I dated Bob for the next three weeks or so. I use the term “dated” loosely, because mostly we hung out, sometimes at my house and sometimes at his, and sometimes on his family’s sailboat at the Crescent Marina on Lakeshore Avenue. I liked him well enough as a friend, but when he tried to make out with me, which was pretty often, I turned all cold inside because I knew I wasn’t interested in him that way. Sometimes my mind would go off into this other realm and I just let what was happening to my body happen, as if I had no relationship to it. I think this is why I never learned to kiss better until several years later. Still, it was a novel experience.
My mom didn’t approve of Bob anymore than she did of Vicki—or any of my friends, come to think of it. She was always asking where we were going and what we were doing and whether his parents were home when we were at his house. I can see now that this is probably normal, concerned behaviour for a mother, but at the time I felt she was prying and wanted her just to trust me and leave me alone. But the spectre of those two sisters who had run away and got pregnant—those two older sisters who I was bound to grow up to be just like—always haunted her and she couldn’t believe for a minute that, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t put her through the hell they had. I can say that now.
A lot of weird stuff happened in those three weeks. I don’t know how much of it was related to or even responsible for my growing depression and later hospitalization. Even living the life of a normal girl I couldn’t shake the feeling that the world was closing in on me, that I was not safe with myself. I was constantly in pain from body tension. I cried myself to sleep every night and often couldn’t eat. I think it was this last that stuck to me in the hospital and made everyone think I was Anorexic. Hell, maybe I was even then. I didn’t think so, but it could have been the case.
The first weird thing that happened was that I got a call, out of the blue, from a boy I hadn’t seen in about six years. His name was Matthew Oakland, and I’d known him since we were both about five, because his mother used to watch me after school until my mother could pick me up. (She was the one who beat me with a wooden spoon when Matthew got into things, if you’ll remember.)
Matthew told me he was going to be in town the next day and he wanted to take me out. So now there were three boys in my life.
Our date took place at the Southfield Mall, because Matthew had fond memories of going there as a child. I remember it as a sleazy place, the kind of mall where most of the stores sell junk and are always going out of business. Anyway, we went there and walked around a bit. He bought me an Orange Julius. And before half an hour had passed, I thought this guy was the biggest loser I’d ever met in my life. That was about the time he led me into a dark corner of the mall, where there was a space between some screens they’d put up to hide new construction, backed me up against the wall, and rammed his tongue down my throat. I was too surprised to react, and I didn’t know how to react anyway. Did I like this? Was I supposed to? I thought I should be flattered, but I wasn’t. So I just stood there. He didn’t seem to notice, because after he stopped kissing me, he started in telling me that his dream was to become a Lutheran Minister and that he knew I was just the woman for him, and that we would get married and have a nice little congregation somewhere.
Now even if it hadn’t been that my own father was a minister and I had seen the life of a minister’s wife firsthand and wanted no part of it, I wouldn’t have wanted to marry Matthew Oakland. I couldn’t forget that wooden spoon. And I couldn’t forget that when we were five he and another girl he knew were the first to call me “Jelly-belly.” I just couldn’t trust him, and after the kiss I didn’t like him all that much, either.
He took me to one of those places that engraves cheap jewelry while you wait and bought me a pendant with his name on it. I couldn’t believe the arrogance of doing that without asking me what I thought about his master plan or what I wanted.
Fortunately the date ended soon after that and I never saw him again.
The next thing that happened was, my sister Betty came for a visit with her two children, Christina, who was about six, and David, who was four and a demon. Betty was the sister who ran away to Haight Ashbury during the summer of love and spent the next ten years as a heroin addict (she had been treated at the Lafayette Clinic). Her children had two different fathers, both of them brown. Christina was the colour of black coffee and David was coffee with cream. Betty had brought them to meet their grandparents, who spoiled them rotten the whole time they were there, even as they cast their rays of disapproval on their mother.
The first thing Betty said to me was, “Do you get high?” And when I said I did sometimes we went out in the backyard and sparked up a joint. It still didn’t do anything for me, but I think it made her feel better.
That visit was hard on both of us. Pretty soon Betty was crying herself to sleep every night. She said it “was as if she had never left; everything bad about the place just came back and made her want to jump out the window or something.” I told her I knew how she felt and she said she believed me and that she thought we were a lot alike. They had told her in the Lafayette Clinic that her problems weren’t her fault; it was the family and she should never go home again. She wished she’d listened.
The hard thing for me about Betty’s visit was her demon son. That kid never seemed to stop screaming, and when he screamed something in me curled up and wanted to die. You just couldn’t escape it. I took to taking long bike rides just to get out of the house. Being with Bob helped some, but I always had to go back home. I wanted to scream too, but I knew I couldn’t do that. I got clumsy again and nearly ran my bike into cars several times. I cried all the time, but never where anyone could see me.
That summer I took drivers’ ed and I was miserable at it. The instructor was always yelling at me, and then I’d cry and he’d yell at me more. Or sneer, which was worse. One time Bob met me after a class and the instructor saw us together. He made a point of coming up to me, just to say, “Are you going to tell your boyfriend how rotten I am? Is he going to make it all better?” I think he hated me.
This may have been when I started cutting on myself again. I had stopped for a while.
Vicki and I also spent a lot of time together that summer, sometimes with other friends and sometimes jus the two of us. One time we went with Bob and this other guy to a house in Indian Village, a part of Detroit that was still swanky, and scored a quarter pound of dope to split between us (it was my first drug purchase, but not my last). Afterwards, Vicki and I went to her house where we spent the afternoon cleaning seeds out of the pot—this was before the seedless kind came on the market—which sounds pretty boring, but we actually had a good time at it. On the Summer Solstice we had an impromptu celebration down by the lake with a few of our friends. And of course we went to the Ann Arbor Art Fair together. We’d been going since Vicki got her driver’s license and it was something of a tradition.
I admired Vicki a lot because she had strong opinions about things at a time when I didn’t and because she always had something intelligent to say. Also, she knew all about what was going on with me depression-wise. She did think that I could just get better if I decided to, but I didn’t hold it against her. I thought the same myself, at the time. The problem was, I didn’t know any other way to be than how I was. I kept thinking, if only I could go away, or if only I could go to some safe place I could leave the ghosts of the past behind me. I could stop thinking of myself as an unattractive and completely undesirable hag and reinvent myself. I could learn new ways. Now I think this was just a way of adopting the era’s attitudes towards depression. But I did believe it then.
A lot of the time when we were together, Vicki and I talked over how we were going to resolve the problem of her liking Bob, who liked me, who liked Randy. As it turned out, that problem almost resolved itself on the fourth of July, but not without more than a little heartache for everyone involved.