I wanted to be writing. I wanted a boyfriend. I wanted to go find large patches of nature to be in.
The boyfriend part wasn’t going to well. I had pinned some hopes on Roy, put a lot of energy into that one, gave him a lovely night of sex before he’d even asked for it and in the morning I felt nothing and, worse, neither did he. I had imagined he’d fall right into love with me the way Geoffrey had.
I tried other men – the acceptably cute boy I’d known a little in college who now lived in Brooklyn and took me to hear Talking Heads. I liked him well enough, but though I showed up looking my best he never reached for me. Nor did Jack the filmmaker I’d known from Geoffrey years who I’d always assumed was just waiting for me to be a free agent. And all of this was important, was a race, because I had to make Geoffrey my history, had to prove that he was not needed, that my foray into Manhattan was a blossoming success.
Bill called to say he’d moved back from San Francisco. Bill had been my high school boyfriend – tall, gangly, a blonde boy I went out with because he asked me to. At school I didn’t speak to him. I didn’t want other people to know I made out with him on Saturday nights – he was over-tall, a clumsy mover, bespectacled and shy – not at all the dark sophisticate I should have been with. Worst of all, Bill didn’t have the muscle to get me across the intimidating border into non-virginity.
Later, when I needed a quick lover to counter Geoffrey’s wanderings, I looked up Bill in California where he was growing up, doing acid and riding a Harley. Now, he said, he lived in the East Village, had become an artist and earned his keep as a waiter on St. Mark’s Place. I went down to meet him in a turquoise cotton dress with spaghetti straps and knew right away he would sleep with me any time I wanted. But not yet. His girlfriend Laura had come East with him – a pale, dark, quiet girl who I knew was no contest. I pretended I didn’t know though, inviting them both to my apartment for dinner, cooking a cheesecake made from tofu because we were all getting into health food.
In the mornings I sat down at my white wooden desk, the one my mother had bought for me when I was nine to do homework at. I sat in the corner room with its two windows, my bookshelves behind me – mostly books from all the English college courses, and I forced out the words onto paper.
There were brief moments when I liked what I got and read it to Ruth or the Talking Heads guy or my father, read it with pride and pleasure. Though every page seemed fragile, a wisp anchoring me to the possibility of being a writer.
I went to a feminist meeting and got a job working for two middle-aged lesbians who were breaking up after 20 years and needed help sorting out their apartment. I could tell they both loved me – my spirit, my youth, my long dark hair and thin elastic body. It was easy to look good before their admiring eyes. They introduced me to two carpenters who said I could apprentice with them. I thought that would be a great way to make money and be independent, but I got tired of sanding, which is all they asked me to do the two or three times I joined them for jobs in other people’s apartments.
By late summer – now six months since I’d returned to New York – my father had sold the family house and now he, my mother and my youngest sister were living in someone’s spare room, someone my father knew from the church he had just started going to. My jet-setting father with his custom-made suits and leather luggage was working as a night security guard. These things happened and when I talked to my parents on the phone or when I visited, we talked as we always had, as if none of this were happening.