Independence Day?                                                                                                                 



July 3, 1982


 It is the eve of Independence Day, and I've never felt less free.

 Louise called tonight with her usual sense of perfect timing, as if she could read my mind from 200 miles away, and discern my vulnerability. Yet over the telephone she is the one that sounds vulnerable, her weak voice pleading with me to come.

 She needs a man; she has no one. I am her hope and salivation after ten years apart, the thread with which she had resewn her life -- but a thin, frail thread at best that frays at the thought of seeing her again, so very scared that I will leap into her arms the moment I see her.

 But how to I answer her tears, or pull her crumbling pieces back together with words over the telephone? All her life she's struggled for freedom, from her parents, from men in her life, from me, yet now she is free and feels its false bottom giving way -- a trap door through which she threatens to fall.

 Too many miles lay between us, valley and ridge, ridge and valley, spread out over the landscape between Passaic and Scranton. My arms can't reach so far as to hold her like that.

 ``I'm coming,'' I whisper.

 She whispers, ``When?''

 ``Tomorrow,'' I said, pressing trembling hand between my knees to keep it still.

 I had said as much 12 years ago when she was in Colorado and I was in New Jersey. She believes me no more this time than she did then.

 ``Hurry,'' she says.

 ``Twelve hours, then I'll be on the road,'' I tell her before hanging up, and her that same wistful sigh as she vanishes again from my life -- as if to say: ``If I'm still here then.''

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