Maybe I have told myself enough – not just today but since I went back to writing in 1991 after a glorious period that began in 1986 when I had decided to stop writing forever, for words at that time were of no help to me – not like scenes in nature and in painting, sounds in nature and in music – as if even thoughnature might connect with Wordsworth and Keats, as it did with visual artists and musicians, there was no such connection for me that I could put into words without falsifying what I felt with conclusions, premature or otherwise – as if nature were safely fortified against the forces of the tyranny of words.
This freedom from words must have been part of the lightheartedness that kept sweeping through the aqua Mustang that summer – that spirited vehicle in which I was spending so much time, driving and driving and driving though not bothering much with maps, stopping to park and breathe and think in thin, pine-scented mountain air, or lie beside a lake – there were lakes everywhere in the summer of ’86 when I had passed 50 and was finally young, and it was as if it were forever since I been by a lake, certainly never the way it was now wearing the earphones of my new Walkman. A Walkman, which was not an our-kind-of-people’s device. They would edit out Walkmans just as they had edited out Jean-Paul Belmondo. I could think of these careful editings out of experience as something that had affected all in the family, even at times me myself.
And sometimes as I drove I wondered why it had taken me so long to burn bridges – as everything I remembered now I remembered in a different way than I would have before I started speaking before groups about what and how it had all been, the life in that family. The way it has been before what I had taken so long to identify as a depression had lifted, a depression bad enough when assisted by alcohol, and worse without the alcohol – fighting it by trying to set off fireworks, as someone once said of me to my then girlfriend Vannie. Don’t you see he’s always setting off fireworks for you – as if sparkle and substance could never meet and Vannie should run fast. This guy was just out of Yale and thought he knew how far a person should go.
But now since the previous autumn I had been again setting off the rockets and pinwheels and whistling bomb-like things. It was the first time, I realized that, though I had always seen what was wrong with them – the caution, the Anglo envy, the bigotry in the world I was supposed to be in – the first time that I was choosing sides with no way back, crossing enemy lines to hand the enemy my people’s secrets.
This was more complex than my stated, to friends, conclusion years back that there must be bad blood in the family I came from since they were all doing so badly. Not me, since I did not hold jobs, but my brother and father and uncle, who had been fired from jobs by which they defined themselves – and their wives who were sunk in something so deep you did not ask questions. Bad blood.
More recently my mother, though unhappy with her state, had been talking about what, as she put it, separated us from all of them outside the family. What it is, she said, “is that we must have good genes.
I drove through the summer, still based in Vermont but gradually spending more time over the border the land of the White Mountains, which now seemed black with menace, and I felt like a knight riding into battle, a little scared but gleefully ready to take on all foes, natural or supernatural. And time became compressed.
I kept on driving, but in September I was not alone in the car, and this long-haired blue eyed girl/woman with me now in what had become an intense trysting time, she had, by god, one of those mysterious English American supposed upper class accents, and she knew the Wasp world, and her pedigreed mother had set her up for sex with older men when she was still a child, and so she knew these worlds full of fake correct people, and she knew what I was hunting.
We based ourselves at Jason Bacon’s other house, which he called a camp, in a Wasp enclave on Lake Champlain. At first, before it shattered, before betrayal and counter-betrayal – so surprising and so familiar – it was all more like a hopeful kid’s wet dream, she was that good at what we were doing. I stared at her from above and below in wonder as if I had never seen a naked woman before. Maybe not so young as she looked, but young enough to look the way she looked. In bed I could imagine her covered in a 1950s prom gown that was strapless and about to slip down – this dreaming taken place right there in Jason’s camp and played off against her actual nakedness.
And still I was not finished. As the hunt continued and the last part of the year unfolded, in the first snow now, I was back again, this time to rescue my favorite cousin, the one who had been a dancer until they had had to flee New York ahead of the law. My favorite cousin, who was just now back in the mountains, just sprung from a battered women’s shelter in northern Minnesota.