritation at the end, a peevishness–she hadn’t told me what she really thought–she herself, gut level reaction. My mother wanted to know what was going on & sent a letter demanding to know (her intuition works better than any gypsy woman’s); I should’ve just said I was having a gallbladder operation, or a hysterectomy (how fitting), but she wouldn’t have believed it. So I told her, w/out telling her about you–that she wouldn’t have gone for I think…as if I would lose everything by breaking up w/Steve1 Not the case, my well-being depends more on internal things.
Maybe I just feel I can’t explain to them, which might be true, & they’re too dear to me not to try. But the agony of that trying! I don’t think like them–my support system is not that dependent on Steve1–but oh they love him, and oh they’ll miss him & oh he’s part of the family & this & that & NONE of “Well, Carol, how do you feel about this?” Only one person will ask me that question in a family of 12 people–my sister-in-law. For a conservative farmer’s wife that woman has perspective. And my father–who’ll say “Yeah, well he was a nice guy & go on planting next year’s crocuses…if he had to worry about his daughter’s involvements he wouldn’t be planting crocuses, he’d be under them. Well, all this is intuitive speculation learned from dealing for years w/ a family that somewhere down the line learned to lean on itself for support & interbred its emotions by the process into an unwanted, shared neuroticism. Of which I am a part–would never choose not to be (who knows -it’d be easier you know, if I divorced them.) (But I’m too much like them in ways.)
I see breaks in the cloud cover outside & just a touch of light blue. Writing to you does strange & wonderful things.
A poem [ Tide] is included–it may have been written before or after the first time we made love, I can’ t recall; but it has everything to do w/you–it was just discovered in the back of my poetry notebook & at an appropriate time–nightly erotic fantasies have taken hold again as we talk w/out making love.