A CHAPTER FROM A NEW MEMOIR IN THE MAKING

 

 

AN  ABUNDANCE OF AWARENESS

When I consider the amount of time I have lived and the abundance of memories I have accrued, I think of all that history that will vanish when I disappear. Which is the greater loss, the absence of me or the absence of all I have experienced? I vote against me. I choose for  office the history I have made.

I cannot capture Woodstock in words. ( I cannot describe in words the last strong feeling I had.) I can only glimpse the times in Woodstock indirectly, through a glass darkly. Whatever awareness I had of it then or now has long since gone because it was once lived and is no more. What is left are the distortions of memory, remembrance and reminiscence, all wrapped into the enigma of time. And all these conjectured states are lies.

I cannot capture the past. Never will. Presumptuous. All I can give is a written expression (a lie) which disfigures the very feeling I want to give voice to.

So, I suppose I must go ahead and write not the truth of things, for that is also a lie, but I can set out to write the untruth, the lie, as best as truthfully I can, for this will be less of an unrelenting need to be truthful. I suppose once again that the lie of an event lived or recalled much later on in life has a measure of some truth to it. I cannot get to the truth if all my experiences in Woodstock can only give me an approximation of it at age 74.

And so there was Mary. As I dwell in memory I cannot remember how I came across her or when personal connections led to our acquaintance. All that is lost to me. I do remember her uncle, Edgar Pangborn, a writer of some note, who was a short and slight man, recently felled by a heart attack and recuperating, thin, a man of few words. He would die in the mid 70s. He had written a short story which I later discovered was much anthologized and viewed as a fantasy classic of its kind. I met Pangborn for a short time while at his home – perhaps Mary had first met me and then introduced us. While at his home I met his sister who I also think was called Mary and I learned she was a scientist. What I gathered by talking with young Mary was that Edgar and Mary’s mother was schizophrenic and apparently neither Pangborn married lest that their progeny be genetically inflicted with this malady. And here is an instance of a lie well told when truth is unobtainable or if available, a kind of lie. It was a family tale out of Hawthorne.

At the very few times I saw Edgar there was a quiet, observant woman in her forties who sat in the living room and was originally introduced as his friend and a librarian in the local Woodstock branch. At some intuitive level I felt she was more than his friend or better yet, wish she could be an intimate of his. What is essential to my observation, or my projection, was a kind of poignancy I experienced, as if she was a lady in waiting for him, he who had a recent heart attack and was damaged if not disabled. I introduce her because in some way she is as indelible as Edgar himself. And why is that?

Somehow and in some way I began to observe Mary who was 18. She had a cute face and bushy hair as if a Sixty’s version of Shirley Temple who she probably did not know of. I did not care for her hair, although her face was reasonable attractive. At the early times I met her she “dressed” in those unattractive sun dresses of the time, a rip off of the Empire style, or in jeans that were not flattering as if she did not consider her body worth of attention or, more to the point, hair and clothing were not essential to any relationship at that time and period. Mary had a boyfriend, Steve, who I later met and they were a couple and he generally carried a guitar with him as some appurtenance of who he was. I once took him back to the city and I recall his gently complaining that things between Mary and he were coming apart.  And at that time I did not know, I did not sense that Mary’s affections – or interest were waning for Steve and now focusing on me. I was 28, she 18, and perhaps she saw something in me, obviously, that Steve could not offer her. Of course, I never did learn what she “saw” in me.

I do remember one time with Steve and Mary which probably was the high mark of their relationship. I went with them and another couple to a forest waterfall and before I knew it they stripped down and hand in hand succumbed to the weary cataract above. Mary was what we call now a BBW, her breasts large and she was wide in the beam, a Rubenesque torso something altogether voluptuous and pleasing to my eye. Her exposed mons pubis, her delta of Venus, was how should I say? a mound of hair, now softened by rivulets of rushing water. She was not pornographic to my eye. I felt prurience, the kind one feels as a man by a nude in an oil by one of the masters.

Mary is 64 now, if she lives. She still, in my mind’s eye, looks grotto gorgeous beneath that waterfall, and if I could I’d redirect her in memory to do one more rehearsal, for a final staged reminiscence. I must have for too long stared or gazed at her totality, that wonderful body, and by doing so I had the sense she felt embarrassed, but for a moment, as I was still a stranger to her. On the other hand, it is a lie, I suppose, that she wished to favor me with her apple. Who knows now? Then?

So waves of a new relationship were struck, neither Mary nor I speaking to one another.

As I look back after 46 years the web of feelings, the infinite linked connections of the fragile cat’s cradle that bring people together are omissions in mind as I cannot recall my first romantic feint of connecting to Mary, nor can I recall how I learned of Steve and Mary breaking up and after that there is a significant memory blur, of no recall. I can only share now the lie of it all, for the truth of it is irrelevant as I think of it. I cannot rediscover or excavate the archaeological truth of it all. Perhaps I can approximate the felt truth of it, knowing full well that is something of a lie as well. I choose not to fabricate dialogue between Mary and I, for that is a construction made up of shoddy and inferior materials, not credulous in any case nor critical or tangential to the telling of this failed adventure.

Somewhere near Pangborn’s house, somewhere in a back pasture Mary and I walked alone, confident that we were safely unobserved.  We dropped to the ground and she unbuttoned her blouse to reveal her redolent breasts and lowered her pants as well, altogether passive and welcoming in action. Mary was await for me. As if her breaking up with Steve, her roiling, subliminal assumptions about me, never tested, and her “reading” of my behaviors so far, she apparently craved my penetrating her. I had no condom with me and I had the dread that if I exploded within her she might get pregnant. Given my marital and extramarital situation I could not do this. I controlled myself, although I did stroke her and was taken by her lusty body.

Mary may or may not have given me the contemporary “line” that I need not fear, that she could handle any act of “fate” that occurred. I cannot remember. I was very much a creature of the Fifties in 1968 and in some way we both “cooled” down and walked back to Pangborn’s home in silence. When Edgar saw our heated and still flushed faces I felt he sensed that we had done the dirty deed. Perhaps I should have had sex with Mary, it was in the air, it was in Woodstock, it was of the time, Mary had no qualifications in mind, for she was eager to have me. What feelings perplexed her as we walked back, I do not know. All kinds of misinterpretation of my behavior were possible.

What time passed after that I cannot recollect, much is lost to memory, except for the last time I met Mary. I believe we were in front of a fireplace on the floor and she had come in wearing once again her dowdy jeans, unattractive, but I knew what a bodily treasure lay beneath. I don’t think much was said, indeed as I try to recall I cannot think of one sentence she ever said to me that I do remember. This is not a slight, but a fact, or a lie. What I felt was that I did want to make love to her with or without condoms, all libido. She may have very well wanted an explanation at this second meeting after the abortive sex in the field. I thought I was given a second chance with her. What turned her off were my actions. I moved a few pillows about as if preparing for making love.

And then Mary rose, quietly, and lefty, not a word said. Between almost having her in the pasture and demurring, and now alone again and much more aggressive, she reached several conclusions, shall I say, which was not to her liking. It would have been better if we spoke to one another, instead of counting on or believing the lies we gave to one another, my inhibitions and her subliminal assumptions.

Mary tossed Steve in the expectations of attaining me, that is for sure, or my sense of it. Is it the truth of the matter? I don’t know, just feels like it. I unexpectedly “rejected” her in the field. That is true, but that itself is not the truth of the matter, having explained the causation I experienced. Fifties met Sixties. When I told this tale to a woman, she thought I had done the right thing, for not risking sex with Mary, for she was much too young. I know for certain if I had  a condom with me lust would have swept over me. When I look back any relationship we would hope to have died because of the age differences, but that is temporocentrism, from this time to that time, and a weak, useless and extraneous thinking.

But an abundance of awareness to little effect.

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2 responses to “A CHAPTER FROM A NEW MEMOIR IN THE MAKING

  1. You know I’m a fan of this entry, the related manuscript and your legacy, Matt. I, for one, will keep your art and history circulating should you “go” before I do.

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