A Life of Letters

We Have Ants

Posted in 1982, Loves, Rebecca by southpawcom on January 17, 2010

Dad was dying in Kentucky when Rebecca wrote to me from the brick duplex we had just moved into on Ann Street in East Lansing in July 1981. I was down in Kentucky saying goodbye to Dad, although we didn’t know exactly when he would go. He had a hospital bed set up in the family room and 24-hour nursing care by this point. He would go in and out of consciousness. I don’t remember really any meaningful conversations with him at this point of his illness. I remember of course being overwhelmingly sad and sorry for Mom. She was putting on the brave face. I also remember it was stiflingly hot in the Ohio River Valley.

I don’t remember the girl in the shoe store that Bec mentions not once, but twice. I guess she was a little unnerved about something I had said that I thought I might do while I was down there. I’m sure I was kidding the both of us, as having fun would have been the farthest idea from my mind with Dad dwindling down to nothing.

It’s interesting and a little sad that Bec said nothing about my Dad in her letter. She wasn’t an insensitive person by any means. I think she was maybe a little freaked out or perhaps I didn’t explain the graveness of his condition to her. It’s also likely that I myself was in denial about it, and so maybe I didn’t talk about it realistically or openly with her. She was very young, only 20.

Not too young to work a naughty picture in between the lines though…. 🙂

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Do You Still Want Me to Play, Or Should We Call It a Day?

Posted in 1977, Loves, Nancy by southpawcom on January 12, 2010

Nancy was my girlfriend in the first semester of 11th grade in the fall of 1975. She had a pixieish face framed with a layered blond ’70s hairstyle. Over her blue eyes was a pair of gold aviator frame glasses. She wore a musk perfume.

Nancy played the piano better than I. She also sang in the exclusive girls’ vocal and handbell ensemble at Bloomfield Hills Andover High School, the Jills. I remember, too, that she played in the marching band, and I can remember some crisp evenings in the stands watching her play at half-time that fall and how she looked in her band uniform and hat (pleasing in a fetishist sort of way), but I don’t remember what band instrument she played.

As time went by, she ended up going out with Ted, my best friend. I don’t remember all of the circumstances, but I seem to recall that she broke up with me and soon was seen hand-in-hand in the hallways with Ted. I don’t remember being heartbroken about it, and I sure didn’t resent my pal for that.

In spite of it, though, I wrote a pretty decent song for her, titled simply enough, “Nancy.” I could probably still play most of the ballad on the piano, or at least fake it, and I’m pretty sure I could sing it entirely. I was asked a lot in high school to play the song at parties or when people were gathered around the piano before choir class. The chorus:

What can you be thinking, Nancy

When you throw it all away?

What are you feeling, Nancy?

Do you still want me to play?

Or should we call it a day, girl?

Oh, Nancy. Oh, Nancy.

By the time she wrote me this letter, she was in her freshman year at Michigan State, obviously enjoying all of the fruits of being young, upper-middle class, and unchaperoned. She had fallen back squarely into the realm of “friend” by this point and was eager to share her new experiences with me.

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She Showed Me How to Fly, But I Could Never Fly as High as She

Posted in 1999, Elaine, Loves by southpawcom on January 11, 2010

She loved Dunhills, Bass Ale, Irma Thomas, and Chipper Jones.

She was my Wild Bird. In the spring and summer of 1996, she was my favorite waste of time.

Her name was Elaine, and she came to Marquette, Michigan, by way of Jacksonville, Florida, by way of Kensington, England. She was there for the summer art festival season with her much-older photographer/companion, Edward. I met her at 10 O’Clock Charlies on Third Street in Marquette one besotted night, while I was a-tomcattin’ with my brother, Michael, and trying to reclaim my sanity after my mom died the previous December and my live-in girlfriend, Mandy, dumped me in January. She was 23, with an athletic physique softened with just the slightest baby fat, long dark brown hair, and smoldering hazel eyes. She shared her last name with a famous English seafarer, purportedly a pirate, but when asked about it, she would demur, “Not a pirate — a privateer, luv.”

We had our spring and our summer, and it was at times torrid. We drank, and rambled about, and smoked a lot of dope, but at the end of the summer, I had to let her fly away.

After I finished grad school in January 1999, I reached out to her again. We would spend hours on the phone, getting drunk together and reciting Rilke and Shakespeare to each other, and planning to meet again.

We never did.

PS: Moe was a rose. Elaine placed Moe’s petals in the envelope for me.

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