Al Sullivanís journal


Words of love




Paulyís expecting a letter.

He looks like heís in love, and he seems nervous about anyone seeing him receive the mail.

I guess he has that right.

Iíve heard nothing out of him about love in years, and he certainly isnít growing any younger.

On WBAI this month and next, programs celebrate the heyday of the radio station, rebroadcasts of things heard during the great political debate of the 1960s and early 1970s.

The voices make me nostalgic

Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin come to life again, talking about their trial in Chicago, transporting me back in time so that I am waiting for the sound of police sirens and the thud of boots marching up to my door to kick it down.

So much has changed since those days, and yet at the same time, very little.

We still live with our own government trying everything it can think of to keep us afraid, keep us controlled, keep us from realizing that the biggest thing we have to fear are our own leaders.

I think, too, of Fran Ė and the ache I still feel over my own soured relationship.

I sit here in Passaic struggling to get over her, coming to realize love has numerous sides, the pain of anticipation Pauly feels, the pain again when love dissolves.

Yet I feel relieved, too, from needing to be here or there, one more assigned task I didnít ask for.

At the start, Fran simply showed up at my place interrupting my cycles of writing Ė asking me why I seemed so distant when I had yet to complete my self imposed schedule of written material for the day.

I had become spoiled by freedom, but my early morning jogs followed by my ability to write at leisure.

After Franís arrival, I had to sneak into bathrooms with notebooks to finish the task, often out of sync with myself as a result, never completely satisfied with my accomplishments by the end of the day. I even gained weight again.

I got lazy about those things that mattered most to be.

I blamed love, but it was lack of discipline.

Looking back, however, I realize something was wrong from the start, in her and in me.

Even Dr. Thomas, my literature professor and wannabe psychoanalyst, saw something wrong when he offered to give sessions at a reduced rate, hoping I might confess all those deep secrets I had kept from the priests while in the confessional.

But like all relationships, mine had high and low moments, with the worst coming after Fran returned from her month-long jaunt to Texas Ė highlighted by that moment when I couldnít live with her.

I had begged her for months to move in with me, had even anticipated such an event when she left for Texas to see family, renting the larger apartment next door to mine in the belief she would return to this as our love nest Ė only to have her refuse when she got back.

Over my head in debt, and with Pauly put out of his own living arrangement elsewhere, I took him in as a roommate in order to keep from going broke. A few weeks later, Fran changed her mind, but it was too late.

She wanted to move in. The appalled Pauly presuming I would choose love over keeping my word started to pack, and was stunned when I chose to keep my word.

Fran was shocked, too, and felt betrayed.

Pauly was kind. He agreed she could sleep over as long as she didnít bring her suitcases in with her.

The choice will haunt me the rest of my life, because it spelled the beginning of the end with Fran, though I donít think either of us knew it at the time.

Now, alone and aching, I struggle to find order again in my life, to return to that space before bolts of love struck me, the jogging, the writing, the sense of self I had so briefly. I have felt it before, the ache of lost love, but never felt the ache of lost self until this time.

I need to appreciate my loneliness. I know that soon my uncle Richie will return from his hiatus at the hospital, to fill the gap in my attention again, although less insistent than Fran, just as needy.

Fate seems to dictate my life, filling it with people and emotions I never intended or have spent my life seeking to escape.

Richie is one of those albatrosses hung around my neck as a young man, whom has become my charge later in life, filling space and inspiring anger and guilt in me.

So watching Pauly fall in love has some mixed feelings for me, as well as providing me with amusement Ė he suffering mid-life crisis at 36 with all the subtly of a circus clown, fumbling and bumbling around at a moment when I most need the distraction, and I love him for it, though know he, too, suffers.


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