Friday, November 12, 2010


On a clear November day Danielle and I go up to the Cloisters, sit on a bench high above the river watching little old New Yorkers promenading in their Sunday best, and then on to a funny movie with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. We are splitting the house sitting duties of this quite fancy co-op a mutual friend from the Middle East, a guy with the London Observer, had purchased in an elaborately renovated loft building in a no-man’s land just west of Union Square that is now, for real estate promotion purposes, called the Flat Iron district. We have known each other for years. Danielle was married for a time to an old friend of mine from Athens days,. and we once helped sea turtles lay their eggs on an endless deserted sand beach on the little known east coast of the Malay Peninsula. Another time we were in the same building in Beirut. She is fun and she is gorgeous – French Vietnamese.

Sadly she is just a friend. People we have known from various exotic places, some of them my friends, more of them hers, keep coming through the co-op. Danielle is sometimes with a distinguished guy who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work for the L.A. Times on China and sometimes she is with an intense guy who won his Pulitzer for New York Times things in Central America. These and other war loving journalists, whom I had never expected to see again. But for the moment I’ll take who I can get. I am just out of a marriage and really living nowhere yet.

After the movie Danielle and I head down to West 79th Street to a casual dinner gathering of New Yorkers I have known for years, at the Upper West Side apartment of Walter Karp, who has become a somewhat celebrated political writer in books and magazines and is never at a loss for verbal versions of what he is about to write. His current wife is blond, quick and wonderfully Brooklyn human. Alex Bespaloff is there too, a well known wine writer now. I used to never drive far out of town with getting a case of wine selected by Michael Aaron, who was in line to inherit the big wine merchant place Sherry Lehman. Michael had been in a wine tasting group where I had met Alex when I was first living in New York and I had this amazing artist girlfriend whom I though I might never leave, though it fell apart. Everything seems long ago now in this time I am not living anywhere.

At this dinner with old New York friends, Walter’s best friend since long ago Columbia Days, Marvin, is present. Marvin is a brilliant manic-depressive literary guy who now leads historical walking tours in the city even though he recently turned blind. With him is his long-time Japanese wife Rose.

One day at the place near Union Square Danielle strides in in early evening a tall young woman with waist-length hair who knows how to look erotic in high boots – and she says my almost ex-wife Claudia had just appeared at Magnum, where Danielle holds court with famous photographers. Claudia had been in a fury. She had said that Rose, her fellow Asian, had seen us at Walters’ and had told her “everything.” So Claudia burst into Magnum demanding loudly that Danielle release me.

My first thought was that I deeply wished that everything my almost ex-wife had ever suspected were true – even though just before we separated she said that in her culture violence would be acceptable if she caught me doing what she thought I was doing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I am convinced for a moment that all this puts my life on track. I present the good news about the new girlfriend to this young therapist David Yammer, but he does not share the enthusiasm I am trying to project. Still, I do not feel foolish.

She connects me with her friends, a cinematically good looking French couple who mysteriously are in an apartment, a very ordinary looking apartment, in an office building adjoining Rockefeller Center. She invites over one night Wayne Sorce, a intense, friendly photographer she represents who like me had been with the opposition in the Philippines. And now that things were worse than ever there she thinks maybe Wayne and I can work together and go back. Also, she seems to be ready to read anything I write.

She shows me an old American cookbook that has the most disgusting things in it from the19th century. Bloody ways of killing animals, the steaming of the flesh of those just killed, gooey things made from their bleeding inner organs. She asks if these things ring a bell with me since this is apparently what prominent Americans used to have done in their kitchens, and I am apparently from an old line, non-ethnic American family.

She tells me everything she tells her therapist, who she says is a delightful man. She says she has her sessions with him not in his office but while on the move around various parts of New York.

She says she will help in every way she can my plan to quit using sleeping pills.

She backs me up when one day I bring out a tie to wear to a funeral of someone who has died of something he should not have died of but everyone knew he would – my first experience with what AIDs was doing.

She goes to the Carlyle for power breakfasts while I stay in bed in the big room where we spend our time – these high curtains that are always rustling, the teletype and telex machines always clicking away, the phone ringing, never answered right away but the volume of the answering machines always turned up. How life has changed since you and I met, she keeps saying.

One night before we get to bed she says she wants to read to me from Lao-tzu, who she says is her favorite.
Once again I can make no sense of what is going on around me and so cannot think of anything to say. She reads about how the fool is always talking, the wise man stays silent. "When I read this I know it is about you," she says.

We decide to stay in on New Year’s eve. We are in her bed again and still. The sex really justifies all this, I think. And then both of us stay there still naked if not quite ready for the next round, I am lying on my back, and she is sitting up on a pillow, her upper thigh and rump against my ear. New Years Eve. A milestone time in our lives. Or so I think it seems to her. I wish I could rise to it. I am speechless again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


So here we were now in Chez Napoléon eating bifteck and pomme frits, right near the Etoile, the bar restaurant where 25 years back I had gone with a boozed up crew after we saw my girlfriend off on the France. We had stayed for hours drinking cheap wine and listening to the sad songs of Edith Piaf. These old places. The Etoile, and also the Brittany and the Brittany du Soir. And now years later, Chez Napoléon. And only now do I learn it is more cool to order bifteck and pommes frits than escargot.

Here in this French part of town where once I was hiding out with another man’s wife. I had chosen as our trysting place the last place I thought anyone would look for me or Marnie, the big Henry Hudson Hotel, way over on 57th almost by the river, a place used mainly by non-New Yorkers who were about to sail to Europe.

I think of that timeless time of sex in the Henry Hudson Hotel. I am picturing Marnie slipping out of her with-it no-bra and rolling about the hotel bed. The mere sight of her bare arm could get me aroused and now here she was, slippery and sliding and smelling like I had thought a woman could.

Here in Chez Napoléon, 1985, not 1963, Jacqueline talks of her old boyfriend, a somewhat known director, who had made a somewhat known small film from a big Henry Miller book. She says this guy would look at other women constantly while they were together, even when she was talking. Had she noticed I was looking at a dark girl two tables over?

While I try to give the impression I am listening, I am conjuring up an old scene. That night when Marnie was late coming to the hotel and I drank alone into oblivion. When I came to, my head was in her bare lap and she was bent down looking at me, amused, her hair tickling my chest. You were a sight last night, she said, using one of those southern expressions she often used. A sight, she repeated. I had to do my work, she said. I lapped you like a cat.

Jacqueline is asking me if I have ever had sex with a man, and when I say no, I don’t think I ever did though I cannot be sure about times in blackouts, she is telling me how she had sex with a woman just once to see what it was like. And she is telling me about how when she was vacationing alone on St. Bart’s last year there was this very young and very beautiful half-French island boy who worked at the hotel. A virgin. She had taken him to a deserted beach, undressed him, inducted him into manhood. Something of which she is intensely proud, she says.

We start to talk about this sudden life that she says we have together. She says we have this life together. She calls it a romance. Actually I have phoned a couple of people to tell them I have a new girlfriend but it didn’t come out sounding anything like the way it sounds when Jacqueline talks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


That first night at Jacqueline’s I slept without a pill for the first time in more than 20 years. The first time back in the time when almost any doctor would prescribe almost any quantity of barbiturates or, as a change of pace, chloral hydrate – and anyway I had been living in places where you could buy anything over the counter. In 1971 I had never heard of Quaaludes and did not know there was a fad, complete with dire warnings, for them in America. I got a hefty stash simply by asking for something new at a pharmacy across the street in Beirut.
I knew these pills were good ones, if a little worrisome, because if I took a couple of them and stood up I would fall down. A new law was passed in Lebanon while I was there requiring prescriptions for such things. This meant only that for a modest fee my neighborhood pharmacy would throw in a prescription, supposedly written by a doctor upstairs in the pharmacy's shop building, though no ever saw such a doctor in the neighborhood.

Jacqueline’s place just off Fifth was also her office – this grand-scale high ceiling room where teletypes and telexes were always running – the nerve center from which she would deploy photographers when there was a sudden sighting – such as of King Don Carlos skiing in Gstaad. At the head of her bed, which was not really separated from the office aspects of the big room, there was a TV set hooked up to a VCR, which was still something new. This bed where I found I could sleep without the pills that, my wife had been saying, before we separated, had something to do with slowed down sexual activity. But maybe my wife had gotten this the wrong way around, maybe I was sleeping now because suddenly now sex was back. So everything is all right, I thought.

It was an early December of cold nights now, and at Jacqueline’s the long curtains rustled even though the high vertical windows that reached almost to the high ceiling were closed. A place haunted with secrets, a formal building, like a consular building in Venice or Paris but right here in New York. I
lay there on my back. She, naked, was sitting up on pillows, my ear against her thigh.

Her wonderful chubby gray tiger cat, who had a French name and was her greeter, was everywhere but never intrusive. And always the click clack of the teletype and telex machines, and the muffled ringing of the phones. All there in that same room – just down from the Carlyle, where she had power breakfasts with the editors of the famous photographers she represented.

One of the famous photographers gave us a video, not yet released to the public, of the Truffaut film Small Change, which we watched from bed, as we also watched the constant runnings of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and the new ABC late night news program devoted to an anchor's patriotic efforts at getting the goods on the Ayatollah Khomeini.

We watched Small Change from bed, and in the scene where the compassionate Lyon schoolmaster is explaining to the children about how a child who had just been taken away had been badly abused at home, while that scene was playing tears came. I was not sure yet why this should make me cry, me who hardly ever showed tears. "Were you an abused child?" she asked. "I was," she said. She said when she was still living in Algeria, where her French Jewish family had been since the 19th century, her grandmother would corner her in a shower stall and beat her black and blue.

Were you an abused child, she asked again.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I met her through Suzanne, still in that time I was living nowhere. My 50th birthday had passed and I was living nowhere.

Nowhere in this time was a slick co-op in a former no man’s land of loft storage and manufacturing places just off Union Square, an area that for real estate promotion purposes, had recently been given the name the Flat Iron District. This co-op, in this formerly dingy loft building, smelled new. It had new hard wood floors, a raised dining area, a raised work area, and a raised kitchen area, bright with sunlight. It had a long living room and two bedrooms, on with a big bed, one with a mattress on the floor. It was owned by one of my maybe friends from times abroad, Jonathan Camus, who still traveled for the London Observer and now wrote thrillers, fiction and near non-fiction, and spent part of each year on Majorca, where he had just gone for the winter with his new wife, who had stylish minority status, and his new preppy stepson. I had gotten a call from Suzanne Cartright , with whom I had once helped sea turtles lay eggs on the obscure east coast of the Malay Peninsula. She had said Camus, with whom I had once gone to the ancient Nabatean rock city of Petra, wanted to sublet the place and would I share it with her. Suzanne had been married to an old friend of mine from Athens and Bangkok days, and Suzanne herself was an old friend from Singapore and Beirut days. For a time in Beirut Camus and I had shared a place in an old Arab building on the water.

Now in this sublet it was as if I were living in a movie about past people and past places. They kept on coming through. Combat photographers, whom Suzanne knew since she had been married for a time to one of them and also because she now worked at the high toned photo agency Magnum. Journalists she had known, and sometimes I had too, in the Far East and Middle East. Suzanne was Vietnamese from the old days, for when she was a child her father, a Vietnamese NCO in the French army, had had to flee with to Paris. She had head-turning good looks. These people from her travels, and sometimes from mine too, kept coming through this stage set place in this fake Flat Iron District. War loving journalists. Famous photographers.

She had the room with the real bed. And she had suiters. I, just months out of my seven-year marriage, had no lovers, but Suzanne said she had just the right woman for me. Jacqueline, whose name came out Jackque-leen (note Jack-eh-lin). A pied noir, Suzanne said, the old term for colonial French people. A pied noir from Algeria who was so plugged into worlds I wanted that she was also Jewish. And moreover she had just started a photo agency that was right up there with the best.

The time in the Flat Iron building seemed to me to fit with descriptions I had heard about how just when people are about to die their whole lives flash before them. Like I was in a movie of my life – these people from the Middle East and Far East passing through. The two foreign correspondents who kept spending time with Suzanne had both won Pulitzer prizes.

Suzanne and I went over for dinner at pied noir Jacqueline’s, a wildly evocative place of pillars and high windows beneath a Mansard roof over near the Carlyle. She was 40ish, soft and curvy and gracious. And her French accent made me want her. She quickly cooked up a mysterious little meat and cheese dish that seemed like the real French food, and she was quick, like me, on many subjects. I was having almost as much fun as I might have had if I had met someone when I was still drinking, or still had hope, or both.

Jacqueline moved in a haunting combination of keyed up anxiety and slowed down languidness. When I got together with her again a month later, just after I moved from the Flat Iron building to a cold room in a brick building in Chelsea, a room that seemed the right stage set for my seemingly never ending depression, when I called her from the cold room she said to come right up to 78th Street and she said that after Suzanne and I left that night we came to dinner she had almost called asking me to come right back then.

I started out calling her Jack-eh-lin, but changed to Jackque-leen, for that was the way her name came out as I was coming inside her. The French pronunciation, which seemed to make all the difference. Jacqueline decided that I knew more French than I said I knew.

When I was with her I had a first time and last time feeling, filled with nostalgia and sweet despair. We went out most nights to restaurants way over west in the 50s, an area that I knew, but not many people seemed to know, was a French quarter, with all French names by the buzzers for tenement and brownstone buildings. Like so much else, wherever I went in these days, I had been there before.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The moment I met up with them the night before sailing I knew I was back in a horribly familiar place. From various parts of the country we had come to the Henry Hudson Hotel over by the West Side Highway across from the ships’ berths from where a Holland-American Line student ship would depart the next day for Europe. A half dozen boys and girls were already there, congregating in one of the anonymous carpeted bedrooms, and the scene was dominated by this burly guy Bruce from Akron, Ohio who did all the talking. No chance for me to get a word in, hard as it was to speak at all, and I thought I might never connect with any of the girls here – the sad, puppy-like blonde from California, the olive skinned, sharp featured girl from New Jersey, the firm pug nosed girl from Boston, the intelligent New York girl who said her father was a state supreme court judge. Bruce never stopped talking. Saying the obvious. There we are, he said. Here we are, he said. Now you look very ready, he said. And the girls watched him, and the other boys, who seemed small and retiring, did too. A running commentary as if we were all part of nothing more than his own story. Annoying and frightening for he seemed to have power here. Like the ones who used to make fun of me before it became clear to me and the world that I was bright and that a pretty girl could love me.

Out of the blue Bruce started making fun of me, for I hesitated to speak and that seemed to tell him I was an enclosed intellectual. He leapt on my not being able to speak by asking why I was so afraid, asking it in a way that did not require an answer.

Why was I here? The previous summer while in Europe with the family I had had this idea they all scoffed at that I would become a poet and live in Paris. I had been able to so clearly see myself in a small basement restaurant such as I so far knew only in fiction, a warm dark place with red and white checkered table clothes, glowing candles with cheerful wax dripping down the sides, me and a generic warm dark girl in black leaning in over the table, forehead to forehead, she making love close up with her eyes as we talked in shared intensity about something. Monet? Keats? Socialism?

And there I had been with this fantasy last summer while on the one hand in Paris and on the other back in the family. Which had opened up new worlds but also made it seem to me that I could never get safely beyond the family’s version of my life. In
boarding school, which at first had been a place of dread, I had entered worlds beyond the family, and my victories in school had been confirmed by my growing popularity in summer in the White mountains. But back in the family everything else in my life could seem flimsy.

And then our Southern grandmother had offered Peter and me new trips to Europe. There was this outfit called the Experiment in International Living, based in Putney Vermont, that was popular with parents in our Connecticut town. It set up groups of young people for summers abroad to live in foreign families. Most of the groups were for college students, but they had this one group for just graduated secondary school seniors. Not for Paris. Rather for Holland, which I knew mainly from sappy children’s stories about blonde kids in wooden shoes, sexless little blonde girls in dumpy cloth hats. Hans Brinker and his silver skates. Funny little dogs pulling funny little carts. But I jumped at the chance to board a ship again and leave an old life behind. Though I also thought that just maybe what I really wanted was back up to the White Mountains – despite this pull to sail away from whatever it was that bound me.

Oh god, how stupid, I said to myself, sitting cross legged on brown wall-to-wall hotel room carpeting, looking at possibly unattainable girls, back now at the starting point, back as dumb and dull as I had seemed to people before I was seen to all but a handful as bright and interesting – back in the dark past when I was defined by my twin brother whom the family adored and who had learned to read four years before I did.

There on the brown carpet I silently spoke to myself trying to feign connection with what was around me. I was saying to myself, as I used to do years back, “Dee Dah Duh.” I was
back to using on myself the sounds that came from Mortimer Snerd who was on the radio every week, a buck-toothed ventriloquist’s dummy who was supposed to be comically stupid.

Bruce looked down at me on the floor and said “We won’t bite you.” And then he cut off the chance of anyone else saying anything by starting to sing “Walkin’ my baby back home,” about him getting a girl’s makeup all over his face, a song I knew would take me back to this awful moment if I ever heard it again.

On the ship we met with our elders from the Experiment in International Living, Hal and Nancy. From them we learned the words to song about a long ago Dutchman doing heroic things against the Spanish. We were warned that the Dutch were sensitive about what was happening right now in the East Indies in the big colony that they were losing without any Western powers coming to their support. In the passion I had for peace and justice as part of my coming to know that I was not always to be seen as stupid, as I had been putting together these worthy cause idea, I had not noticed the war the Dutch were fighting against brave, freedom-loving revolutionaries in Java.

I did let it be known that I was a young Socialist, another matter for Bruce to use to make fun of me. I let it be known in the discussion groups that I was on the side of justice, though outside the groups I was almost paralyzed, even if somewhat confident that eventually they all, except Bruce, might respect my intelligence and maybe even like me – if not so much as I was respected and liked by the kids in the White Mountains. Such respect could be some compensation. It was not what I wanted. I wanted to be in the swim of life, honored because I had become suave, not because I had a mind, I wanted to fall in love with someone like one of these girls here who seemed so profoundly unavailable to me. I remained okay in the discussion groups led by Hal and Nancy but outside such structures I was almost lost. It would have been worse had it not been that we could buy beer on the ship even though none of us was older than 17.

We slept in dark dormitories deep down into the ship, probably below the water line, scores of bunk beds all in one great room that you entered after going through the areas near the kitchens where dark little servant men in fez-like caps from the Dutch East Indies were busy pealing various vegetable things that would go into the hearty but tasteless meals. The not garbage-like smell of the kitchens was one knew I would never forget.

In the dormitory an older boy asked me about some papers I was scanning that were headed with the initials NFL. I thought everyone knew about the National Forensic League. Bruce had already noted, and used against me, that I knew so very little about organized sports.

At one point a crew cut older guy in the dormitory is confronting Bruce. It seems Bruce has been reading and talking disparagingly about what is in somebody’s journal. Nice for me to see that Bruce did not get away with it.

Bruce starts to tease me pretending friendship, saying I am in love with a girl in the group, making fun of me and also of the girl.

When the ship gets to Rotterdam the kids in the families we will stay with are waiting on the dock. Our Dutch brothers ands sisters is what they are called, and this seems to me like a misuse of language.

To the edge of the group is a dark, intense looking boy. We all shout back and forth and it turns out that he is to be my Dutch brother. Bruce says look at that guy Fred will be with. Look at him. Just like Fred. Bruce is dismissing the guy already, the way he has been dismissing me all along. And I cannot believe anyone in the group except me sees anything wrong with Bruce, and the anyone, me included, would ever challenge him the way that older boy in the dormitory did. Bruce is removing all possible validation from
my “Dutch brother.” He has found something else to take away form me.

At first I remained painfully shy in this Dutch family in Heemstede, a place of spotless clean brick streets lined by very old brick houses near actual dikes and actual windmills and a nearby museum filled with works by someone named Franz Hals, who had portrayed 17th century Dutchmen with the sort of exuberance that I could understand if not emulate. Eight Americans, none of us more than 17, in families with eight Dutch kids a couple of years older than us since they apparently did not move into life at the same rate as Americans. At first I remained painfully shy, as I had been much of the time on the student ship over. One of the guys in our group had talked of how he felt we were moving back in time as we crossed the Atlantic. I felt as if for me all time were the same time. The group was still dominated by that bully from Akron outside the group I still felt under siege, even though I had not evidence the van der Werfs were anything except kind. There was a warmth in the house that I found appealing but out of reach. I was on my guard, almost unable to speak, there with the van der Werfs, my counterpart Dirk, his outsize younger sister Bertja, his warm little mother and sometimes his first mate brother, whose name sounded like “Flip.” But I still could not fight my way out of whatever it was that enclosed me. I would long for nighttime when I could be alone in my bed upstairs.

Dirk and I bicycled against a bitter headwind to a freezing cold beach place on the coast to meet his failure father, who had left the family long ago to seek his fortune in the East. We had a big Indonesian style meal, all sorts of Chinese like dishes, called Rijsttafel and listened the man bluster on about his life’s failures. That was interesting, but back with the family, I was so disconnected that they thought I should try another family for a time. There my counterpart was a hazy guy actually named Rembrandt van Dyke whose well traveled jovial father spread out in worldly conversation to such an extent that Rem disappeared.

While I was with the van Dykes I stayed up most of several night s listening to the Democratic convention from Chicago on the Voice of America. There was constant talk of a nasty old bigot from South Carolina who vowed to bring back legal racial segregation in the schools. But a really inspiring governor named Adlai Stevenson, who among much else was an orator, won. If only my life battles could be fought so neatly.

Then I returned to the van der Werfs and as part of the Experiment in International Living’s program Dirk and I went off to a big farm for what was supposed to be a week. We were shown to our room upstairs in the farmhouse. It had about 10 beds in it. A young Scotsman was just leaving. He said this farmer had a racket going for he got free labor by supporting all the various student exchange groups that came to Holland. He said that it was common knowledge the farmer had collaborated with the Germans. In the evening one of the farmer’s sons was driving for fun an old tractor that had giant steal cleats rather than rubber tires. He drove it over a brick walkway, crumbling the walkway, which seemed, like so much in Holland, to be hundreds of years old, and no one cared. The next day we were out in the fields with pitchforks hoisting hay from hay ricks into a big horse drawn cart. Often when you lifted the hay up from a rick a mouse would run out. The farmer’s children – there seemed to be an infinite number – stood around waiting, and then with glee pummeled the little mice to death with rocks.

Late one day Dirk and I gathered our things and walked away from the farm without a word to anyone. As the sun was setting we walked along a dike holding back water that reflected the yellow and golden rays. Yellow and golden though it was still chilly. We found a café, had beer, then more beer, and caught a bus. Finally it seemed that I was not only in a place I where belonged but that I could rise to any occasions ahead. And the next week I met a wonderfully unhealthy looking girl we ran into at a club that featured robust tennis and rowing. She kept telling me what a bad girl she was. This was hopeful.

So Dirk and I were friends now. But the one in our group that I hit it off with most was a tall guy named Arnaud Dauder, son of a clergyman who was open and confident and as politically advanced as me. We talked about everything, from girls to socialism. And then when the whole group was on a weeklong canal boat trip around the country Arnaud and I and Lois from New York left the boat for two days in an area in the south called the teardrop of Holland which before the war was German territory that poked into Dutch territory in an area the shape of an upside down teardrop. It had been given to Holland after the war but now, seven years later, was still populated almost entirely by Germans. We spent days going around interviewing all sorts of Germans, asking them why they did what they did, for which we got no answers. Arnold would interpret for Lois and me. He would try to get them to speak Dutch, and then French and then English, and only reluctantly would listen to German. We took our quest to the local priest, who had apparently gone along with the Nazis, but he was evasive and said that what we were talking about was not his business.. Then we pounded on a huge door and got in to see the Burgomaster. And we were shouting at him before we were through. Later I realized how frightened these teardrop Germans most have been of us, we representatives of the occupying forces that had come in after Germany’s shame and defeat.

All the Dutch kids in our group were being educated, which meant here that they spoke English and French and German nearly as well as their native language. But they all said they would go to almost any lengths not to use their German. The German occupation with it cruel horror was far from being forgotten or forgiven. When the burgomaster said something in German Arnaud would pretend not to understand.

Arnaud was a near pacifist, and I had become a pacifist as well as a Socialist in boarding school when pacifism and socialism seemed clearly good in themselves as well as antidotes to the world I had come from. But even as he talked of the Germans, many of them old enough to be our grandfathers, it was as if the Dutch took them to be subhuman. There was a newspaper story about something that had happened recently on a ferry boat. A German had been hurled over the rail and actually drowned, and no one did or said anything and there was practically no police investigation.

At one point in the canal trip we were joined by someone new, a girl named Hilda van Bolerick who came in late because her family was late getting out of what remained of the Dutch Eat Indies. Hilda had flowing brown hair and mocking green eyes and a deep tan. No one in Holland, I had noticed, was tan in the summer. I practically never saw the sun that summer in Holland. Also, Hilda wore bright lipstick and even her toe nails were painted red, something that was not seen in the parts of Holland we were in back then. And there was more. Hilda shaved her legs. She actually had smooth, tanned legs that were shaved, something else I had not seen since I left the student ship.

And we found corners for tentative necking, just like it would have been if instead of going to gray cold Holland I had spent the summer in my usual place up with our gang in the White Mountains.

Things were working out so well that when it all took an ominous turn I was more surprised and shocked by my sudden vocally violent anger than were the surprised and shocked people around me.

Late in the day, at a time there would have been a sunset if the fog and clouds had lifted, several of us were sitting on the bunks in the big cabin where the boys slept on the canal boat. We started talking about the pretty girls in the group. And we realized that if they were in their cabin they would be able hear us, for between the boys’ and girls’ cabins there was a divider that did not go quite all the way up. What we were doing seemed funny, talking while knowing the girls could hear us but pretending we did not know that. And then I was the one doing all the talking. The other boys seemed receptive, but it was all coming from me. And then I was making fun of each of these girls who had seemed so inaccessible to me. The California girl was dumb, the New Jersey girl blatant, one girl was too tall and another had hairy arms and the makings oaf mustache.

And suddenly I was alone.

Hal took me on a long walk around the quite rural place where the boat was docked for the night. He talked about all sorts of things that we had both found interesting – Rembrandts in Amsterdam, the political situation in the East Indies, and he finally got around to the strange events of the night. He didn’t seemed to be judgmental, just puzzled. As was I. He said he couldn’t understand why I had talked that way knowing I would be heard. I couldn’t either.

But after that it was more like a haunting bad dream than something that had actually happened. A week after we were back the group boarded a small bus early one morning. On the bus the New Jersey girl spoke, as if for all of us, to the Boston girl and the guy who felt we had moved back in time. She said how happy we all were for them since the two had clearly become a couple, and she was telling them how we all felt they were handling their romance so well. We had lunch in Luxembourg and before dark were in Paris where we had clear double rooms, with bidets in them, in some sort of school. Since I had been in Paris before, I began to act as a guide. I led everyone to Place Pigalle where Peter and I had been to a dark nightclub full of seedy women and watched a wild dance billed as an apache dance in which the man, a thuggish guy in a beret, kept smacking the girl, whose prettiness and some sweetness shown through her studied hardness.

While we were walking a Dutch couple left the group to go into one of those seedy nightclubs. When we came back that way we found the two sitting on the sidewalk outside the gaudy club. A huge bill had been presented, and the manager would not let them out until they handed over their watches. So there they were on the sidewalk in front of the nightclub when the rest of the group, led by me, came along. They were sad but amused, for passersby had been dropping coins on the pavement in front of them. We decided to all sit on the curb and warn passers-by to stay away from this cheating establishment. We sat there for an hour and then a waiter came out to return the watches.

Bruce was wandering hand in hand with Nelly the Dutch sister of the California girl. He was singing, over and over, “Walking’ mah baby back home.”

I had thought I would be with Hilda Paris, but it turned out she had a pre-arranged rendezvous with a curly haired medical student who had her to himself until he returned her to the bus the day we departed.

I was in Paris but I was not in Paris. No rue St. Honoré hotel. No drawing in charcoal across from the Opera. No pretty naked Olympia music hall dancers. Worst of all, no Monet and Manet and Renoir. We did go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo. I was there but not there.

And was sad to leave Holland where these people – Dirk and his sister and brother and little mother were more like family than any actual family I had known in the sense that I did not feel they were watching me, and I did feel that they wanted life to be good to me.

On the trip back we drank a lot of Bols gin. At one point they fooled me by putting more gin in my beer each time I turned around and I got so drunk that the next morning I could not remember the evening. But this was in fun, not like the cruel teasing at the start of the trip. Bruce seemed to have gotten smaller and hazier. And I was continuing to get comfortable.

And yet I wasn’t sure there was any way I would see any of these people again.

On the student ship going back I chatted with two genial guys who had finished their first year at Harvard. Two guys from Holderness would have been in their class to I asked about them. They were both very taken with Dmitri Nabokov, eccentric, brilliant, rakish Dmitri. And they could not stand Corky Muller, who was one of the dumb, cruel athletes who had done so well socially at Holderness.

And while we were talking I was wondering why I did not select Harvard. Why I was going to Princeton. It was too late now to change. It was as if I could no longer back out of Princeton than I could back out of my family. And IL knew for certain that at Princeton Corky Miller would have been a great success.

The parents were there at the dock to meet me. And Peter was with them. All three spoke of how they they were that Peter and I were about to start college, Peter at Columbia, me at Princeton. They Had been in the White Mountains. They were sorry to tell me that my dog Moxie with whom I had been having adventures for six years, had run away in the woods up there. Peter said my former girlfriend Kitty looked lovely. He had taken her to summer theater play and written in her program “She walks in beauty, as the night.”