Love Story: Ronald Reagan (?)

Daily Prompt Polite Company “It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

Since my opinion MEANS SO MUCH here, I’d say it’s never good to discuss religion or politics PERIOD. Why? No one really cares what you think, and no one opens this subject without the goal of persuading the other person. Right now I’m sure no one reading this wants to know what I think, even about this consuming captivating topic.

So…here’s a bit more from the Love Story. It seems people enjoyed reading the little excerpts I’ve put up. Below is a chapter toward the middle of the story. This is the protagonist writing in her voice about herself. What is all this? Well, once upon a time, a long time ago, I wrote a love story. At the end of the real life version of the love story, I began to wonder what else there was to life, what other challenges, what larger loves, that might end in something worth taking away. Still, I wrote the love story — as a novel about becoming a writer. If you like it, let me know and every time there’s a crappy daily prompt I’ll post more. The protagonista has several names and various plot lines. It’s an exploration of how a story can be an exploration of alternative futures. If you want to read the other two bits I’ve posted, I think you can use the search feature for Love Story.

Longer Days

Inauguration Day with a small crowd of people held together by a temporary allegiance to an idealistic intellectual with no political future. The best we could hope would be that the buttons with his name on them would become valuable collector’s items. I had severed ties soon after election night, not wanting to whip a dead horse, but for others the month of close association could not be dropped immediately. They preferred to let things diminish rather than merely stop.

At six o’clock I opened my front door to a three-piece suit carrying a color TV. At six fifteen, a young, eager earnest couple came with a cooler of beer and sodas. Six seventeen brought a forty-five year old real estate broker and her twelve-year-old son. A single nurse, around twenty-seven, showed up later, parking her new Japanese car in front of my window so she could “keep an eye on it.” Following the nurse came a flash and aggressive thirtyish freelance advertising man. They all came. At six forty-five someone ordered pizzas, one cheese only, one pepperoni, one vegetarian. At six fifty Wes appeared at the door with two dozen yellow lilies. At six fifty-two Anne appeared with her latest boyfriend who looked a little worse for booze and cigarettes. At seven Steve showed up with a single rose and a bottle of champagne. We were all there and the three-piece suit had actually succeeded in summoning PBS and Bedtime for Bonzo to my little corner of Capitol Hill. Let the party begin!

It was some night. Most of the group stretched out on the cold, hard, unrelenting, unforgiving wood floor watching a movie that even in its best days had to have been incomprehensibly stupid. I stood in the kitchen with Ann, Wes and Steve and drank. We drank the champagne. We moved onto a bottle of white wine I found in the back of my refrigerator, something German and sweet. When that was finished, I was drunk enough to discover myself lecturing on Walt Whitman. Steve was drunk enough to look amazed and say, over and over, “I don’t see what you mean!” and “You’re quoting out of context!”

I was trying to make everyone see that nothing mattered except art, and the art that was most important was, of course, writing. I was reading “Scented Herbage of My Breast,” a part in which I had found particular consolation after reading the impersonal and distant postcard Charlie had sent from Canada. “Arrived fine. Climb up Grand Teton was fun. Slept on a picnic table. Hope all is well with you. Thanks for putting me up in Devoid. Yours, Charlie.”

“Give me yourself—for I see that you belong to me now above all and are folded inseparably together—for you love and death are.
That you, beyond them, come forth to remain, the real reality,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait, no matter how long
That you will, one day, perhaps take control of all,
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire shadow show of appearances
That maybe you are what it is all for — but it does not last very long.
But you will last very long.” (Walt Whitman)

“I don’t see it,” said Anne. “I don’t get who’s the ‘you’ and what’s the ‘it.’ What’s the ‘it’?”

“He’s writing the poem to his own poetry, that is the ‘scented herbage of his breast’ part of the leaves of grass, part of his effort, the leaves that will outlast him, see? His poetry is the ‘you.’ ‘It’ is his poetry.’ He thinks that love, time, life, broken hearts, war, everything is for art, is for his poetry, See? Isn’t that great?”

I was wrong about Whitman, though. He wasn’t writing about writing. He was writing about death, still, I argued convincingly for a drunk.

“Wow,” said Wes, flaming from champagne and Whitman and me.

“There’s more there’s more, oh, where is it?” I madly turned pages in the old book of Whitman’s poems. “Here, here, this; this is really tough, listen!”

Whoever you are, holding me now in hand
Without one thing, all will be useless,
I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.

“This is it! Without everything, he wants nothing. You see?” I was excited, but drunk, and drunkenly I decided to sit down and as I dropped myself onto my kitchen floor, I banged my head hard against the cabinet under the sink. It made a terrible, loud noise and everyone looked frightened. I said it didn’t matter, only listen, and I read the whole thing ending with “Isn’t it incredible?”

“Whitman was just an old fairy,” said Steve.

“So what? What does that have to do with his poetry?” cried Anne, defending me and American literature.

“You have to remember it when you read his poetry. Everything had two meanings. Maybe this is all some faggot love poetry to some boy we don’t know about, and we think it’s profound. You know? Have you considered that?”

“Fuck that. I had enough of that shit in school. I don’t think it matters very much. Who cares? What we have are the words Whitman wrote. We don’t have the boy, if there was one. All I care about is what the poem can do, say, to me right now at this moment, this time, this night or when I’m sitting in there, in the fucking bathtub with a broken heart.” Wine.

“Why in the bathtub?” asked Wes.

“I don’t know. I just like to sit in hot water when I have a broken heart. Whitman at least had broken hearts and, my god, it’s true. You write your words, your pain, and it isn’t there any more.”

“Well, I think there’s more to art than mere catharsis,” replied Steve.

“It was reason enough for Aristotle.”

“Jackie Kennedy’s husband?” asked Anne’s boyfriend.

Steve doubled over in laughter. “Now THAT’S funny.”

Anne’s boyfriend didn’t know what was funny, but he was glad to be funny, so he laughed, too.

“I think it’s enough. If I do a painting and someone likes it and hangs it up, I figure they understood it even if they don’t know exactly what I had in mind when I painted it,” said Wes. But, Wes was very, very loyal.

“I don’t know,” said Steve. “I love literature as much as the next guy, but I don’t think you can find any answers there.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just a bunch of words.”

“So where do you look for answers?”

“I don’t. I just live my life. That’s it. I don’t look forward. I don’t look back. I don’t look around.”

The mood was gone, but we were still drunk. I left the kitchen and went into the living room to see how the new president was managing with his chimpanzee offspring. He seemed to be doing rather well considering that the plot called for a lot of gratuitous hysteria. “Perhaps,” I thought, “his term in office will be like this.”

“How’s the party?” I asked.

“Why aren’t you watching with us?” asked the three-piece suit.

“Yeah, we’d like to hear all your snide remarks,” said the advertising man.

“I don’t have any snide remarks tonight, sorry. What could anyone say to equal this?” I pointed at the screen where the chimp was jumping up and down while Ronald Regan laughed. “It would be like saying mountains are high to say this movie is stupid.”


“Uh, yeah.”

“Can you believe this guy is our president?”


“You can?”

“Sure. Why not? He’s better than old peanut butter,” said the three-piece suit.

The liberal element was ignited by the remark about Carter and the factions began to form on the floor. This would serve to split this idiotic group asunder.

“Well, anyway, at least Reagan has been a governor.”

“Of California! Do you know what this means for environmental issues?”

“Don’t give me all your rhetoric. I wrote a lot of it, remember?” I said to the earnest young man, smiling. I’d been the speech writer for Anderson’s campaign in Colorado.

“Yeah, you’re right. You know, we’re all upset. We need some kind of release.”

“I think we thought this movie would be funny,” said the nurse, “but it’s just depressing.”

“Catharsis, Steve. These guys out here are demanding catharsis.” I turned to Steve who’d followed me to the living room. He shrugged and walked into the bedroom.

I stayed with the larger group for nearly an hour, kind of enjoying the jumping, shrieking, prancing occasioned by a chimpanzee in a twin bed being raised by marginally less simian creatures in an American suburb. I leaned against Wes’ leg and we both watched and drank beer. Anne and her boyfriend left to go to another party at the Libertarian Headquarters. After a while, I noticed that I hadn’t seen Steve in a while. I got up and went looking for him. I found him sitting on top of the radiator in my bedroom, the window open behind him, January swirling around his head.

2 thoughts on “Love Story: Ronald Reagan (?)

  1. Ah, the good old days. I remember a long, passionate argument about survival of the human race. We had all dropped acid, so I don’t actually remember what conclusions were drawn, if any. But it was a great discussion and lasted until the sun came up. Life has undergone a bit of change since they. This is a great story and brings back many old memories. A flood of them. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

    • Most people I know (and knew) did a lot of drugs I never tried. I never did acid or any other psychedelics. Do you really think these were the “good old days”? I don’t think I’d live them over unless I could make different choices based on what I learned from them. 😉

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