“What’s on the agenda today?” I asked, making coffee.
“Sorry. Not until this evening. I wish it were sooner, but I had to stay forty-eight hours.”
“What time do you go?”
“Plane leaves at 7. I want to go to the Art Institute.”
“You have to go alone.”
“Why?” I asked, though being away from Mark was fine with me.
“I have to work. Paul’s gone”
“What do you mean, ‘gone’?”
“He’s gone to Colorado to buy boots.”
“Ah. You don’t have boots in Chicago?”
“We sell boots. They’re for the store.”
“Great! I won’t have to spend the whole day in the car.”
“I guess not.”
Mark was not happy. I began to see that he was tired, sad, drained. But then, I’d had no experience in the night with someone. I’d simply slept. I knew very well the hell of our day together, but no idea what had gone on between him and Paul, what conversations, fights, discussions. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. It was none of my business, and I sought no confidences.
“The other thing is, Paul has my car. I have his.”
“I don’t think Paul’s car will make it to the airport.”
“Call me a taxi.”
“You can’t afford it.”
“Thanks anyway.” I mixed up some Instant Breakfast and poured my coffee.
We began to calm down and to talk sensibly for the first time that weekend. I walked around the bedroom, finding my things and packing. Mark watched and talked.
“Did I tell you about the foreign service exam?”
“Well, I passed it. Now I’m waiting to hear where and when I take the oral test.”
“Why do you want to join the Foreign Service?”
“I just want to leave the country.”
“Why not? You’ve lived in France and Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. You’ve traveled all kinds of places. You’ve left the country, so you know what I mean, or you should know what I mean.”
“I don’t know.”
“I just want exposure, Mark. I want to see things, know things.”
“Honey, you’ve already seen more of life than 99% of most Americans. It’s not that great to go away.”
“Maybe you’re right, but I don’t know that.”
“I’m telling you.”
“I have to. I want to. All my life I’ve wanted to live outside the country, in some place with ‘less,’ with a different way of thinking, of doing things. I need to get perspective, experiences. I feel so blind.”
“Well, you’re not blind.”
“What about you?”
“I don’t know. I got a teaching job here. I don’t like working at the store; Paul likes it. It’s what he does and I’ll be teaching foreign students starting next week.”
“What about your writing?”
“The store has kept me tied up, and I haven’t written anything in more than a year.”
“That’s not good. I love to read what you write, and not just because you wrote it.”
“Maybe I’ll have time after I start teaching. I’ll have afternoons, anyway, while Paul is at the store.”
“Not too bad.”
“No. It’s OK.”
I was packed. We went out to Paul’s decrepit VW which chugged its way to the store. The timing was off; the carburetor needed help, but not mine. Mark opened up the store and I stashed by stuff under the counter. I hung around until 10 when the Art Institute opened. Mark gave me instructions for getting to the El and I left, walking into the bright, cool morning.
This is an excerpt from a book-length work of creative non-fiction I wrote back in the 70s during another snowy, white-sky winter in Colorado. It is about the relationship between Mark and Adrienne (on one level) and it is about Adrienne’s search for the purpose of her life (the over-arching meaning of the story). The backstory here is that Mark has asked Adrienne to marry him. She thinks that’s a disastrous idea because Mark is (mostly) gay. Still, he flies her to Chicago from Denver to talk it over and see his parents, with whom she is close. Paul is Mark’s lover. They share a house. Mark did not tell Adrienne about this before flying her out so… The weekend is a disaster for them but hopefully not for literature. At this point, the weekend is nearly over…
All that is happening with this story now is that I periodically retype it into new technology… 😉