[Late May, I am moving toward the exit from my marital home. Carol is waiting, not very patiently. This closes the arc of this story,and so it will end this blog.]
Just came back from seeing “On Golden Pond,” filled with thoughts–you playing Katherine Hepburn to my Henry Fonda [reflecting our age difference] Seems like a much better alternative to the retirement home and the search for a revolver. I was moved by the depths of the relationships among all the characters, thought the plot was little too predictable and pat. But back to Henry and Kate, or Carol & Steve several decades hence, they exhibited a closeness and a sympathy, even in their rickety old age, that I think we might be beginning to achieve….
I guess you can see where my head is–right in Sackett St. projecting us into a movie, waiting for the opportunity to see such things together, talk about them, and more importantly, live our own lives.
Domestic scene continues amazingly rational. We had a rather full discussion of possible financial arrangements. She will be talking to a lawyer soon, perhaps tomorrow, wants a resolution. She feels uncomfortable with me in the house, and I agreed that I would like to get out as soon as possible, but that I wanted to be close to an agreement before leaving. Also talked about maintaining the family structure after the separation. She wants me to visit in the house to give the girls more contact with father [a naive suggestion that did not work out]….She mentioned possible reconciliation, and I said it was very unlikely. She doesn’t want to shut door entirely, and etc. Hope all this continues and forms basis for her choosing legal separation. I’m concerned about what might happen once the lawyers get hold of it.
Significantly, she rushed off to a counselor this evening for herself. Said I should pay–always the money business–but I said I couldn’t and wouldn’t. But her action is a major step forward. Previously, she would have turned her anxiety and hostility toward me.
I want to talk to you tomorrow morning. It will be very pleasant to hear your voice first thing the morning and remember what it is like to have you next to me as the day begins.
[Haven’t found a letter from Carol that responds directly to this one, so instead will offer another from me, which leads directly to one of hers at a dramatic moment. The first part of my letter is an extended discussion of going on a field trip to Philadelphia with Tracy’s class. Will skip over that part and pick up where I am recovering from that rather exhausting experience.]
I feel something like a human being again although not a happy one. I just tried calling you a couple of times and didn’t find you home. I’m glad that you’re out, and trust you are enjoying yourself, but I miss you and needed to talk to you. The situation, as we say, sucks.
It is raining again and I was looking through an upstairs window at my now uncovered swimming pool, watching the splash of fresh water ripple the surface of the pool’s algae tinted green, remembering sucking in fetid water off the cover when I started to siphon it off, and thinking I should do something with all this water, fresh, light green, and miasmic (like Poe’s tarn), and also remembering the beginning of a poem yesterday on the bus, a poem about early morning travelers, but I’m not sure I can get my head into those things now.
I experience a constant edge of discontent that makes concentration difficult. It is a temporary thing, I know, but still disturbing. I can chase it away by writing to you, or even working on the novel, but poetry is perhaps too raw for me at this moment.
Well, I’m going to call you tonight. In the meantime, I will look at an apartment–the one on Nesconset Highway–seems a vacancy for the summer is possible.
If I knew where you were right now I’d be there.
[As it turns out, that apartment would not be available until September. Fortunately, a friend put me in touch with a couple who were camp counselors and were looking for a house sitter for the summer. Their house was near the campus where I worked, so I happily agreed. I still had to make my exit from my marital home, and that turned out to be a little complicated because of a timing issue, which had me leaving but staying with a colleague for a few days. Carol’s letter begins as she waits to hear from me on the day I left.]
A new Cabernet-Sauvignen to wet the throat. Muenster cheese, smoked oysters, & Ritz, cigarette less than a hand’s width away, a jazz drum solo on 89.? FM. The body strengthened, toned, sauna-ed & showered–but where are you? I wanted to talk to you so much more today, but the office isn’t private & I didn’t feel like having two other sets of ears tuned in. But I want to talk to you!! I think I’ll just keep my fingers crossed & hope you’re on your way to Mike’s house or here. But all this doesn’t describe the anxiety for you, the fear of your inertia, the need, the want on my part, the overwhelming desire to help, and to sit helpless, waiting for a phone call that may or may not come tonight. I think that if you let the inertia get you, I’ll have a good, hot, rageful crying jag…& let Olf grow younger again. Shit! How can you not do it?…I’ve gained nerve & lost my balance & reason. I think I’ll go & write my philosophy paper. A dose of reasoning & structuring thoughts should bring me back to my senses….Will write later when either the wine cures me or the academics–
[This letter ends abruptly and is not signed. I do not know if it was sent since I don’t seem to have an envelope with the appropriate postmark In any event, I had run into a bit of a problem, which required me to stop first at another friend’s house before winding up at Mike’s . I don’t recall being there more than a couple of days before taking up my summer’s residence at my house sitting gig to which Carol came before she left for her planned travels, which took her to visit Jan and Karl, close friends, whom she had known in Minneapolis, but who were now in Arkansas. Once there, and very predictably, she wrote me a very long letter, which I won’t present except for a couple of meaningful pieces. The rest is full of interesting, but not particularly relevant detail, about the Ozarks and her friends.]
Been sitting this morning–wrote an Arkansas Poem–waiting for the New York City energy to down a little. It’s either wait for the energy to simmer down or wait for something to happen that’s upbeat, but waiting for something to happen is like waiting for eternity and I haven’t got that long….
Day 2 has passed into an Arkansas night–crickets & cicadas singing–a hot heavy, sultry summer’s night settling down.
Today I’ve had a strong case of SL deprivation. I survived to catch a 6 in. rainbow trout that nobody would eat because it tasted too fishy. But the river is southern & beautiful–slow, winding, a low dense jungle on its banks….
I miss you & wish you were here to see this and share it. I think you’d like Jan & Karl–they have a sense of humor like we do,,,,
Evening of Day 3
[Resuming after several pages about the Ozarks}
All’s quiet on the Arkansas front & returning to this letter is giving me a case of deprivation that mellow mandolin music [played by Karl] can’t cure. If I recall, there’s only one cure anyway–& it doesn’t take remembering to know that.
Strawberry-peach daiquiris & blue-ribbon trout cooking…
.. .More for the moment
[After describing the visit of a little girl to the campsite, the letter continues}
The light’s making it hard to write, so I’ll wait ’til tomorrow & then try to send this out–You may get it in about 2 months from this sleepy little place.
Well, it’s getting late & I still keep coming back to this letter to you. I just wanted to tell you that I feel good here, I feel good about you & good about us. And that’s the thought that I need to go…and end this letter for the night.
[In this section, Carol describes that a motivation for her to take this trip was to talk to Jan, who had also ended a long relationship as she got together with Karl, a parallel Carol saw in her own situation with me. I’ll skip over Jan’s story about finding long sought happiness with Karl, and pick up with Carol’s response to hearing it.]
And so I’m pleased & encouraged for my own personal reasons. There’s more here, of course, that’s not anywhere near similar to me, or you and me, of course that has to be true w/anyone else, & I need to be careful not to interpret things for my own benefit simply because I want affirmation, for us. As is always true, external affirmation has its limits. I know that at the base line you & I are strong & sound, even as we grope through some of this. If I know that the inside is sound, although the outside is sometimes confusing, then I can handle the next step in this walk through the jungle of personal history. Traverse City is just around the corner [her annual visit home]….
I’ll write again. Take care of yourself.
The few letters I’ve not yet transcribed were sent after I was in my apartment and we were seeing each other regularly, either by my visiting in Brooklyn, or her spending the weekend with me in my apartment when the kids were not staying with me. This, then, is a good place to close down this blog. But in doing so, I’ll offer one last remnant of Carol’s restless pen, with which she continued to clarify and record her thoughts until dementia took that ability away from her. I found this last in a slim journal from January, 1986, after we had been living together in a rented house for three years. In that journal, fittingly titled for her “a woman’s notebook,” here is what she wrote:
We have agreed to get married!!
Steve, it is right. I hope I never disappoint you.
She most assuredly never did.