Excerpt 82

I was eighteen years old and a college freshman before I was allowed to select my

own clothes. My mother “owned” me; I was not a human being,  but her personal property.

There was a small shop in the “ville,” as we college students called it.

I purchased a cerulean blue-and-white polished cotton long-sleeved blouse in October of my freshman year.

It should have been framed in ornate gold and hung on the wall for posterity, as though it were an expensive handmade kimono from Kyoto.

One more step away from my mother had been taken.

In Memphis, Nancy had dragged me to several enormous discount warehouses with names like Atlantic Mills, after our cafeteria dinners. She spent hours digging through piles of scruffy clothing and periodically commanded me to try something on. When I tried on a pair of slacks, she made me bend over to check the fit; it was humiliating. I had to follow her around—for hours—with a shopping basket.

To this day, I will do almost anything to avoid shopping. After college, I became an avid catalog customer, even though I lived in the middle of Manhattan. And later came the Internet and Ebay, smartbargains.com, and overstock.com—gifts from the clothing gods for sure!

Excerpt 81

This Be The Verse


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   

    They may not mean to, but they do.   

They fill you with the faults they had

    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   

Who half the time were soppy-stern

    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

    It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

    And don’t have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin, “This Be the Verse” from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

Excerpt 80




She is legitimate.
But appears to a
Man at dinner at eight on a Tuesday at a
Madison Avenue coffee-shop counter to be a
Her soft scrambled eggs stubbornly resist the
Paroxysms of her esophagus as the
Gray-haired, gray-eyed, gray-suited
Stranger erects himself on the stool beside her and
Comments on the darkness of her seedy toast.
Charred thoughts of the past, of being watched, always watched
Choke her movements. She
Exposes impeccable manners.
Fingers firmly grasp the fork, as she raises her eyes to
Probe his face. Quickly lowering the pronged instrument to the
Hard plate, she slowly rises to pay the bill—one
Account finished,
Another just begun.
Manhattan’s aggressors strangle her sweet pliability of temper and womb.

{From the book, Furrow, by Anne Weitzer}

Excerpt 79



The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front yard of the house across the street from us. The NAACP had purchased the house for an African-American minister. Every weekend several of our neighbors strutted up and down the street carrying loathsome signs painted black and white: “N——, Get Out.”

The one Jewish lady, Mrs. Roseborough, on our block (and the only homeowner who had a swimming pool) had produced Tennessee Williams’s first play, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay, in her backyard.

She became a target for the KKK, as did my parents, because they refused to participate in the Sunday marches. Not long afterward, a Molotov cocktail sailed through our window, and obscene and threatening phone calls were becoming a common occurrence at three in the morning.

Often, Robert was out of town on business trips and sexual escapades, so my parents decided for safety’s sake that it was time to move.

            My parents sold our house to a lovely black lady, a missionary, who traveled back and forth to Africa. Her niece, Zola,  was one of my favorite playmates. Until my father died,  Zola’s aunt was his landlady; he rented the small office building behind the house for more than thirty years. It was always a mutually respectful relationship.

Excerpt 78

Both Alexa and I are childless by choice. Thank God for Mary McCarthy and diaphragms. Someone said McCarthy did for diaphragms what Melville did for whales.

When we were in our teens, we made the decision not to become mothers.

Our mothers had branded us with pain.

Excerpt 77

Thanksgiving Day


My father and I went to the local Holiday Inn for dinner. My mother drank too much the night before and was unable to dress and leave the house. She stayed in bed while we set forth for roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, my favorite meal.

In the buffet line, we ran into one of my father’s friends/clients: Anastasia. She looked much more like an East Village resident of Manhattan than the dweller of an architecturally conservative apartment building in a good neighborhood of Memphis. She was more Harvey Fierstein than Anita Bryant. Anastasia was flamboyant with her heavy makeup, colorful clothes, and Lucite handbag, which completely exposed the contents.

If I had looked closely, I might have seen the Trojan condoms; Anastasia was a wealthy divorcée who got her kicks by pimping for the secret society of artistic, homosexual men in the neighborhood.

She threw raucous parties where handsome youths and older patrician men were introduced. Women were invited also, but they tended to be in their 50s and 60s and were oblivious to Anastasia’s maternal machinations.

Excerpt 76


[music: Schubert’s Death and the Maiden ]

My father later wrote–on one of his signature postcards–in all seriousness, “If you move to Greece, I guess we’ll see you once every ten years.” I was 22 years old.

He expressed neither sadness nor regret. Robert did not express emotion. Never.

He was always reserved and aloof. Neither joy nor despair ever dared to cross his face. His emotional armor was impenetrable.

But what was truly in his heart?

I never found out…not even after his death.

Excerpt 75

When I slept with a man for the first time, I was almost 21, completely sober and terrified. My Brooklyn lover was a Jewish dental student at New York University. We did it on a water bed in a closed wing of Bellevue Hospital.

Afterward, he said, “I feel like I’ve been through a meat grinder.”

Excerpt 74

Both of my parents smoked after our restaurant dinners, and I hated the smoke, but we always sat at the table for an interminable amount of time.

Nancy feverishly discussed current events, which usually involved vehemently lambasting the local politicians and complaining about the price of everything. That was the pattern: Nancy talked her staccato talk in her rebarbative tone. Robert and I listened.

Sometimes, I took a book to the restaurant. I knew that was very bad manners, but my parents permitted it, as I sat quiet and motionless, with my ankles daintily crossed. One of my favorite books was a biography of Julia Ward Howe; I was spellbound when I read about her writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which became a famous Civil War song.

The orange-and-black hardcover book had been borrowed from the library. (I must give my mother credit where credit is due; she often drove me to various libraries, dropped me off, and picked me up hours later.)

Why did that book make such an indelible impression? At age eight, did I understand that to survive my childhood, it would take all my emotional strength? That not enough would be left over to support any kind of conventional life? That the battles that awaited me would color the rest of my days?

Afterward, the three of us walked to the two cars, but never together. Nancy always charged ahead several paces in front of my father. He held the middle position. I brought up the rear like a little ugly duckling.


My pretty, blond mother was German; I have always had a special affinity for dark, Jewish men. (What would Freud say about that?)

Or, as Elizabeth Hardwick wrote in Sleepless Nights to her mother in Kentucky: “I love the Hebrews.”


Writing in my diary is my therapy. Goethe said:

“The beginning and end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, re-created, molded and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.”

Often, I wish I were a ballerina so that I could sweat blood for beauty and for art. I gesticulate in front of the mirror, with my arms outstretched reaching farther and farther.

Art has helped more people recover from abuse, abandonment, and betrayal than all the psychiatrists in the world.

Excerpt 73

[music/Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess]

April 22, 1983

Earth Day and Day of My Last Drink

High Falls, New Jersey

The psychiatric male nurse rifled through my small canvas bag. With a black magic marker, he wrote “Smith” on the crotch of every pair of my white lace panties. Trembling, I stood silently beside him. Would I spend the rest of my life in this god-forsaken hellhole in the wilderness of New Jersey? Would a bored psychiatrist give me a shot, so that I would become just another inmate doing the Thorazine shuffle?

Another Frances Farmer?

I have never been so scared in my whole life. I got married six months ago.

Would my husband divorce me? Would I become a homeless woman sitting beside overflowing garbage bags on the streets of New York?

I felt like an astronaut floating in space whose umbilical cord to the spaceship that would return him to Earth had just been severed.

I was instructed to wait in another room.

“Does your husband beat you?” the kind nurse asked. “No, never,” I answered with quivering lips.

“How did you get all those bruises?” she asked.

“I bumped into the furniture and fell off my bicycle.” It was true.

I was riding an old Schwinn from the Pellisades health club to my apartment building in heavy traffic after dark.

(Every alcoholic goes to a health club daily, right? I did; it was my futile attempt to exert some control over my behavior, which I hated, but could not stop.)

When I got married, I left my one shabby room in Manhattan for New Jersey. I hated New Jersey almost as much as I hated my alcoholism. Parts of New Jersey are really beautiful; I just didn’t live in any of them. Living in this congested town by the George Washington Bridge represented unequivocal failure to me. It had all the disadvantages of an overcrowded city, as well as a boring suburb with insufficient parking places. I left Frenchtown (a suburb of Memphis), Tennessee, so that I could end up in Port Lincoln, New Jersey?

Why was I traveling by bicycle? I hadn’t driven a car since I was 17 after having an almost fatal encounter with a tractor-trailer on a major east-west thoroughfare in

Memphis. When I went to Thorncliff College and lived in a dorm for four years in Westchester County, I didn’t need a car because I could take the train that runs alongside the scenic Hudson River to Grand Central Station.

Don’t know if she believed me or not, but the nurse sent me to a large room, essentially a holding pen, filled with men and women of all ages and all sizes. Each patient would be evaluated eventually and treatment–drugs and/or therapy–would begin. Being a well-bred Southerner, I attempted to make polite conversation with a muscular man, Douglas, a paranoid schizophrenic who had just been shipped over from a psycho ward in Connecticut.

He started talking about Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy… what a cool bus ride they had together.

Five minutes later, I was lying on the cold linoleum floor spitting out large chips of teeth and lots of blood. Several of the male patients came to my rescue; they pulled Douglas off of me and held him until a doctor appeared.

He drugged Douglas and escorted him into a room with a solid, gray metal door.

After his door was bolted, his bloodcurdling, scathing denunciations of me penetrated every room of that hospital.

Someone gave me an ice bag to hold on my throbbing cheek. Much of the attack is now just a blurry nightmare in my head. I was assigned to a bedroom only three doors away from his.

My skinny roommate, Melanie, sat on her bed with her knees clasped to her chin.

She looked like a praying mantis cut in two.

“Why are you here?” the frail, depressed girl asked.

“I can’t stop drinking.”

“I slashed my wrists. See?” Melanie said.

I wasn’t really expecting a coherent conversation. Melanie exhibited her bony, scarred arms. I was really trying to be calm and sympathetic, but I just wanted to escape.

“I’ve been attacked. I want to leave this place now,” I told the nurse on duty who came in to check on us.

“You’re safe now. Don’t worry. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

“Please let me use your phone.” She pointed to a public telephone down the hall. I made a collect call to my husband, Joseph.

“I hate you. I really hate you. An insane man just tried to kill me. Come and get me. Now. This place is filled with certified lunatics, and that’s no exaggeration.”

Joseph replied in a stern voice, “I’ll come tomorrow morning.”

During the night, he arranged to have me transferred to another hospital, Fair Hope, in Sumac, New Jersey. (What a strange coincidence; I remembered that my parents were married in Fair Hope, Alabama—I would have named their marriage rendezvous location: No Hope. Ever. Ever. Ever.)

The following morning the Walter-Mitty type staff psychiatrist tried to convince my husband and me, as we sat in his dark-brown dreary office with worn-out leather furniture, that I should stay put.

“Out of the question,” said my 53-year-old husband in his most authoritative executive voice.

He immediately drove me to Fair Hope Hospital where I lived for one month.

A member of the cleaning staff stole my navy leather handbag–with the exquisite

brass hardware and clasp–from my closet, but other than that, the experience of living with a group of men and women, who had endured far more than their share of life’s cruelties, injustices, and tragedies, was almost an epiphany; I began to believe that a different life was possible.

During the day we had group therapy with counselors who all were recovering alcoholics and/or drug addicts. I was an oddity because I had never used drugs. Not once. Most patients in their 30s had at least experimented with every powder, pill, or injection available.

As Boris Pasternak wrote, “I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless, and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”

He was right, of course. I wish that we had met; Dr. Zhivago is one of my all- time favorites. And I’m very fond of late bloomers; he was sixty-eight when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

We ate our tasteless meals in a bland cafeteria. Only decaf coffee was available

from a large metal container, so I was really sleepy for the entire 30 days. Most of the patients were men, so my roommate, a pretty, blue-eyed blonde, around my age, and I got lots of attention. We also were among the youngest.

We were the lucky ones, who had been forced into rehab before the devastating effects of alcoholism took their toll: debilitating neuropathy, memory loss, grizzled complexions.

One patient had to have his arm amputated; he was drunk and waved his arm out

the car window…a truck roared by, too close. [Peer Gynt Suite 2, Op. 55]

Every night we went to an A.A. meeting. I met a woman who had watched her brother hacked to death with an ax by a stranger in her backyard; a man who was just released from jail for grand larceny and who ran a prostitution ring from his Irish bar on First Avenue (He begged me to work for him as a call girl after we were discharged from Fair Hope); a good-looking, sanguine, irreverent man in his late twenties who had spent years traveling on luxury cruise ships pretending that he was a Catholic priest and befriending and bedding older women if they bought him enough champagne; another woman stood outside with her mother and sister as her father burned to death trapped in their suburban house; a shy, thirty-two-year-old female, who was the unwanted only child of an abusive alcoholic manic-depressive mother and charming, artistic homosexual father, who found neither the time nor the energy nor psychological fortitude to protect his daughter from his wife’s violent rages and relentless cruelties.

That one was me.

[Tchaikovsky/Concert for Violin in D, op. 35]

October 6, 2000


Port Lincoln, New Jersey 10:15 PM

The phone rang. I didn’t answer, but waited for the machine to record the


It began: “This is Janet Emerald. I live next door to your mother. She’s in the Frenchtown jail. She was arrested for drunk driving after she drove her car into a restaurant.

She called us from jail. We’ll post her bond and take her home. Call me. 901-751-


Immediately, I called her back. Janet sounded totally in control. She explained that my mother drove her Volvo through the side of the Trafalgar Cafeteria around 5:00 PM.

Miraculously, no one was hurt!

After she rammed through one side of the dining room, she backed up and totally demolished a lamp pole. My 81-year-old mother’s face was bruised, but she had no other injuries. Not even her glasses were broken. (Great TV ad for Volvo!)

I had been waiting for THE EMERGENCY for years. I had predicted that only a crisis would make it possible for me to move her out of her home and into an assisted- living facility.

When I entered her house– with the help of her lawyer (because she refused to give me a key; I might steal something!—and I was afraid that she would sue me)– I was horrified.

The walls were lined with empty half-gallon plastic jugs of cheap Scotch. The handle of each jug was precisely pointed to the right. Even in the throes of alcoholism and dementia, my mother’s obsessive-compulsive nature reigned.

Cigarette butts covered the once beautiful parquet floor in the hallway that I had

frequently polished on my hands and knees when I was a child, as she glowered above me like the Colossus of Rhodes. Large black garbage bags filled every room; she never took the garbage out. But each bag was meticulously tied at the top with string. Stains in the shape of inchoate embryos covered the wooden floor and bedroom carpets upstairs. She was incontinent and had urinated everywhere. All of the toilets were stopped up and overflowing with shit. She had been using plastic buckets, which were never emptied.

The kitchen appliances were almost black with filth; the dishwasher had not been used for more than a decade. The rubber and plastic inside of it had disintegrated like the yellowed pages from an ancient library book.

My relationship with my mother had always been strained; I was terrified of her.

There had never been any kind of emotional intimacy between us: no affectionate caresses, no bedtime stories, no nicknames, no birthday parties, no Santa Claus, no tooth fairy, no hugs and kisses, no cuddling, no appearances at the camp horse show or water ballet or school spelling bee, no phone calls, no care packages…nothing–even when I was very young.

Not once in her life did she say that she loved me…liked me…that I ever did anything worthwhile…or even deserved to take up space on this planet.

Years later, she and my father boycotted my wedding and sent a neatly typed note on engraved eggshell stationery: “Mr. and Mrs. Robert R. Smith, Jr., will not attend.”

I waited for an explanation for their absence. I waited for decades, but it never


My mother and I were master/slave; Hitler/Jew; shark/bloody leg; Mr.

Murdstone/David Copperfield; Johan/Henrik in Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband.

Whenever someone asked about my “Mom,” my gut reaction would have been to answer, Mom? I don’t know anyone like that. Nancy, the popinjay, the vituperative termagant, was certainly no Stella Dallas.

To my mother, every aspect of life was categorized as a bargain or overpriced.

That included me: poor Return On Investment.

I had no siblings. To visit her after I left home for college, a formal invitation was required. Christmas was the only time that I was permitted to return to my parents’ house.

If she didn’t want to see you, she wouldn’t open the door.

I remember looking down from the upstairs hall window in our saltbox colonial house to see my paternal grandmother standing at the front door and ringing the doorbell. She had driven from Cotton Fields, Arkansas, about a two-hour drive. My mother refused to open the door.

My tired, old grandmother returned to her big Buick in our driveway and left.

To put me to sleep, Nancy gave me a tall glass of bourbon and 7-Up. The glass was painted with a couple dancing, dressed like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

It was the perfect metaphor for our family: To the outside world, we looked perfect.

Inside, was our own hell on earth. Robert never intervened.

My father was part of William Alexander Percy’s world and during Robert’s lifetime all of the lanterns on the levee were extinguished.

My thoughts are identical to those of Percy, who wrote in his Foreword in

Lanterns on the Levee:

The desire to reminisce arises not so much I think from the number of years you may happen to have accumulated as from the number of those who meant most to you in life who have gone on the long journey. They were the bulwarks, the bright spires, the strong places. When they have gone, you are a little tired, you rest on your oars, you say to yourself:

“There are no witnesses to my fine little fury, my minute heroic efforts. It is better to remember, to be sure of the good that was, rather than of the evil that is, to watch the spread and pattern of the game that is past rather than engage feebly in the present play. It was a stout world thus far, people with all manner of gracious and kindly and noble personages—these seem rather a pygmy tribe.”

“After a while, particularly if you have cut no very splendid figure in the show, indulgence in this sort of communing becomes a very vice. With some addicts, it takes the form of dreaming; silently—the best way, I fear—and these are mostly women; with others, of conversation, and these are mostly old men—very tiresome unless you are one too; but the most abandoned of the whole lot insist that they must write it all down, and of them am I . So while the world I know is crashing to bits, and what with the noise and the cryings-out, no man could hear a trumpet blast, much less an idle evening reverie, I will indulge a heart beginning to be fretful by repeating to it the stories it knows and

loves of my own country and my own people. A pilgrim’s script—one man’s field notes of a land not far but quite unknown—valueless except as that man loved the country he passed through and its folk, and except as he willed to tell the truth. How other, alas, than telling it!”

So, this tale is my own Pilgrim’s Progress…

When I was a sophomore in college, I got a postcard—his favorite way to communicate–from Robert.

It said, in its entirety:

“Alexandra, you know that you can never come home again except for a few days at Christmas.

You’ll probably stay at the Ridgemont Inn then.”

Not once in his life did my father telephone me. Always, at camp, I eagerly

awaited the sporadic arrival of his terse postcards, printed in perfect block letters and with a stamp meticulously aligned with his text.

A few times, I dreamed that I had sex with my father.

My way of getting him to be on my side against my mother? It would mean that he loved me so much that he would reject young men sexually and choose me instead?

Some people are born rich, others are born beautiful. The most fortunate are born wanted.

I began to sink under my cumbrous emotions.

June 1955

Camp Hopewell Oxford, Mississippi

My mother thought that I needed to become more independent. I was five years old.

Camp Hopewell didn’t accept five-year-olds, but my mother convinced them that I would be no trouble at all.

There were no ghosts of Faulkner at that place. Nothing literary or artistic. Just a shit-brown lake, a roller-skating rink, and a few ramshackle cottages for all the boys and girls.

The girls’ bathrooms had no curtains, just wooden partitions between the toilets, so I only could go to the bathroom when no one else was around; my innards are very modest.

We slept on lumpy bunk beds and ate on warped picnic tables covered with red


I didn’t know how to swim then and almost drowned in that putrid lake. My counselor told me to swim from the shore to the floating rope in front of the diving platform. I doggy paddled toward it, as some older boys attempted to create a tsunami with their flailing arms and legs. Temporarily, I was blinded by the deluge. I paddled with all my might, coughed up brown water, and finally made it back to a spot where my feet could reach the bottom.

In the lake, I was afraid of drowning.

Out of the lake, I was afraid of being bitten by one of the cottonmouths that slithered through the dense brush surrounding the camp’s grounds.

[music: Handel’s Messiah: “My Redeemer Liveth”]

Frequently, we were ordered to hike. Long, long hikes on hot, humid afternoons.

We returned to base camp covered with bites from mosquitoes and chiggers and open wounds from the barbed-wire fences we crawled under.

From an early age, I learned that boys would rescue me if I were sweet and docile; cute Jimmy always carried a water canteen on these unpleasant perambulations. He shared his water with me and gallantly pulled up the barbed wire on the lower rungs of the pasture fences, so that I wouldn’t cut myself while sliding under the barrier.

The next time we were roller skating, [music: Strauss’s “Explosions Polka”] I kissed him on the cheek and said, “Thank you.”

The kids around us went wild:

“Jimmy and Alexi sitting in a tree… k…i….s…s…i…n…g.

First, comes love, Then, comes marriage.

Next comes Alexi with a baby carriage.”


I remember the first and only time my father expressed physical affection toward


Nancy had gone out one night. He put me to bed, something which my mother never did. He read Sleeping Beauty to me from a worn-out book that I treasured. It was a strange shape—rectangular with a long length and short width, the binding was gone, the pages were faded.

When he finished the story, he gently caressed my forehead and softly sang, “Good night, Ladies, Good night, Gentlemen, we’re going to leave you now.”

It was one of the best nights of my childhood. To this day, if a man gently caresses my forehead and hair, I begin to feel as though I were melting and experience emotional stirring.

My father always reminded me of Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited.

His aloofness, detachment, even the extended trip to Central America to sketch

and paint the Mayan architecture and coastal landscapes.

My father had his blond Sebastian, too, but it was a fully realized passionate, lengthy homosexual union. Even a cold, cruel father was in the picture. My Arkansas grandfather, the gruff, unhappy cotton farmer, the son of an alcoholic, relentlessly exerted his destructive influence over the emotional component of my father’s personality.

Robert seldom mentioned his childhood, but on one rare occasion—the only time he ever visited me alone in New York, he was en route to London to meet a client–he stated matter-of-factly, “My father did everything possible to destroy my self- confidence.”

It was the only personal conversation that we ever had. We were sitting in Mme. Romaine de Lyon’s restaurant and eating asparagus omelettes by a window with white lace curtains.

Was he aware that he and my mother flawlessly performed the same act upon me?

He also described a recurring dream that he had: He and my mother were standing in the yard of his childhood home in Cotton Fields, Arkansas.

“We’ve killed someone,” he calmly stated to my mother.

I guess he felt guilty about his treatment of me, or rather his infinite indifference. It was his way to apologize, the best that he could do, under his steely emotional armor.

My father made the decision—from the beginning—to sacrifice me, in order to save himself.

There was a truly pagan element of masochism, sadism, and self-destruction to the family dance of the Smiths.

This model gave me an uncanny ability to adapt to all the selfish monsters that would confront me, want to maintain a relationship with me, or exploit me.

Another time, in August, Robert pretended to crack the ice in the backyard birdbath, as my mother watched from a window. He wanted her to take him to a psychiatric hospital.

But it was all a trick; he wanted to get her into the looney bin! They never made it there. On the way to the hospital, she grabbed the steering wheel and wrecked the car.

So my father retreated once again into his basement office with the sawhorses, pigeon holes for blueprints, and shelves lined with art books and Gore Vidal novels. He began planning his next extended escape to Monhegan island, off the coast of Maine.



Every night the three of us went to a restaurant for dinner, not fancy places

at all.

Nancy, my mother, would call Robert at his office to give instructions: time and name of restaurant. The time was always six pm sharp.

There was a large department store downtown, close to the Mississippi River, called Silversmith’s.

It was my favorite; our waitress in her too short pink-and-white uniform always gave me a soft pat on my cheek and told me how much I had grown.


Excerpt 72



Sol Schwartz, a commercial artist, called last night. He had picked me up in front of “Guernica” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1971, shortly after I had lost my virginity on a waterbed in a closed wing of Bellevue Hospital to a Jewish dental student at New York University.

I’m sure glad sex improved after that experience! What a selfish, insensitive bastard my de-virginizer was.

Sol remembered our conversations in detail…even the name of the headmistress at the school where I taught first grade.

He told me that I should be an ambassador’s wife because protocol agrees with me, then he asked about my romances.

He surmised that I was incapable of loving anyone freely—that I would always maintain control and keep a distance because I feared more emotional pain and had learned how to protect myself to an exaggerated degree. He said that my voice had changed; the hesitancy was gone. I was tougher now.

He was absolutely right.

Another friend from Frenchtown, Tennessee, called today. He lives in San Francisco now and promised to ship a case of California Chardonnay to me.

Excerpt 71

I turn to art for peace and tranquility…

At the Alliance Française:

Yesterday, saw Kleinhans’s photography exhibit: Perigord, France. Made me aware of how much I need a change of environment. To breathe fresh air in the morning, inhale the fragrance of potted red geraniums resting on some steps leading to an ancient, worn wooden door trimmed with black wrought-iron hardware. To hear no automobile or construction machinery, no piercing telephone rings. How I would enjoy slowly opening a shuttered window to gaze on a landscape uncluttered by buildings or highways—solely to appreciate nature’s greens, browns, yellows, oranges.

Maybe Tuscany would do the trick!