RAY BREMSER MEMORIAL
COLUMN SEVENTY-FOUR, AUGUST 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
III. BREAKING OUT OF D.C.
" 1997 Brenda Frazer)
If I thought he'd listen, I?d say, "don't go!" The spiraling lift of emotions, he's here one day then gone, we're married only three weeks after we meet and then he drives away, leaving with voices that interrupt our life, shouting up to him from the street, he looks out the balcony window. But my words fail, my voice hangs just short of speech, thinking he must know how I feel. No wonder I'm lonely. "C?mon Babe, don't be that way." "But I feel so trapped!" His friends come loudly up the steps to my apartment and he says to them, "That's my ol? lady, but don't even look at her!" They laugh and look at me in awe, a poet's wife, who would've thought? "Thighs like you've never seen before, and never will see since," he says. I'm quiet and so they continue making their plans about the trip to New York. Their talk is like single-celled animals, amoebas under glass, bumping each other, patting each other on the back in the galactic pond. I'm the only serious one, going into my low cycle that prepares the heart for pain, closing everything off except for secret messages like this, low singing under my breath, inside ear echoing, who's to notice?
He's on his way home, Jersey
City, New York, what's the difference. The poetry reading that brought him
here to D.C. was our meeting place. Now I guess I'm staying here, thinking how
moments ago we were so close to talking. Before his friends arrived.
"Let's talk," he had said, as he sat cross-legged on the bare wood
floor, the whole night ahead of us, the park across the street, the federal
buildings of the U.S. government looming all around my 13th Street house that
would probably be steelballed soon. "I like your quietness, you know? and
holds me close to ease the hurt. "Other women talk too much and it's
meaningless. I can hear things in your silence." And later he had said,
"Quiet people are usually writers." I had thought I would be whatever
he was, whatever he wanted me to be. And we had made a pact, together we would
be against the world, just us.
But now his friends, our friends
have already come in. They smoke
a joint. It goes round to me. "Love's our religion, it's holy,
man." He gasps the smoke in, his arm around my shoulder as I lean forward
giggling, the floor is covered with old cigarette butts and cans. "But our
system kills it, you know. Kills it and eats it for lunch like sandwich meat,
our wounded heart!" "Yeah man, that's right," one of them says,
learning from Ray already.
Some of these friends of his are poets, some have cars, or grass, or money, some are just friends. They seem to manifest these relations from the momentary scene, the cosmic vibrations interdependent, you lose your wallet, I find it, someone starves, another finds a job, unwilling. Showers of gold sunbeam energy stronger than normal influences transmute to compassion and
you love me
and then leave me behind!'
send all of us looking
for communication, streets, telephones, getting high. And once in a while I say
something when we're all tuned in and it's so much funnier than I thought,
and everyone breaks up and it's momentarily ok because our friends love Ray
and me too. And now they're leaving me behind while they take Ray off to New
York. They, the friends are really
part of that outside world I fear.
Now everyone's gone and my mood
is irritable. The buzz of thoughts like an ache that won't let go. So painful.
"Don't say you love me and then leave me behind!" I should have said
it. "I'm not hurting you Babe. You're getting hurt," he would?ve
said. My mental conversation becomes bluesy. "If you love your woman, take
her everywhere you go. Let her see what you see and don't ever leave her
waiting?" Door? waiting at the door, at the window? Will I wait?
"You're not paying attention
honey. You ain't high or somethin, are you?" Maggie sits facing me, our
typewriters back to back between us. I tell her I can't concentrate, my
husband went back to New York last night and it's the third time I've had to
redo this letter. I like this woman very much. One nice thing about the
government jobs, there are lots of black people. But I can't escape her notice
and the piles of work beside me, no place to hide, not even in my dreaming where
I'm marching slowly ahead of the sun, secure in my vow to Ray. The night was
spent in dark sleeplessness and now I'm deciding things in a moment's time
that probably require careful thought. "Maybe I won't go home for lunch
today," I say to the room in general. "Maybe I'll work straight
through and leave early." Maggie and the other women there are supportive
of me, I know. Just a few days ago they gave me a party when they found out I
was married. The gift of a crystal candy dish Ray used for chips with our
beercan drinks. "Yeah, honey, go get your man, that's the important
thing," says Maggie.
Later I call Myrna Coven's
apartment. The phone is busy so I know she's there and go. You couldn't
really call it a social visit because I don't like her. Maybe because Ray had told
me that at the poetry reading he'd been choosing between us.
So I'm jealous, but then I don't want to go back to my apartment
either. I hope to run into Giltbloom there, he usually shows up with some weed
every night. "I just got home from work," she says, and I wonder where
she can work with her eyes painted so black and pale blond makeup on the pink
face? She's looking at me too and does a charcoal sketch of me while we're
sitting there. Maybe she thinks she's an artist. I get really offended when I
see the picture, her rendition of my skull-short hair and navy surplus sweater.
"You're so lucky to be married to Ray. Will you live in New York?"
she asks. I forget to tell her that Ray's gone. Finally we hear Giltbloom's
motorcycle outside, and he comes in catalyzing everything, making things happen
as he always does. "I've got some pot," he says, smiling at me. He
doesn't ask about Ray and I'm glad.
We're all part of D.C.'s
growing artists? scene. Giltbloom knows a lot about it because he gets around
with the grass. I'm thinking how many more of these people I know since the
poetry reading. Even now though I'm shy and only communicate intuitively,
sincerity in my eyes and heart, my sense of friends expands now that I have
Ray. It's like we all mix in an elemental way, growing with connections,
vibrating like leaves on a tree. We're smoking now and I'm wondering how to
get Giltbloom to help me without thinking I'm using him to get back to Ray.
Giltbloom already has the plan for
the night. We'll go to the Carousel Jazz Club on North Capitol Street. So
Myrna and the others take a cab while I'm on the bike with Giltbloom for the
thrills. We all arrive together, piling out of cabs and off cars where some are
waiting for us. We get introduced. "This is Bonnie, Ray's wife."
Self-conscious we stand around a little silly on the sidewalk in front of the
club, counting our money. There's me, Giltbloom, Eddie Nile and the young
paintress he is courting. I know he would normally take any woman he wants
without preliminary, but Lorna is rich and gets special treatment. Eddie suffers
under the imposition, his gentle thief's honor causes him to speak complaints
to anyone who'll listen, softly putting her down. "Eddie's a second
story man," Giltbloom told me before, and I think of Ray's convict life.
Myrna and a bunch of other art students are in the company too. As we go in,
Giltbloom stops at the cigarette machine, his brand, we smoke together at the
table, his friendly come-on, which
I know he withholds out of respect,
creates a pleasant tension.
A small stage right next to us, the
bass horizontal on the floor almost touches my leg, which I've propped up on
the stage. The red entrance curtains cover the wall next to the stage too and
brush against my back. Nightclub aesthetic. We drink one round of beers for a
very long while. The bass player arrives and hands up his instrument in the
colorful lights, no mistakes in his playing even when he sweats, blue dripping
on the metal strings, making the fingers slide. The carousel spins like a
piloted stage and then goes down, low-down.
It sinks to the level of the bass player who's now bowing it
The audience responds with applause and Betty Carter comes to the stage,
in a dress of metallic lame? color, her mouth open to sing, sound and color
mix, the first notes visible in cheeks and teeth and inside lower lip warbling
to slide out solid in the air. The bass rips apart the patterns and then she
steps up on it atop the tempo and spreads arms to fly, spouting, spewing long
twirling lines of song, she sings so hard her dress changes color.
After that we sit with our long-finished beers watching some traveling magician perform. Maybe we'll wait for the next show, two hours? The music and lights remind me of my red light bedroom with Ray there yesterday. The music full-blast on the old phonograph. Coltrane breathless, I'm flexible cross-legged on Ray's lap in yab-yum embrace while he touches my back in patterns of the bass. Giltbloom's watching me. "I want to go to New York," I say, almost crying. "I know," he
. .my apartment,
all left behind. . .'
says, "I can see that. But when?" "Now, tonight,
that's all," emphatically. "But I don't have any money," he
laughs. "And me neither," I say giggling at our empty beer glasses.
"Wait here a minute, maybe Eddie's girl will want to pick up
something," and I'm watching for him as five minutes later he's back
and with a nod to the others we leave.
We leave D.C. at night, the late
west moon another light on the Capitol dome behind us. Scenery reflects in the
blue windshield. I'm watching
over Giltbloom's shoulder. The cockeyed slow lifting plane, the flying saucer
perspective of north D.C. and the Carousel Club and friends, my apartment,
belongings, job all left behind.
In Delaware at dawn we get
breakfast in a touristy bus station with turnstiles and a cafeteria. The long
night in my bones, already had to stop once before dawn, he'd made me walk to
get the circulation going. "We'll go backroad ways now," he said,
"so we can stop more often." The New York Times spread out on the
restaurant table. "We are the responsible generation," he tells me. A
bus comes in and tourists line up. Our toast and bacon breakfast enough, we
leave. Across the road from the station a farmhouse with peculiar whiteness in
the dawn. A dog out back on a chain. The strange simplicity of window casements
and house in fine outline of white catching the sun. Giltbloom is young, my age,
nineteen, tall and blond, his beak face forceful.
Into Pennsylvania, we're bounding
on hills of side road, even the ditches are hilly and dangerous, and I?m
getting dizzy. It gets to be afternoon and we're still negotiating traffic
circles on the truck route U.S. 1. The slow motion and frustrated delay. Stop
beneath a billboard to rest awhile. He goes to call Ray and I sleep. Sunny
fantasies of Giltbloom, I dream, my leg stretched out, reaching. The bass
alongside, horizontal, like last night. Only now it's in warm sunlight.
Giltbloom wakes me irritated. "Ray's pissed," he says. "I
should have known."
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