Thursday, August 5, 2010
I've gotten unstuck in Time. Just like Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's old friend. It happened easy enough. A dear friend mentioned a book by Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"; it's a semi-fictional account of his time in Vietnam. I like O'Brien, a good writer. So I check out the library listings and he has a book from a few years ago, "July July" that I hadn't read. So I picked it up.
In a nutshell, in the book, it is class reunion time, Class of '69, in Northern Minnesota. The reunion is taking place in 2000. And suddenly I got a little unraveled.
I have my HS class reunion coming up, HS class of 70, Western Wisconsin I am not going. I have a college-boy reunion coming up the following weekend at a lake near Keshna and the weekend after that, a niece's wedding over by the Mississippi River. I can't do three weekend road trips in a row, but reading the book, thinking of missing my HS reunion..... brought back a bunch of memories. Some I had not thought of in a long time.
I remember kissing Nancy on my 17th birthday. It was the sweetest thing that ever happened to me. I can still taste the wonder of her in my heart. The summer of 1970. The movies we went to-the books we talked about- the smooth smell of Coppertone on her sleek brown legs-the way her smile looked in moonlight-the beach at the lake where we would swim and while away days. The little banter. I remember feeling, " This is what I want. The life I want." I have no idea where she is now. I loved her more than anything. It was all too soon , and that made everything else all too late.
I took my draft physical a couple of years later. Milwaukee was never as cold as it was that day. I was never as alone as then.. The war was still a good shoot-'em-up deal, my lottery number was 33, and I knew I would never come back went to Nam. I would have been that kind of soldier. I remember thinking.... would I be going back to college to take final exams? Marrying my girlfriend who was two months 'late'? Going into the Army? I took the exams, she had her period, finally, and I flunked the draft physical. But that was a cold cold night at the bus station trying to get home and I realized that, in a sense, I would never really have a home to go back to. I didn't think about it much as the years went by, but the whole experience changed me greatly. Ob-la-dee Ob-la-dah.
There were other girlfriends... several in the next few years. Suzanne, Suzi, Sue, Kate, Kat.... Maureen. I would like to talk with Maureen sometime. She didn't fit into a typical mold. For one thing, no name with a K or S.
I remember turning into a radical, stop-the-war student. Protests and rallies. Tequila and Mescaline. I was a cab driver at nights. And I met Kathy. Loved names with a K. She had a thing then for long haired hippie peace-niks who drove taxis. We would see each other periodically over the next 30 years. It became an on-again-off-again thing. I last ran into her at a wine-tasting a couple of years past. It was most certainly an off year. We said hello. We said good-bye. I know precisely where she is today. That's life.
I got married, had children, had a divorce . The marriage was OK, the kids are great, the divorce worked well. But nothing has ever eclipsed the summer of 1970. I don't dwell on it. I would like to talk with Nancy again..... mostly to just hear that she is good. That her life has been good. It won't happen. I don't dwell on it. One book leads to another. All things are linked, one book leads to another whether we like it or not.
The other day I was slicing onions and peppers to throw into a crock pot with beans and ham hocks. Stupid clumsy me. The knife slipped, did a 360 in the air, bounced off the counter, dropped to the floor and impaled itself in my big toe. Freaky. It wasn't serious. It bled a little. But I looked down at the damn thing sticking straight up out of my toe and I had to laugh. Hey,,,,,,,, it looked really funny, whether I liked it or not.
Life is like that, sometimes,and sometimes the recipes are uncertain. I don't dwell on it. One thing leads to another. Books, beaches, The letter K, the letter S......... the beans were delicious.