Not Sue's Type
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
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
"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
"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
"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,
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
Patterns of a Party Girl