Friday, June 15, 2012
When Cathy and I dropped out of college, we rented the second floor of a white clapboard house, and sent our monthly check to Chicago where our landlord was serving time in prison as a slumlord.
We lived on peanut m&ms, dinner dates, and whatever anybody else brought around. Cathy was the resourceful one. I had more boyfriends, but she had more skills. Poetry and cooking, just to keep the list manageable. I’d ask someone or other, as a by the way and since you’re coming here anyway, can you pick up a couple of things, like bacon and a loaf of bread.
Cathy could steam bacon, make toast. I’d never done either in my life. One day she pulled some bottles and bags out of our ancient refrigerator and defrosted it. Which seemed so utterly strange -- teetering on the occult, or dangerously adult.
It was the year of re-invention; my parents had officially stopped speaking to me. I had it in writing. They sent a letter, contacting me to say they were contacting me to say they would no longer be contacting me. They said, “This will hurt us more than it hurts you. “I daresay,” I said, tossing the letter to Cathy.
It was an unusually hot summer, and Cathy and I sweated for awhile on the second floor of the clapboard house, until a carpenter who worked where I worked borrowed, permanently, an air conditioner from an empty apartment. I think it was a present for my 18th birthday.
Much of my time was spent with men and boys. Some boys could be men at 22, or men could be boys at 26. Cars made a difference. And other things as well, of course, though I didn’t give it all that much thought. I just knew I liked the boys more. And I remember them all, boys and men, in a way or not, that is to say, some better than others.
But mostly I remember Cathy. And her dog Star who followed my dog Bru everywhere, like he was a god or something. And Bru did the best he could by Star, or I assume that’s what he was up to. You could never tell with Bru. He’d wander off for days, and then return. Sometimes with a collar, which he’d manage to shrug off in an hour or two.
Often Cathy and I would leave this house, in our opposite directions, and come back with stories about a trip to Bloomington, or Carbondale, a horse ranch in Indiana. Maybe we amped it up a little.
“Keith and I hopped a freight train to Lexington.”
“Hahaha, no you didn’t.”
“No, we didn’t.”
We’d set up our Panasonic speakers on the front porch on Green Street and blast Tom Waits and Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac.
(Years later, Cathy and I hooked up again, by email. “The neighbors must have hated us!” she wrote. This was a revelation -- We had neighbors?)
That’s what I remember best. Cathy and me and the dogs and the front porch. In summer, at night, when the prairie wind came out to play, blew our hair this way and that, and cooled the forehead.
We weren’t stupid. We knew three things for sure: That handsome men and boys were a dime a dozen, life was just as light as a feather, and summer lasts forever.
“So what did you do?”
“Keith’s friend drove us up to Kankakee, then we hitched a ride to Normal.”