A graceful cantilever bridge curving upwards from a familiar shore where there are billowing trees – spanning years of longing and places of pleasure and places of battle – then curving downwards to a far shore full of billowing trees, similar but different from what the shore I departed had been.
I was on this far shore now and I did not think anything reminded me of what had been down bellow the graceful bridge. I was on this far shore and the intense green of the early Vermont summer did not – as would happen in novels – take me out of the present and into something remembered, as in electric green rice fields and a water buffalo (a child or a bird likely to be riding on the stolid animal’s back). And neither the slabs of rock on mountain sides nor the sight and smell of clear river water running over smooth stones, neither took me back into Taiwan’s marble Toroko gorge.
A surprisingly friendly very young and eager girl working at a Burger King on Rutland’s strip smiled at me and seemed to have questions and it was almost like I were on the original shore, a child, and falling in love, or maybe something worse and I had to hold myself back from thinking this was what it might seem. And no more than I was led back to water buffalo and the Toroko Gorge did the present lead me to smooth smiling Bangkok bar girls in their strapless gold lamé gowns. Not that I had forgotten. But the life below this graceful bridge had no more connection to the present that did the very different life of the stuffy family I came from.
And yet what was down below would not completely go away. For instance, the English girl.
In Greece two English girls had moved to the a small white-washed house that was cattycorner to our small whitewashed house on one of the paths in Anafiotika that wound up on the city side of the Acropolis – two English girls, one of them, Patti, so smooth and flowing and lazy. They had had no curtains and I was able come up with what I thought were a few good consciously world weary lines, talking the way I though then Evelyn Waugh would talk about English girls fucking practically on my doorstep.
I came upon Patti again, two and a half years later that felt like ten years later. She was at an adjoining table at the Cedar Bar, which was still in full swing in 1964. She was dressed in what looked like filmy drapery. Very much in the swim of things in this place, whereas she had stood out in Athens. She was soft and tall as I remembered her – and all extensions – long, dark arms, long legs seen in shorts slit up the thigh in Anafiotika, and now in the Cedar she stretched and the drapery nearly fell away. She pulled back long straight black hair, bunched it up, her arms raised, soft armpits and shiny, tanned flesh all around, flesh flowing with her lazy movements, breasts partially on view through her garment’s large arm openings.
The next night we met by arrangement. We had hamburgers at the Cedar Bar. A date. I wasn’t the only one who had noticed her. Her last date had been with Mike Nichols, she said, and she did not seem to think that was anything unusual.
We went to look at a huge old loft she shared with what seemed to be a dozen beautiful people. While we were drinking and chatting she suddenly asked, “Why did you want to see me?” And what I had hoped would happen never did.
A possible answer to her question, the chance now to fuck, seemed too easy and obvious and certainly not up to Evelyn Waugh standards. But in fact I had no actual answer – for it was as if she has asked, “Who are you?”