March 28, 1987
So what are we talking about here?
A combination of innocence and experience entwined in a single human being.
Blake spoke about the need for such a thing, that innocence had to be tempered by experience in order for us to aspire to something significant.
But I don’t think Blake meant street smarts and being naďve.
Pauly moaned when I asked him to draw me a unicorn.
“Are you out of your mind?” he asked.
Maybe I am.
It is one of Peggy’s masks. She lives in a world where she has masks behind masks, and somewhere behind it all, the real her searches for an illusion – perhaps out of her past – to sweep her off her feet and make everything good for her. A John Wayne like hero who is both gentle and strong, something as mythical as the unicorn is.
But we men come in shades, some braver than others, but none really all that brave, deep down quacking at some private terror we cannot explain. Those who claim they have no secret terror are either lying or crazy, often recklessly acting out to prove just how brave they are.
No, this isn’t Blake that we have here. There are just too many contradictions, too many twists, her love or Ronald Reagan and America and her total disrespect for law.
It is almost as if I am dealing with two people, not one, the dancer on one hand, the accountant on the other, the simple soul who sings to James Taylor at home, and dances before lusting men at the bar, a woman who lives in a three-room flat with a black cat named Jesse, in love with unreal images, yet someone hardy enough to survive the street.
Is this manipulation?
I still sting over her yelling at me over the time of month joke, even though she late claimed she was teasing.
She seems to gloss over the heavy abuse and sexual suggestions she gets from thugs at the bar and takes issues with relatively innocent things I say.
Of course, she’s playing a role, putting on which ever mask happens to fit best at the moment, and so fluctuates between innocence and experience, leaving me uncertain as to which one I can expect next.
She seems so angelic when she sings before her stereo at home, when I know damned well she has the devil in her, too. She is self indulgent, self absorbed, doing as she pleases, drinking to excess, living her life in this strange mix of desperate experience and nostalgia, getting even others to play a part in this weird drama – such as the poor fool who sent her the roses wilting on her kitchen table.
I suspect Peggy is as insure about me as I am about her, asking several times during our earlier phone call what I meant when I said I thought she wouldn’t call, also mumbling about the men who never called her back. She laughed the other day when I asked if I could see her again.
“You mean I haven’t turned you off?” she asked.
Perhaps she feels as attracted to me as I am to her, feels caught up in something without knowing exactly what.
She asked me how I would describe her to my friends, and seemed pleased when I told her that I had talked about her to someone very close to me.
Maybe we are both walking an emotion line here, afraid that any word might send the other running away.
I don’t know about her, but I’m already worried that I might do or say something stupid, that I am only passing through her life and that in the end I will fine myself in the same lonely world without having had the experience of loving her.
There are some serious obstacles in our way.
She is living in a total fantasy world, a true innocent dancing through a real hell filled with beasts on barstools, and as street savvy as she claims to be, she may not be completely aware of the dangers she is facing and the fates she is tempting. Even her defiance of authority is unreal. Does she think she can get away with her criminal behavior forever? Perhaps she has managed to date to smile and flirt (or maybe more) to escape trouble.
Then, of course, there is the issue of cocaine.
March 29, 1987
It isn’t as bad as it could be.
I could be moaning and groaning for her like some idiotic adolescent.
But how to I keep it all under control?
Today, I spent most of my free time wandering around Willowbrook Mall in search of some gift to give this mad woman.
I’m an idiot. Even some of my friends suspect I’m going out of my mind.
And I’m pretty sure before all this is over I will make a complete ass of myself and will still not have cured the fundamental disease I suffer from: intense loneliness.
I have had so few chances at real romance in my life that I’m afraid to pass this one up, even though I can already see disaster ahead of me.
Peggy is so full of self-destruction that I’m endangering my own mental health by being with her. She drinks too much, and consumed volumes of cocaine. She lives under the constant threat of arrest.
I keep telling myself nothing is going to come out of any of this, that she’ll lose interest in me before long.
We shall see.
March 30, 1987
(excerpts from a letter)
I took a long walk after our conversation on the phone – in the rain.
The rain has always been my favorite kind of weather, misty, warm rain that makes you bundle up even when it isn’t cold, wetting my face like a sloppy kiss, giving me a sense of security under a hood or umbrella, Such weather has always helped me think.
You’re question about my attraction to women like Peggy is a good one, and a question I have often asked myself.
I can give you a dozen answers, all of them dripping of Freud, and the confusing concept of what love is or any other basic human relationship.
We all like to think we are in control of what we do or think, when that is really an illusion. Our conscious mind controls very little and we are often merely a rider on an wild steed, able to generally steer the beast in the direction we want, but never specifically.
It is this road that I follow and the attractions that draw me into dangerous worlds like Peggy’s that scares me.
Perhaps I suffer from the virgin/whore syndrome, desiring the loose woman while aching to love the pure one.
Perhaps Peggy, having lived in this strange world of dual male wishes, desperately attempts to be both at once, a concept that is slowly driving her to drink, drugs and insanity.
I think the real complexity with her is that deep down inside herself she feels the need to be punished. I think she believes in the concept of justice and that she must be punished for some unimaginable sin she believes she has committed in the past.
I suppose we all punish ourselves in this way, selecting people we believe can bring this about: father figures, mother figures and such.
I certainly have selected a number of mother figures in my life.
What people say matters and so I try to read Peggy and she tries to read me.
She’s already picked up on my doubts, asking several times if I really want to go out with her. Yet at the same time I’m picking up on another voice, something that is pleading for help, and it touches me in the absolute center of my being, attracting me in a way that I can’t explain in Freudian terms, or scared away by the prospect of what other people might think or say.
Peggy has an enormous capacity for love, revealed in a number of little ways, and shows that once reached, the soul of this amazing being will offer rewards much more wonder than anything I can ever expect to get in so called more acceptable relations.
Yes I know the risk of pain is great, but the reward will be even greater if it works out.
I am being careful, but if I don’t investigate this path, I will never know what id down it or what I am missing. I am not foolish enough to plunge headlong into something without having a way to get myself out. I’m too nervous about my individuality for that. But I am curious. I need to see more of what makes this person tick. Who knows, maybe in the process I can actually help it. But that will depend on her.
April 1, 1987
Maybe I am an April fool, spending time and money engaged in the fruitless pursuit of Peggy.
Each meeting reveals that much more about her, about her helplessness and her fears, her rages and woes.
Last night, I showed up at the bar she where was working
She had forgotten again that she had told me where she would be just as she forgot about our date, although she did remember to call me Friday to thank me about it.
I finally gave her the gift I planned a while ago, the unofficial survival kit for a New Jersey Giants fanatic. She objected to the word “fanatic.” I didn’t argue.
She was already drunk when I got to the bar. Her life seems to be a precarious journey from one drink to the next, and I helped, paying for a half a dozen more in my time there, talking with her while watching other men stumble in and out. She hardly takes off her Giants t-shirt when I come in and I begin to wonder if it is because of me.
Does she think I’ll be jealous.
Or it is merely a habit I have not noticed before.
“Why should I dance to an empty bar?” she asks.
For a brief time, a man named Red came in. He reminds me a lot of a friend I grew up with right down to the BMW hat. He had the same sad expression of intense loneliness, and was obviously extremely bright, quoting lyrics from old Sixties song as they played on the juke box or the radio. In some ways, he had a lot more in common with Peggy than I did, the same frightful desperation that brings people to such places. He kept trying to touch Peggy, determined to take advantage of what he clearly saw as “an easy” woman.
But “easy” is a relative term. It is one of those things that comes and goes with a person’s moods, not a permanent condition of morality our parents thought it was.
In the end, it was me, Peggy, and the barmaid,
Vidda, drinking, laughing while waiting for patrons to come in. Finally, Peggy
complained about being hungry. I offered to buy her breakfast. She said she had
work in the morning, and I told her we could get it go. She pointed out that
she just wanted to eat and go to sleep, and I told her that was fine with me
and that I would wait for her with the food at the door and then go home.
She looked shocked.
It’s the expectations again – the game of sexual approach, bantering about the prospect of romance until one side give in or gives up. Most bar games rarely get beyond this stage of verbal banter, but even the next stage where I am now, dating Peggy outside the bar has a surreal quality about it, a coolness I’m not totally comfortable with. My uncle growing up would have called this “breaking the ice,” and in fact, during my last two times with Peggy, I thought I saw cracks in her cold wall, but not penetration. I’m not talking about sex – although that’s a part of it. I’m talking about trust, that level of closeness in which people share the sincere often vulnerable secrets of their lives.
For a brief time last night, I did get close, but it came after I spend the last of my available cash on a turkey club and she broke open a bottle of twenty dollar Champaign. I talked about my grandmother’s dying someday, and Petty went up like a rocket, telling me not to talk that way, telling me that there were things that shouldn’t even be thought about. She couldn’t even stand going to a wake for someone she didn’t know, let along thinking about people who mean something to her. Her grandmother, she said, is 94, and is going to live forever.
A few minutes later, we were cuddled in her bed, just inches away from romance. She mumbled things that came close to being secrets, asking why I liked her and such, and then she fell asleep.
I nodded off beside her, almost falling out of the bed most of the night, managing at some point to pull some of her blankets over me to get warm. Her cat wandered over both of us, an interested third party, and each time I rose or moved, Peggy’s nails dug into me with a sleeping desperation that suggested she wanted to be held and loved for the rest of her life, and during those moments that’s all I wanted, too, to love and hold her forever.
At 8:45 in the morning, I woke her, and she stumbled up and squinted at me.
“What are you doing here?” she mumbled.
“I fell asleep.”
“I said, get out!”
It was clear I wasn’t moving fast enough. Perhaps I had become accustomed to her changing moods and didn’t take this to heart. I just got out.
Now, a day later, she called to make arrangements for our date tomorrow. She sounded sober and cooler, but still there, holding onto some thread we had managed to weave between us through the cracks of ice.
Maybe things will work out after all.