Prelude, True Anecdote and an Observation

for Kerry Wendell Thornley, fellow traveller.

My father told me once that going on the road meant waking up in some strange place twenty years later. Rub your eyes and wonder how you got stuck, where the time went. I was headed for Oregon then, Eugene to be exact, had briefed myself for the journey by rereading Kerouac.

He also told me that happiness is where you decide to find it, another platitude rendered obsolete through overuse, but it’s something I forget too much anyway. During the blackouts I might less charitably say that I have been made to forget: a prelude to some low-key railing against circumstance or the laziness of my fellows. But I know about protesting too much; I see other people doing it all the time. When they won’t stop I remind them that we see our worst in others.

This time I read Quixote to prepare myself; I’ve come that far. Staying in one place is anaesthetic. With it comes involvement, projects that pass the time to make up for any other prizes. The ones that glitter in proportion to their distance. I’d like to sleep for long periods of time, to have a check arrive every month, to rise only so I can make it to the Post Office before it closes and then answer my mail before going back to sleep. But I keep waking up, and the bed begins to gall me, there’s no one there to call me back after I take a piss so I might as well stay up. I fall into ritual with ease and spend my free time in fierce argument with undisciplined old men, advocates of imposed order, taking the side of anarchy. I have been denounced in print, though.

Daisy didn’t help much although she didn’t suffer the standard setbacks. She had already made it to the next stage, where the problems are of a higher order. With a husband and child and a house to make payments on she didn’t need me to provide commoditites I couldn’t afford. Others I hardly bother approaching. They leave too soon and follow the ones who never seem to make those biweekly poor descisions: lend ninety bucks here, pay the dental bill there, buy a hundred-lot of speeders to go. How do they manage to maintain those cars? and I know they can’t. They’re always broke on payday-plus-two the same as me.

But Daisy was demanding in an unsettling way. She challenged me with this tigress pose; just more codifications as far as I was concerned. Like some formular dance, step one, place foot here… This, and she vanished not long after the rebuff, family and all. Once, only once, my play came into it, and I told her I was busy the next time the doorbell rang. Right out of the blue, during timeout, she asked how big this Libertarian Party was for me.

“Well, I’m the newsletter editor… ”

“You have the mailing list then.”

“Just Wyoming.” My bowels felt weak. My roommate never locked the back door even though I told him fifty times. “Mmm, kiss me,” she purred. What power. She knows I know. That I won’t, can’t, do anything.

I think the honest cannot avoid making statements that earn them the greatest mistrust.

Gerry Reith
22 April 1982

P.S. Daisy was una Cubana, her given name Josephine.

Originally appeared in Inside Joke #10

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