Not Sue's Type

 

 

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After I became editor of the magazine, Sue seemed to take a closer

interest in me, a pattern of behavior she would adopt even after school,

when she sought out writers and editors and other people she believed

might help her in her career. At the time, her interest in me seemed a

mystery. Indeed, I received conflicting messages from people, some who

said Sue had targeted me for her stable of studs, while others said I

wasn't Sue's type. For most of the first year, I seemed a shadow in her

life, someone who did an occasional article in the arts section of

school newspaper, but wasn't really part of that crowd, preferring

poetry readings to press conferences.

 

Her social circle included many of the people from the paper, including

Nicole Bush and Glen Kenny, Joe Swartz, Wayne Whitmore, Danny Kling, Gil

Hoffman, Franz, Bill, Joe Healy, Ron Goldberg, Doug Baker, and others

some of whom rumor said she slept with, many she drank with, and many

who listened to her spiel on life, wealth and the pursuit of happiness.

Ron Goldberg remembers Sue as deliberately trying to shock people.

 

"She had a boyfriend named Doug and she'd tell everyone what great sex

they had. I was a photographer at the paper and I showed her how to

develop film. On one roll was a photo of what she claimed was her

boyfriend's flaccid penis," Goldberg said. "She seemed trying too hard

to be real wired."

 

Rumors also abounded about her pursuit of professors, most of whom

laughed her off as a go-getter or a joke. Some, however, got involved,

and apparently got hurt in the process when she moved on, leaving them

behind the way she left many of her fellow students. She never initiated

sex with me, or hinted, or even flirted though more than once one of her

pub friends suggested I should watch out.

 

"Sue has this thing about older men," one friend said. "When she found

out how much older you were than the rest of us, you went on her list."

 

It was an unnecessary warning. Sue never got around to me in the way she

had with most. Although she professed an interest in literature, she

attended fewer and fewer magazine meetings, writers club meetings or the

informal meetings of writers and poets who sometimes gathered in the

lounge. She was just too busy, keeping track of the numerous scenes she

had going on around her. Since my world hardly coincided with hers, I

rarely got the attention, other less lucky men had, and never became the

target of her admiration or her misery.

 

"Oh, she was interested in you all right," one friend recently said.

"She used to talk about you all the time. You just seemed to avoid her."

 

With good reason. By my second semester, I had heard much about Sue, and

the more I learned, the more she reminded me of my ex-wife, a woman who

had fallen into the porno scene in Hollywood, and later into

prostitution, and might likely have remained in both had I not yanked

her out. But I was also too busy to take too much notice, so tired from

all-night rock and roll sessions and rock and roll groupies that Sue

seemed by that time old hat.

 

Much later, I learned another less ego uplifting reason for Sue's

possible even minimal interest in me, and my becoming editor was not the

cause. At the time, I had expressed some interest in a woman named

Stephanie, another member of the newspaper staff. While nothing came of

this situation either, I learned that I had come up as a subject of

discussion. Stephanie like Dorothy, Teri Mates, Nicole Bush and other

writers and associates of the paper, were all victims of Sue's bad

habits. Anytime, they talked about a boy, expressed the least bit

interest, Sue would hunt that boy down, making a point of getting into

his pants first.

 

"She did that to me at least nine times when I was at school," Dorothy

said. "Sue would come back to me and tell me how she and this or that

man were just meant for each other, how they had just gravitated towards

each other, and how she and that fellow were helpless to do anything

about it, they were destined for each other. Then, after she had gone

out with him for about a week, she would dump him."

 

Sue used terms like "unbearable attraction," and say how she "hated

doing this" to her friends, calling these momentary encounters

"inevitable."

 

Sue seemed unwilling to let any woman in the newspaper office go out

with any man until she got to sample that man first. Dorothy and

Stephanie began to take steps, organizing a systematic campaign against

Sue.

 

"We would pick the most disgusting men on campus, and then express our

admiration and lust," Dorothy said.

 

The two women would suggest their interest and then watch Sue go off and

pursue these characters.

 

"We just wanted to see how far she would go," Dorothy said.

 

Sue apparently went pretty far.

 

As I learned later, Sue set up particularly geographical locations

around campus for her operations, the pub, the art building -- even Frat

Rock outside Raubinger Hall (upon which rumor claims she actually made

love one night). Most of the times, when I did not see her wandering the

third floor halls of the student center on some important mission for

the newspaper, I'd find her perched outside on the concrete slabs near

the campus common, a place from which she could observe people coming

and going from classes. Sue seemed preoccupied most of the times I met

her.

 

"From all her old friends' accounts, Susan Walsh seemed to be in a state

of perpetual crisis -- on issues ranging from boyfriend problems to her

family life to Beacon office politics," Joel Lewis wrote in his

unpublished manuscript on Sue's vanishing.

 

"Everyone lived vicariously through Sue's life," Nicole told Joel during

a 1997 interview. "Everyone seemed to get involved with whatever was

happening with her at the moment -- which I think is what she wanted."

 

At one point before the real craziness started, I saw Sue in front of

the student center. I hadn't seen her in a while. She seemed to drop in

and out of sight and with my with schedule -- coming and going to and

from Passaic and working nights -- I hardly had a chance to keep up on

people. She seemed surprised to see me, glancing up from where she sat

on the concrete wall, an open notebook (her diary as it turned out) on

her lap and some text books fluttering open in the wind unnoticed at her

side. She frowned, then smiled.

 

"Al Sullivan," she said. "I thought you quit school."

 

"I come and go," I said, not bothering to go into the disastrous details

of my life, how I had inherited a suicidal uncle who vanished frequently

onto the turn up in odd places months later. Sometimes Greystone Park

called to tell me the police had found him knee-deep in the Passaic

River, other times, I found him during one of my routine searches

through the streets, he the wandering gypsy Sue would later become,

walking in a fugue, mumbling about dangers I could not perceive.

 

I also did not need to talk about my latest romantic interest, a cocaine

head, who constantly feared the pursuit of evil, exaggerating Sue's type

of paranoia from plots by the FBI and Mafia to dramatic appearances of

Satan himself. This girlfriend used to clutch my shoulder when I drove a

exaggerating Sue's type of paranoia from plots by the FBI and Mafia to

dramatic appearances of Satan himself. This girlfriend used to clutch my

should

 

"Around where?" Sue asked.

 

"Working, living, breathing," I said, and sat, laughing a little, until

she shrugged. "And where have you been?"

 

"The same," she told me, and seemed so suddenly sad and remarkably

vulnerable, a model for the bird-like creature she had described in a

piece of fiction she submitted to the school literary magazine.

 

She looked thinner, though still dressed the way I remember, that East

Village hipster look from the beat generation, something out of style

even when I had lived there. But for the first time, she had lost the

air of "coolness" she had maintained, seeming so very weary and sad, I

could almost sympathize with her again.

 

Yet something about Sue always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when

we came too close. Part of it was the stories of her romantic

entanglements, few of which turned out well for the boys involved.

 

"In a pre-AIDS era that was characterized by rampant promiscuity, Susan

Walsh's sex life seemed more hyperactive than most," wrote Joel.

 

"She seemed to be going out with a whole bunch of guys at once," said

Dorothy Alexander, "a lot of them were older guys whom she seemed to

have some fantastic power over. They'd loan her cars, let her stay at

their houses and give her money. She seemed to be trying to fill in some

unfillable place in herself."

 

I know I feared rumors of these manipulations, and knew how vulnerable I

had always been. Friends often used me for rides and loans, but over the

years, I found it easier to give people what they wanted so they would

go away. But Sue seemed like a leach, someone who would attach herself

to a body and not stop sucking blood until the body dropped. Perhaps my

sensing this saved me, and she still lacked the experience to wrap me in

a more elaborate web.

 

"Something wrong?" I asked, tentatively, easing closer, aware of her

open shirt and the swell of her breasts just visible over the top. Then,

her gaze changed from a helpless bird to a bird of prey, focusing in on

me, my face apparently mingling with the faces of her previous victims.

 

"Help?" she said, something seemingly clicking behind her stare, some

IBM card catalogue suddenly calculating my value, and then, just as

suddenly as it had started, that calculation ceased. She shook her head,

and sagged. "No, I don't think so."

 

An hour later, Nicole stopped me in the school newspaper office, she

seemed a little stoned as she always seemed during those years, though

her high seemed colored with a little concern this time.

 

"Didn't I see you outside with Sue?" she asked.

 

"Yeah," I said. "She seemed down and out and I offered to help."

 

"You did?" Nicole seemed surprised. "And what did Sue say?"

 

"I'm not sure, but I think she said she didn't need it. Not from me,

anyway."

 

Nicole stared at me for a moment, and then, finally, nodded. "That makes

sense," she said.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"I mean you're not Sue's type."

 

Nicole, however, declined to tell me what she meant, but patted my arm.

 

"Just be thankful you're who you are," she said, and let things go with

that.

 

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Patterns of a Party Girl

 

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