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MONICA'S CHRONICLE

SOME NOTES ON MONICA'S CHRONICLE

(A SORT OF INTRODUCTION)


Technology has, thankfully, caught up with me: now there’s a way to “publish” the raw, unfiltered Monica’s Chronicle directly, without the shaping ideas of “book” or “publisher” intervening. I believe that the Chronicle is meant for this medium — and may be at least one artist’s revenge on the triumph of the democracy of chatter and commerce over what I take to be the original impulses of the “web”. Certainly not undertaken with the “web” or the “internet” in mind (I began it, in some form, in the mid ‘70’s), it needed a medium that didn’t exist.

Monica’s Chronicle is absolutely a daily activity that did not begin on purpose. I have some ideas about its roots and about some novels, notebooks, journals and so on that don’t at all resemble it yet may have set me on this path, but I’m not interested in talking about that here.

The Monica’s Chronicle that will begin here and that will be added to whenever pages of the original, single-spaced typewritten Chronicle from 1976, cramped and hard-to-read, have been reformatted so that we can edit them (lightly, to make them more intelligible and to untie some knots and tangles) will be rough and unfiltered. New pages will appear with no particular regularity (website will have to be checked to see if something fresh is there). This is the Chronicle as it was (and is still) written: rough and unfiltered in the sense that it is different from every published or gallery-displayed form derived from it, when editing was allowed to go so far as reshaping and re-organizing the Chronicle’s record of the flow of events over time for artistic purposes, but also in order to make what we believe is a necessary aesthetic argument for a radically different basis for fiction, even more so than in the sense that every work of art is an argument for itself and against everything else.

The two volumes of ABC STREET (Vol. 1, published by Green Integer in 2002, and HANK FOREST’S PARTY, forthcoming from Green Integer) are meant to explicitly raise questions about fiction and present themselves as models of something else.





The title of one of Pasternak’s early works translates as My Sister — Life and of course that could be the title of any writer’s or artist’s record of life, no matter how far away it is from ordinary journal, diary, memoir and the like.

My own lifework is, I think, more extreme and is more of an actual second life, a life lived again, a double, a twin to my life, than other records I know of.

My art has never been concerned with being artful. For me to stop on the path of chronicling to make compositions would be, of necessity, to interrupt the process that is ecstatically demanding in its own way.





I’ve never trusted memory, so I think I’ve written instead of remembering.





The two volumes of ABC STREET take place in 1977. I’ve elected to start this potentially endless process (chronicling is endless and now editing and publishing it here will be endless another time) in 1976. Obviously, some of the same “cast of characters” appear, some of the same locations, all encountered raw, before stepping onto a stage where all sorts of aesthetic and compositional issues come into play in terms of organizing what here, in its natural state, is a record that follows events as they occur, interruptions and digressions that are events in themselves, persistent returns to the interrupted event, new interruptions, returns and so on.

I love this process for itself and I wonder how many others find that the outer world is (always has been) their inner life.




For an early view of the Chronicle we’re going to put Dennis’s introduction (called “Writing with Sheila Ascher”) to what was then called “Sheila Ascher’s Chronicle/September 1976”, published in Zone #7 Spring/Summer 1981, on our website.

*

PARTIAL AND EXPANDABLE CAST OF CHARACTERS

(TOGETHER WITH THE PLACE OF EACH IN THE GALAXY OF ASCHER/STRAUS FICTION)



Agnes (aka Gloria)

Abebi Ahwesh

Melissa Aiello

Ralph Aiello

Alan & Alana

Alexi                                              (Hank Forest’s Party)

Alyosha

Andre                                              (ABC Street)

Andy                                              (The Other Planet and Hank Forest’s Party)

Anne Marie

Arlington sisters

Eunice Arlington

Wanda Baer                                    (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Bah-Wah                                         (ABC Street)

Dr. Beechnut                                    (ABC Street)

Betty                                            (Hank Forest’s Party)

Blanche (Salem Avenue neighbor-to-the-west)

Hap (“Happy”) Huntington Blank        (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Leonora Blume

Brad

Daisy Brennan                                (Hank Forest’s Party)

Ernie Brennan

Margaret Brennan                            (Hank Forest’s Party)

Brownie

Margo Burger

Barry Callaghan

Carla Ray Carlson (aka Carla Carlson, Carlita Carlson)

Cassia

Cathy Castle                                 (ABC Street, Hank Forest’s Party)

Debby Castle                               (ABC Street, Hank Forest’s Party)

Patrick Castle

Scarlet Castle                                 (Hank Forest’s Party)

The "Clock" (aka "Clockface")

Babette Coffin                                (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Dean Coffin

Greg Coffin                                     (Red Moon/Red Lake, ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Johanna (“Jojo”) Coffin                    (Red Moon/Red Lake, ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Joshua Coffin                                 (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Lena Coffin                                    (Red Moon/Red Lake, ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Rosamond Coffin                          (Red Moon/Red Lake, ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

John Corcoran                               (Hank Forest’s Party)

Pat Corcoran                                (Hank Forest’s Party)

Philip Corcoran                            (Hank Forest’s Party)

Timothy Corcoran                         (Hank Forest’s Party)

Cristalene

Donald Crosley (aka Alan Ryder)   (Hank Forest’s Party)

Donald Crosley Sr.                     (Hank Forest’s Party)

Kate Crosley                               (Hank Forest’s Party)

Pat Czorny                                  (ABC Street)

Dalia

David                                           (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Dr. DaVinci                                  (ABC Street)

Dorothy Dorm

Kevin Douglas

Dr. Dumbo

Aunt Em

Fabien

Fat Agnes

Father-to-the-west (Salem Avenue neighbor-to-the-west Blanche's husband)

Andy Forest                                 (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Grete Forest                                (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Hank Forest                            (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Frederique                                    (ABC Street)

Brenda Garvey

Colleen Garvey

Elizabeth Garvey

Ellen Garvey                                  (Hank Forest’s Party)

Jill Garvey

Patty (“Twiggy”) Garvey

Rebecca Geiger                             (Hank Forest’s Party)

Georgia (aka Lynn)                          (ABC Street)

Gilbert Juanito Goodman

Graham                                        (Hank Forest’s Party)

Donald Green                                (Red Moon/Red Lake and ABC Street)

Enos Greengrass                         (Hank Forest’s Party)

Leslie Greengrass

Sylvia Greengrass                        (Hank Forest’s Party)

Grendel                                         (ABC Street)

Lon Gurion                                   (Hank Forest’s Party)

Jerry H.

Reggy H.

Janey Hedges                               (ABC Street)

Peter Hedges

Helene

Fayette Hickox

Nelson Howe

Dominick Ianni

Nancy Jaye

Jill                                              (ABC Street)

Cousin Jo Ellen

Rudi Jolley                                   (Red Moon/Red Lake and ABC Street)

Dr. Kaboolian                               (Hank Forest’s Party)

Kim                                            (Double/Profile)

Kitty                                            (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Klaus

Bill Kropotkin

Cindy Kurtz                                    (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Harriet Kurtz                                   (ABC Street)

Libby Kurtz                                    (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Oscar Kurtz                                  (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Billy Leary                                    (Red Moon/Red Lake)

Erin Leary

Pam Leary                                    (Red Moon/Red Lake and ABC Street)

Susie Leary                                    (Red Moon/Red Lake)

Ted Leary                                    (Red Moon/Red Lake and ABC Street)

Ambrose Lenehan Jr.

Ambrose Lenehan Sr.                    (The Other Planet and Hank Forest’s Party)

Finnley Lenehan

Laurel Lenehan

Nora Lenehan                                (The Other Planet and Hank Forest’s Party)

Ryan Lenehan

Larry Lille

Tina (Martina) Lima                        (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Tony (“Lima Bean”) Lima                (Hank Forest’s Party)

Audrey Liman

Minnie Liman

Riley Liman

Tommy Liman

Vicky Liman

Cousin Linda

Linette                                        (ABC Street)

Lizzy, April, Holly and Sabrina

Lorelle

Lou the rolypoly mailman

Lowell                                        (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Caroline M.

Malcolm

Norma Maloney

Matty Maple

Margo                                        (ABC Street)

Marsha                                      (ABC Street)

Matty

May

Allison Meehan                            (Hank Forest’s Party)

Melody

Mikki                                          (ABC Street)

MaryAnn “Macaroni” Monahan

Nadja                                          (The Other Planet and Hank Forest’s Party)

Natasha                                    (Hank Forest’s Party)

Nina

Ray Pierotti

Jordan Pike

George Plimpton

Peggy Prince

Puff

Al Quinlan

Peggy Quinlan

Sonia Raiziss

Al Regan

Becky Regan

Fionnuala Regan                             (Red Moon/Red Lake)

Joan Regan                                    (Red Moon/Red Lake)

Matthew Regan

Regan Family                                (Hank Forest’s Party)

JoAnne Renard                              (ABC Street)

Mildred Renard                              (ABC Street)

Nicole Renard                                (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Ralph Waldo Rice

Leo Romero                                   (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Lily Romero                                    (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Norma Rosenkranz

Annie Rosenwasser

Fred Rosenwasser

Naomi Rosenwasser

Warren Rosenwasser

Rae Ryan                                (Red Moon/Red Lake and Hank Forest’s Party)

Nora Salerno                                    (ABC Street and as "Nora Woolsey" in Red Moon/Red Lake)

Sandra

Allison Savas                                  (Hank Forest’s Party)

Jacky Savas                                  (Hank Forest’s Party)

Amanda Schiller

The Sloths                                     (Hank Forest’s Party)

Nancy St. Cloud                             (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Al Szarka                                       (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Ted

Thelma & Wilma

Themis (aka Spylianos)                    (Letter to an Unknown Woman and Hank Forest’s Party)

Artie Tilden

Tristan                                              (ABC Street)

Twins Twinning

"Ugo" (Hugues)

Cousin Vince

"W" the landlord

Billy Wall

Wally (Lenehans' mutt)

Hank Wattle                                      (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Nancy Wattle                                    (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

? Wattle                                            (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Willy Wattle                                      (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Wendy                                           (Hank Forest’s Party)

Yvonne Wilding                                 (ABC Street and Hank Forest’s Party)

Marian Woolsey                               (Red Moon/Red Lake, ABC Street, Hank Forest’s Party)

Amy X

Chloris X

Jimmy X

Leila X (aka Laura X, Gloria)               (Double/Profile and The Menaced Assassin )

Ma X

Nelly X

Philida (“Phil”) X

Xylon

Cousin Yma                                       (Hank Forest’s Party)

Mrs. Z.

Edgar Zacharias

MONICA'S CHRONICLE

JANUARY 1976

January 1, 1976: snow on the ground at 7 a.m. after a day and a night of rain and deep puddles. Snow is not thick. Sun shining on snow at 7 and sky a bluewhite snowfield. A few wisps of white linger in the blueblack ink on grey bond notepaper.

Since David’s been working on a snow narrative it’s snowed often.

Sitting outside: melting snow, red ink on grey bond, sounds of water, burning red hedges. Moisture, not colder temperatures, the key to burning.

January 2. Out at 9. Another clear, cold day, colder than yesterday. Puddles are ice closed up. Nothing is dripping, bushes burn, sky is perfect in the distance. White the beginning of blue. Sitting outside indexing the Chronicle.

Nora Lenehan and Ambrose Jr. are working in the same bar. He’s a bartender, she’s a musician. She and Ambrose Sr. were in the hospital together. Nora had polyps removed from her vocal chords. Kevin Douglas was getting beaten up outside of Sullivan’s by some twenty-year-olds, Lenehan Sr. intervened and landed in the hospital.

Kate Crosley goes up the block to Nora’s.

A series of small clouds.

Water melting into ground.

Silvery puddles, brown light, scraping of Sylvia Greengrass’s shovel as she slides water out of driveway.

Lily Romero’s hair is 1/2 brown 1/2 blonde.

Greg Coffin can’t start his car. Andy Forest tries to help, but can’t.

Brownish cast to things as the day fades.

Early morning: fresh snow on car tops and shadows of thin branches swaying.

By afternoon snow has melted off car tops.

Light still falling as day fades in the spruce tree, whose bare branches look like icicles.

Lowell’s friend Elliot had an awful asthma attack after hearing his medical board scores. Thought about what it would be like to stop breathing and the next thing he knew he was in a hospital. It seems he was unconscious for three days and now he can’t sleep more than four hours at a time. He wakes with a start and can’t breath.

A greenish cast to light falling on snow, on flower pot, on arm of Monica’s brown mouton, on moist pine needles. Mossy green edge of the flower pot is everywhere.

On Sunday January 4 these things seem related: a sickle moon, cold air and sharp wind. Notes on Sunday that on Saturday January 3 it was raining when David went down to get the mail. Envelope from the Paris Review mailed Friday, January 2, 1976. First mail of ’76. “Dear Ascher/Straus, George Plimpton and I are most intrigued with The Blue Hangar installation you did at Charlotte Moorman’s extravaganza and would like to discuss it with you with a view to a possible portfolio with photographs and some discussion of your intentions and the genesis of the work.

“I wonder if you might give a call soon (from a haywire half-hour with what purport to be operators in Queens, I have concluded that you are uncallable) so we might have lunch and talk about Blue Hangar. Best wishes, Fayette Hickox Contributing Editor. P.S. we are delighted to have Between Two Walls appear in our pages. It looks great!”

Pat Czorny is in the hospital: miscarried, lost her child.

Three months pregnant, she also hurt her back, so wont be working. Her lover Linette doesn’t live with Pat, she lives with Pat’s sister on ABC Street.

Typing the handwritten January Chronicle on the porch on June 12: “just before going downstairs bamboo curtains golden with light. Leaves of Regans' tree moving in blue light. Typing in cool breezes, leaves can’t contain their light. One of those cleansed days that follow thunderstorms.”

At around 10 p.m. on January 5 Monica is outside looking at the sickle moon. Early in the morning on January 6 she’s outside in sunlight.

Call George Plimpton: lunch at his house for a taped interview about the Space Novel.

Sherry drives by with a man.




On January 6 or 7 (date not noted) Monica is in MOMA. Traces of snow along museum’s ridges of grey marble.

Sunlight on a building around 4:30. Pink opening in grey. A spring day in winter is better than spring in spring.

Familiar figure of “the poet” standing impatiently near his favorite table, occupied by an old woman writing. He’s been watching her writing for an hour. “Poet” in green chinos and charcoal grey sweater over grey and white striped shirt. Under his left arm a large tear in the charcoal wool of the sweater.

Steely grey, thick and wavy hair. His angry stare doesn’t make the old woman look up.

Green ink on white bond as vivid as magic marker.

Raining all day. In the morning Monica, walking on Coast Boulevard, sees Lena Coffin leaving for the busstop to get Johanna. At noon Nelly (one of the vague X family women) and son Jimmy walk north on ABC Street from boardwalk toward Boulevard.

Later David goes down to write in Monica’s father Alyosha’s car, borrowed and parked on ABC Street. As he opens the car door Monica (from porch or window) sees David wave to Nelly X who’s leaving Lena’s. A car stops in front of Lena’s house and lets children off. Monica begins to think about all the little events that may connect to Johanna’s birthday.

On January 7 blue ink looks like magic marker.

At 8:30 in the morning Monica is awake and chronicling an Arlington sister (the one who works). Arlingtons' door is ajar: too cold to stand outside, though sun is on their side of their street. Working Arlington sister stays outside for no more than ten seconds, then can be seen in the door opening, looking out.

Monica notes that she hasn’t seen (recorded) any of the Arlington sisters since the working Arlington sister appeared in the October Chronicle (typed two days ago).

Sound of human voices belongs to Twins Twinning (pair of men of undetermined age, like wooden nutcrackers in someone’s discarded brown or grey suits) Monica’s been chronicling for years, never one alone, always two together, one always more raspingly loud and audible than the other and always in the middle of an endless, bitter conversation.

I felt better the time I was in the hospital than I do now when I’m supposed to be healthy.

Lying around here?

Bums!

That’s what they are.

They don’t work!

Bums?

Carrion!

Human carrion. . . .

Al Szarka and Yvonne Wilding are in good spirits.

Pat and blonde-blonde little Timothy Corcoran come out the front porch door of their groundfloor apartment and leave.

Brontosaurus-like Nancy Wattle comes out with little waggle-headed Hank and brother Willy: must be a school trip.

Working Arlington sister closes her door: her lift has arrived.

Green ink, jetties white with frost.

On Sunday January 4 Wanda Baer picks up Monica and David in Monica’s brother Lowell’s car and they drive into Manhattan in falling snow to see Bunuel’s Daughter of Deception in MOMA.

Spend the afternoon looking at Rothkos before the film. Monumental red, brown and black canvases seem meant to inspire awe and it’s hard to get around that one sensation. There are smaller, numbered Rothko canvases and the numbers imply a sequence and the sequence implies relationships between what precedes and what follows that Monica finds interesting.

Tries to go outside, but day is bitter. Back into MOMA with no desire to look at another painting after Rothko yet wandering the galleries.

Discovers a Cezanne painting neither she nor David had seen before, “Melting Snow — Fontainebleau”. David, who’s been working on a snow narrative, stays in front of it for a long time and is affected by it profoundly. (As long as he’s been working on the snow narrative, days have been filled with snow.)

At 7 p.m., after the film, there’s very little snow left. Drive down to Oh Ho So in the rain. Waiting for a table with Wanda and David, Monica has a chance to think (not for the first time) about how the nothing-to-do of waiting is an opportunity. Window looks out on the street and cold rain; large mirror behind the bar provides another sort of opportunity; red brick wall; brilliant blue of jukebox; young women in boots, furs, bright-colored South American sweater-coats.

Monica, David and Wanda Baer dine on stuffed crab shells, roast plum duckling, stuffed hot and sweet peppers with garlic sauce.

The drive back home is stressful for Wanda: driving through snow (laid down earlier on road or has it picked up again?) is difficult for her and awakens her sense of incompetence.

That night (Monica notes later) Wanda’s sleep is violent: “a violent night’s sleep” is how she puts it: covers on the floor, sheets tangled, almost knotted. Never happened to her before.




Typing her January notes in June it isn’t always clear to Monica what the order of days is. For example: notes seem to say that at 10:30 on the morning of January 10 Nelly X calls and says she’d like to come by later and chat: Jimmy is gone for the day on a school trip (same one as or different one from the one the Wattle boys went on?) and she’s free.

And later: on January 10 Monica is sitting outside: an icy day, but with less wind than yesterday.

Barely possible to write; pen is cold, paper brittle.

Scratching the surface; white paper is icy, ink black.

Later, Monica walks to the beach: all exposed surfaces have a thick layer of ice that could also be snow. Ink-black jetties are white. Snow on black bark of trees and roofs, dazzling white or silver-grey. Green of the ocean is peculiar: easier to say what it’s not than what it is: not icy, warm, vibrant, electric, forest or leaf: surprisingly hot sunlight is cutting the waves at an angle, filling the green undersides with yellow light that makes green un-namable.

Days later Monica still finds herself thinking about the numbered series of small Rothko paintings. One painting was all about yellow, invaded by green at the edges, green invaded by yellow from the center. Yellow swims out of the middle of the green, surrounds it, heightens it, makes it greener. Thinking about Rothko leads to thinking about warm yellow and wondering whether there’s a green that always exudes yellow warmth. Leads also of course to thinking again about the green undersides of waves with yellow in them: yellow is fragile (have to catch it quickly), soon becomes ashgreen, loses its glowing warmth.




Ten degrees on January 10.

Red barge on the horizon.

White-on-black jetties.

Days spent under the spell of Cezanne’s melting snow and Rothko’s yellow canvas.




Discovery of tea: since snow began to fall (and since David started to work on a narrative about snow) Monica has been sipping tea: tea’s lightness and fragrance (the same thing?) like smoking a solitary cigarette.

Red sun burning through violet clouds (at what hour of what day?).




Timothy Corcoran crosses the street, slipping and sliding, holding a small plastic bag. He’s coming from Nancy Wattle’s with three aspirins for his mother. Says that she’s sick, but doesn’t seem to have a cold. His father has a bad cold; his mother’s illness is more indefinable. Monica remembers Pat telling her that she finds the time after Christmas dreary. Cold weather and nothing to look forward to. She loves summer. Makes Monica realize that she's been enjoying winter.




Rothko again or still with her: the importance of grey; painting out of its frame; every inch of canvas is used around the sides. Room frames the canvas. Therefore, what surrounds the canvas. . . ?

Timothy Corcoran walks to the busstop with his friend. Mother is sick again.

Monica hears Lena tell David that she’s going to be in a play January 13: same repertory group as in the summer: Thursday through Sunday, First Congregationalist Church, 2.50 admission.

Is it now Monica hears sounds of snow melting?

On the way to the dentist (by way of the boardwalk?) Monica runs into Nora Salerno and Megan Leary. (Notes to herself that the last time she ran into Nora Salerno she was also on her way to the dentist.) Nora Salerno has stories to tell: Nancy St. Cloud bought a pinball machine (25¢ to play). Knows this from Peggy Prince who goes to the flea market and sometimes picks up things for Nancy. Pam Leary is working for a few days, that’s why she (Nora) is taking care of Megan. Hasn’t seen Nancy since December 23. Nancy called to invite her and Peggy Prince to Christmas dinner.

How does Monica find out (is it from Nora Salerno on the boardwalk?) that Susie Leary (Ted Leary’s kid sister) knows Themis, tenant in the house where Monica lives on ABC Street and handsome Athenian short-order cook in the Cornucopia Diner. Could also know it from the tenant named Artie, who doesn’t get along with Themis (don’t like each other’s music). May be Artie who tells Monica that he sees Susie Leary in the Cornucopia Diner a lot.

On Saturday night, around ten, Monica returns home and opens the front door: a fashionable young woman with long blonde hair and a little too much makeup coming out is surprised to run into Monica and gives her a big hello. Don’t you know me? Don’t you know your cousin! Monica hasn’t seen Jo Ellen in a long time and doesn't recognize her. Thought she lived in another borough. . . . Story is that she met Themis on Christmas morning (4:30 a.m.) and somehow ended up in the 24 hour Cornucopia Diner. Her Italian boyfriend had disappointed her, she was lonely and depressed. . . so went bar hopping with a friend. Has stayed at Themis’ a few times. Tonight her parents are entertaining relatives, so . . . here she is. Says she really doesn’t know this neighborhood too well. . . . Themis comes downstairs and is dismayed to discover that Jo Ellen is Monica’s cousin. . . . Shakes his head at the unlikeliness of it . . . .

Jo Ellen is going to drive Themis to the diner, where she’ll hang out while he cooks.




Is it at night that Sylvia Greengrass, in chocolate brown coat and white wool hat with a pompom, is shoveling and scraping ice from the driveway of her little brick fortress across the way? Sound of her scraping shovel travels how far.




Joshua Coffin, looking as thin and sallow as his mother Lena (lost at least ten pounds), passes with Tommy Liman.

After a night (Wednesday) of rain and wind strong enough to shake Monica’s attic apartment, she’s working outside on a surprisingly warm January 14: wind isn’t fierce and is itself the clean smell it seems to bring.

Themis’ keys are in the mailbox, left there by Monica’s cousin Jo Ellen.

If a bird sings as if it were March, does that mean that a bit of March has actually flown here?

Sherry and an unknown man drive by in a red truck with blurred black letters painted over red side panels: “JONES DECORATING”.

Monica and David have a breakfast of croissants from Colette’s, orange marmalade (what brand?), brie cheese, David’s strong coffee and brewed tea for Monica.

In the morning another note about Wanda Baer: Wanda Baer looked awful last night and had a “splitting headache” after her session with Dr. DaVinci. Leaves Wanda drained of color and radiance.

Phone call from Caroline M: hasn’t given birth, but has gained fifty pounds.



Monica notes that her brother Lowell is now delivering babies.




A windy, beautifully sparkling day yesterday when leaving for the dentist.

Around four: puddles on brown earth and sidewalks. Dried red leaves are droplets in the smoky brown hedges, glittering like red berries.

The color red predominates, but there’s no way to know that at any given moment.

It was invisible before this year, even though it was dominant through 1975-76.

There are layers of visibility.

That is, what was invisible in 1975 is visible now only because of chronicling.

Chronicling creates visibility (converts invisibility) through day by day recording.

It was there, but without chronicling was it visible? Would it be visible now?




Why is it noted here that in February ’73 Monica paid attention to a particular February green and also a particular February white?

And in 1974-75 a winter’s rust: brown November, green November and also yellow: two distinct entities in November.




The last few nights the sound of the ocean has been peculiarly loud at one a.m. (That is, at one a.m. Monica became aware of the sound of the ocean.)

Moisture of yesterday is gone.

Day of wind, sharp shadows, sharp outlines. Cold and clear, dry and sparkling.




Cousin Linda will be getting chemotherapy, a side-effect of which is hair loss. Loss of her hair is particularly painful to Linda. Has always obsessed about her hair and washes it every day. Wears a baseball cap now to flatten it. Wants to take away every curl.




Page 8 (the next page) of January 1976 is missing. Chronicle will resume abruptly wherever page 9 begins.

 

*



Continues, not abruptly with page nine, but with page eight, lost for years and inexplicably found (“now”) in a basement storage room, in a torn cardboard carton with other cartons on top of an old dresser.



“I like Subida Al Cielo very much. I love the moment where nothing happens, like when the man says, ‘Give me a match.’ I’m very interested in that sort of thing. I’m fascinated by ‘Give me a match’ or ‘Do you want to eat?’ or ‘What’s the time?’ I was thinking of that sort of thing when I made Subida Al Cielo. . . .”

Luis Bunuel in an interview in “Cahier de Cinema,” #36, June 1954 (quoted in MOMA 8 1/2” x 11” sheets accompanying Bunuel films in January ’76).

Also quoted in the same MOMA 8 1/2” x 11” sheets: “The plot hinges on an outward and a return journey in a bus. When the film opens we are in a village which has no church (a happy village therefore) and where the inhabitants make a living from coconut palms. (‘A coconut palm,’ we are informed by the commentary, ‘is as profitable as a cow’. )”

After the film Monica and David walk from 53rd Street toward 8th and 46th and there’s no doubt that the hot Mexican sun and the hot busride through it have something to do with the iciness of midtown January winds. The tiny storefront Mexican restaurant (El Tenampa) restores some of the film’s warmth. They have a meal of nachos (crisp wafers topped with refried beans, covered with melting cheese, slivers of hot chile pepper on top). Three salsas, one green, one red, both spicy, red far hotter. Two bowls of gazpacho. Enchiladas Chapultapec (stuffed with chicken, covered with a spicy and creamy sauce that has red pepper in it, fried beans, rice and shredded cabbage on the side). Chiles Nogada (stuffed chile peppers): outside as sauce and/or inside as stuffing: vegetables pureed with cream sauce (sour cream?), cheese, ground walnuts, green sauce of chiles or green tomato. Pollo Mole Poblano (chicken with spicy unsweetened chocolate-chile sauce), fried beans and sliced onion. Drinks are the cool drinks of summer and the flavors are interesting and unfamiliar: an unusual kind of lemonade and then a creamy white drink (horchata) that may or may not be made of coconut milk (creamy, with a vanilla flavor and a lemon flavor and also the strong aroma and flavor of the nutmeg and cinnamon ground on top). Served icy to balance the spicy food and all of it fragrant and delicious. Monica’s notes say that the restaurant is decorated with coconut palms.


At 5:15 in Manhattan black winter light is beginning. Colder than what? Colder than ice blue and cold enough for rims of roofs to be red. There was cold sunlight, but not now.



Visit to Nicole Renard’s Washington Square apartment on what day? Nicole is thin, has lost her roundness, but complains of having gained six pounds. Dressed in denim jumper and (what color?) turtleneck. Lots of dirty teacups on the table. Ashtrays with cigarette butts. Nicole’s (or roommate Sandra’s) friends Nina, Brad and Ted are there, but Sandra is a few blocks away, taking care of a friend whose boyfriend has left her. Out of cigarettes.

At 10:30 Brad and Nina begin to rush around — trying to get to The Ballroom at eleven for the Chad Mitchell Trio. Brad gets busy ironing a soft, grey wool turtleneck sweater to go with his navy blue slacks. Uses a big throw-pillow as an ironing-board. Nina is wearing an ankle length skirt and a Spanish cape with big red roses. Who is Nina? Someone who studies dance with Nicole at the Martha Graham studio. She’ll be in town another two-and-a-half weeks, then back to San Francisco. Brad is from a small town five hundred miles north of Chicago (right now lives in Ottawa). Monica knows none of these people. Called Nicole Renard pretty much on the spur of the moment and was greeted with enthusiasm. “When did you get back? Come right over! Nina is here with Brad and a neighbor who lives a few blocks away!” At first (when Monica walked in) everyone looked alike: Nicole (all honey and caramel as always) and a group of look-alike blond/blonde people. Blond young man having his hair cut in the center of what might be the diningroom, hair falling on newspaper spread on the floor around him. Hair cutting continues in Nicole’s bedroom. Sandra’s room/bedroom is half the large diningroom/livingroom. Lots of plants, big floor and couch pillows (one of the ones used by Brad as an ironing-board), many more decorative objects than Nicole used to have when she lived with the Coffins. Says that she’s quitting her job in two weeks. Wants a job as a waitress two days a week. Dancing every night is exhausting. Sandra’s friend was involved with the Italian guy for four years and they never did anything but sleep together. That’s all they did, nothing else. So what is there to be so upset about? Thinks the truth is that Sandra is lonely and is making use of the situation with her friend to fill up space. Not as close to Sandra as she was. Tired of living with her, ready for her own apartment. Doesn’t like Sandra’s friends, for one thing. So much so that when they’re around she goes into her bedroom and closes the door. Also thinks that, because Sandra doesn’t have a boyfriend, her (Nicole’s) relationship with Ted makes Sandra uncomfortable. Ted is not like Sandra’s friends. Like her (Nicole), he’s serious about himself and has ambitions: studying day and night for his psych comprehensives at NYU where he’s a Ph.D. candidate.

Nicole and Ted were talking about death. Talking about death always makes her think of Jerry H. Monica may or may not know that she and Jerry H. were close: she knew herself and later found out for sure from Jerry’s grandmother that Jerry liked her a lot. She wasn’t with Jerry the night he died, but Billy was. Whole group was there, she thinks. Thinks Melody was there (Jerry and Melody were going to be married) and it may be because so many friends were there that there are so many versions of what happened. Someone said that Jerry tried to get out of the way of some people who were passing, leaned toward a parked car and immediately the aerial pierced his eye. (Supposedly they don’t make aerials that way any more.) What’s definitely true is that Billy Wall cracked up and went through hell, but she always felt that that version left a lot out. She’s also heard, for example: on the way to the hospital Billy Wall cradled Jerry on his legs. Not sure if it was the head, upper part of the body or what. And afterward someone told Billy Wall that Jerry should have been held differently. If he’d been held differently his lungs wouldn’t have become congested, pneumonia wouldn’t have developed and Jerry might have lived. He would have been a vegetable because his brain was already pierced by the aerial that went through the eye, but he might have survived. So that may be why Billy Wall cracked up. Mother was the closest to Jerry so she was the hardest hit. Father never got along with Jerry: he’s in an old age home now, but even then he had a heart condition — was twenty years older than the mother and had had a heart condition for years. So Jerry pretty much had to take over for his father at a young age and had a very hard life carrying that load. Younger brother Reggy was strange and doesn’t seem to play a role in anything.

From the story of Jerry H.’s death to the story of her relationship with Ted. Met Ted through her sister’s boyfriend. Ted is from Tennessee. Family was once wealthy, but no longer. What exactly happened is not told or not recorded, but Ted’s father thought of himself as a failure, always struggling to get back to some point where he remembers once having been. Ted still remembers a conversation he had with his father when he was twelve. Father said he didn’t marry until he was forty-four and was a virgin when he married. At the age of twelve Ted of course was wrestling with his own difficult and important issues, so he remembers asking: what about masturbation? And his father answered what’s that? Father also said that he didn’t remember anything that happened in his childhood. You mean, he remembers saying to his father, I’m going to forget all this? Forget everything that’s happening to me now? Remembers also that his older sister used to be very bright and that he was considered to be less bright. Now she’s twenty-seven and still living with their parents in Tennessee. When she visits him in New York she seems to get younger every day she’s here.

What else about Ted? Needs to move out: his roommate is crazy, passive and jealous. Resents the fact that he goes to Nicole’s to study. His goal: to go back home, live in Nashville, teach at Vanderbilt.



On January 19 Monica is sitting at the ocean in bright sunlight on one of the coldest days of the year. Five degrees on the beach, beautiful summer in Subida Al Cielo, sunlit and icy in the streets of Manhattan, twenty-five below in Montreal, forty-three degrees below on Saranac Lake (passed it not long ago and may pass it again in a week or two, giving an unfamiliar landscape a feeling of familiarity).

Cold pen is scratching on cold paper, making it hard to write. Boardwalk is empty, waves are super-audible, ocean shining to the degree that Monica can’t look in that direction. Writing in cold sunshine is pleasurable but not contemplative.

Man passes wrapped in red snorkel coat, walking dog in red sweater.

 

*


Finding page eight clarifies some things (restores absent detail), but puts the order of events in question. For example: did Monica visit Larry Lille once or twice in 1975-76? And, while other notes seem to suggest that the visit in January takes place on the afternoon or the evening Monica visits Nicole Renard in her Washington Square apartment, on page eight Monica and David are being driven by Wanda Baer to New Jersey to visit Larry Lille and afterwards have dinner together in Lin’s Garden in Chinatown. But how could she have been in Chinatown with David and Wanda Baer when she and David stayed late at Nicole’s. . . ? Unless (not noted anywhere) Wanda Baer dropped them off at Nicole’s, went somewhere with friends and later picked Monica and David up for a late meal in Lin’s Garden. . . .



On the same day as her visit to Nicole Renard or on another day Monica and David (Wanda Bear driving) visit Larry Lille in his university office in New Jersey (what town?). Drive along parkways and streets that for the most part have water in view: freighters, tankers, barges that Monica sees from a distance on the beach are oddly close up here. Cold air is blue and casts bluish overtones on every object; and cold and blue of air leaves grass dried out below.

Wanda Baer (no idea why) thought Larry Lille’s office was in the basement, but it’s not: it’s on the ninth floor with a wide, far-away view of the harbor, freighters restored to their distance. Larry (one of the editors of a journal of formally innovative writing Monica and David have published in regularly) is dressed in tan slacks and tan sweater over a long-sleeved shirt (color not noted) and has a big desk and swiveling office chair. Monica doesn’t know why she should be surprised, but she is, that Larry Lille seems involved in the New York art scene. Says he is and he isn’t. His involvement is complicated. For example: he doesn’t like to live anywhere too long. Has remained in New Jersey longer than he planned to and longer than he’s stayed anywhere else. Has lived in Maine, in Philadelphia, Chapel Hill, San Francisco, etc., and in all those places he performed and exhibited and became part of the scene, but there were also practical reasons for that. Has a talent for designing things for other artists and can make money from that. His own sculpture, what he cares about most, makes no money. Dropped out of the “performance art” scene: not the sort of pressure he likes (to produce and be ready by a certain date, to maintain contacts, etc.) Talk about artists, writers, editors they have in common and about Monica’s trip to Canada for an exhibit of experimental writing organized by a Canadian gallery and by Larry Lille’s more famous colleague, Edgar Zacharias, author of dozens of books, editor of a zillion anthologies and periodicals, etc. Larry is surprised by what Monica has to tell him about the behavior of the poet Marcel Ashbee in Canada (not his real name, renamed himself to link his writing method to art that influenced him). Larry had always thought of Marcel as a sort of guru. At parties he behaved like an Indian mystic: aloof, serene, severe, wrapped in a serape. . . . Not, as Monica says, nervous before his performance and obsessed with money. Edgar Zacharias on the other hand spent his time in a fury at the Canadian organizer for taking over the exhibit: dominated by Canadian artists, Edgar’s Americans made to play second fiddle. Larry Lille counters Monica’s surprising information with the fact that Edgar Zacharias (who he’s known forever) never has to worry about money. May sometimes act concerned about money, but has no need to be. Aside from the income from his dozens of books, particularly his Xenakis and Joseph Albers volumes, his lectures, performances and so on, there’s substantial wealth in his family. Edgar’s father is an important neurosurgeon who was once Barry Goldwater’s private physician. And then there’s the family’s heavy investment in imported beer. In a pinch, Edgar can use his father’s Gramercy Park brownstone or, if it gets too hot in Manhattan, he can always escape to the family compound in Montauk.

Larry Lille’s story couldn’t be more different. Father was a crane operator, mother an office worker. He left home before he was 16, never finished high school and has always been in debt (in debt for six grand now). A professor at this unimportant college in Jersey, but actually doesn’t teach. He’s in debt, but his eight-year-old daughter is rich. Wealth comes from her grandfather (Larry’s father-in-law). Disapproved of the marriage, but loves his granddaughter — so money will go straight to her.




At about one a.m. Monica, David and Wanda Baer are in Chinatown, in Lin’s Garden, eating snails in black bean sauce, Suey Kow soup, chow fun Yung Sing style and what else? At two a.m. Lin’s Garden is crowded. A man sits next to them, orders soup, refuses to pay for it, fights with the waiter. Says “this soup is alive!” and attacks it with his fork as if defending himself, then calms down enough to tell Monica his story: his name is Gilbert Juanito Goodman and he’s a short order cook (a dishwasher at the moment) from New Hampshire. He hates New York, but had to get away from New Hampshire. He’s sure Monica understands: family problems, as usual. Says he comes from a town of “twelve thousand letters”, but it’s all being torn down. Everything he remembers about that town is disappearing. They say that Gus’s Café is still there, but he doesn’t remember it as a “café”, he remembers a bar. Of course he never should have smoked what he smoked. They said it would make him crazy and it did.



When does Monica hurry to get a few lines down about Gilbert Juanito Goodman? That night when she gets home? Or the next morning. And when does she write: it’s so cold that the pen is laboring to write. Cold ink doesn’t want to flow onto brittle page. Can hear the scratch of its laboring. Also writes: when ink is flowing her blood is flowing. If the streets are an icy blue-white is that because when cold turns blue, blue turns white?



The hedges are startlingly sparse, spaces in them are wide, yet houses across other backyards are hidden by leaves. Smaller and larger white squares and sky as thick as snow. (Last night the moon was visible through venetian blinds.)



Sitting at the rear groundfloor bedroom window, overlooking the Salem Avenue backyard: bare January except for snow covering the ground and traces of green that show through the low hedges that separate Blanche’s backyard from the backyard of the Salem Avenue house where Monica sometimes house-sits. Green November light that pours through the tall hedges is gone in January. Fifteen degrees on what day?

Small pine in Blanche’s backyard carries a light that’s silvery and moist under blue sky, white clouds that are deceptively warm to the eye only (meant for a warmer day). Fragile branches of the little pine move in wind that’s the same as light.

Sun on white shingle = snow.

Snow covering green garage roof.

In early morning light Monica observes shadows of branches on snow, while branches themselves are no more than silver threads of light.




On what day does Monica make final arrangements to have lunch at George Plimpton’s upper Eastside duplex to discuss publication of THE BLUE HANGAR as an art portfolio? Date noted for lunch is Friday the 13th.



More about Monica’s visit to Nicole Renard.

Andy Forest gave Greg Coffin darts and dartboard for Christmas. Nicole gave Greg and Lena a beautiful ceramic salad bowl that Lena uses for bread instead of salad. And Lena gave Nicole a nonsensical 69¢ child’s toy. She’d rather have gotten a useful package of ponytail holders!

Lena called Nicole to tell her that she’s playing Donna Ana in a neighborhood production of Don Juan in Hell, but forgot to tell her that (because Nicole’s car is still registered out there) she (Lena) had gotten an important letter related to the accident Nicole’s car had been in. . . .

What else? Nicole visited her mother Mildred in New Mexico over Christmas, but for some reason Grete still hasn’t visited Nicole since she moved to Manhattan. Babette comes all the time and even JoAnne visits, but Grete and Andy will be in Manhattan to get one of Andy’s guitar strings fixed and then they run right back home. Think she doesn’t notice, but she does.

What else? Says that Sandra lacks discrimination: in choosing friends, for example, and in the endlessness of her conversations on the phone, the kind of endless conversations you had when you were twelve. Needs to get away from her. . . .



Free-floating bit of conversation with Mikki that arrives in January ’76 from where? Mikki says that, as Monica knows, Frederique can only talk about “issues”, not ever about herself. Well, now that she’s been invited to join the editorial staff of “Downtown Woman” they’ll have something to talk about again. She (Mikki) is not as close to Margo as she used to be and wonders if that has anything to do with the strength of her (Mikki’s) obsession with Marsha.




Monday, January 26, not a bit of snow left in the Salem Avenue backyard. Frozen snow has given way to puddles of silvery brown earth. Continue to work on an extended snow narrative, the one in which she and David are working out a formal way for the narrative to accumulate in units, as if on a horizontal plane, side by side, without progressing.

On Monday the 26th (or on the next day) even the silvery brown puddles are melting. No snow left to melt so what’s already melted is melting again. And the melting of everything is a reminder to Monica of last week’s (Thursday’s and Friday’s) bitter temperatures: cold wind made zero to five degrees feel like forty-five below and even in her warmest coat Monica couldn’t work outside as she loves to.

Bunuel’s El (seen in MOMA on what day in January) opens with a priest washing a young boy’s bare feet, then kissing them. A second man (a pillar of the church) is watching the priest washing and kissing the boy’s feet. Man’s gaze travels from boy’s feet to a woman’s shoes. Something in the shot (not noted here) makes it clear that the man is transfixed by the woman’s shoes, or her feet in them. Bunuel says that “The hero of El is a type that interests me as a beetle or a disease carrying fly does. I had no explicit intention of imitating Sade in my choice of elements, but it is quite possible that I did so unconsciously. It’s natural for me to tend to imagine and work out a situation from a Sadist or Sade-like point of view, rather than from, say a neo-realist or mystical one. I said to myself: what should the character use? A revolver? A knife? A chair? I ended up choosing the most disturbing objects. It’s as simple as that.” “It (El) is one of my favorites. . . I like it particularly because it is a true documentary on a pathological case. But all the minute documented exposition of the psychopathic progress of the character is improbable in the eyes of the ordinary public, who generally laugh during the screening of the film. This confirms my feeling that the traditional commercial cinema has cultivated a great fondness in the public for the conventional, the superficial, the false commonplaces of sentiment. I would have liked to suppress the melodramatic part which precedes the marriage of the hero and which is no more than an amorous intrigue between the girl he is to marry, her fiancé and the paranoiac himself. . . . The film’s final intention is humorous rather than anti-clerical. The character is certainly pathetic. I am touched by this man possessed by such jealousy, such solitude and interior anguish, such exterior violence. I studied him like an insect. . . .”




Snows on January 28 then clears. Days of rain, then snow, open for the first time into cold, exhilarating sunlight. Air is charged with this clearing. Monica, at home on ABC Street and working outside, feels it this way: if it were only a little bit warmer she would be up above in the charged air with the birds who’ve arrived without her noting it.

Pat Corcoran comes out on the front porch where Monica’s working to complain that her lights went off. Knows that they went off next door (at Lena’s?) also — only stayed off for a few minutes — but she saw Monica and wanted to complain to her anyway.

On January 30 Monica is working in the Salem Avenue backyard in pale sunlight. Return of winter light. Grey at the margins and pale in the center. Bah-Wah is with her and arguing with twin German Shepherds in another yard. Earth of lawns has dried to black. While in the Salem Avenue backyard Monica is reviewing her notes (or taking notes for the first time) on her visit to her young cousin Linda, home from the hospital for eight weeks. Found Linda terribly bloated, top-heavy and broken-out. Her mother wants her to drink nothing but real fruit juice, but Linda thirsts only for diet sodas and artificial fruit-flavored drinks.



Month ends with a copy of Monica’s El Tenampa receipt:


1 gambas $2.75
1 sopa $1.00
1 poblano $5.25
2 chapultapec $8.50
1 pipian $5.50
2 horchata 50¢
4 chocolate $2.00




FEBRUARY 1976

Missing pages one and two of February ’76 inexplicably found in cardboard carton in basement storage room with page eight of January, so re-discovered pages have to be edited into already-edited beginning of February.

Let’s see: On February 1 it’s forty-five degrees and raining. Later a bit of snow on moist earth (gone almost as it lands). Reflecting back on February 1 (how many days later?) Monica makes a couple of additions to the El Tenampa check or menu: “Pipian” (chicken in a green sauce made of, among other things, ground pumpkin seeds and chiles) and one flan (with a burnt sugar sauce exactly the same as the sauce on Monica’s favorite French crème caramel). Also added: a line drawn between sunlight on Mexican streets (Subida al Cielo), whiteness of coconut drink in El Tenampa and terrible coldness in Manhattan. Also: a note about the crowded sidewalks of the Theater District (busloads of out-of-towners leaving theaters). In front of a theater where a play that has something to do with Bessie Smith (Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith or something else?) is running a man is calling for a “Mrs. Bernard”. Calling and calling, with some urgency, “Mrs. Bernard!” But Mrs. Bernard, a very large black woman in a turban, is already seated in the very last seat in the darkness of the waiting bus. Monica is struck by the fact that she doesn’t answer the man who’s looking for her with some desperation. Lost in the mood of what she just experienced? (And how does Monica know that the woman in the bus is “Mrs. Bernard”?)

Rediscovered February page one tells Monica that she also saw Bunuel’s The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz and La Fievre Monte a El Pao, subtitled “Los Ambiciosos” and apparently also known as “Republic of Sin” (with Gerard Philippe, Maria Felix and Jean Servais). MOMA’S 8 1/2” x 11” sheets quote Bunuel at length about Surrealism, but only some of it is of interest to Monica: “Surrealism was the great discovery of my youth. It remains the essence of what I do. It is all here (Bunuel taps his head). . . . I have not changed, the world has. . . . Only crypto-fascists pretend that they are ideologically free. . . . Man is never free but fights for what can never be. . . . I always followed my Surrealist principle: ‘the necessity of eating never excuses the prostitution of art’. . . .” Goes on to paraphrase Octavio Paz in this way: “if the white eyelid of the screen could reflect the light it possesses, the whole universe would jump. . . .”




Earlier (than what?) on February 1 sunlight through only the narrowest slits in drawn venetian blinds was so bright — so impossibly bright — it made both Monica’s head and eyes ache. (But only for an instant.)





Bunuel paraphrases Andre Breton: “The most admirable thing about the fantastic is that the fantastic does not exist. Everything is real.” Of course Bunuel’s paraphrase of Breton makes Monica think at once of what Dostoevsky said at least half-a-century earlier. Not exactly, but something like “The fantastic is the real”. No matter what Dostoevsky’s exact words or tone, Monica had always taken the statement seriously as a witty way of compressing his view of the relationship between life and art. What others may have taken as fantastic or extreme in Dostoevsky he undoubtedly saw as another kind of realism: realism in regard to aspects of reality simply not seen by others. And, Monica believes, wouldn’t any “realism” in art taken literally and carried to its logical extreme yield results that would be labeled “experimental”, even unrealistic?





February starts out softly and sweetly: moist backyard, soft earth. At about six a.m. Monica hears a loud thump and goes to investigate: it’s Bah-Wah pushing open the kitchen door (moving into the interior, away from violent rain and wind). Raining hard and blowing all night, but here on Salem Avenue Monica needs to get an early warning from Bah-Wah about what in her attic apartment on ABC Street she couldn’t help knowing about immediately. (Nothing there that even feels like an “interior” to retreat to: dormer windows, each half with six little panes in an old wood frame, right up against the world.)

Bah-Wah wakes Monica up to a blizzard. Looks out to see rain turn to snow. At ten a.m. Bah-Wah doesn’t want to go out but has to be walked. Wind so strong that the wood-frame-and-small-pane-of-glass cubicle (for some reason known as “the areaway”) that shields the front door is filling up with snow. Snow is also built up against the back door and filling the grid of the screen: blows straight into the pantry when Monica pulls the door open. Bah-Wah doesn’t want to venture out either way. Monica has to push and drag her and soon they’re out together between snow drifts changing shape and blowing from one street to the other, reforming in the air. Clouds are purple-black and thick, yet there’s a strange Arctic sunlight, snow crunching underfoot. This is a severe beauty impossible to stay in: the fairy tale that may be a nightmare and the other way around.

After reading over the “snow” narrative together last night there’s no way not to be conscious of the relationship between writing about snow — looking for a fresh way to tell a peculiarly snow-structured story — and maybe at the same time suggest a fresh approach to the structure of story-telling — a story built of units of equal weight with no necessary order except accumulation and their obligation to in some way relate to snow (or any other unifying idea or event) — which Monica and David have come to think of as a horizontal narration — and snow that’s been falling in January and February.

Hours after reading over the snow narrative (which will probably be called “Snow”) a blizzard sets in. Monica can’t help thinking also about all the snow that’s been accumulating in the Chronicle:

Let’s see:

Real snow of winter ’74

Chronicled snow of winter ’74

Real snow of winter ’75

Chronicled snow of winter ’75

David’s notes taken with the snow narrative in mind.

Individual and separate snows (that is, fresh snowfalls separated by periods of something other than snow and even by something that erases snow) that accumulate in the Chronicle as something connected. Another way: recorded at different points as separate and individual snows, yet in the panorama of the Chronicle they can be seen to intersect.



Also, different kinds of snow that have fallen now in the winter of ’75-76: first snow of the season on December 1, 1975 was soft (in the MOMA sculpture garden?); heavier snow driving to Kennedy Airport; snow that cancelled dentist’s appointment; and today’s blizzard (first school closings of the year?).

Out the back window the blizzard seems confined to the backyard: snow in neighbor’s small pine makes Monica think how thick with snow the tall Rhinebeck pine on her ABC Street front lawn must be! And snow in the low hedges bordering backyards to west and south.





Snow comes from snow, writing from writing.






Walking half-a-block today was painful. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds make ten degrees feel like thirty below and tonight Northwest winds are predicted to gust far higher (“high wind warning” and “travelers warning”: zero degrees and another fifty-miles-an-hour higher?).





Monica, David and Wanda Baer are having a late breakfast of David’s baked pancake, strawberry jam, brewed tea and strong coffee while watching Edmund Goulding’s That Certain Woman: Bette Davis married a gangster when she was fifteen-and-a-half (when and how we learn this not noted). Gangster is killed in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, so Davis has to get a job. Before or after the gangster’s death (when and how also not noted) Davis falls in love with a rich young man (Henry Fonda) and they become engaged, but his father objects. Do they marry? Notes say the father (Donald Crisp) “interrupts the honeymoon”. Fonda fails to stand up to his father and Davis leaves, hoping he’ll come after her, but he doesn’t: he continues to knuckle under and (marriage apparently having been annulled) marries someone named “Flip”. Davis has gone back to work. Her boss, a married lawyer who’s in love with her (therefore encouraged her to marry Fonda) is the only one who knows she’s had a child (with Fonda but unknown to Fonda). Davis learns that Fonda and Flip are honeymooning in the south of France (what she does not noted). Their car crashes near Lyon. They survive, lie unconscious (how long?) in a hospital in France. Life continues. Lawyer becomes ill. Visits Davis in a delirium and warns her that Flip has hired a detective and she and the detective both know where she is and know about the child. Soon the newspapers publish stories about a “mystery child”. Is that how Fonda finds out about the child (or is it from Flip?). Fonda arrives, wanting to marry Davis (now that he knows that they have a child), and Fonda’s father arrives (Fonda first or father first?) with a court order for custody of the child. This time Fonda stands up to his father and sends him away. Lawyer (who was ill and delirious) dies and leaves Davis five hundred thousand dollars. Now Flip, in a wheelchair, pays Davis a secret visit: she’s only “half a wife”, loves Fonda too much to hold onto him. Wants him to marry Davis. Davis (not to be outdone) is so moved by Flip that she makes the ultimate sacrifice: gives her son to Fonda and Flip and vanishes.

Monica glances up from the small screen: frigid day in February is coating the windows with a burning yellow light and sheets of ice that have lacy starbursts built up out of crystals or hammered and exploded. Hard to see frozen yellow light also coating neighbor-to-the-west’s small pine or the starburst pattern in the snow covering the backyard’s cement walk.

Film resumes or continues or Monica re-enters it just by changing where she’s looking.

A reporter who’d become Bette Davis’ friend, looking for her for months, traveling “half the world”, finds her in Monte Carlo: sitting, dressed elegantly in frock and fancy hat, at a table overlooking a garden, wistfully regarding children playing outside. Ball bounces through window just before friendly reporter arrives and says “Flip is dead!” Fonda is on a transatlantic flight! She rushes to the phone. “You’re coming over?” are her (the film’s) last words. Absurd yet somehow touching.





On February 3 Monica and David are beginning to read over the narrative now called “Snow” in the Salem Avenue backyard.

While listening to Monica read David wants to know if Monica saw the shadows of the birds-in-branches. Yes, Monica says, (even while reading) she saw the shadows of birds in the shadows of branches in the blue snow.

A day of sunlight, yet snow is not melting. (Here and there a little patch that’s moist.)

Overnight there’s a thirty-six degree drop in temperature: rain turns to snow, blizzard conditions before dawn, airports closed.





On February 4 Monica steps out and sees a frozen street of light crossing Salem Avenue, snow on the ground everywhere. On the very same day Monica finds the air exhilarating: spring in the spaces that open: not everywhere, but in those spaces an exhilarating feeling “as if it were June”. An old man, walking very slowly in the snow with his cane, has no idea where he is. Monica borrows a car, drives him to where she assumes he lives (an old age home a few blocks away). Lost because of the way snow has re-drawn space?

A fat green bird in her neighbor’s hedges. Hedges have asparagus-shaped buds, dark at the core.

As the day wears on snow is disappearing, earth of the yard becomes moist and visible to Monica looking down at a shallow angle from the back window. From here, buds appear furry.





It’s reported that January ’76 was one of the coldest Januarys on record: the fourth coldest in the past fifty years, average temperature 27.5 degrees, 4.8 below normal. Also: the usual January thaw was shorter than normal (lasted only two days). On the 26th, when the temperature reached fifty-four, and on the 27th when it reached fifty-six, there was a record rainfall of 1.84 inches.





Pat Czorny has a pregnant friend staying with her in the attic apartment in the Salem Avenue house. Friend is eighteen but looks thirty or more. Born on welfare and still getting welfare, she’s applying for herself and the expected baby. All her sisters had children by the time they were sixteen. She waited until she was eighteen (a conscious decision because of her sisters?) to get pregnant. Pregnant girl’s mother worked all the time she was on welfare. Now Pat Czorny too is applying for welfare (for the first time?): links her miscarriage to a back injury in the hospital. So now she’s disabled, can’t work and owes two months rent. Pregnant friend is staying with Pat because she was paying thirty-five dollars a week for a tiny two room apartment with a shared bathroom and didn’t like living alone. (Helping pay Pat Czorny’s rent?) What else? Pat’s sister Janey is no longer living on ABC Street. Had to move because she was paying a hundred-and-seventy-five-a-month to live in a garage that was always flooded! Pat’s old girlfriend Linette’s boyfriend who used to work in the bank lost his job. Left his wife for Linette, but Linette is not well: might be liver trouble or might be kidney trouble, Pat’s not sure which — “never can be too sure with Linette, ‘cause she knows how to play the invalid game!”

Monica finds a correspondence between snow and shadow: rapidly melting, still visible only where there are shadows. Eye takes in the landscape, and Monica has to stop and think to see that in all cases shadow comes to snow’s aid. Bah-Wah plays with her ball in snow as in sand: digs a hole, drops the ball in, digs deeper to get the ball out, drops the ball in again; uses both powerful front paws to throw snow or sand backward and so on, until she gets bored.

On Thursday February 5 a card from Nelson Richardson of Coda: “Dear Monica and David, Cheri showed me your ideas about readings employing visual-verbal work and I wonder if I could see a photo of your Space Novel event or one realization of it, or something else you’ve done, for use in an article on visual poetry for Coda? Sincerely, Nelson Richardson.”

Seems logical to Monica to call Mikki to ask for Space Novel photographs (THE BLUE HANGAR, AS IT RETURNS and 12 SIMULTANEOUS SUNDAYS) because it’s her memory that Mikki had taken photographs at all three events. Others had taken photographs, but Mikki had taken several proof-sheets-worth and hers were bound to be the most professional. Also seems logical to Monica that getting credit in Coda would be pleasing to Mikki and might be useful in her effort to become a professional photographer, but, instead of welcoming the idea, it makes Mikki angry. Resents the implied criticism. What implied criticism? Says she hasn’t been in the darkroom for ages. She’s aware herself, without anyone reminding her, that she should have gone in, but she hasn’t. Has been busy working on her relationship with Marsha. But, Monica says, Mikki has made it clear that Marsha is young — a young twenty-one — with many dark problems. . . and that Mikki’s obsession with her also has a darkness to it. . . . Conversation ends in an argument.






A letter to Monica from Betty in Florida. Seems Betty had only been in Florida for a week when Kitty called to say she met someone. She’s been dating someone and it’s serious!

Monica also hears from Wanda Baer who bumped into Kitty on a Manhattan street: nothing about the new, serious person she’s dating, only that Kitty was wearing exactly the same hideous blue ski jacket that she (Wanda) used to wear!






Monica, in the black leather and molded plywood swivel chair (the “Eames” chair now found everywhere?) in the Salem Avenue house, is watching snow fall through the front windows. New snow. Snow without wind. Snow that gathers before Monday’s blizzard-like snow has had a chance to completely dissolve. Snow that’s thick on the ground by two p.m. Veil of snow. White snow that falls from grey skies. Continues to fall into the night (fog horn sounds through it and is also slow, thick and muted). Snows from one end of winter to the other.

On Friday February 6 in daylight, the lilac bush is thick with snow and it seems to Monica that the lilac buds, vivid against snow falling into continuous plane of snow, are the first green of the year.

Snow stays on the ground for days (four inches or so). Kept from melting by the cold. Winter Olympics on tv: sun shining on snow in the Austrian alps. (Before Monica was a chronicler she and David spent a summer in Innsbruck and Vienna.) Later in the day snow grows hard with cold yet sometimes a clump of it falls with a thud from the roof; while inside Monica enjoys a hot and spicy bowl — a beautiful silvery white but not snow-like — of Hot and Sour Fish Broth (from what Chinatown restaurant not noted).

On February 9, working in the Salem Avenue backyard, snow is melting but still thick in spots. Monica observes (hearing or seeing?) increased bird activity. (That is, enough activity for birds to be noticed.) Brown hedges dried to red all along their tops made visible by sunlight.

Card from Nelson Howe addressed to The Ascher/Straus Collective. “Elections, Xerox grant and other biz at the PPF meeting, ‘The Brook’ 40-42 West 17 (8th floor) at 7:30 p.m. Wed. February 11.”

Is it also on February 9 that buds are growing fatter, hedges golden and dripping?

On Saturday (February 7, out of order?) two Bunuel films, Nazarin and Death in the Garden, are in MOMA. Monica only notes that Nazarin has something in common with Viridiana. Doesn’t spell out what, only that Nazarin ends with the ironic image of a pineapple: fruit that wears a crown of thorns and that’s difficult to eat. The Christ-like title character and the woman who’s been traveling with him like a disciple are back where they started. Nazarin’s realization is: that he’s accomplished nothing.





At 5:40 on February 10 Fayette Hickox of The Paris Review telephones to postpone lunch scheduled for the thirteenth: “George is leaving for California sooner than expected, then on to New Zealand”. When Fayette called Monica and David had just started looking over THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL (with The Paris Review interview and portfolio in mind), sitting in chairs surrounded by snow in the Salem Avenue backyard. Sun on snow at noon gives Monica a piercing headache: a headache that enters through the eye.

 

*



It seems to Monica that February 11 is in itself, taken as a whole, an opening in winter, but why? Will cataloguing what she sees be the same as figuring it out?

Winter light on and reflected off snow in the Salem Avenue neighbor-to-the-west’s backyard reflected through criss-cross beams of neighbor’s fence makes a criss-cross shadow-fence on snow of the Salem Avenue backyard.

Melting snow in hedges yields pearly light.

Beads of light in hedges yield drops of water.

Sun (from snow?) burns through wooden slats of venetians.

Shadows are complex: shadows of wooden fence-beams are thick and these thick, crossing shadows cross the dark shadows of hedges probably built up out of the long or fine shadows of branches, twigs, pine needles.

Is it in the sharp lines of the open spaces in these dark shadows that Monica finds the opening in winter (or in winter light)?

Melting snow continues to fall in clumps from rooftops.



More than one conversation (also on February 11?).

Aunt Em (vacationing in Florida) calls to say that she’s worried about Cousin Vince, in Guatemala when the earthquake struck, thirteen thousand dead at last count! Vince saw terrible things and he’s shaken up. Aunt Em is never quite sure why Vince goes to South America as often as he does, what exactly it has to do with business, but he was in the thick of it and saw terrible things. . . .

Margo calls to tell Monica that she got into medical school. (Tone is uncommonly bright and perky.) A little surprised that Margo thought of calling her with the news, Monica asks who else Margo’s called. Idea seems not to have occurred to Margo and she has no answer. Did she call Kitty, for example? (Kitty, Monica’s sister, is Margo’s therapist at this moment and both Margo and Kitty are patients of Dr. DaVinci’s: on different orbits, but within the same galaxy.) No! she didn’t call Kitty! Why should she? Kitty wouldn’t care. Kitty is cold! And so on. Margo sounds like Margo, as always.

Mikki calls: seems she also knows someone in the thick of the Guatemalan earthquake, a woman named Trina who’s still there (reason not given or not noted).

Not astounded that Kitty is getting married in May, but is astounded by who she seems to be marrying. From what she knows about the guy he’s no different than a hundred guys Kitty could have married when she was twenty! Why wait all these years to marry someone like that?! And, if she’s not wrong, Kitty did date — did almost marry — someone exactly like that way back when it might have made some kind of sense! She should have gotten it over with then and saved herself the trouble. . . . What else? She had an odd experience. Once in a while — actually pretty often — she gets a craving for the food at the Pink Teacup. Loves their hot chocolate, bacon and tomato sandwiches, etc, and the food is good enough to make you ignore the fact that place is a disgusting steambath of smells. Sitting at the counter recently eating a bowl of soup (what kind?), her favorite bacon and tomato sandwich plus a hot chocolate when she noticed that the man sitting next to her looked familiar. Knew it was someone she knew but didn’t know. Someone she’d met a long time ago, not really someone from her own life, someone she knew through someone else. . . . Paid attention to him. He was eating something not too many people order — a plate of kidneys. (Other stuff on the plate, no idea what.) What about that would make it dawn on her that she was sitting next to Graham, David’s older brother, who, as far as she knows, no longer lived in New York? And what does it mean that back to back, the very next day, she ran into Wanda Baer at the same counter! Surprising because she didn’t know Wanda ate at the Pink Teacup. Would be found eating at a smelly dump like the Pink Teacup. But, beyond that, it seems to Mikki that there’s a meaning to the fact that she ran into both Graham and Wanda there. Thinks it means that despite having no resemblance or anything obvious in common, there must be something shared by Wanda and Graham that relates to eating at the Pink Teacup. Something, but what is it? Could name a few things, but Graham is so much older than Wanda that it doesn’t seem fair to assume that what’s true for him will be true for her. Tendency to drift from one thing to another, to talk without what you’re talking about ever amounting to anything. Can’t say that for sure about Wanda yet.

This also: Mikki knows that Monica’s mother Betty paid a visit to Mikki’s mother Beatrice in Florida and that she stopped to look at photographs of Mikki when she was married to Alan and things looked normal (photographs of the two of them together with the girls). Betty, of course, was curious and asked a lot of questions. Heard (what she must have already heard a dozen times) about how successful Alan was (and still is) as a soybean executive and that made Betty wonder even more about the official story she was being told. If all that her mother (Beatrice) was saying was true — about Alan being so successful and so nice, etc., and the pictures looking so normal — why did she (Mikki) leave all that? Why would anyone walk away from all that without a good reason? Mikki could tell from the way her mother told the story that she knew that Monica’s mother found Mikki’s mother’s version of Mikki’s story unbelievable and had managed to make her mother uncomfortable.

Kitty calls to talk about her future husband Hap (“Happy”) Huntington Blank. When Hap first heard her voice on the phone he knew she was the one for him. Called Betty in Florida, in fact, and announced to her and to assorted relatives who happened to be there: “I want you to know that as soon as I heard Kitty’s voice I said to myself ‘This is the one for me!’ ” (Kitty laughs uncomfortably — is flattered by it, but finds it a bit nutty — and also probably reflects what must have been Betty’s attitude: may have laughed, but already beginning to wonder and to think of questions that make you squirm.)

Another story: Kitty ran into her old friend Norma. Old friend from radical, political days. Hadn’t seen one another in a while. Took a look at each other, didn’t like what they saw and said so: what happened to you? you lost weight, your hair used to be wild and curly, now it’s short and straight, you look thin and conventional — what happened to the radical woman I used to know? Etc. Norma was even worse: hair in a permanent! But then Kitty had to tell her about her engagement to Hap. . . .





On approximately February 11: snow in Blanche’s (neighbor-to-the-west’s) backyard is melting. Four inches melt in one day and soak into the earth. Despite melting snow and a heavy rainfall there are still white patches: snow in deepest shadow? Sodden earth of Blanche’s yard can’t absorb further melting.

Lilac buds and forsythia buds are ripening on the Salem Avenue house’s front lawn and buds in Blanche’s yard that are nothing but fuzz now will bloom into outsize pink flowers (magnolia?).

Rain on the windshield as Monica parks Alyosha’s car and just a little later silvery light on the ocean, aroma of suspended moisture in the air. Monica sits on the boardwalk breathing in soft breezes that may even be springlike while Bah-Wah plays with a shell, digging with demented joy in sand as in snow.

Nelly X passes on her way to pick up Jimmy (from what and for what?). Nelly X has stories to tell (though, as always, they’re a bit vague and have to be pinned down). Leila X (eldest of the three X sisters and the one Monica and David know best and have always been closest to) is in town. Why? Because Ma is ill. Ill in what way? She fainted and immediately decided to go up to Columbia Presbyterian (where the whole X family goes when ill) and headed for the subway station on AAF Street. Nelly wanted to stop at Ma’s apartment at the corner of ABC Street and the boardwalk to pack pajamas in case the hospital decided to keep her overnight, but Ma refused. Refused because? Nelly laughs (in her vague yet whinnying way) and thinks and says, well, Ma refused because she refused. Because she’s stubborn. Said no and then got stubborn about it. And besides, Ma said she didn’t have a clean pair of pajamas to pack!

Nelly continues on along the boardwalk while Monica heads down ABC Street, past the ancient yellow brick apartment building where the X family has always had a large corner apartment on a low floor. Hears Leila X’s voice calling her through an open side window. Has more to tell Monica about Ma and much more clearly, with more detail than Nelly did. They kept Ma in the hospital longer than overnight. She’s there now and has been for days: diagnosed her as anemic and suffering from diverticulosis, exactly the way Ma had diagnosed herself. (Laughs — enough like Nelly that you’d know she’s her sister, but with an extra dose of something wilder yet more syrupy, further inward, deep in head and throat — over the fact that Ma diagnosed herself correctly, after fainting and while hurrying toward the subway.) Doctors say that she only has half her red blood cells. It’s hard for Leila to talk: Ma told her not to visit because there are all sorts of things you can catch in the hospital (it’s a big hive of disease, after all) but she wanted to go and sure enough she has a bad sore throat.




Sipping hot coffee in sunlight (shadows of branches on yellow earth on February 11). A sparrow lands in a shadow and Monica notes that the sparrow’s grey-that’s-brown and brown-that’s-grey is the color of the shadows and also of the branches. Blue snow-shadows are gone, and now there are only sparrow-colored branch-shadows in dry winter grass.

*




Note from Larry Lille:

“Dear Monica and Davey,

“Sorry it took so long but this is the first letter I’ve written in the past six months and now my pen is running out of ink. I did enjoy your visit though, if you get the chance drop by again.

              Larry.”





Charcoal grey bird lands on darkest shadow on grey cement near old outdoor shower stalls or more to the side (west) by the clotheslines strung between plumbers’ pipe sunk into paving blocks. Monica notes that bare spaces in the hedges are becoming more filled with bird-life. Also: red. Red buds on branches are swinging in sunlight against a blue sky and at about four the moon is the color and texture of soft clouds.

Where is it that cold breezes are blowing through a circle of hot sunlight?

Late in the afternoon of the eleventh Wanda Baer calls but what she has to tell Monica never gets told (or never gets recorded) because Monica is in a bit of a hurry to get to Manhattan for a PPF (Participation Project Foundation) meeting at The Brook.

Ray Pierotti (who, Monica notes, lives at the intersection of Grand and Green) is already at The Brook with Nelson Howe and it seems to Monica that what they’re wearing is oddly similar. Isn’t the same but is. Both in corduroy pants, shirt with vest, leather jacket. But different in a number of ways: Nelson’s corduroy pants are purple, Ray’s are tan; Nelson’s jacket is long black smooth leather, Ray’s even longer suede (color not noted); no description of shirts or vests. So: purple and smooth black leather for Nelson, tan and (what color?) suede for Ray, but with an over-all effect of similarity on greeting them.






Nelson Howe has a story to tell: he’s finally stopped teaching. Working something out so he’ll be collecting unemployment. But that’s not what’s important: he and Linda (last name not noted) and another woman have gotten an act together using karate and other martial arts and his manager is confident and optimistic about the salability of the show. Says that (according to his manager) even if it doesn’t work out theatrically there’s a demand for such performances in universities and they can travel around the country to one university after another and get a thousand dollars a show. Describes one of the highlights: Linda lies prone on broken glass, two hundred pounds of cinder blocks are piled on her stomach, he smashes them with a sledge hammer and she jumps up unmarked. Of course things do happen. Had a little setback just this morning in rehearsal: smashing the cinder blocks, chips flew off, grazed Linda’s forehead (cut it, actually), just missed her eyes — but did fly across a whole row of teeth. Destroyed one of the front teeth, so they’ll have to deal with that before they can get started. . . .

After the PPF meeting Monica and David pay another visit to Nicole Renard in her Washington Square apartment and this time find her in her nightgown, on the phone, making plans to spend the weekend in D.C. visiting her roommate Sandra’s cousin (no name).

Monica thinks something could be said about the vagueness or maybe it’s the ambiguity of Nicole’s love life (at least as Nicole has ever spoken of it to Monica). Not that she doesn’t have a very real and active romantic and/or sexual life (the boyfriend Ted, for example), but it seems to Monica that she’s noted over the years a number of categories of ambiguity (that is, lacking in immediacy or definition): relationships a) that are long distance; b) in which she’s “the other woman”; c) in which she denies sexual or even romantic involvement. There’s something else that Monica’s noted over the years that makes some, not all, of Nicole’s relationships with men hard to define — always in a light, even absurd way, never in a dark way — but Monica can’t name it.

Off the phone, Nicole says that she’s liked (does she say “been involved with”?) Sandra’s cousin (name not recorded) for a long time. They’ve always liked each other, but that’s all. The cousin had been living with someone, but now she’s left — and that’s why she’s going to D.C. (For a second Monica waits for more, but there is no more because it isn’t in Nicole’s nature to inspect her reasons for going to D.C. any more closely.)

Nicole Renard has a surprising number of stories to tell about the Coffins and Forests. Her closest relationship among all the Coffins and Forests — the whole galaxy of Babette, Greg, Grete, Andy, Lena, Tina (Martina) Lima (Grete’s daughter from her first marriage to Tony Lima) and little Hank Forest — is with Tina: they have “total communication”. Monica can’t help wondering if that means that Martina (Tina) Lima is the source of some of Nicole’s amazingly detailed inside information about the Coffins and Forests. Greg Coffin is involved with another woman and it seems serious. There’s no doubt about it, yet Lena doesn’t have a clue. Greg was bored with Lena and Grete is bored with Andy. Bored with Andy because Andy is boring. Gets on her nerves because he’s stupider than she is and also immature. Nicole thinks they’re living off two things: memories of the original sexual energy (which was great) and the fact that Andy is not at all bored with Grete. Thinks that Grete is still a goddess to Andy while Andy is obviously no god to Grete. Grete’s main involvement right now is with little Hank and maybe that’s what always happens to the energy between people when they have children.

Grete and Babette are not getting along. They love each other, but the way house is divided — Babette alone in the big apartment upstairs and Grete, Andy, Tina and Hank in the little apartment downstairs — is an impossible situation. The truth is that Grete has never moved out of her mother’s house. When she married her first husband, Tony (“Lima Bean”) Lima, she was living with Babette in Forrest Hills and then Tony moved in. Grete always threatens to move out of her mother’s house but never has.

What else? Nicole is bubbling over and Monica is trying to pay close attention (remembering while listening). Babette is involved with a married man. That’s positive, but other changes she sees in Babette are not. Aging? Nicole doesn’t like that explanation. Doesn’t think aging has to be that way. A stagnant, provincial life is more to the point. She (Nicole) is only twenty-one, but with “a thirty-year-old head”, and feels comfortable giving fifty-six-year-old Babette advice. Babette and Grete lead a provincial life and it’s even more disappointing in Grete. There’s no reason Grete couldn’t spend time in Manhattan, stay at her place, start to experience new things. . . and then in ten years, who knows? But she doesn’t do it. Stays at the beach with boring Andy: younger than her, and even younger than that because he’s immature, content to practice with Greg and the band, build something every-once-in-a-while, go fishing, smoke pot. . . . He’s happy that way but Grete is not. She knows for a fact that Grete would be open to a freer relationship (she and Andy allowed to explore other relationships), but there’s no way Andy could handle even the thought of Grete with another guy. Laid back as he is, who knows how nuts he might go.

Nicole herself has observed Andy’s non-stop pot smoking and Grete complains about it (how docile and dull it makes him). So Tina tells her things, Grete tells her things, Babette tells her things and Greg talks to her just as freely as Grete and Babette do. . . .





Later, when Sandra, her brother Gary and two or three other friends arrive, Monica again has the feeling (occurs to her only now that she had this feeling, but less so, when she visited Nicole and boyfriend Ted and all her blond/blonde friends were there) of being a somewhat invisible guest at a pre-teen pajama party. Good-looking young men and women together in an apartment, yet a noticeable absence of sexual tension. A little like a scene in Little Women, where all the girls are sisters and pals and all the boys are beloved, next-door-neighbor Jaimies. And at the center of it all beautiful caramel-and-honey Nicole Renard in her nightgown, more of a Little Women cotton night-dress than anything hinting at bed or bedroom, but still . . . .

Nicole’s relationship with Sandra’s brother Gary is ambiguous (or at least puzzling or confusing to Monica). Seems to Monica that Nicole implied, late in her last visit, that there was some sort of ambiguous “involvement” between herself and Gary, but tonight she goes out of her way to make it clear that there isn’t. One reason for the ambiguity: Sandra works at The New School and Gary is a student at NYU, so it’s not unusual (right now, for example) for him to sleep-over at Sandra’s. Sometimes stays for days. Takes classes at night, sleeps in by day and can’t sleep in Sandra’s “bedroom” which of course is also the apartment’s livingroom — particularly because Sandra’s friends/girlfriends are often sleeping there — so he ends up sleeping in Nicole’s room. Seems to Monica an unavoidable conclusion that one way or another he sometimes “sleeps with” Nicole, but the actual nature of what happens is left deliberately ambiguous.





Monica’s last image of the evening in Nicole Renard’s apartment is of Nicole at her breakfast table, wavy hair (exact shade of chestnut or honey at that moment not recorded) loose, arms bare and tan in conservative cotton nightgown, sipping brewed tea, smoking a cigarette and answering a call from a guy in New Jersey who’s interested in her and who she thinks she sort of likes.






On the way home Monica and David stop at Lin’s Garden to take out Suey Kow soup and soy sauce chicken.





If on Friday February 13 Monica, working in the Salem Avenue backyard, notes that sun is shining, air warmed to fifty degrees, yet earth is still black and sodden, and on February 16 it’s sixty degrees and she’s in MOMA again to see Bunuel’s Exterminating Angel and Simon of the Desert, what day is it (date not noted) when she finds it too hot to work in direct sunlight in the Salem Avenue backyard, while bare hedges welcome sun’s heat and soak it up? In order to work outdoors she has to move into the shadow of the hedges with a view into neighbor-to-the-west-Blanche’s yard where, two weeks ago, a blizzard smashed a fence to splinters.

Is it the same day or another that red buds on branches are swinging in sunlight against the wooly blue of the sky? Softness and wooliness of blue impedes their swinging? At about four on that afternoon (date not noted) moon is again the color and texture of soft clouds.






Snow has stopped but snow narrative is continuing.





On the same day or another Monica is indoors doing something with the tv on. Snow is falling there, on tv, in the Alps. Bright colors of the clothing of Olympic skiers.





Seems to Monica that it’s on another day altogether that Mikki tells her about getting together with Wanda Baer and Marsha or when Monica’s actually in the presence of Mikki, Wanda and Marsha sitting around a table (where?). Mikki is using tiny bits of information to analyze or compare-and-contrast a number of friends and/or lovers: Dee (someone Monica hardly knows) is defined by her love of power; Marsha (Mikki’s lover and Mikki’s current obsession), who went to a small college in Louisiana, combines (according to Mikki) Mikki’s “openness” and Frederique’s “containment”. Marsha may seem shy (laughs too much) but “moves into the fire” and melts there while she (Mikki) and Frederique are not melters (move away from the fire). Monica knows, even at the very moment of listening, that Mikki’s analysis may not survive a week or even a day, depending on what Marsha does tomorrow.






On an undated day in mid-February wind springs up around 11 a.m. in the Salem Avenue backyard. Wind moves along the face of the hedges, rustling golden light from dry twigs. Earth still moist and dark yet, at the very tops of the hedges, Monica makes out (but can’t explain) the thinnest possible tissue of white. Rules out budding. Light and moisture form a layer that holds together but has no substance. Transparent as glass, thin as tissue without the substance of glass or tissue. (Something finely web-like suspending a transparent sheet of moisture?)

Observes the Salem Avenue backyard only because, after walking down ABC Street (where red buds are popping up in every front yard and garden), Monica decides to cancel a dental appointment and heads for Salem Avenue to do a good day’s work and read her mail (delivered early on ABC Street by Lou, the rolypoly mailman). Only mail of interest: a note and chapbook from Ralph Waldo Rice, another editor (with Larry Lille, Edgar Zacharias and others), of the alternative literary journal where Monica and David have sometimes published. Haven’t heard from Ralph Waldo Rice for a very long time or it’s possible they’ve never heard from Ralph Waldo Rice — until now, after having visited Larry Lille once or twice.

Is it on the same undated day (while walking down ABC Street) that Wanda Baer tells Monica that she stopped Greg Coffin to ask why she hasn’t seen the beautiful and large African singer, Mirembe? Greg’s answer surprised her. He hasn’t seen Mirembe because he hasn’t been performing with her. “She decided to take a break,” is how Greg put it, but Wanda Baer didn’t think Greg was being honest. Not performing at all right now, with the band or solo. He’s working as a dispatcher for a car service. Wanda of course doesn’t really care whether Greg Coffin is playing the piano or working for a car service. She only knows this: she’s disappointed because she was attracted to Mirembe — to her body and her voice — and now there’s no way she’ll be seeing her again. And (also on the same day?) Lena (who seems to like to confide little tidbits of absurd information to David) tells David (while brooming the driveway?) that she’s trying to get Johanna into tv commercials and has been taking her to auditions.





On a different undated day in February wind from the ocean is so sudden and strong in the Salem Avenue backyard that the beach chairs and snack tables where Monica, David and Bah-Wah had just been having their usual slow and pleasurable breakfast (in this case Boursin cheese with salt sticks and other rolls from the famous Peninsula Bake Shop on AAF Street, granulated-sugar-coated and raspberry-jelly-filled donuts, fresh and warm from Peninsula’s ovens, David’s strong coffee and heated cream), get blown over. David goes inside, but Monica continues to drink hot coffee in strong wind.





Fog at 4 a.m. (moon visible through venetians). And, on the morning of Thursday the 19th, cold rain leads to a spring day and another outdoor breakfast. Monica steps outside early — way before David is awake — to the sunlight, unearthly breezes, buds sprouting everywhere of spring-before-spring. Later, David bakes two large pancakes in cast iron skillets for himself, Monica, Monica’s brother Lowell and Bah-Wah and they have an outdoor spring breakfast of David’s baked pancake, wild blueberry jam, strong coffee and cream.

On the same spring-in-February day Monica mails Volume Two of Green Inventory to Dick Higgins for a review in Margins.

*



On the morning of a day in February that may be the 19th or 20th Monica walks from the Salem Avenue house to her apartment on ABC Street. Of many possible routes between one place and another she often finds herself choosing ABA Street because there are so many trees and front gardens planted there: what were hundreds of red buds a few days ago and then slivers of white in the red buds and then only yesterday a cloudburst of white here and there today becomes nothing but a universal blossoming of white flowers, red still there, but forced into the background.

Back on ABC Street the first thing Monica notices is a bank of long chrome-yellow forsythia wands on the front lawn. Later in the day what will strike her more is the rattling of the ancient dormer windows from ocean winds blowing at that third-floor altitude (sound not heard while housesitting on Salem Avenue). And in the morning Al Szarka’s loud radio wakes David up (at what hour?). David raps on Al’s door to complain and Al (always angry, always about to bark) lowers the sound while cursing David and complaining about the noise David’s always making — promising to rap on David’s door next time — every time! — David plays his music, etc.





Working on the wide front grey board porch (first full day back on ABC Street) the flow of ABC Street life doesn’t hesitate to resume its streaming through whatever it is Monica’s working on. Lou, the rolypoly mailman, has mail and news to deliver. Thinks he knows before she does that Monica’s sister Kitty (who’s been living in the ancient yellow brick apartment building at the ocean end of the street where the X family has lived forever) is moving. But Monica had already heard, not from Kitty, but from her mother Betty in Florida (laughing because she found it ridiculous) that Kitty was moving back to Manhattan and somehow had gotten both Hap (her new boyfriend) and her old college boyfriend Malcolm to help her move! And another fact that Betty finds odd or ridiculous: Kitty says that Hap is afraid to meet her!





Greg Coffin’s band is practicing next door in the massive white-stucco-and-orange-brick multiple dwelling Greg and Lena live in with their children Johanna (Jojo), Joshua and Rosamond and 1, 2, 3, 4, maybe 5 or 6 tenants and own with Babette, Grete and Andy. Unusual for the band to practice next door instead of in the open garage of Babette and Grete’s “mother and daughter” at the ocean end of the street. Someone told Monica that they’ve put together a wonderful new band, but sounds to her exactly the same as the old band.





From her position on the wide flight of grey board steps or from a porch rocker behind the tall Rhinebeck pine or from another chair behind the dense holly bush Monica hears the rasping (or croaking) voice (and corresponding silent voice?), booming as if amplified, of the Twins Twinning as they pass.

“They get hurt.

“They could hurt you.

“They wait.

“Stand around there?

“They wait for you.”

Eight blank seconds pass while their voices are absorbed by the dense branches of the Rhinebeck pine as they pass behind it.

“Think I give a shit?!

“He’s no good! Spoke to ‘m this morning.

“He’s like moss!

“Don’t we know this house?

“Don’t we know the people in this house?

“I know the people in this house a million years!”





On Tuesday February 24 Pat Corcoran looks terrible: she’s gained weight when she was supposed to be losing it, face is broken out and chin and neck have an awful flabbiness. According to Pat it’s all because of Pepsi. They tell her not to drink so much Pepsi but she can’t stop and does it anyway. Not only the Pepsi she drinks now, but the Pepsi she’s drunk all her life. What else? Pepsi-drinking, bad back and a runaway dog. Last Monday Puff was in the backyard. She looked out, saw him (not sure how he got out there), called him to come in but instead of coming in he dashed around the side of the house, down the driveway to the front and down the block. Wanted to go after him, but couldn’t. She was ill (bad back dates from the time nineteen years ago when Philip was born and they gave her a spinal; word “spinal” sends Pat off on a digression about John who had some work-related problems a few years ago: she warned him not to get the spinal they wanted to give him, but of course he didn’t listen, got the spinal and went blind for a few weeks), she was home alone, so she stood on the porch calling Puff, but just had to let him go. They haven’t seen him since, Tim is heartbroken and she thinks that and her Pepsi-drinking have made her flabby, bloated and broken out. . . .

Tales of misery on a breezy spring day in February.

Pat goes in (door to the right of the porch is one of the two entrances to the Corcorans’ always deeply shaded groundfloor apartment) and Monica goes back to writing about the bush at the intersection of ABA Street and Salem Avenue that seems to flower before all others: now that its furry buds have opened it should be more beautiful but it isn’t. Made the mistake of crossing the street? What had been only slivers of white from a distance (had to spend time contemplating them to see them and to enjoy the subtlety of their early near-blossoming against a blue sky) up close are something else altogether. Accidental beauty clotted up or fell apart as she approached. . . .

And then later, typing upstairs, rose petals fall onto Monica’s desk as the typewriter carriage moves and jostles the vase (notes don’t say what it looks like or is made of) holding roses. Bright pink of rose petals against dark green of avocado leaves. Is the bright pink of rose petals against dark cucumber-peel green of avocado leaves “electric” or is there a better word for what should be a soft and mild color but isn’t? Word that describes the color-energy that vibrates aggressively in the eye?

Types for a while, then reads the mail delivered by Lou, the rolypoly mailman.

“I’m still acting as the go-between for my guest editors doing the anon issue. Brian Swann, who accepted your Double/Profile for #36 with much pleasure, suggested I ask you if you’d care to add a piece on your system of collaboration. I agree with him that it would make a very lively and provocative article on the moods and mechanics of two writers working in tandem: the genesis of ideas, the problems involved, the techniques, etc., etc. Neither of us can recall seeing something on this order. And if it has been done, there’s still room for expatiation on this intriguing topic, and/or an original approach — not necessarily the cut and dried interview mannerisms of asking and responding. But, but . . . well, I’m groping.

“Whatever your way is, it should make an interesting human and word-workers expression of how you feel about it and manage the feat. Please let me know what you think of the idea.

“Best wishes, Sonia,

Sonia Raiziss, ed.

“P.S. read your long elegant story in the #64 Paris Review: fine work.”





Sixty-two degrees on Wednesday and birds (suddenly more audible) sound different. Monica looks out her window, down into the needles of the Rhinebeck pine (a peculiar green that greets her every morning on ABC Street — dark pine green of course, but also a harder-to-name lighter green she thinks of as “ash green”) to locate the source of an unfamiliar bird song and sees a grey bird with a red head and red stripe down its back.





Where is Monica when she sees kites along the horizon, blue, white and glossy? Is it then that she runs into Janey Hedges, who used to live on ABC Street but now lives on ACE Street (though still friendly with Al Szarka and Yvonne Wilding): pregnant, in her eighth month, once pretty, says she’s been ill and looks ill now, skin both pale and blotchy.

A little later on the same day Monica meets Nora Salerno on AAF Street (local commercial street that runs from Salem Avenue to the boardwalk) returning from a “luncheon” with Peggy Quinlan, Peggy’s ninety-two-year-old mother May, Ellen Garvey and her mother. (Wiry and strong as any pioneer woman, with thinning red-in-black or black-in-red hair, Ellen Garvey raised five daughters (without much help from the always-absent, handsome firechief husband) in a neat, always-freshly-painted three story frame house across from (maybe one or two houses south of) the white frame attached house where Peggy Quinlan lives. Peggy Quinlan is a handsome woman with an erect bearing and pale gold or white hair who keeps to herself, smiles a warm hello to Monica when Monica passes her sitting against the white front wall of her house with her elderly mother under a green awning, somewhere in the background a husband Monica can never picture.

Ellen Garvey and Peggy Quinlan have stories to tell and Monica isn’t perfectly clear in her notes whether each one tells her own story or if they help tell each other’s story.

a)       Ellen Garvey’s mother and Peggy Quinlan’s mother come from the same part of Ireland (which part not told to Monica or not noted).

b)       Elizabeth, Ellen Garvey’s next-to-oldest daughter, is getting married in May. Someone comments that Ellen’s daughters have been getting married one by one, in correct, descending order! And someone else tries to count off how long it should be until Patty, the youngest and the fattest, nicknamed Twiggy, gets married. Someone else says that she knows for a fact that Twiggy lost weight and is thin, but somehow Twiggy still looks fat to her!

c)       Peggy Quinlan’s mother, May, is ninety-two, but there were other mothers at the luncheon who are only eighty-four.

d)       Ellen Garvey knew Peggy Quinlan before they rediscovered each other here. Ellen, Peggy and Peggy’s sister Cassia grew up together in the same neighborhood in the Bronx.

Nora Salerno doesn’t have as many stories to tell as usual. She’d been feeling fine in spite of all the miserable, snowy weather, but now, the last few days, with the weather turning pleasant, she’s been feeling ill. What else? For some reason (purely geographic, because they live in the neighboring house to Peggy Quinlan’s?) Margaret and Daisy Brennan come to Nora Salerno’s mind and she talks about them instead of herself, her daughter Nancy St. Cloud or anyone else connected to her directly. Wants to know if Monica knows that little Daisy Brennan has chronic rheumatoid arthritis and wonders if that’s something Daisy will outgrow — or if it will flare up dangerously all her life. Wonders also if Monica knows that Daisy’s mother Margaret Brennan has a hole in her heart that could kill her.





Mikki calls to say that she’s worried about Frederique. Winter classes at City College have been cut back to next-to-nothing (cut out altogether?) so she’s teaching only one course at The New School, will have to sublet her Chelsea apartment and go live and teach in some godforsaken town out on Long Island. Anxious about money, worried and fatalistic as usual and smoking heavily again. Killing herself slowly — enjoying killing herself slowly — and there’s nothing Mikki can do about it.





At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday February 26 Monica can feel the day through closed windows: compelled to open them and, as soon as they’re open, feels on her skin what she was already experiencing mentally. Sensation on skin of course is different from what she already knew in her mind. Unseasonable softness and aroma can only be felt exactly at the instant the window opens and bright light opens inward with it.

Monica puts her head out into the fragrant breeze pulsing south to north, breathes in the extraordinary day. Looks toward the ocean to the south (source of all sensation?). Voices of children from beach and boardwalk. Turns head to right (north), toward Coast Boulevard: Margaret Brennan’s landlord Alexi’s handsome oldest son, Matty, is leaning over the porch railing of his father’s house, cursing his younger brother because he did something to Matty's car.





This is where Monica is on February 26 (at what hour exactly?): on ABC Street, working outdoors on the wide grey planks of the groundfloor porch of the big cocoa-shingle-multiple-dwelling. Alive, breathing in the extraordinary day, taking in the day with eyes, skin, hearing and wanting her writing to make her even more alive in the day, consciously not wanting the ordinary head-and-shoulders gesture of writing to bend away from the day. Not inward, not toward anything other than the day, can her writing make her breathe, see, hear, sniff breezes even more? She wants pen or typewriter, carried outdoors, to be instructed in how much she wants to be alive in the day (February 26).


*



All sensations on ABC Street are different from all sensations one-and-a-half blocks north on Salem Avenue. Here by the ocean air feels different on skin, smells different and so on, but there’s more to it than that and these other differences are hard to name. Why (for example), Monica wonders, should there be an odd sort of melancholy in the exhilaration of the day. (Because of the exhilaration of the day?)

Sitting outdoors with pen and typewriter will the simple act of listing her sensations be the same as figuring out where they’re coming from?

Let’s see: the fact that she’s sitting on the porch on ABC Street on a splendid day in February ’76 in itself has layers of experience in it: memory or exterior memory in the fact of living here, with this precise aroma of sea air on a spring or spring-like day. Sudden, sharpened consciousness of bird-sounds seems new: a real arrival of birds suddenly migrating into consciousness? Seasonal layers in the air: this year’s moment of being alive brings to life another year’s moment of being alive. Therefore to be in the thick of it, to breathe the day deeply, is to be moved by the living memory of having breathed air in this place at this time of year before. Is that it? Events that happened one or four years earlier are being breathed again?

Monica continues with her list that explains everything or nothing.

Let’s see: at about 11 a.m. Monica, writing on the porch, saw a mourning dove. David, who’d also been writing outside (somewhere screened off from Monica’s view by shrubbery or an angle of the house), went inside for a glass of orange juice. Seconds after he left Monica spotted — in a pine (really more of an overgrown evergreen shrub) not far down the block (toward ocean or boulevard not noted) — a large (pigeon-size?) lavender-grey or rose-grey, subtly shaded bird. Certain it was a mourning dove, but doesn’t note whether her certainty was based on having heard a mourning dove’s unmistakable sound, so deep and quiet in the throat it stays in the woods, but just a little more daylit, a little closer to wherever you are, than the sound of an owl.

Is it the sight or the sound of the mourning dove that moved her and continues to move her? Is that what’s melancholy in the exhilaration of the day? She knows that she feels the desire to keep experience in the present: mourning dove in neighbor’s overgrown evergreen shrub, not a lingering sound-memory of a day in Spring ’73 when she was acutely conscious of the sound of mourning doves just before and/or just after she and David learned that Monica’s friend, David’s friend and even-more-so Kitty’s friend, Agnes, had committed suicide while studying for her Ph.D. at Princeton. It happened when Kitty lived in Manhattan (one of the reasons Kitty moved from Manhattan to ABC Street) and while Monica and David were writing Green Inventory (their earliest attempt to convert the Chronicle into something other than itself: in this case, novel-length volume trying to use visual/concrete language design, but to take a step beyond design toward something systematic: where on the page (in what quadrant of the page) something is written also assigning significance. Tried this idea in Green Inventory and in some other “chamber” fictions, then tired of it, as usual).

David comes back outside. He’s skeptical and Monica finds his skepticism irritating. He thinks it’s unlikely to see a mourning dove in February. Thinks they return with other birds in March. Monica doesn’t think they leave at all. Doesn’t think they migrate. It’s the other birds, the ones that are flocking back in exaggerated numbers, who migrate and usually return in March but are appearing today. David starts off down the block toward Coast Boulevard (therefore it was toward Coast Boulevard (north) where Monica spotted the bird earlier?) to find the bird and settle the argument. After a little while Monica hears David calling her name from what seems like a long distance: there he is, near the corner of ABC Street and Coast Boulevard, looking up at a bird a little too big for its perch on a telephone line and rocking a bit.

“It is a mourning dove. . . !”

Voice travels clearly on spring breezes, aloft on thermals.

Lou the rolypoly mailman turns the corner and Monica joins David and Lou looking up at the wire. “What’s up?” Lou wants to know, hoping for a more interesting story than debating the identity of a bird. Clearly disappointed by what interests them. What difference does it make if it is a “mourning dove”? Might as well be a pigeon as far as he’s concerned is Lou’s good-natured shrug at the world.




Monica notes that Artie Tilden (one of the second floor tenants) spotted her on the ABC Street front porch yesterday (date not noted) and started complaining. Stood there slackly, looking terrible. Longish red ponytail always makes his already too-small head look smaller and short nose adds to a somewhat compressed, cut-off or shrunken look. But yesterday he looked worse: eyes pouchy with an irritable brand of tiredness. Says that he’s twenty-four years old but looks in the mirror and sees someone much older. Is that what doing what you hate does to you? Only ranked “a five” in the post office, but could be — should be — an “eight” and doing exactly what he likes (working on post office machinery); but he overslept the day of the exam. “Overslept” is one way to put it. Truth is he came home stoned the night before the exam — forgot to set the alarm — or maybe he did set it — set it then shut it off again. Or not. No way to know. How is it ever possible to be clear about stuff like that? Could be one way or another. Tell ourselves we remember, but do we? Do we really? Really, really? “Lost in the fog.” Monica says that — without wanting to get psychological about it, without wanting to dig too deeply — does he think that — considering how important the job was to him — it was at all destructive to be lost in a fog that day? Artie Tilden seems to take offense. “Destructive?” No, not at all. No way. Says he’s a little amazed she’d ask that. That she’d use a word like that. That really surprises him. He’s not one of those types who sabotages himself. That’s way off. It’s just what happened is all. Life goes that way sometimes and we look for explanations and there are no explanations and there’s not much you can do about it.




Monica has already registered (on what day?) the sudden, exaggerated arrival of birds this year. And today, February 26, at about 3 p.m., the chilly air is filled with them. (Not noted whether all one variety, several varieties or a wild mixture, and, if a mixture, which ones.) Is it the feeling of the air or the exaggerated chirping that pierces Monica with a seasonal sensation that may also be an emotion or a memory: a chilliness that smells like spring and an atmospheric energy that, if it were a human emotion, would be excitement. One sniff of this new air is like the apple corer that makes a twisting plunge through the core of time and through the self. “Life is changing. . . .” And what exactly is it that’s moving?

On the strength of this sensation Monica relaxes back from her typewriter.

It’s February ‘76 that’s being typed, but it’s being typed at eleven a.m., Wednesday June 23 on the ABC Street front porch. Monica’s carried her typewriter downstairs from attic to porch and is typing outside for the first time this year. Typing in the open air of summer is itself odd and wonderful, but there’s more to Monica’s sensation in the open air than the open air itself. . . as if every time she experiences a beginning (beginning of anything) the excitement of something absurdly cosmic is there.

While typing on the porch and enjoying that to a degree she would find it hard to explain to another person (but which is essential to her pleasure in living and writing) she’s carrying with her another immense pleasure that might not be pleasurable to someone else: front room (that is, room fronting ABC Street) has just been freshly painted green (somewhere between mint and lime) and, because it was being painted, the room (largest of the three attic rooms linked by a long hallway) had to be emptied. Empty room, painted an unusual, vivid shade of green (a little like the impossible-to-describe living green blood of azalea leaves Monica and David have both always loved), old, irregular pine floorboards, sanded and stained, nothing but an enormous (cast-off from where?) oak table-that-will-become-her-desk carried in.

Emptiness and freshness of green studio give her an absurdly cosmic excitement while typing on the front porch.

Table/desk set under the dormer windows facing ABC Street: already sees herself there with papers spread out.

Sitting on the narrow grey-painted bench in June ’76, typing February ’76. David brings her a tall glass of creamy iced coffee and a wedge of strawberry-rhubarb pie from the famous Peninsula Bake Shop. Little Rebecca Geiger appears from the Corcorans’ apartment, plops down next to Monica on the bench.

I know how to type!”

Challenges Monica to get angry at her. Being thrown off the bench, or even off the porch, would suit her best.

Tries to get her fingers on the keys to type random letters over the February Chronicle. Prevented, she says, “Ugh! Black ink is the ugliest ink! It’s no color and it’s an ugly color!” Shows Monica a four-color pen and begins to scribble wildly on a blank sheet of Monica’s paper. These are the colors she likes. . . !

Blond-blond Timothy Corcoran follows Rebecca out, angry that she’s using his four-color pen. Loves his four-color pen, uses it sparingly, doesn’t want to use up the little tubes of ink — and here’s stupid Rebecca Geiger grabbing it from his room and scribbling nonsense with it. . . ! His anger excites Rebecca Geiger. (Monica can see it in her flushed face.) Timothy sees it also (does he know that he sees it?), gets his skateboard and skates away down ABC Street toward the boardwalk.




Nicole Renard slides up to the curb in her little green Saab, waves to Monica (who knew in advance that Nicole would be on ABC Street today) and parks next door, where Babette and Lena are conducting a “porch sale” on the small orange-stone-and-rusted-iron-guardrail first floor porch of Greg and Lena’s massive orange brick and white stucco multiple dwelling. Even before Monica came downstairs to work she saw Grete Forest on the next-door porch early in the morning helping Lena set up for the sale — and now they’re all there — Lena, Grete, Babette and even Nicole, though Monica has the impression that Nicole isn’t there to help with the sale: she’s carried a few items of her own from car to porch and is setting them out for Lena to sell. . . .




Pat Corcoran spies Monica working on the porch (through open front door (June) or anytime of year from dark interior, through slats of wooden venetians, on the other side of one of three tall porch windows) and joins Monica uninvited on the bench. She has a breathless story to tell. Does Monica remember how, in January and February (face and voice just about pierce through the February Chronicle Monica is typing in June), Puff kept running off and then they’d find him? Lost him, found him, lost him, found him. . . ? Well, listen to this! Now, after all this time, they found him — Philip found him — but he’s absolutely lost and gone forever. This is how it went: as Monica knows, in June — or for the summer, actually — both Philip and Allison Meehan work over at Boggiano’s near the Funland Amusement Park. Philip took a break from opening clams and oysters — he was in the mood for an ice cream cone — so he walked the three long blocks from Boggiano’s on Coast Boulevard to the boardwalk and he was strolling along the boardwalk licking his cone when he ran right into some guy walking Puff! Knew it was Puff, not some other Lahso Apso, from his markings. And of course Puff recognized Philip and was yapping and jumping. There was a huge argument, but what could Philip do? Seems this guy was the son of one of the so-called gypsy fortune tellers on the boardwalk — and then the fortune teller came out and then the whole family and they all swore the dog is theirs, it’s always been theirs, it’s their family dog, Philip’s some nineteen-year-old kid trying to steal the dog that’s been in the family forever, the children all love this dog, blah-blah-blah. Patrol car came along. Philip had hold of the leash and wouldn’t let go and he’s hoarse from screaming and practically in tears. It was a mess. So Philip found the dog because he was in the mood for an ice cream cone and now because they know where Puff is they have to accept the fact that Puff is really gone for good and Philip feels like a failure and he’s depressed. So they figured the only thing to do was to go out and get Timmy another dog. Drove out to the Island and got him a huge dog, part Shepherd and part Elkhound — only three, four months old — so he’s a giant, but he’ll get bigger. . . .




Anxious Lena Coffin and vague Nelly X come up the block from the ocean end of the street with Johanna (Jojo) Coffin and a girl (unknown to Monica) in a long, white dress. As always, Monica finds it hard to understand with certainty what Nelly X is saying, whether to someone else as she’s passing or even directly to her (Monica). Says something (to Lena?) about her son Jimmy helping “set things up”. That makes her laugh in her odd way, a throat sound that always borders on desperation, yet is so loose and shapeless it’s hard to tie it to any reason for laughing. Seems to be laughing about little Jimmy: “it’s his sixth birthday today!” Is it his own birthday party he was helping “set up”? Lena’s only reply is to ask Jojo if corn and liverwurst are ok for lunch.




Summer sun: walking on Coast Boulevard in summer sunlight in February. Later Monica may again be typing the events of February ’76 in June ’76 (on the narrow porch bench), but no one in June calls out through February, no one puts her or his head through February’s window, walks through February’s door, presses fingers on February’s typewriter keys, typing over some of its sentences. . . . Not pulled into June (moment where she’s physically typing) Monica’s able to type herself back inside February and to be fully alive there.


*



On the beach (on an undated day in February) in breezes that feel like spring on her skin: blow with strength across skin, through wavy hair, yet leave green ocean smooth and unruffled. (Human body stands up into it; ocean lies down under it?) Runs into Nicole Renard and Grete Forest (little, solid Hank Forest a heavy weight on Grete’s back). Nicole says to Grete that Monica already knows how unhappy she is with her roommate, Sandra. And to both Grete and Monica Nicole says: before she wanted to move — now she needs to move. So she’s looking hard for an apartment. . . . Words “looking for an apartment” remind Grete that her mother — Babette — noticed (upstairs apartment of their house pretty much overlooks the yellow brick apartment building’s back entrance and driveway) Monica’s sister Kitty packing up her car — being helped load up her belongings by two men — as if she were moving out. . . .


Grete has a story, or a story made up of many stories, to tell. Where to begin? Grete is not talking to Babette right now. And Tina, who doesn’t always agree, agrees with Grete that she doesn’t like the way her (Tina’s) grandmother is acting right now. Unlike Nelly X, who Monica would have to ask: what is it about the way Babette is acting that Tina and Grete don’t like?: Grete has a clear idea what she wants to say and seems to need to say it, as if her story has been cooking for who-can-say-how-long and is more than ready (overcooked?) to be dished out on the table.

Grete doesn’t like — has never liked — the way her mother deals with her ex-husband (Grete and Greg’s father), Dean, a somewhat shadowy, seldom-seen figure. She doesn’t know all of the Dean-and-Babette story (hard to get the truth), but what she does know is this: when Dean came back to the States after WW II (a G.I. who hung around Europe after the war making money or thinking he could make money as a black market profiteer and who may have even been AWOL during the war) he didn’t look for work but put his young French wife (Babette) to work right away. Put an ad in the paper and hired her out as a domestic, even though she spoke no English.

Nobody really likes Dean. Her mother doesn’t like Dean (but still has trouble standing up to him), she doesn’t like Dean (but she’s cool enough to keep him from knowing it), Greg doesn’t like Dean (not at all cool, he can’t help showing his hostility), Tina doesn’t like Dean (and doesn’t like the way Babette acts with Dean), etc. There’s a tangled story about money that’s more tangled than it has to be because she’s never been allowed to see more than a few threads of it. Some time (not clear how much) after Babette divorced Dean he set his sights on a wealthy older woman. (A wealthy old woman?) Or maybe not “wealthy”, just a lot better off than him. And after a while she accused him of cheating her out of a lot of money: twenty, thirty, fifty thousand dollars or more, Grete never knew exactly how much. It went to court and for whatever reason Dean won. She thinks there was a settlement and out of however much he was given he gave ten thousand to be shared between herself and Greg. It was made very clear that it was a gift, not a loan, but he must have gone through his money, because he’s hounding them to give it back. “I want my ten thousand!” “I need that ten thousand!” Over and over and over, with a zillion sickening variations. Worse and worse every month. And — because they won’t give it back (why should they? it’s theirs!) — can’t give it back (they don’t have it) — he’s after them every chance he gets to “work harder”. Not just her, not just Greg, but Andy and even Lena, who has nothing to do with his money and who’s raising three kids on very little income. “What do you do all day. . . ?! Get to work! Work harder! Get more jobs. Do whatever you have to, but pay me back my money!” And of course after a while Greg can’t control himself and shows his hatred.

Grete wonders if Dean’s constant nagging has had an effect on all of them. For example: she hates to work in summer (has never outgrown her love of summer at the beach and everything that comes with it) but this summer she plans to work at her friend’s fish-fry place in Sheepshead Bay. She’d only do it a couple of days a week, but still. . . . It would be great if Andy worked full time, but the band has made that impossible. She thinks the band sounds better with the new singer. It’s a good band and she wants Andy to stay in it: she believes in the band, she believes in Greg and Andy, and, if you look at it objectively, the band is really all Andy and Greg know, it’s all they want to do and it’s all they can do, so if it fails. . . . Still, with the pressure of Dean’s constant nagging, Andy is auditioning Monday for a club in Brooklyn where he’d have a long-term gig. Greg has no intention of doing anything. Does play solo sometimes and occasionally gets hired to be the accompanist for someone famous and goes on tour and makes some money, but that hasn’t happened lately and things aren’t good for any of them. Her ex, Tony Lima, Tina’s father, gives next to nothing. Tries to provide a little support for Tina, but he’s re-married, has children and can’t afford much. Thinks Monica knows (did Monica know?) that they’re on welfare. On welfare, but get very little, not even enough to pay the rent, and have had to lie to get anything (they don’t know that she’s re-married). Lena was caught in a stupid lie. Claimed she was living with her mother-in-law, Babette, but obviously she isn’t. Wasn’t hard for them to find out that she and Greg own a house (even if it is a multiple dwelling that needs a ton of work, costs a fortune to run and hardly brings in anything), so now they’ve taken them off food stamps. . . . Andy needed to go to the dentist but couldn’t afford it, so he tried to apply separately for food stamps and medicaid — and was denied because he earns too much! Have to earn less than two hundred!

It’s in the middle of all this that Dean keeps calling and saying “get a job! get more jobs! work harder! pay me my money!!” — and then there’s her mother, echoing Dean and reproaching her in front of Tina. You’d think language like Dean’s would never come out of her mouth, but it does. She desperately needs to move out — to get herself and Tina away from Babette — but she can’t. She tries to make it clear to her mother that their apartment is too small for so many people, but it doesn’t sink in. . . . She heard Tina telling Babette the other day that Hank wakes her up in the middle of the night. And it’s true that poor little Hank doesn’t sleep very well. He wakes up most nights and sometimes he cries or he’s had a bad dream and he’s angry or just making noise — and even though it only lasts fifteen minutes it seems a lot longer to Tina and it’s just not fair to her. She has her own room, of course, but still. . . the apartment is small and cramped and she probably hears every sound that’s made. How can that be healthy? And of course her mother pays lip service to it. Acts like she gets it. But there they still are, stuck downstairs, and there’s Babette, alone in that gigantic upstairs apartment. It’s hard for anyone — looking at it from the outside — to know how bad things really are.

Lena drives up. She’s in a fury. Where’s Joshua? She wants to strangle him. Where is he? Her eyes are large. Her always tense voice is strung to the breaking point on its pegs. Just drove all the way to his stupid school (does he think she has time to waste? does he really think she has nothing better to do? that her life isn’t already squeezed enough?) — all the way to the stupid school and back because he told her — made her mark it on the kitchen calendar! — that there was a “special assembly” today and he was on the program — he was performing or giving a speech and he wanted her there — so she made time for it and she went — and he was wrong! He got it wrong! The special assembly is next week! A week from today! No reason to go there today! And now her day is ruined! So where is her idiot son so she can strangle him and get it over with. . . !

Goes off.

Grete Forest says that Lena acting so nuts only confirms what she’s been telling everyone for months: they all (every one of them without exception) need to get back into “Mind Control”. It’s been three years since she was last in it and she definitely needs it again. Only six months since Babette’s been in, but she’s slipped back completely: very resistant, very stubborn and set in her ways: so as far as Grete’s concerned Babette’s back to where she was before (if not further) and probably needs Mind Control more than anyone. Even Andy, who’s so clear-headed and easygoing and uncomplicated and even has a good relationship with his parents, could use a little help under the circumstances. So he should go. Greg has no interest in it, but needs it and of course can’t afford it. She offered to send him there as a present — a couple of years ago when she had some money — but he said no and now when things are so bad that he might see the need for it she has no money and neither does he. So they all need it, but nobody’s going.

*



On an undated day in late February Monica is driving Lowell’s car and parks it on ABC Street, between the Liman and Lenehan houses toward the ocean end of the street (ancient yellow brick apartment house, Coffin/Forest mother-and-daughter, Limans’, Lenehans’, sliding horizontally south to north from beach and boardwalk toward Greg and Lena’s orange-brick-and-white-stucco multiple dwelling and the cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling where Monica has her attic apartment and on toward Coast Boulevard) and runs into little, apple-faced Finnley Lenehan who has stories to tell and questions to ask. He wants to know if Monica knows that her sister Kitty moved to Manhattan: out of the ugly old apartment house to a brand new apartment house with a swimming pool. How does little Finnley know that Kitty’s new building has a swimming pool? Kitty invited him to visit and take a swim there! What else? Knows that his mother is upset about the envelope of her mother’s letters from Ireland that she can’t find and thinks she gave to Monica for her Chronicle. Finnley never even heard of his grandmother’s letters, but now, after Kitty moved without telling his mother where she was going, his mother remembered the letters and can’t stop talking about them. Finnley met Kitty’s new boyfriend, Hap: he sings Irish folk songs (sang them with his mother) and drives a Peugeot. Knows that he helped Kitty move (thinks an old boyfriend of Kitty’s helped her too) and these two or three things are just about all he knows about Hap or “Happy” so far.



On the same or a different undated late February day Wanda Baer climbs the stairs to Monica’s attic apartment with a cellophane bag of French roast coffee beans (bought a big bag, decided to share it with Monica and David). Dark, profound and delicious fragrance (to Monica, not only the fragrance of the coffee-drinking moment and the rituals surrounding coffee making and drinking she observes in David, who’s addicted to coffee bean, coffee grinder, coffee cups (how many?) coffee aroma and taste, etc. (his favorite: a blend of Columbian Excelso and Ethiopian Djima he read about in one of the cookbooks he reads like novels, Roy Andries de Groot’s Feasts for All Seasons) to the point of worship, but also the aroma of New York warehouse regions where the fragrance of roasting coffee beans is in the air and in the stones as a dizzying, mouth-watering kind of soot) of darkly roasted coffee beans (bag opened to take a sniff?) in breezy sunlight in Monica’s green front studio.

David’s not there, so no one to make coffee or breakfast and besides, Wanda Baer says, she’s in the mood for griddlecakes in the Cornucopia Diner! Truth is it’s not just the griddlecakes, Wanda has a story to tell or, more than that, a couple of difficult and confusing things have happened to her and she really needs Monica to help figure them out.

Over griddlecakes, coffee, bacon and sausage in the diner, with it’s panoramic views — at the intersections of AAF Street, Salem Avenue and Bay Drive — of the bay and of oil-stained and expansive gas station plazas, Wanda says that she’s worried about her friend Dalia. One night Dalia woke up and realized she was alone in her apartment. Felt how alone she was. Why this time and not a zillion other times she couldn’t say, but her apartment didn’t feel like home. She thought: alone in this apartment and no one to hold. “ ‘I had to hold someone,' " Dalia told Wanda, " 'but I was alone — so I went into the kitchen and grabbed a plate. I wasn’t crazy, I knew that the plate wasn’t “someone”, but the need to hold someone (to be held by someone?) was so unbearable I had to do something (couldn’t do nothing). I held the plate tight enough to break it but it didn’t break.’ ” That story scared Wanda so much that she decided to spend a couple of nights at Dalia’s. While she was there Lowell called. Naturally, Dalia answered the phone. (Had Wanda Baer told Lowell she’d be staying at Dalia’s? Therefore Lowell obviously calling to speak to Wanda Baer? Or — what would puzzle Monica — does Lowell know Dalia? Know her well enough to be calling her? Monica doesn’t know the answer to any of these questions and is unhappy with herself for not thinking to get things clear with Wanda over griddlecakes in the Cornucopia Diner.) Dalia immediately started acting weird on the phone with Lowell. Laughing uncomfortably — nuttily — in the way that’s always a dead giveaway of all the miserable stuff you want to hide. Dalia’s clumsiness and discomfort surprised her. Afterwards Dalia’s explanation was that she just wasn’t ready to speak to someone like Lowell. Didn’t expect it and wasn’t prepared. Would need time to prepare for someone like that. Lowell is smart, asks a lot of questions, his questions are probing and he doesn’t accept bullshit as an answer.

Wanda doesn’t get it. Wants to know a) if Monica thinks that Dalia told her the story about the plate just to get her to stay over; b) what “probing questions” Lowell could possibly have asked Dalia that would make her so uncomfortable; c) what was Lowell’s actual reason for calling; d) what’s wrong with Dalia; e) should she have been able to do more for Dalia than just stay there; was she just a little bit better than a plate? And, more than anything, she wishes Monica could help her figure out her confusing relationship with Lowell. What are they to each other? What are they to each other exactly? Neither one of them ever tries to define it and is she better off just leaving it that way?

What else? The next morning Dalia woke up in a panic because she didn’t recognize her apartment.

*



On February 26 Monica and David are having breakfast (bacon, eggs (whether scrambled or fried not noted and, if fried, not noted if sunnyside up or over easy), buttered toast done David’s way, sliced tomato and David’s strong coffee (David’s dark but not black, in his favorite Chinese rice bowl, Monica’s light and creamy in an unusually tall white ironstone cup she loves) at Monica’s big oak desk that’s now a table.

Having breakfast in the ordinary range of breakfast hours or, more likely, late in the afternoon, after already having worked outside on the front porch.

David remarks on the fact that Monica is the one who first drew his attention to the enormous white light of February. And here it is now, falling on the huge oak breakfast table that will spend most of its life as an enormous desk. Enormous white light of February falls on white hotel china plates of food, on coffee cups and bowls, on Monica’s papers already in enormous stacks and on her green typewriter with a sheet in the roller that so far only says THE MACOMBER AFFAIR. While they’re sharing a breakfast of bacon, eggs and tomato at the oak table they’re watching Gregory Peck and Joan Bennett sharing breakfast in a tremendous tent with a roof of leafy branches, walls of mosquito netting: the “dining tent” somewhere on the plains outside Nairobi.

Monica and David don’t scribble down dialogue or sketch scenes while watching, but both watch and memorize in order to write immediately after: memory-on-purpose in order to remember = writing-before-writing.

a) The Macomber Affair was directed by Zoltan Korda in 1947. Gregory Peck is Robert Wilson, the “white hunter” shepherding the bitterly unhappy safari couple, Francis Macomber (Robert Preston) and Margaret (Margo) Macomber (Joan Bennett).

b) What is Gregory Peck’s flavor as an actor? So ideally handsome he might be carved out of walnut or maple. Does that make him a “wooden” actor? Monica thinks it’s more complicated than that. His deep and beautiful chest-and-head voice may convey the shades of unhappiness, the gravity of a beautiful wooden carving compelled to experience (and to express) human emotions, ethical conflict, to feel the burden of being Robert Wilson, for example, falling in love with acerbic Joan Bennett, married to the interestingly miserable big game hunter, Francis Macomber.

c) Joan Bennett, Robert Preston and Gregory Peck (Margo Macomber, Francis Macomber and Robert Wilson) are having lunch in the dining tent. Peck says to Margo Macomber (trying to test her?): “that’s eland they’re serving you.” “You mean,” she says, taking another look at the steaming meat on her plate, “the large cow-ey things that jump like hares?” Wilson nods. “They’re not dangerous, are they?” “Only if one falls on you.”

d) Also in the same scene, at lunch in the dining tent? “You do kill anything, don’t you?” Bennett asks Wilson in a different, harder-to-read tone of voice. “Oh yes,” he answers as if amused, “anything. Simply anything.” (Does she shoot him a look?)

e) Eating breakfast in the enormous dining tent, listening to a lion roar about one mile upstream, Margo Macomber can see that Francis Macomber is having trouble eating and that he’s anxious, so she says as dryly as possible: “you’re not afraid, are you, Francis my sweet?” “No, it’s just that awful roaring.” “Rather impressive, I think,” she says in the same dry, unimpressed tone. “It went on all night,” he says irritably. “Oh really, darling? Why didn’t you wake me?” “Impressive, but I have to kill the beast!” “Well, dearest, that’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”

While the Macombers are still eating Peck is already smoking a cigarette. Margo Macomber says: “I feel wonderful! So excited. . . !”

A prodigious amount of useless activity with knife and fork.

“Why don’t you tell Mr. Wilson about that enormous shark you caught, darling?”

“Shark?” Preston to no one in particular and then to Wilson, “Don’t pay any attention to her.”

“No?”

“Well — my wife doesn’t always say exactly what she means.”

“You shoot a lion, Francis,” she says sweetly, “and I’ll take your picture. ‘Francis Macomber with His Foot on A Lion’s Head.’ ”

“The only thing that matters is us,” Macomber says to Margo Macomber with stupid urgency.

“Yes,” she says, her “yesssss” drawn out to an impossible length inside the enormous, netting-walled tent.

f) Margo Macomber, Francis Macomber and Robert Wilson are together again (whether inside the tent, at breakfast or dinner, outside in the jeep or on foot, hunting on the plains not far from Nairobi, not noted or remembered).

“You don’t know what it does, Wilson,” Preston says ruefully (bragging?) "for a man to be constantly reminded that he’s married to a beautiful woman. . . .”

“What it usually does to you, Francis, my sweet,” Bennett interjects with poisoned tenderness, “is what air does to a balloon.” And she starts to add: “Francis my pet, why?”, but the rest of the line is missing.

g) Scribbled down just after the film — by Monica or David (not noted) — but not made clear who’s talking or in what setting, with what background, outside or inside, animal sounds or insect sounds by day or night, etc. Seems to be an unusually intimate, naked conversation between Francis and Margo Macomber, but no way to be certain.

One of them says: “In many ways I think I’ve allowed you to live for me. Maybe I’ve compelled you to live for me. And then of course I’ve lived through you — by watching you, listening to you and so on. Sometimes it was even possible to imagine that I was speaking while you were speaking. Or that I was experiencing an emotion because you were experiencing an emotion. Have I been pretending to be alive, to be breathing. . . ?”

The other (Joan Bennett?) answers with weariness. “Honesty. So-called honesty. Solves nothing. Why is it that what we call honesty always crops up at the end of things? Never, it seems, at the beginning. Maybe even less so in the middle — when it might do some good.”

h) Joan Bennett is in her bathrobe, dabbing perfume behind her ears in the large, dark tent on the plains of Kenya. Takes off her bathrobe, walks across the expanse of the dark tent in her thin nightgown. (How do we know that Margo Macomber’s nightgown is “thin”? Does Korda backlight the scene just enough to give us a sense of Joan Bennett’s body moving inside the nightgown? Wants us to feel just a little of the acute consciousness Peck and Preston have of Bennett’s beautiful body when they’re in scenes with her?) Margo Macomber gets into bed and falls asleep. She doesn’t seem to notice that (distance between beds not noted) her husband Francis is sleeping fitfully. A night of anxious dreams: he manages to fall asleep, dreams of a charging lion, stays awake for a while in a state of anxiety, drifts off again and finds the lion waiting. Lion charges, roaring or soundless, without quite arriving. Wakes up again and again in a state of terror. How long has Margo’s bed been empty? Goes to the tent opening and listens for a while. Might be the sound of an enormous bird crying in agony. Cries out two, three, five, how many times? Or is it actually an unguarded and ecstatic human sound? He isn’t sure. Terror or something else.

Joan Bennett returns, calm and relaxed.

“Where were you?” Tries to sound stern, but his anxiety hasn’t left him.

“Out for a breath of air, darling.”

“Don’t give me that!”

“Isn’t that what you want me to say, dearest?”

“I won’t be spoken to that way!" (Too desperate to sound stern.) "I want to know where you were!” (Weaker.)

“Out for a breath of air, darling.”

“You think I’ll take anything, don’t you.” Meant to be bitter and challenging, but has no bite.

“Yes, sweet, I do.”

i) Light (or is it “first light”) of dawn on the gauzy surface of the enormous tent under a second roof of broad tree branches on the plains of Kenya.

j) “Wasn’t that the damnedest ride?! It felt great!”

Francis Macomber, flushed and confident after a successful hunting excursion (what he killed, what happened, not noted), to a subdued Margo Macomber during the jeep ride back to camp or already back at camp.

“I hate you, Francis Macomber,” Bennett says quietly.

“I know you do.”

“For years — yes, for years — I tried. . . . ”

“Yes, I tried too.”

“For years I’ve hated you. . . ”

“You wanted me to be a mouse, but things are going to be different now.”

“So this is the sinister side of Francis Macomber.”

They ride in silence or Preston’s reply is not recorded. The next words scribbled down by Monica or David are Joan Bennett’s.

“I know just exactly how things are going to be different, Francis. For years I hoped something like this would happen to you. But, now that it has, I hate you more this way than the way you were before.”

Monica and David aren’t certain, despite taking notes immediately after watching The Macomber Affair, one of them at the oak desk under the windows fronting (looking down on) ABC Street (west) and one on the front porch — or both downstairs but not together, always with a deliberately established circle of private space around her/around him) — whether k) or l), l) or k) needs to be first or second. Seems to them either order might work in different ways, though, on the other hand, re-viewing the film would probably restore a sense of inevitability to the flow of the narrative towards its conclusion.

k) Robert Wilson is having a drink in one of those tropical bars that films of the forties (thirties and fifties too?) taught us to dream about as ideals of what exactly?

Light (rest of line missing).

Peck says to the attractive, wavy-haired young woman bartending: “a little of the same.”

“A little of the same?”

“A little of the same.”

“A little of the same — what?”

“Just a little of the same!”

“Oh (as if just comprehending), your drink — your gimlet.”

Monica’s notes say there were shots of the African plains here, but they don’t seem to belong.

“Did you have a good hunt?”

“Yes, very good.” (Unusually grumpy.)

“Did you get all you wanted?” (Tone is suggestive.)

“Maybe.”

“And Mr. Macomber?”

“Mr. Macomber?”

“Last time he was in here with you he was drinking a lot. . . .”

“I left him cold sober. . . !”

“And Mrs. Macomber? Did she get a full bag?”

“Look here! What are you driving at?”

“She killed her husband! And you’re in love with her!”

“It never entered my mind.” Seems to genuinely mean it.

“It doesn’t have to enter your mind.”

Peck’s expression not noted. Also not noted what shot the scene ends with.

l) Wilson and Bennett are together (where?). Notes (not perfectly clear) seem to say that Wilson says: “he found out what it’s like to be a man.”

“ ‘The short, happy life of Francis Macomber’,” is her reply.

“Tell me: did you ever love him?”

“Yes. In the beginning. We were married in 1937. He tried to hide his weakness with his brutality — the way he treated little people. I couldn’t change him: he changed me. I saw the buffalo in my sights and I saw Francis in my sights too. It was Francis I wanted dead. It was Francis I hated. So, maybe I killed him. If there’s such a thing as murder in the heart — you could say I killed him.”

*




Another note about Kitty’s friend (and also David’s friend and a little less so Monica’s friend) Agnes, triggered by seeing (or only hearing?) mourning doves, adrift in the oceanic space of the Chronicle. That is, notes about the same event in time (something that happened on February 26 1976, for example) are not all necessarily recorded at the same time and can therefore be separated by many pages. Other events (a film, for example) intervene or simple forgetfulness submerges observation: keep it down until it pops up elsewhere.

Monica makes an effort to record Agnes’s method of suicide: attached a vacuum-cleaner hose to the exhaust pipe of her car, ran it through one of the windows, rolled the window up against it (no further details told to her or recorded). Agnes’s suicide shook Kitty deeply. Inconsolable because she loved her (had been close friends since junior high school) and because she can’t be talked out of the feeling that she was insensitive to Agnes’s true condition. Can’t forget that she yelled at Agnes not long before her suicide. Not because she was angry at her, but because she thought she could shock Agnes out of her despair, breathe life into her. . . . But now Kitty is despondent herself. Feels she let Agnes down: obviously (Kitty says) whatever she gave Agnes was exactly what Agnes didn’t need. . . .




On Sunday February 29 (leap year) Monica makes a plan with Wanda Baer: Monica has something to return to Wanda Baer (what it is not noted) and Wanda Baer is supposed to wait for Monica on the front porch. Supposed to be on the front porch, but isn’t. Space opens up for observation the way it always does when someone doesn’t show up, when we’re forced to wait for someone to arrive, etc. Monica might not have looked across the street, but does now: looks like an engagement party (name and location hand-written and illegible). Celebratory crowd of people in clusters. Throngs on lawn and porch — and there’s the halo of curly brown hair and large, pale and super-smooth face-oval of Wanda Baer’s head in the middle of it! Relaxed, laughing heartily, talking to a woman on crutches. Monica narrows her attention to a tight focus and can see that the woman on crutches is her cousin Linda, out of the hospital, out of bed and looking a little better, celebrating in warm sunshine.

David joins Monica on the porch so they can begin to think of how they want to answer a letter from Chicago Review.

“26 February 1976

“. . . . We liked IN DOUBT a lot, and plan to publish it. We expect to get it into the next issue (perhaps also with excerpts from Robbe-Grillet’s new novel; we’re still shifting space around and time for the next few issues). . . .

“Do you have any preferences as to what should be in your contributor's note? If you want to provide your own short text we would probably run it verbatim. . . . It would be nice for it to be something other than a list of publications. For that matter — no, it probably wouldn’t work in a contributor’s note, but it is something we’ve been wondering — how do serious writers work in collaboration? Draft and revision? Alternate sections? Nothing so well-defined as that? By the way, if you have no strong objections, we’ve set up your names in full with an ‘and’, though I notice you have sometimes used surnames-with-a-slash.

“We will be closing the next issue very soon, so please if you can give us a quick reply. . . . we like your work and wish you good luck.

             Best,

             Mitchell Marks.”




Also on February 29? Monica and David travel to Manhattan to see Michael Snow’s film ‘Rameau’s Nephew’ Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen in MOMA. At home, the night of the film or the next day, Monica notes down the sequence that struck her most: dark surface covered with objects that are being shifted by left hand or right hand. Movements of left hand and right hand are narrated as we watch them and voice-over narration at first is perfectly synchronized with visual narration. After a while hand movements lag behind narration of movement: word and image are de-synchronized, creating a different kind of score — one that demands close attention and gives an odd sort of pleasure. After Rameau’s Nephew Monica and David share one of their favorite dinners (name of restaurant not noted, but the nature of the meal tells Monica that it might be Larré’s: moules remoulades, rillettes (an uncommon and delicious pork terrine with a coarse, shredded texture and an underlying smoothness), ris de veau (prepared how?) and vanilla-or-coffee-ice-cream-filled profiterolles in bittersweet chocolate sauce.

On what day does David answer a phone call from Kitty intended for Monica? Kitty is in an agitated and angry mood. She’s confused about her feelings towards Monica! she says and wants — needs — Monica to come to a therapy session with her on Tuesday! David takes it on himself to say no, Monica won’t be able to do that. Not noted whether David and Kitty argue or whether Monica later objects to David’s intervention or welcomes it.



A chill in the air in bright sunlight (therefore the chill becomes a property of the bright sunlight?).

Passing cousin Jo Ellen’s parents’ house on ABA Street Monica sees Themis’s car parked in the driveway.

Afternoon breezes after a morning’s stillness.





MARCH 1976

On March 1 Monica wonders if winter is over for good: sun provides mild warmth for days and this mildness for the first time has a feeling of permanence (cold has lost the sharp point it would need to puncture through it).

Grete Forest is next door, helping Lena Coffin measure windows. Two women working side by side to fix up a house: an appealing image or something else? Nicole Renard jumps at the chance to walk Monica and David to the post office 1 1/3 side streets and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 long avenue blocks north and east of ABC Street: a) because she has stories or fragments of stories to tell that can’t be told so close to Grete and Lena and b) because she can’t wait to get away from Grete and Lena and their arguing. Even though Grete is helping Lena today, Nicole says, they’ve been having the same quiet, bitter argument today and every day about how little help Lena feels she gets. Feels she has to do everything in that stupid house. Endless amount to do and no one lifts a finger — not Grete, not Andy, Babette, no one! — even though you’d think it would matter to them, considering that they own it with Greg. . . . She’s worn out by all her chores and responsibilities. . . . Etc., etc. Grete has answers for everything, but Nicole finds it all repetitious and dumb and can’t remember them.

Let’s see: what else? Just back from D.C. (visiting her roommate Sandra’s cousin). Had a great time, feels great (looks great too: waves of hair against smooth skin, honey in caramel and caramel in chestnut), dressed in denim skirt (long, flowered skirts that sail in breezes her uniform, denim a little opaque and motionless for her) and high boots, but there’s a new guy in her life (when and how they met not told or not recorded) and it’s complicated, as usual. Story is this: he’s a Madison Avenue advertising man, not her usual type: dresses a little too elegantly, lavishes praise on her too much, talks about his love for her too much, insists a little too much that she’s going to fall in love with him, even though she’s made it clear that while she likes him and finds him interesting, she certainly doesn’t love him and isn’t even attracted to him!

Greg has stopped playing the piano completely: no band, no solo jobs, no practicing. Right now he’s nothing but a full-time dispatcher for a car service! She’d like Monica’s and David’s opinions: what does it mean exactly — is it because he’s not playing? — that Lena has stopped making Greg breakfast.

Returning home along ABC Street, approaching the house where Monica has her attic apartment and then Greg-and-Lena’s massive multiple dwelling right after that, Monica, David and Nicole Renard see Lena, Babette and little planetarium-dome-headed Rosamond going down ABC Street toward the ocean and Nicole remembers that there’s another problem brewing between Grete and Babette. Is it accurate to say that Grete resents the closeness of the relationship between Babette and Tina? Nicole thinks that Grete is bothered by something subtler and harder to name. She thinks that Grete thinks it isn't natural or innocent that Babette always takes Tina’s side. Tina knows she can always go to Babette and that Babette will say that Grete is wrong and Tina is right. That’s an obvious problem for her as Tina’s mother. This is where it gets complicated and where she needs their (Monica’s and David’s) advice. Grete thinks (or she thinks that Grete thinks) that Babette is creating an unhealthy sense of obligation in Tina, binding her to her in a way that makes it impossible for Tina to disagree with her in a normal way. Feels obligated to return Babette’s unconditional support. . . . Does that make sense? Is she misinterpreting what Grete’s thinking? Is it all just simple jealousy and resentment. . . ?



Little Riley Liman (Tommy Liman’s younger brother), passing with a large, realistic rubber worm and a briefcase boldly lettered LIMAN, stops to sit on the front porch bench next to Monica and show her how he’s able to add long columns of numbers on a folded sheet of lavender scrap paper she’s given him. And while Riley Liman is adding — going at it with the kind of concentration that can build to ecstasy — Monica is remembering (writing down) a forgotten detail of David’s conversation with Kitty: when he took it on himself to refuse to call Monica to the phone because her request struck him as a trap baited with emotions (can’t quite name them) that Kitty may have but Monica doesn’t, all she said was: “you mean you’re not even going to ask her?!” Kitty couldn’t know how difficult the decision was for David and David wondered if all he’d done was give Kitty a better reason to be angry.



Between March 1 and March 5 nothing but fog and drizzle.


*




On March 5 Monica and David are doing a number of things: a) experimenting to see if the text of AS IT RETURNS SPACE NOVEL will work independently as a more traditional reading experience, as something read while being held in the hands, resting in a lap, etc. — without what’s gained and lost (ruptured and expanded) in the idea of reading a book when grids of writing (on the faces of return manuscript envelopes) are installed on facing gallery walls; b) reading and answering correspondence: 1) reading an announcement/invitation from Fletcher Copp, 110 Bowery, to send something to “The Last Correspondence Show, Art Dept April 7-30 California State University, Sacramento 6000 ‘J’ St. 95819” (would be an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of white-on-red paper folded in three to fit in a letter-size envelope if the bottom margin weren’t clipped to a point); 2) preparing to mail to Nelson Richardson at Coda a large photograph of a figure (Monica’s brother Lowell?) crossing an abandoned landing strip, taken at Floyd Bennet Airfield during the publication/performance of THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL, together with a fragment of related text from the THE BLUE HANGAR and a general account of Space Novel ideas; 3) writing a note to Larry Lille about his exhibition of toy-like wood sculptures.

Also on March 5? Pat Corcoran spots Monica writing on the front porch and comes out to complain. Complaints come out fast, slippery and tangled, but Monica straightens them out and slows them down as she listens (writing-before-writing). Let’s see: she’s tired. Only slept one hour last night and, in fact, has hardly slept the last few nights. (Reason why not told or not recorded.) Maybe her tiredness has a little to do with the school cutbacks: because of the stupid cutbacks she has to be sure to remember to pick Timmy up at 2:15 instead of 3 on Monday and Friday! So that may be on her mind and keeping her from sleeping. Wants Monica to solve this puzzle if she can: why has she gained so much weight since moving to ABC Street? Why is she so puffy? Eliminated all of her favorite junk food for Lent — even cut down on her Pepsi! — so she should be losing weight but she’s gaining.



The life of ABC Street is at all times walking, driving, bicycling, running by, in all cases horizontal, in all cases the horizontal narration of the day, headed south toward boardwalk, beach and an ocean horizon that settles down toward the distant righthand edge of its arc into an ambiguous spit of land, indistinctly lit at night; headed north toward Coast Boulevard, Salem Avenue, Bay Drive, and a dark little skyline model of one borough sprouting through another.

Andy and Nadja (last names not known), tobacco-blond-bearded, Christ-look-alike lifeguard and his tall, tanned and beautiful, smooth as syrup poured from a syrup jug (Hungarian or Romanian?) girlfriend who rent (but only during spring and summer) Lena-and-Greg’s second floor rear studio apartment with its rundown little back porch in the treetops, pull into the paved but weedy driveway indistinctly divided between Greg-and-Lena’s house and the house where Monica has her attic apartment. Andy’s ancient Volvo (its finish time-and-weather-faded to a dull, hard-to-name pale green) has a recognizable, rough sound in its engine’s throat.

Andy-and-Nadja’s car pulls up to the left (south) and immediately afterward Ellie, the younger daughter of two squat daughters and one squat son of Monica’s squat landlord who lives in the neighboring, new and ugly two family house to the north (right), pulls up with her fiancé and tries to gingerly ease her dazzlingly new and bright blue-and-white Plymouth Volaré down the steep driveway that leads into a garage under the house.

Finnley Lenehan passes with a big supermarket bag of cabbage and potatoes for Friday’s corned beef dinner. Stops, sweet and apple-faced as always, to chat with Monica. He has stories to tell, also as always. He’s met a girl — he’s dating a girl (Monica marvels a little mentally while Finnley is talking that Finnley is already old enough to be “dating”) — whose first name is Eileen but whose last name is the same as his mother’s family name (O’Hara) and who was born on exactly the same day as him! What else? He’s traveling to Ireland in August with his mother and his sister Laurel.


*




On a March day whose date is not noted Monica, David and Lowell are in MOMA to see Godard’s Numero Deux, a film that’s divided structurally and visually but unified intellectually and politically. It begins with Godard in front of the camera, projectors visibly whirring, talking about film-making: the machinery, politics and economics of it: and yet it’s personal because there Godard’s face is, intelligent and unhappy, narrating himself into the narration that is starting to be acted out on television monitors. Screen is split, an unusual amount of space between the images: video, film, television, all within the screen space and the central image tv-screen-size. Whatever else the title may mean, it certainly has to do with what the “factory” of the body produces and that brings into play the human ass: what comes out and what’s forced in as an act of oppression. To say that the film is concerned with the structure of work, family life, sex, film-making and presents powerful metaphors that link all politically is to say the obvious. A housewife’s daily drudgery, a husband’s factory work, the oppressive structure of family life become the “story” (the characters from the tv monitors). Sex is related to work. When the husband's day at the factory doesn’t go well sex is withheld; when he desires it the wife must accommodate him. When she sleeps with another man the husband wants to rape her: her ass becomes the focus of pleasure, pain, humiliation and punishment: the daughter hears the mother’s cry of agony (or anguish) from the parents’ bedroom. The politics of the narrative are never far away, yet Monica takes the film (whatever else it obviously is) as a personal document of despair. Unhappiness and disgust, possibly illness, speak through this film, relieved only by Godard’s love of the physical world, as always: film as a way of really being alive in a material world that otherwise is the invisible background of a lazy, worn-out human gaze. Monica also notes that in the wealth of human contact in Numero Deux there are moments of tenderness only between mother and child.

She wonders (during or afterward?) if what’s most interesting to her are Godard’s restless search for fresh ways to narrate experience, to narrate ideas along with experience, and also the way he quickly establishes a relationship between direct, personal narration (however laden with ideas) and fiction (narrative story telling), however laden with ideas.

Out of order, Monica notes that, before the film, she went for a walk in Central Park and then up and down Fifth Avenue with David and Lowell: hedges green, trees sprouting (or: trees green, hedges sprouting) much earlier than they will at the beach.

After the film they walk to 76th and Second Avenue to have dinner in Il Monello, a restaurant she doesn’t go to often: mussels in marinara sauce; baked clams; pollo a la Tuscana (with eggplant and cheese, kind of cheese not noted); chicken livers alla moda di la colle (writing unclear); artichoke with wine and mushrooms; green and white fettuccini Il Monello (preparation not noted); strong yet smooth-textured cappuccino, its darkness made lighter without losing coffee’s dark taste, its smoothness made softer by a float of whipped cream melting on the hot surface. The only conversation recorded is Lowell’s expression of surprise that he’s enjoying the oncology rotation. Thought the oncology rotation would make him hate going to work, but he actually finds himself looking forward to it.

*




Sunday March 7 is a wintry day at the beach. Monica, spending the day catching up with chronicling at the big oak desk, is joined by David, carrying traces of the cold beach indoors: a windy crispness. (Monica wonders later: David is not someone to take a solitary walk on the beach, so what would have drawn him there?) Reports to Monica (for her Chronicle) that instead of the usual seagulls at the shore (their pencil-chalk-and-charcoal colors blended and smudged) there were the more angular terns with sharply marked-off zones of black, grey, white. And winter and spring seemed to be frothing up one through the other as a near-freezing ale of green-in-blue. A good draught of that could make the brain turn cold, crystal and foamy.

David’s come over to help Monica and her brother Lowell hang Monica’s new roll-up bamboo shades. The harsh light of March demands them: naked light without snow’s complex modulations. As soon as the shades are hung and lowered the room softens and becomes more intimate (is able to retain the inward light of its lamps). Another thing: one day in March (date not noted) Monica woke up to find that Lowell had been there and left a three foot high avocado plant outside her door. Couldn’t figure out where to put it (did she have her own desk yet?) so plunked it down in a corner of the worn plank floor between closet and low eaves door. It’s clear at once to Monica that the plant is unhappy there: knows that it will be disturbed often because Monica or David have to go into the storage space below the eaves (long, dark and dusty attic-like hollow of sloping roof beams and unvarnished planks between inner wall of room and outer shell of house) or into the closet; in shadow more than light; reaching toward the ceiling from the floor the slender stalks seem to feel the weight of their height, hunched and drooping like someone trying not to be tall. Straightens up as soon as they hoist it onto the desk, against the shades. Stops its weak and droopy sagging and inclines toward the bright light it senses on the other side of the shaded windows.



On the same wintry March day or another chrome yellow forsythia wands are blooming on the cold front lawn and Monica is outside wrapped in a velvety brown mouton handed down from mother or aunt. Cousin Jo Ellen passes (whether or not in the neighborhood because of handsome Themis, the Cornucopia Diner cook, not noted), then Wanda Baer passes, looking awful (stops to explain that she has a horrible cold she just can’t shake), then Nicole Renard’s little green Saab passes and at noon or so Monica meets Nicole Renard and Grete Forest on the boardwalk. Grete has a story to tell and questions to ask. Says that she knows someone who knows Monica and David, but probably knows Monica’s sister Kitty better. Knows him for a while, but only from a distance (to wave to on the beach) or from the telephone (to make arrangements for the children or when they chat casually before he hands the phone to Patricia, the woman he lives with — the one Grete actually knows — in a house they just bought about a mile west along the shore). She’ll tell Monica everything she knows about Jordan Pike just from waving to him and talking to him briefly on the phone, some of it correct, some of it wrong or assumed and made up as just one more story in the assumed-and-made-up stories about everything and everyone we almost-know or just see in passing, the fiction-of-everything that equals life in this neighborhood, some already corrected, some still unsolved and ambiguous. . . .

a) Grete has regarded Jordan Pike in a favorable way since a casual telephone conversation years ago: for some reason she mentioned Tina’s asthma and Jordan Pike said that he suffered from asthma too and made two or three suggestions that sounded odd but later turned out to work (what the suggestions were: not remembered by Grete or recorded by Monica). It’s so rare, Grete says, for anyone’s advice to actually be practical and useful — that that made her start to revise her mental narrative about him.

b) What was her mental narrative about Jordan Pike? Let’s see: Every time she saw Jordan Pike he was on the beach with pen and notebook or home (when she stopped at Jordan-and-Patricia’s house to drop off or pick up a child) at a table or desk with a typewriter and a beach view in a picture window behind him. Seemed to be working-but-not-working, like some stupid idea of a writer in a movie. So she thought he was someone attractive and happily lazy, striking a pose as a writer, supported by Patricia (who she knows works hard as a real estate agent). Sometimes wondered if he made money from the silly songs and jingles his daughter Amanda sang and then Tina would start singing (like “Mother of Pearl, I’m in love with your girl!”) until it got stuck in your head and drove you nuts. Could that be what Jordan Pike actually is — a jingle writer?

Monica starts to answer that she knows this much about Jordan Pike: he does write advertising jingles for a living and, she thinks, also has written some mass market paperback thrillers under an assumed name, but she’s cut off by Nicole Renard who’s inspired to talk about her boyfriend of the moment, also in advertising (as Monica and Grete know) but definitely not a jingle writer: works on serious ad campaigns, makes a lot of money, goes to an office every day (doesn’t lounge on the beach posing as a writer!) and also, just to amuse himself, writes for Kojak. . . .

Monica can hear in Nicole Renard’s breathless narrative, which has a little surprising aggression to it, that Nicole felt the need — because of the apparent similarity? — to separate herself and her life in Manhattan from Grete and her stupid life at the beach by separating her boyfriend (a real advertising man and a real writer) from Jordan Pike, an absurd, provincial parody only a hopeless provincial like Grete could find attractive. . . . Or did she get it wrong? In any case it’s lost on Grete, who goes back to her Jordan Pike story without a blink.

c) Neither of Jordan Pike’s children — Amanda or Jonah — are his biological children: if she has it right Amanda is Patricia’s child (Patricia and Jordan have been together about six years) and Jonah (who only visits on weekends) is the child of the woman he lived with before he met Patricia. Tina has a little bit of a crush on Jonah and maybe the other way around as well — because they’re always visiting back and forth — and that reminds her of the real point of all her stories and questions about Jordan Pike! Just the other day, when he came by to pick up Amanda, he looked at the yellow brick apartment house and commented that she (Grete) lives — or lived — next door to one of his oldest and closest friends who, he thinks, is also a friend or at least an acquaintance of hers (Grete’s). Her name is Kitty. . . . But now of course she isn’t Grete’s neighbor, because Kitty just moved back to Manhattan. . . .

“Yes, I know,” Grete says she said. “I actually saw her move because I was looking out my mother’s window, but I was never friendly with Kitty. Kitty was not my friend. I’m friendly with Kitty’s sister, Monica. . . .”

She remembers being struck by the look in his eyes when she mentioned Monica’s name. It was intense. Unusual blue eyes capable of looking at you with an odd and striking intensity. And — even though she hasn’t been face-to-face with Kitty all that many times — she was struck by the similarity in the intensity of their gazes. . . . His eyes are not the same color as Kitty’s eyes and the source of his intensity doesn’t seem to be aggression (as it does with her). His intensity is a little harder to read, but still. . . does Monica find it crazy that in some way she saw Kitty in Jordan Pike?


*




Because her notes say that she’s typing outside on a hot and sunny morning (9:30 a.m.) Monica rereads them closely and sees that, while she’s still writing about March 1976, she’s taken a step back and away from March in the sense that her notes were intruded on by the reality of when and where she was typing them. On June 28, 1976 she’s on her front porch in the heat, typing up (editing?) handwritten notes taken in March ’76. The intrusion of one reality in another or the fact of writing in two realities at once doesn’t confuse her. On the contrary, she enjoys it and even believes it’s a natural, universal fact of writing that’s ignored for no good reason, but realizes it could be confusing for the reader without some effort to separate realities.

On the hot morning of June 28, while sitting outside and typing notes from March, the crying and head-waggling of one of the two lightbulb-headed Wattle boys (whether Hank or Willy not noted) on the wide, brown-painted stone steps of the big brown and ochre hacienda-style multiple dwelling where the Wattle family lives directly across the way is like the shadow of a cloud passing across the handwritten or typed page Monica is working on.

At the same time that Hank or Willy Wattle is sitting on his steps, crying and wagging his head, Wanda Baer is passing with a friend. (Who the friend is not noted.) Monica can see, now that they’re subtracted, that under winter’s cover of grandmother’s mouton (and other layers) Wanda had been growing strangely massive: below the halo of curly brown hair and the smooth white oval of the face-mask her shoulders, arms and the rest of her body have become as burly as a Russian discus thrower’s. (Not noted: is this Monica’s first view of Wanda Baer since winter?)

This beefy version of Wanda Baer crosses paths with Grete Forest (already tanned, happy and summery, long-armed and long-legged in (what color?) shorts and short- sleeved lavender blouse wide open at the neck, like a pretty child grown up yet still playing on the beach) just about in front of the porch where Monica is working, screened off by the Rhinebeck pine and holly bushes. She finds this odd: Wanda Baer and Grete Forest pass each other with no greeting. Wanda Baer and her friend hurry by Grete Forest and Grete Forest glides by them with at least as little friction. It’s only after Wanda is well past her that Grete stops, turns and stares after her, as if puzzled. Starts off down the block again (which one is headed north toward Coast Boulevard, which south toward home or beach not noted) and stops, looks back and stares again. And then again still one more time. Turns and stares at Wanda Baer’s bulky, retreating back three times but doesn’t stop to say hello. Not sure if this beefed-up version of Wanda Bear is Wanda Baer? But still, that wouldn’t explain why Wanda didn’t say hello to Grete Forest. . . . Beefed-up version of Wanda Baer not sure she’s Wanda Baer? Doesn’t know the ABC Street cast of characters the trimmer version knows?

What else?

While Leo Romero (Andy-Forest-and-Greg-Coffin’s band’s wiry, nervous drummer) is parking the car Lily Romero gets out, spots Monica through the pine boughs and says hello. An extraordinarily pale, beautiful girl leading an everyday life, seen by next to no one. Her extreme, naked pallor needs no makeup, but she has no idea how she looks and is wearing so much blue eye shadow everything else about her is invisible. Her invisibility to herself makes it possible for someone with her extreme form of beauty to be with nervous Leo Romero. Just an invisible, ordinary girl with too much blue eye shadow. . . .

What else?

“See that that you got an early start!”

Old Rae Ryan across the way (what articles of royal blue clothing Rae Ryan is wearing not noted), leaning over the porch railing of the Regans’ house where she has a small, groundfloor back studio, chatting with a summer tenant who’s just pulled into the driveway under the tremendous elm after grocery shopping.

“See that you got an early start” is enough to launch a pleasant conversation, a pleasant way for old Rae Ryan to pass ten minutes or half an hour, talking about this and that the way a cloud pulls apart and loses its human or animal shape while crossing the sky, even more so because Monica doesn’t tune her antenna that way and lets their conversation go.



On the night of June 28 (or the evening before) David is cooking “Moroccan Chicken” while the sun is setting in Monica’s new, golden bamboo blinds and a documentary about hyenas is on tv. Monica’s notes don’t say where David got the recipe for “Moroccan Chicken” (he doesn’t own many cookbooks: can’t afford them? no place to keep them?), but he’s friends with the local librarian and has renewed half-a-dozen or a dozen favorite cookbooks so many times he feels as if he owns them: his fingerprints, his cooking stains, his pencil marks are on them for all time. Her notes talk about the perfect summer light surrounding David while he cooks in old, hand-me-down pans at the ancient black and white gas stove: darkest dark green of avocado leaves only adds electricity to the odd not-quite-lime of the freshly-painted walls of the front studio and darkest dark green and electric green together frame the bamboo blinds and the golden light that travels through them into the old sauté pans. Monica writes about the room’s green and golden harmony of summer light: simmering again around sautéing chicken in a sauce of lemon, lemon peel, parsley, butter, olive oil, oregano and scallion.

David thinks it’s likely that he clipped the “Moroccan Chicken” recipe out of the NY Times and added it to his collection of clipped-out, cooking-stained recipes stored in returned-manuscript envelopes a friend later threw out in an idiotic seizure of uninvited “cleaning up”. Later still (now?) he accidentally re-found the recipe in Craig Claiborne’s NY Times Menu Cookbook, 1966, pages 281-282, under the title “Moroccan-Style Chicken”.

            MOROCCAN-STYLE CHICKEN                 4 servings
1 lemon                                                2 tablespoons olive oil
1 frying chicken (3 pounds), cut         2 shallots or scallions, finely chopped
    into serving pieces                           1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black            3/4 cup Chicken Stock (page 475)
    pepper                                              1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup butter                                      1 teaspoon dried oregano

1. With a swivel-bladed paring knife pare away half of the lemon rind and cut it into very thin strips. Reserve. Squeeze the lemon and reserve the juice.

2. Sprinkle the chicken parts with salt and pepper. Heat half of the butter and the oil in a skillet. Brown the chicken pieces in it on all sides and transfer them to a warm plate.

3. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet in which the chicken was browned. Cook, stirring, until golden. Add one-quarter cup of the stock and stir to dissolve all brown particles clinging to the bottom and sides of the skillet. Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Reduce the remaining stock to one-third cup.

4. Return the chicken to the skillet and sprinkle with the parsley, oregano, lemon rind, lemon juice and the reduced stock. Cover and cook slowly for about thirty minutes, until the chicken is tender. Stir the remaining butter into the sauce and serve immediately.

David’s adjustments to Craig Claiborne’s recipe not noted, but David and Monica prefer the look and flavor of scallions to shallots, David unquestionably multiplied the quantity of garlic 20-30-40-fold, probably cut down on the oregano and may have increased the amount of lemon. Also: no recommendation to do so by Claiborne, but David made a quantity of simple chicken-stock-sautéed-onion-and-possibly-garlic-flavored risotto to be eaten with it as an integral part of the dish.



After sun has faded from dark avocado leaves, from golden bamboo, from the odd, living green of the walls the sky is still stubbornly rosy (refuses to fade though the eye can barely discern it).


*



At about midnight (of what June or July day?) Lena Coffin and two younger women (Lily Romero and a pregnant woman unknown to Monica) return on bicycles from the boardwalk to Greg-and-Lena’s massive, cracked white stucco and orange brick multiple dwelling. If there’s any conversation Monica doesn’t hear it.



Putting herself on the side of the reader (forced by the Chronicle to put herself on the side of the reader?): there are times (now, for example?) when Monica can see that her method (a method that isn’t a method or doesn’t want to be a method, dislikes the idea of a method yet is a method in the sense that, though it may be an organic expression of her nature, her way of life, her love of writing outdoors, for example, bringing naturally in its wake the intrusion of the passing event which she feels compelled to not let evaporate, the record of passing events gradually does become methodical and pleasurable in equal measure, intrusion into and digression from events by other events emerging as her true subject, her true interest in life and writing, telling the stories of the stories that tell themselves — while (not as easy as it may seem) following her instinct to ignore or discard most of what happens or is said in a day) can seem complicated (now, for example, with one season blowing through another like air and light through bamboo blinds).

Sitting outside again, typing March ‘76 in June or July ‘76, it isn’t always absolutely clear (when weather doesn’t make it clear) in which season an event is occurring. To be difficult is not her intention and she does her best to sort it out, but there are times when she isn’t sure she’s right.



Typing her March ‘76 Chronicle outdoors (on the front porch bench) in June ‘76 Monica hears the rough bell of the cutlery grinder’s truck while typing dreary March tales told to Alyosha by a woman (who she is not noted) sweeping her sidewalk on Salem Avenue: a) the woman’s daughter, who used to visit with her husband, can’t visit because she broke her leg (story of how the leg got broken either not told to Alyosha or by Alyosha); b) because of the broken leg the daughter not only couldn’t visit her mother (the woman sweeping her Salem Avenue sidewalk while telling Alyosha her unhappy tale), but was confined to her house and couldn’t do much of anything; c) after a while the sweeping woman’s daughter didn’t feel right: teeth and gums began to bother her so much that she had to make the effort of leaving the house to go to the local dentist, dentist couldn’t solve it so she went to other dentists (notes say “many” but not how many) before she found someone who recognized that she had cancer. d) Monica debates with herself after typing a line or two whether to keep transcribing into typewriter the second unhappy tale told to her by Alyosha (a tale that clearly makes Alyosha as unhappy while he’s telling it as when he heard it) on a cold, dark and windy day in March, written down quickly that same day in hard-to-read script on long folded sheets of lavender scrap paper (given to her in reams by a friend with a job at a commercial printer’s), being typed out-of-doors in flowering June. Too many unhappy March tales in June? And it’s a long story — much longer than the first — about people Monica used to know, a whole family that owned the three story house facing the three story house (in another neighborhood in another borough) where Monica spent part of her later childhood. Parents of Monica’s friend owned the house, different sections or angles of their family or families (only mother’s family, only father’s family or tangle of both?) occupied various floors or angles and sections of floors of the house.

Monica’s high school friend, her twin brother and their parents occupied the main or “ground” floor, though it was actually up one short flight of steps. Monica knows this much in 1976: her friend Alana’s parents are still occupying the main/ground floor apartment; Alana is married to a lawyer and has two children; her twin brother Alan is married and a professor, also with two children. Two elderly aunts (Thelma and Wilma) on the second floor. Thumbnail story of Wilma’s life goes like this: she was married for exactly one hour before her husband left to die in World War II and the rest of her life hung from that peg. Thelma seems to have always had a heart condition of some kind and that was the peg her life hung from. Wilma (the healthier one who’d been married for an hour) became ill (nature of illness not noted) and died in early winter of ’76, Thelma is left alone and Alyosha wonders (feeling the insoluble melancholy of it) how Thelma will get along without the sister who was her companion all her life.

A brother (mother’s or father’s?) whose wife died of cancer so many years ago it seems as if he’s always been alone on the third floor.

There’s one other person (another daughter, again not clear whether father’s or mother’s, therefore also a sister to someone?) who looks exactly like Monica’s friend Alana. Alyosha has never been able to tell this young woman — who comes and goes and doesn’t seem to have one fixed location on one of the floors of the house as everyone else does — from Monica’s friend. He says that he always got them mixed up and sometimes even said hello to one when he thought he was saying hello to the other. Monica is no help either. Now, how many years later, in ‘76, listening to Alyosha unburden himself of the unhappiness he absorbed letting others tell their unhappy tales to him (and whose point is not at all to talk about this mysterious other daughter and sister), Monica finds it odd and irritating that (so unlike herself!) she never bothered to find out exactly who this young woman is: where she fits into the family’s and the house’s layers, sections and angles.




Let’s see: what else passing in June forces its way into March being typed outdoors in June?

a) A brand new, clean and shiny basketball (so new it seems more bright and orange than it should) comes rolling quickly south to north (boardwalk —› Boulevard) along the sidewalk. Blond and solid Tommy Liman runs after it, scoops it up in front of the porch where Monica’s working and comes up just long enough to explain to Monica that this basketball is new because his old basketball was chewed up by their new sheepdog, Shep. Doesn’t say that their new sheepdog Shep is meant to replace their old sheepdog Shep killed last year when Tommy’s mother Audrey backed out of the driveway too fast and ran him over.

b) Two young women are visiting Pat Corcoran. Pat, spotting Monica working on the porch (and possibly giving herself the excuse that Monica already allowed herself to be interrupted by Tommy Liman and his basketball), decides that it’s a good time to come out and introduce her nieces who’ve taken the day (Monday?) off to visit. They’re sisters and they work in the same office. No, one of them corrects Pat Corcoran, not only in the same office, just one desk apart! Monica isn’t sure if that means that they sit next to each another or if there’s a desk between them and wonders a little why the location of their desks is more interesting to her than facts that should be more interesting.

The two sisters are happy to be visiting Pat, but they’re even happier to be subtracting days from their work-week. Took today off, they’ll work Tuesday and Wednesday, and then they they’ll come out again on Thursday: take Thursday off and then take Friday off too and make a holiday of it! The week will slip into the Fourth of July weekend that way, the other one says. . . . Yes, and then Monday is the fifth and summer will be under way. . . .

No names are given or recorded, only their complete happiness laying out their plan for the week to come. (The happiness of not doing something equal to the happiness of doing something.)

c) Little, planetarium-dome-headed Rosamond Coffin pays a short, unexpected visit: runs up the stairs, says Hi!, runs back and forth across the porch once or twice and leaves.

d) One day in June (date not noted), while sitting on the porch and typing handwritten March notes, Monica’s attention is drawn to the beautiful movements of a lightweight summer fabric in the right-hand window of two side-by-side windows of an apartment next door (in Greg-and-Lena’s massive multiple dwelling). Light fabric breathes in the beautiful breezes of June. And the next day (date also not noted) the lightweight fabric (a summer curtain?) has moved to the left-hand of the two side-by-side windows while a large, overly-bright green bath towel is completely filling the space of the right-hand window, too dense to be moved by summer breezes.


*




Monica sometimes has to tell herself to block it all out, no matter how much she welcomes the intrusion of life through writing, the digression brought on by something said directly to her, something overheard or glimpsed while working. Still, to get anything done, Monica can’t continually be looking away from the page. First there has to be a page to look away from and, for that page to come into being, Monica has to be as focused on the language before her, to the exclusion of the world around it, as the fine point of the pen or pencil pressing into paper.

Movement forward toward typewriter and folded scrap paper with its barely-legible, barbed and tangled lines of scrawl corresponds to earlier moment of leaning back away from written March ‘76 into living June ‘76 around her? Has to remind herself: where was she in March ‘76 when June ‘76 (where she’s trying not to know she is now) intruded?: and she’s almost succeeded in reading herself back into her March notes when a loud thumping next door keeps her in June. Has to lean away from the typewriter again — has to get up, in fact — to see that it’s thin and nervous yet oddly good-looking Lena Coffin next door, banging with the heels of both hands, straining and banging upward against the inside of the upper edge of the lower window frame, trying to get the windows of the enclosed porch room open. Banging and banging and straining and straining and making very little progress until one of her tenants, Allison Savas (short, with dark black hair, hunched shoulders and dark-rimmed glasses) hears or sees Lena struggling and lends some of the pent-up force in her arms and shoulders to the task of forcing up one frozen window, then another. . . .



On what day in March do blue-black clouds together with naked sun create a harsh, diffuse light above the roofs? An above-the-roofs, still-wintry view that can make a room cold because it’s forced to look at it. Monica’s new bamboo blinds (picked up in Manhattan (on what day?) on the way to dinner in Il Monello) mediate the harshness of that stare. The golden veil of an ambiguous season, between inside and outside. Whatever’s gold in the harsh light over the roofs is caught and stored in that dense, horizontal web of fine rods and then radiated inward: mysteriously warm, mysteriously gold and green interior: angular, vertical or diagonal branches of trees projected (as “shadows”?) through horizontal rods, cold sun forced to warm itself up there and, on this side, darkest of dark green avocado leaves opaquely against it. Taking it all in (trying to take it all in), writing it all down (trying to write it all down), Monica is hyper-aware that she’s here, in this west-facing green room on ABC Street, at this moment in March 1976. How far, she wonders, can this moment travel with her or for her.



Monica’s notes clearly say that it’s on March 9 that both snow and light are falling with difficulty through the narrow horizontals of the new bamboo blinds. Monica notes also the odd, pearly snow-light that has as much to do with the broken panorama of snowy roofs as the silver skin of a lake does with the illuminated panel of sky above it.

Notes skip to March 11 when it thaws. According to the definitive word of Tommy and Riley Liman’s mom, Audrey, this was “the last snow and the last thaw” of the year: of no help to Pat Corcoran, who uses the slippery last snow and last thaw of the year to fall down the porch steps on the morning of the 11th. Pat’s explanation: at 7 a.m., after snow had turned to rain, it froze again and the steps only looked wet but were actually slick and icy: just had to set one foot on them. . . .

Also on March 11, but at what hour?, sounds of water dripping everywhere immediately flow into the visible: rapid dripping and muscular rushing (down drainpipe, down alley and driveway): silver skin of tiny, irregular lakes or fathomless black cavities in gutters and sidewalks wherever Monica looks or walks. . . . A rushing, dripping universe of sound is, in general, eclipsed by the full-time job of looking. . . .



It rains all night, from March 11 into March 12. And March 12 is nothing but wind.

Wind blows as if it has a job to do and that job is to bring back cold air. Cold wanted to go wherever it goes in March but wind blows all day and forces it back, drying puddles with unnatural speed.

Wind and sun have an effect on one another: extraordinarily dazzling light in the alley — the narrow line-of-sight that continues for blocks — between the Sloths’ white shingle house and to its left the Greengrasses' dark, bricked-up twin of the Sloths’ house. Wind and light blow through it in equal measure, one polishing the other — a white, gauzy shirt struggling wildly on a line in the distance.



Somewhere Leo Romero is sawing in the sound-universe that occasionally saws its way through the visible, but is it in March or in June?


*




Typing her handwritten notes (in this case typing cold March notes in warm June) is a way for Monica to write her way back into her own life once, twice, how many times? Finds herself in her handwritten notes recounting the events of a film most likely watched in March, not June (no evidence of the passing world of June intruding) and most likely also a film watched at home, on television. Also not noted: title of film, name of director, actors, etc. (Just pure plot, dialogue, mis-en-scene in an odd vacuum of identity.) No way to look it up and retrieve information about it. No way to refresh her memory later. Her only “memory” is this re-creation (by herself and possibly also by David, who has a liking for converting film action and dialogue into language on the page).

Story of the WWII German Air Force officer “von Werra”



1) Von Werra crash-lands in a field in England: referred to in the film (according to Monica’s notes) as “an English Field” or “The English Field”, as if a field in England has distinctive national or cultural characteristics.

2) Von Werra is captured (in the English field?) by how many constables, all unarmed, together with a shopkeeper in a white apron.

3) Scenes of von Werra’s internment in a British prisoner-of-war camp.

4) Interrogation of von Werra by a British Intelligence officer:

“You should know,” von Werra says (but with exactly what tonal shading, what slight color of meaning (pride, defiance, sarcasm, arrogance and so on) Monica can’t gauge because she doesn’t know who’s playing von Werra), “that an interrogation will get you nowhere with a soldier like me.”

“Oh” (playing along in a tone both casual and flattering) “we wouldn’t waste our time trying to get anything out of a man like you. You’re right about that. We saw that at once. I was just curious about you and wanted to have a bit of a chat. . . . Just a friendly conversation by the fire — man to man — you in your armchair, me in mine. . . .”

No record in Monica’s notes about von Werra’s (the unidentified actor’s) expression; therefore no way to judge whether the British officer’s chatty technique is fooling von Werra, even a little.

5) Von Werra is transferred to another camp where, on the way back from Exercise Hour, singing a German tune along with other German prisoners walking or marching down the English road, he escapes for the first time. Two farm girls with pitchforks are the only ones to see him slip over the fieldstone wall, glide without turning or with only the slightest backward look across the distance of another English field and into the safety of an English forest. Reluctant to leave the forest? He hides in it for how long? Still in the forest, but on a slope with an English road below it (it wouldn’t take much for von Werra to roll out of the forest shade and into view), he watches (and listens to) a British solider galloping loudly down the road on his horse, seeing nothing, as if blinded by the noise his horse’s hoofs are making on the hard surface.



If the film is on television in March why does Monica again find herself leaning back from her typewriter into June? Forced out of March and out of the film (out of the English countryside) by Greg Coffin’s band, practicing with or without Greg, next door or far away in the open garage of Babette and Grete’s house near the beach (but as audible as if it were next door)? Earlier, tall and thin Greg Coffin, who’d gotten up late (time not noted) and wandered out onto his raftlike second floor front porch in his bathing suit, rubbing face and hair as if trying to wake up, wandered back into the big, loft-like front room that’s both Greg-and-Lena’s kitchen and his piano room (and probably other things too) and started fooling around on his synthesizer (not his usual piano scaffolding). . . . Monica was struck by Greg’s posture leaning over the railing, paying no attention to (ignoring?) Lena, JoJo, Joshua and Rosamond who, it seemed to Monica, were deliberately making noise (in a friendly, cheerful way) to get his attention. Sleepy but also elsewhere in some other way.

Yvonne Wilding (good-looking, slouching, drugged?) passes Monica twice: arrives in a much-too-heavy sweater, rushes inside, comes back out in a bathing suit. Smoking, starts to give Monica a mumbled reason for the sweater (says it has something to do with work, though Monica has no idea Yvonne Wilding is working) and heads for the beach to cool off.

Loud banging in Greg-and-Lena’s enclosed groundfloor front porch and ping pong room keeps Monica in June a little longer.

Landlord’s son, Kenny (squat, big-assed, near-sighted, pretty much like mother, father, sister) also keeps Monica from getting back to the too-handsome, too-blond German pilot hiding in the English countryside, by clumsily trying to hack down a sapling first making its way into life in the narrow space between the massive, cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling where Monica has her apartment and the landlord’s ugly, not-quite-modern two family next door. Narrow alley, which has a wooden fence running its length, is a surprisingly leafy, shaded space where David sometimes likes to put a chair and write, invisible to the passing world of ABC Street. Kenny is trying to hack the little sapling down (young and slender as it is, it doesn’t want to be hacked down and is putting up a fight) with a rusty shovel-blade instead of a saw or an axe and the small branches are taking forever to give up their sharp, painful cracking. The terrible sound of blunt human stupidity carried into action — destruction that always gives itself its good reasons — and it stops Monica from seeing, hearing, thinking or writing. . . .



6) A succession of shots captures the passage of days; days pass horizontally as von Werra makes his way across the English landscape: green or muddy hills, bogs, the empty forests of winter, endless tracts of mud, shallow trenches, stone walls, bogs again — an exhausting catalogue of English landscape features. . . .

There the figure of von Werra is in the distance.

An English farm girl (looks exactly like one of the earlier English farm girls with their pitchforks) is the only one to spot him.

There he is! That’s him just going over the hill!”

7) Another capture and another transfer from one camp to another.

Scenes of von Werra, with other inmates, digging a tunnel. The details of his escape (listed by Monica as “Escape #2”) are lost — because neither Monica nor David made any attempt to recreate them or because the film, like almost every film on television in 1976, is created anew, created as a different film, by snipping out bits of action-and-dialogue considered non-essential to the advancement of the plot and splicing in little, connected and repetitive loops of advertisements always in the same sequence. Monica has wrestled with this thought more than once: altered by what’s added and by what’s missing, a film on television is translated into another film, but that misinterpretation is the film that first becomes our own. . . .

Scenes of the tunnel being dug are missing but the prisoners somehow dig the tunnel without the help of our watching them and somehow the resourceful von Werra (bizarrely presented as a sort of too-blond, too-beautifully-handsome Nazi Odysseus) escapes again.

8) Von Werra in a handsome, fleece-lined leather flight jacket, the sort that every boy would like to have.

Now von Werra is a Dutch officer, “Captain van Lott”, Dutch but an RAF pilot.

A complex, interesting scene in a railway depot.

“I’m Dutch officer van Lott: my plane just crashed north of here — not too far from here, actually — in an English field near the railroad track. I followed the track from there — used it to get here. . . .”

The railway clerk has his suspicions, but nevertheless arranges for von Werra/van Lott to be driven to an RAF base.

Lengthy questioning.

The handsome leather flying suit with its beautiful fleece lining seems to arouse their suspicions. It’s discussed and analyzed at length.

Monica has the nagging feeling while writing or typing that the order of the scenes (not to mention their exact look and meaning) is not certain in her (or David’s) notes. The scenes seem scrambled to her, as if the units of his progress — questioned by one Englishman after another, every one of whom has suspicions yet does nothing — a kind of amiable stupidity that the film seems to link to being English — are interchangeable.

Is it at the RAF base, for example, that, while von Werra/van Lott is being interrogated, a phone call is made to Aberdeen to confirm something about van Lott’s identity? And is it then (with his Odyssean alertness) that he gets wind of their suspicions and makes Escape #3 through a bathroom window? Makes his way (Monica thinks her notes say) to an RAF hangar and attempts to steal the experimental Hurricane Fighter “Aperture #2”. Notes say “at gunpoint”, but where did he get a gun?

9) Captured again?

Yet here he is in a pickup truck, a Dutch seaman (no name noted) looking for work.

10) There’s a gap in Monica’s (and/or David’s) notes after the ride in the pickup. Now he’s a prisoner again: one of a group of German prisoners for some reason being sent by ship across the Atlantic to Canada — as if Canada itself were a large, escape-proof wasteland.

11) Now von Werra is in Canada, on a train with other German prisoners.

A scene on the train that has to do with eating apples, recounted in Monica’s or David’s notes only in a sketchy way.

“These beggars act as if they’ve never seen apples before!” (von Werra talking contemptuously about other prisoners as they hungrily wolf down apples? If someone else’s voice, Monica can’t figure out why she wouldn’t have said so.)

“Can’t we have more heat?!”

Also on the train. Also von Werra?

12) Escape #4: others attempt it, but only von Werra succeeds: the others don’t make it off the train or are captured immediately: von Werra alone is able to slip out a small train window undetected: down the snow-slope extending from the artificial embankment built up under the tracks — one unbroken sheet into the distance — as far as von Werra can see. “Now I know where I am. This is not muddy England with its rain and its horses and horsy set and its fairytale little farm-market towns and farm-girls! This is Canada: nothing but snow, nothing but frozen wasteland that goes on forever without demarcation. . . .”

A terrible, difficult trek through deep snow in a direction he calculates to be south, toward the Saint Lawrence and the border. Goal is to get to neutral American soil. . . .

For the first time von Werra is exhausted and may find himself thinking again: “So this is all there is to Canada: nothing but snow. . . .”

A scene (barely written) that again bizarrely demonstrates von Werra’s wiliness and super-human will, this time crossing the frozen Saint Lawrence. May be a scene in a rowboat, but Monica’s (or David’s) notes aren’t clear.

Something about a difficult climb up a ladder. (Monica notes von Werra’s exhaustion again, but doesn’t sketch any of the events that show it.)

13) Von Werra’s made it: he’s in the U.S.A.

“Iverson, U.S.A.”

Captured again (what number?), but he may expect and even want it.

The machinery of what-happens-next is missing in Monica’s and David’s notes. Von Werra decides (or needs) to get back to Germany.

14) Not exactly, not purely, Escape #5, because von Werra is being helped. No longer wily Odysseus, just a German officer being helped to return for the good of the fatherland.

Across the border into Mexico.

Mexico to Guatemala.

Guatemala to Brazil.

Brazil to Bolivia.

Bolivia to Argentina.

From Argentina to Europe (details of European journey not noted).

Arrives in Berlin on April 18, 1941, is honored, decorated with crosses, etc.

Several months later his aircraft disappears over the North Sea.

*




On what day in March does a small, French blue box arrive in the mail: inside a French blue pack of Gauloises “Disque Bleu” cigarettes, an odd advertising promotion. Box seems to have been meant for David (a non-smoker who has no mailing address of his own), but the sender has absurdly misconstrued David’s name as “Delil” and turned his second name into “Straw”. Both Monica and David love the absurd, made-up-name “Delil Straw” and decide to file it away to use someday in a novel, Space Novel, story or chamber fiction.

Also in the mail: an announcement that “Spencer Holst” is reading in Carnegie Hall. Monica knows that she knows the name “Spencer Holst” — knows that she knows it in some personal way — that she’s crossed paths with “Spencer Holst” sometime and that that’s the reason she’s being sent this announcement — but can’t at all figure out when or why she met him and can’t picture what “Spencer Holst” looks like either.



Notes say: another cold day in March (one of many). Because there’s nothing of spring in these days Monica (from her front, west-facing green room windows?) is surprised to see what she takes to be a baby robin (because of the characteristic sweet potato “red” of the breast that — not robin-like? — seems to extend to the head) at Lena Coffin’s second floor porch feeder.

Out of the corner of her eye, in a round mirror hanging to her right, Monica sees herself typing a sentence with herself in it inside her room of green and bamboo (two wraparound smooth planes of a green that has as much life in it as the green flesh of an avocado and of the lime that’s squeezed on it and two golden grids of bamboo) smoking a pungent Gauloises Disque Bleu.



Monica observes that Leo Romero and Lena Coffin have always resembled one another or have started to resemble one another over time, the more their paths cross. Monica doesn’t say, and doesn’t know for sure, if she only means the way their black, thick and curly hair frames their oval faces, their unnatural thinness, their tension and wiry jumpiness. . . . Or is she talking about some other condition Leo and Lena increasingly have in common?




WANDA BAER STORIES


a) On Tuesday, March 16, despite the inevitable damp chill after a morning of March rain, Monica is outside on the front porch, writing about Wanda Baer. (How Monica’s dressed on a cold and wet March day not noted.)

b) Wanda Baer has stories to tell about some of her recent experiences and tells them to Monica during the course of what must be an impossibly long and slow car ride to Manhattan from their narrow strip of land between bay and ocean.

c) Early in the evening of Monday, March 15, Wanda Baer calls Monica to tell her that the last few weeks have been terrible. The reason why Monica hasn’t seen much of her and the reason why, yesterday afternoon, when she was coming back from a horrible walk on the beach — not the “walk on the beach” people picture when they talk about going for a walk on the beach — just someone dead-alive as a big uncooked turkey or capon on a formica counter, dead but alive in the wrong way, a dead, uncooked capon or turkey somehow alive — stuffed? — and buzzing with anxiety (which Dr. DaVinci always says is a sign of life, but is a horrible, uncomfortable sensation) inside a dead turkey walking on the beach looking like a living, happy person smelling ocean air and feeling ocean breezes but feeling absolutely nothing but her own dead anxiety, just a big sandbag trying to get through the sand — she couldn’t stop to talk, could barely say hello when she ran into Monica talking to Grete and Nicole Renard on the boardwalk yesterday afternoon. . . .

Not just yesterday, this horrible state has been going on for weeks. But seeing herself through Monica’s eyes — and even through Nicole’s and Grete’s eyes — made her realize that she’d better tell Monica what was going on and get her advice.

Tonight she has a car (says it’s a big one, but doesn’t say whose it is) and she’d love to drive anywhere Monica wants and have dinner so they can talk.

This is the condition Wanda Baer is in: when Monica says that she’s already made a plan to be in Manhattan tonight to meet a friend for dinner, but that, if Wanda likes, they can drive in together, leave a little earlier so they’ll have time to talk in the car or maybe even have a coffee together — Wanda Baer only hears “Manhattan” and “dinner” and says that dinner in Manhattan with Monica is just what she wanted!

d) Begin to drive (car is a big American car, as Wanda said) and cold March rain picks up again or they drive into it, heading north and slightly west. Driving slowly because of the steady rain against the windshield, Wanda Baer has time to tell her stories. Driving slowly and talking (staring straight ahead?) while Monica is listening, looking at the colorful world go by abstractly — like so many shampoo, cosmetic and powder bottles, tubes and tins, knickknacks, brushes and mirrors through the glass panel of a shower stall — and at the same time trying to write-before-writing by untangling at least a few of the tangles of the tangled order of Wanda’s stories that may really be all one story made to seem like many different stories because of all the knots in her string.

Let’s see: she woke up on Saturday and couldn’t move. Thought about getting up, knew that she should get up, but couldn’t. Does Monica think that’s inertia? Is “inertia” the right word for not being able to get up? True, she was inert, but does being inert automatically mean that you feel awful? It seems to her that it’s even possible to enjoy being inert: to be in a position and not want to change that position (not want to leave the comfortable chair where you’ve slouched to get something in the kitchen, for example): that’s entirely different — isn’t it? — from her horrible feeling on Saturday. She’s trying to find a way to make Monica feel what it was like to wake up and not be able to get out of bed. For example: where’s the line — where exactly is the line — between “not being able to” and “not wanting to”? Can almost feel now what it felt like to be in bed, under the covers, world far away and disconnected. Rest of the world (everything not her in her bed) might as well be in outer space, that’s how little she could feel it. Not warm and comfortable and cozy in her bed, but at least she could tell that her body was touching the sheet and mattress! If she got out of bed. . . is it completely true to say: if she got out of bed what would stop her from being able to walk through the wall? True, but not completely true. The longer she stayed in bed the more disconnected she felt. But also — does this make sense? — the more drugged she felt, as if she’d swallowed poison. Lying there, unable to (not wanting to) move, because she was poisoned — or poisoned by lying there? Lying there was making her turn into a poison for herself. When the self drinks too much of its own self it drugs and poisons itself? Drugged, poisoned, disconnected — all day and into the night in bed. . . . When the room got dark and the windows got dark she thought to herself: I’d better move! better force myself up, get dressed, get out, go somewhere. . . . Or maybe that’s true but not completely true either. Maybe she just finally got up . . . .

Knows that she got in the car (Monica registers the fact that Wanda Baer doesn’t own a car and wonders 1) whose car was available to her and 2) if it’s the same big American car they’re driving in now) and began driving. Driving through the world: driving somewhere (but where?), down real streets, road under her, sidewalks, houses, stores on one side or both, could be water, could be one tree or a whole street of trees, could even be a park, could be apartment houses or some other kind of big building: it was almost the same feeling she had in bed. Same, but not exactly the same. She was moving and she wasn’t in her apartment or on her mattress, but still no connection. Wonders how true it is to say that she couldn’t exactly feel the automobile. She was the one driving (didn’t think someone else was driving her, didn’t feel like a passenger in someone else’s car), she was the one turning the wheel, not crashing. . . but in no way having a sensation of driving, moving, being in a car. How does Monica explain that? Wants to know if Monica thinks that’s like being a ghost in your own life: can make things happen or someone else could probably see her car driving down the street — but can’t at all feel it yourself. . . !

She’s pretty sure she remembers actually thinking at one point, “what am I doing here?” And maybe being able to have that thought made her see that she was on a highway, in traffic, moving fast, but not as fast as everyone around her. Did that scare her? Not sure if that’s true. Not sure if it’s true either that she thought to herself that she needed to see someone, talk to another person, get out of her own skin and head (needed to stop being alone), but it’s definitely true that for some reason she knew that she was not far from the parkway exit for Dalia’s apartment.

Dalia was asleep. She’d been teaching Sunday school, her only job. Finding Dalia asleep is not unusual. Dalia may give as her reason that she was teaching and teaching exhausted her, but Wanda Baer knows that that makes no sense. It isn’t her little bit of teaching that exhausts Dalia. Dalia sleeps a lot, especially in the afternoon — when she should be awake and doing something. Wanda Baer says that she understands this very well. Too well, in fact. Because she’s been sleeping too much herself. “Sleeping” isn’t even an honest word for it, it’s more like the drugged and disconnected state she was trying (and finding it hard) to make Monica understand. It’s true that you’re “exhausted”, but why? From what exactly? More exhausted from doing next-to-nothing than from doing something. Wanda says that after a few classes, for example, like Dalia after a little teaching, she’s mysteriously exhausted, has to lie down and then doesn’t want to (can’t) get up. And Dalia’s exhaustion may even be worse than hers! But this is one thing she needs Monica to answer: if it’s obvious to her (any idiot can see it!) that Dalia’s depressed, does it automatically follow that she’s depressed too?

She and Dalia have been meeting three times a week in the Campus Sugar Bowl and three times a week they have the same horrible, depressing conversation. It always starts like this: Dalia will say, (louder than she thinks, almost wailing, audible enough for heads to turn) “what am I doing?! where am I going?! what’s the sense to all this??! what am I going to do with my life?!”: and on and on like that. It makes her crazy. Someone else would know how to answer, but she doesn’t! Other people might not know, but she’s sure that Monica does, that she’s always been like that: she needs time to figure out what just happened. Even worse: she needs time to know what she just felt! People expect you to react right away. They want to see an emotion on your face. Want you to say something sincere and intelligent, express some feeling, help figure things out. . . . She’s never been able to do any of that. Needs to take her distance. More people expect her to act normal and human, more distance she needs. Hasn’t Monica noticed that her letters are always more intelligent, more thoughtful than she is in person? Her thinking actually gets clearer when she has a chance to write! Can hear when she talks sometimes (not always) what a frozen dope she sounds like. But when she writes in her diary or writes a letter and reads it over she’s surprised and impressed by how intelligent and insightful — how un-frozen — that person is. If only she could just write to people instead of talking! Write a letter the day after having dinner with someone. . . . So, finally, she wrote a letter to Dalia. She was honest and direct: “I don’t want to continue our relationship this way. I can’t go on having the same depressing conversations with you whenever we meet. Talking to you is like drinking a little poison. You get used to it, you don’t die, but you’re poisoned. I think I’m getting poisoned by your depression. I have too many problems of my own to be able to defend myself. So — if we’re going to be friends — you’ve got to change. . . .” Thinks the letter was better than that, but that’s the idea. She told the truth, something she never does when she meets Dalia in the Campus Sugar Bowl. Figured they’d discuss the letter the next time they saw each other — and that would be a way of talking about their relationship and then maybe that would be a way of getting Dalia to see that she had to do something about her depression. . . . But of course the next time she saw Dalia after the letter was the night she drove to Dalia’s place without knowing where she was going. . . . Started to try to tell Dalia about her weird experience in the car, but Dalia didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t want to talk about anything. Didn’t want to be in her apartment. “I don’t want to sit around my apartment with you, talking about something depressing!” Dalia seemed happy to see her, but she thinks the only reason Dalia might have been happy to see her was because she needed to get out of her apartment! Wanted to drive somewhere — anywhere — had no idea where — and (in her crazy condition) neither did she. Where can you go at 3 a.m.? So they got in the car and started driving and she ended up back where she came from — in her own neighborhood! in the 24 hour Cornucopia Diner looking out at the bay from the other side of Bay Drive! Eating her reuben sandwich and drinking her strawberry ice cream soda she thinks she started to feel more alive. Looking across the table at Dalia (with the dark bay just barely visible — there only because you know it’s there? — can’t tell whatever lights are moving on it or glowing at the airport or on a bridge or highway from the lights that are always spread across the inner bubble of any diner window anywhere) she remembers feeling that she couldn’t just sit there stuffing her face with her reuben and soda (which were actually pretty good) without confronting Dalia in some way. So she said: “you haven’t said one word about my letter! You must have read my letter. . .!” No answer. So she’s pretty sure (after a while it gets hard to tell if you’re making it up — if what you think is memory is just the mind telling you the story of what could have or should have happened) that Dalia’s silence made her angry enough to say to Dalia that the only time Dalia ever opened her mouth was to talk about her own misery. No interest at all in the horrible sensations she (Wanda) was having. . . ! Thinks she also managed to say that when she arrived at Dalia’s — it was probably the reason she drove to Dalia’s without knowing where she was or where she was going! — it was important for her to get Dalia’s opinion about her horrible feeling of disconnection — her inertia that might even be paralysis, her feeling of being drugged or poisoned, sensation of being far away from everything and without a body, a body-less ghost that could walk through walls — a dead-alive body driving through a horrible body-less ghost-world. . . . She’s almost certain she said all that or something similar to that and that all Dalia said was, “don’t tell me I didn’t read your letter, because I did! I read your letter and I can’t say you’re wrong. You don’t want to be around someone depressed because you can’t handle it. I can’t argue with that. That makes sense. But that’s exactly why you should understand why I don’t want to hear about your depression. . . .”

Wanda Baer wants Monica to tell her how she should have answered that. It confused her and shut her up. Her rueben sandwich was all cold and congealed — it was disgusting — but she started nibbling at it again. Dalia must have noticed that (don’t they always notice stuff like that?) because she went on the attack. She said that she (Wanda) left something out, as usual: Wanda had money, while she lived in poverty. Wanda had a nice apartment in a nice house in a nice neighborhood while she lived in a crummy apartment in a crummy neighborhood. So it isn’t hard to figure out why she’s depressed, but it is hard to figure out why Wanda’s depressed. Wanda thinks now that she should have answered (but didn’t) that there’s some crazy way that Dalia is bragging about her horrible life. In some topsy-turvy way Dalia thinks her poverty makes her superior. But Dalia hardly ever works and that’s why she’s been stuck (if she is stuck) in her lousy apartment in her lousy neighborhood for eight years or more. Thinks Dalia doesn’t work to give herself a reason for having the crappy life she has! Wanda says that she should have said that she finds Dalia’s neighborhood and apartment ugly and depressing, but does Dalia? Does Dalia really? Doesn’t work — so she can’t leave — then can say she’s “stuck” there — and then being “stuck” there is her reason she’s depressed and can’t work so can’t leave and on and on like that forever. . . . Should have said all that, but she’s actually only really thinking it now, talking to Monica. . . said nothing then, just ate too much of the dead corpse of her sandwich and ended up feeling sick. . . .

Wanda Baer wants Monica’s opinion about this too: a) does Dalia glorify her poverty, her lousy neighborhood, lousy apartment, etc. because she thinks it’s some sort of stupid weapon against Wanda — and anyone else who hates the idea of living like that? Even though (or just because) Wanda never says anything to Dalia about how much Dalia’s apartment and neighborhood disgust and depress her (bends over backward not to say anything) Dalia probably knows how she feels — so she makes a big deal about her “poverty” to make Wanda feel middle class! Dalia knows that she has a tiny little apartment — no bigger than a tube of elbow macaroni — in the attic of a multiple dwelling where there must be five, six, eight other apartments and that her little tube of an apartment worms its way right through the middle of part of the landlord’s apartment — right between two of their bedrooms! Does Monica think that Dalia actually sees that as middle class? Does Monica think that’s middle class? That she’s middle class? Can your way of life be middle class and yourself not be middle class? Or the other way around? There’s this possibility too: Dalia really loves her crappy way of life and couldn’t live any other way. Couldn’t live in any other neighborhood and is lying to herself when she says it depresses her.

Wants to know how you can ever answer questions like that. Seems to her that either thing could be true and that gives her a headache. . . .

b) Monica has to answer this: is it a sign of depression or is it exactly the same thing as the impossible-to-answer questions about Dalia and her apartment and why — why really, why exactly — she lives in that neighborhood that Dalia’s relationships with men are always so sick. Always sick, insane and depressing. Guy she’s involved with right now, for example, has an incurable disease and there never has been — never can be — any sex (nature of disease not given by Wanda or noted by Monica). Dalia claims that no sex doesn’t matter, but Wanda doesn’t believe that’s true and wonders if Monica agrees with her that there’s some weird similarity between that and the peeling paint and broken plaster in Dalia’s apartment that Dalia’s never in eight years done anything about. . . .

Let’s see: what happened next? Thinks they got onto the subject of suicide, one of Dalia’s favorite topics. Dalia is obsessed by suicide. Thinks and talks about it constantly, but says that she “doesn’t have the guts” to do it. Wanda argues with her about it but it’s as pointless as all their other arguments because no matter what Dalia says Wanda really has no idea what she’s thinking. Last week, for example, she had a strange experience: Dalia asked her to drive to the campus of one of the City colleges, took her to a spot on campus and told her that exactly on that spot where they were standing a student had just recently committed suicide. Jumped from the building that was throwing its chilly shadow on them and landed here (on the un-stained pavement under their feet). Had a newspaper with her and, while they were standing there, read her a long article.

Wanda has a copy of the article in the car and gives it to Monica (“for the Chronicle”).

 

“COLLEGE STUDENT DIES IN PLUNGE”


“A twenty year old sophomore jumped or fell Wednesday afternoon from a ledge on the sun deck outside the Student Union Building penthouse. He died two hours later at a nearby hospital and police and college security officials have not yet determined whether the death was a suicide or an accident. They have discounted homicide. According to college security officials the student, Arthur Sypes, fell seven floors into the narrow alley between the Student Union and Valegrove Towers, a six floor apartment building, at about 1:30 p.m. A student passing by (identified as Edgar Cereno) heard a muffled cry followed by a thud and reported the fall to Student Union authorities. Security guard Luke Snell, who was also passing, revived Sypes, bleeding from his mouth and nose, by giving him artificial respiration. Police and an ambulance arrived within minutes to take the blond-bearded youth to Outerborough Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 3:42 p.m. from major multiple head trauma. Sypes’ father said that his son had suffered a head injury stumbling as he got off a train on a college-sponsored tour of Italy in December and that he’d been in great pain ever since. Sypes had left a looseleaf ring binder filled with a hundred-or-so pages of indecipherable longhand and a music textbook on the sun deck ledge. No other students were reported in the area at the time of the incident. The ledge, which is exactly forty inches wide, cannot be seen from inside the penthouse.”

Wanda says that while Dalia was reading her the article — which seemed to her gruesome and depressing — she felt a chill because she recognized the name “Sypes”! She knew that she knew the dead student! Or didn’t really “know” him but had just seen him, just sort of met him on the beach — not one week before he killed himself! — because Lowell knew him, said hello to him on the beach and introduced them. He’s the younger brother of someone that Lowell’s been friendly with since childhood. . . .

Doesn’t know whether Lowell knows about the suicide or not — or whether it would affect him if he did know. Would it depress him? Should she call Lowell? Would she want someone to call her with news like that? Wouldn’t calling Lowell be something like Dalia dragging her to the suicide spot and reading her the article? — word for word and with more animation and excitement than she showed about anything else? Would she care, would she be depressed about the suicide if Dalia hadn’t made her stand in the shade of the Student Union Building, right on the pavement that had obviously been scoured clean?

Mentioning Lowell makes Wanda remember this also: Lowell met Dalia through her (as she thinks Monica already knows). Thinks he found her attractive, but she’s not sure. Does know for sure that Lowell called Dalia a couple of times and finally decided to ask her out to dinner. Said that he had an urge to go to Chinatown. A craving for Lin’s Garden food. And for whatever reason thought it would be interesting to sit in a restaurant with Dalia and get to know her. Thinks she remembers Lowell saying that he could tell that there were interesting dark depths there and that he was curious. But then, when the time came, when he drove over to her place to pick her up, she didn’t want to go out. He tried to reason with her: he was dying for Chinese food (for Lin’s Garden Chinese food) and was in the mood for being in a restaurant, not sitting around someone’s apartment all night talking. (Didn’t say: sitting around Dalia’s repulsive apartment.) Dalia was sweet about it. She apologized, but wouldn’t budge: never eats Chinese food and listed all Chinese food’s unhealthy qualities. So, Lowell said, Dalia got her way. They stayed in and talked. But he found out all he needed to know about her from that (that she was someone who probably always got her way, one way or another) and he definitely won’t call her again.

What else? Wanda Baer thinks she remembers Lowell saying — after they met Sypes on the beach —that he’d had a nervous breakdown, had been hospitalized and still suffered from terrible headaches.

Also this (and this is important, doesn’t know how she almost forgot it!): she wants Monica’s opinion about Dr. DaVinci’s analysis and advice. Or maybe “advice” isn’t the right word. More like instructions. . . . In her Monday session with Dr. DaVinci, after the Saturday when she couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t move even in bed, Dr. DaVinci surprised her by saying that she should have telephoned. Should have made the effort to get to the telephone and call him. She should have considered it an emergency, as serious as a heart attack (or maybe he compared it to another fatal or near-fatal disease and she’s got it mixed up). He offered to call her every day to make sure she hadn’t fallen into another state like that. She was moved by his concern, but she said “no! don’t do that! it would make me too nervous to think it’s you every time the phone rings!” She laughed at herself when she said that and thought he would laugh too, but he didn’t. His tone was serious and never changed. “I want you to listen to me today,” he said. “I want you to listen and pay attention and really hear what I’m saying to you.” He said that when he looked into the waiting room to call her today he noticed that it took her an unusually long time to respond: her gaze was rigid and she was staring straight ahead. (No movement of head or eyes.) That concerned him greatly. That’s why, as soon as she came in and stretched out, he made her move her eyes around — rotate them — look here and there — almost like he was trying to get them unstuck! “I want you to make a conscious effort to move your eyes, the way we’re doing now. And I want you to remember my words and picture my face talking to you.” Then he made her recite back his directions. “Remember to move. I want you to keep moving. Move your body, move your eyes. Force it if you have to. . .” Remembers that he made a sort of pushing gesture with his arms and she took that to mean (does Monica agree?) that she needed to give herself a shove to keep herself in motion. Then he said something that really bothered her. “Of course you’re young. But that alone is no solution — and it also doesn’t account for all the energy you have. There’s no such thing as ‘too much’ energy. But you have more energy than most of the patients I see and you have no idea what to do with it. So — if you think about the amount of energy you have — the potential movement in you — and then you realize that up until this minute in my office you haven’t done anything — that the circumference of your life is really tiny — it’s no wonder you feel empty and you’re miserable!” He said that the lack of significant movement in her life had started to become physiological and that’s not something he can ignore. . .

This is not clear (to Wanda then, while driving in the rain toward Manhattan, or to Monica later, while writing, or later still, while typing what she’d written or later still?): she doesn’t see how it could be in the same session, because it doesn’t make sense, but how could there have been another session, another time after she’d been out with Dalia? Maybe Monica can help her figure it out: did this happen in the Cornucopia Diner or another night in another restaurant? While Dalia was talking, telling one of her usual horrible, depressing tales, Wanda felt herself getting sluggish and sleepy right then, felt it coming over her as if she could lie down across two chairs or on a barely-padded bench in a booth and go to sleep.

Got home that night and fell into a stupor, woke up in a strange, horrible mood, not as severe as the other time, but still with no desire, no zest for getting up. “What’s the point?” Thought of Dr. DaVinci and forced herself to get up and go through the motions, but still with the feeling, “why? what for? what’s the advantage to not being in bed?” She doesn’t remember it, but that must be when she called Dr. DaVinci and that must be why there’s another session that she’s getting mixed up with the first one. This time she must have gone into detail about her relationship with Dalia — because now she has two sets of instructions from Dr. DaVinci: a) force herself to move — her eyes, her face in general and her body, of course — and move also in the larger sense of taking action in her life and b) follow Lowell’s example and stay away from Dalia.

*



On what day in July ‘76 is Sylvia Greengrass, a white bandana around her thinning scrubpad of reddish hair, carrying a beach chair northward along the west side of ABC Street, returning from the beach to her little brick fortress in white beach shoes and white beach dress?



Lean forward out of the moment: into the ecstasy of language, even if it’s the ecstasy of rewriting March ‘76 notes about Wanda Baer and her dangerously depressed friend, Dalia. Unlike other forms of ecstasy, built into consciousness? Sometimes — not always — sentences cascade one into the other and then there’s a waterfall the mind goes over into a special state of lucidity — out into the unchanging panorama with its weird rotation of sameness and difference.



Sooner or later there has to be a moment of leaning back out of the cascade of writing that’s come to rest and there Monica is in July: Sylvia Greengrass returns from the beach and disappears into the deep, permanent shade of the narrow driveway between her house and the Sloths’ white-shingle-covered twin house to the north and then Wanda Baer returns from walking Bah-Wah. Says that she went to the beach with Bah-Wah and ran into Norma Rosenkranz (not the person she needed to see!) walking her ugly dog Brownie. While Bah-Wah and Brownie were going crazy digging holes in the sand together she was stuck listening to Norma Rosenkranz: searching for the job she’s never going to get, getting along a little better with her mother and on and on like that. Then (because Norma is really always horribly depressed and nuts) out of the blue she looked at the long, deep holes the dogs were in ecstasy digging and said: wasn’t it weird that the dogs had decided to dig three graves. Also: three graves, not two and not four. What could that mean? She can’t explain to Monica how profoundly Norma Rosenkranz’s morbid craziness disturbed her. Had to get away from her and had a terrible time pulling Bah-Wah off the beach. . . .



On a hot July 9 Monica is on the front porch, typing and editing written (barely legible) March notes. Nicole Renard, Nicole’s sister JoAnne and Grete Forest, on their way back from the beach and about to go up the orange brick front steps of Greg-and-Lena’s house, spot Monica behind the tall Rhinebeck pine and stop to chat. One of the three (which one not noted) says that all they did was walk, no one went in the water, can’t say why. Nicole says that it makes no sense: she already went swimming on Sunday and definitely would have been happy to go in again today, but no one else wanted to, so she didn’t go in either and now she thinks it was stupid. Monica says that she and David have been trying to figure out why neither one of them has gone swimming yet — as if there’s a feeling that winter stayed late equally in the mind and in the ocean. Fear of diving under a very thin surface of summer and finding what?

Nicole suggests that, if Monica’s willing, and maybe even David too (though she knows that he hates to be cold), they could go back and take a swim together later when there’ll be some shadows on the beach and it will still be too hot on the porch for writing. . . .

Talking about the beach and swimming reminds Grete that she has a story to tell: Andy (last name never recorded, possibly never known by Monica), the tobacco-blond-bearded lifeguard who rents the second floor rear studio in Greg and Lena’s every spring and summer with his girlfriend Nadja, has a serious staph infection (swollen lymph glands etc.) that he may have picked up (she’s not 100% sure) after he went swimming in the cold ocean last week. This too: Nadja is going to be a lifeguard for the first time this year. Surprises her a little, because she always thought of Nadja as very likable, very beautiful, but lazy: likes to bicycle and may even be athletic in her own way, but only if she can fit bicycling, swimming, etc. into her smooth and pliant way of passing the day. Lifeguarding could have been another athletic but pleasant way of passing the day for Nadja, but it won’t be because of Andy’s idiotic lifeguarding code of ethics. He thought it was unethical to use his seniority and influence to make sure Nadja was assigned to a local beach, so they’re making her travel all the way to Staten Island while guys who scored much lower than her are getting the beaches she could have had. What else? Thinks Andy told her (but she’s not sure) that Nadja may finally be willing to get married. . . .



Typing (rewriting) in the hot shade of the porch.

Preoccupied by the stories other people tell us, as if they were our own. Are our own once we’ve become preoccupied with them?



Monica makes these notations quickly:

1) Andy Forest just had his hair cut and now it looks exactly like his brother-in-law Greg Coffin’s.

2) Greg Coffin’s haircut and Andy Forest’s haircut look like Joshua Coffin’s haircut, but Monica can’t remember if Joshua Coffin’s haircut came first.

3) Grete Forest, always loose-limbed and girlish, a beautiful woman with a girlish gait, has new, sad lines around her eyes. Eyes make a direct, sad contact with Monica’s as she talks about things that don’t seem sad at all.

4) JoAnne Renard used to look a little more like her sister Nicole. Monica wonders what in JoAnne’s life has whittled away everything that isn’t blandly normal: whittled the warm and pleasing softness in her face to a trim boniness: thin face sculpts a big nose that wasn’t a big nose only a few years ago. And the size of her nose seems absurdly meaningful.

5) Only Nicole, of the three women returning from the beach, still seems on the right side of time.

6) Are these the minute changes we never see as they’re happening or are these already the visible end products of invisible events?



David decides to join Monica when she goes swimming on July 9 (first time in 1976). Truth may be: no great lover of the beach, David goes only to be with Monica and immediately finds the water icy. Iciness is so deep and central to the ocean’s core that hot sun doesn’t dissolve it. So David spends a good part of the day on the beach (Monica sometimes with him, sometimes in the water) eating grilled cheese sandwiches and drinking strong iced coffee.



July notes say that a gardener named Dominick Ianni was mowing the Greengrasses' two little plots of lawn (guarded by a low brick wall, spiked iron fence and gate) before Sylvia Greengrass returned from the beach in white bandana, white dress and shoes. Monica wonders how her notes can be accurate when she knows that mowing his two little plots of lawn grass is one of suntanned and wiry Enos Greengrass’s great passions, possibly second only to hosing clean the driveway he shares with the Sloths: hosing driveway with expert side-to-side swings of the hose (nozzle turned on high), then hosing sidewalk, even a little way into the gutter, as if there’s a longing to hose dirt and debris all the way to bay or ocean. . . .



Lean forward? Not easy to lean out of the heat of July (distracting more because it’s unpleasant or because it’s pleasant?) into icy (undated) days of March: no sun, only cold rain and wind for days. “On Thursday night”, though Monica already has a cold and is losing her voice, she and David are on the beach in the rain, thrilled by the storm in and around the ocean at high tide. Surf breaks over the boardwalk railing and deposits sedge along the beach as fragrant as mown grass. Feel the full force of the ocean like this: imagine that they’re in the faded blue rowboat flung out of the water at their feet, breaking into pieces what had held together for half a century or more.

*



On an undated day in the third week of March Monica is typing into her Chronicle a letter from Jonathan Williams of the Jargon Society, Highlands, North Carolina, dated March 15, 1976.

“Dear Monica and David,

“I wont say no to your sending me the manuscript of Green Inventory (5) (Discovery of the World/Discovery of the Word), but I will confess that there are two problems: (1) I am swimming in accepted, but unpublished, texts for Jargon, and the funding and production of these will take at least three years to achieve before I take on yet more. . . (2) your work sounds much more on the wave-lengths of Richard Kostelanetz and Dick Higgins than it does on mine. I.e., us southerners ain’t very ‘conceptual’, despite Dore Ashton’s efforts to make me seem so in some art magazine. In fact, we barely have ‘minds’ at all down here in the Big Foot Country, facts first pointed out by Tocqueville and W.J. Cash. However, if you really see Jargon as a place into your work would fit, then send ahead. I do hope you have some sense of the books I have been doing. Mason Jordan Mason, Mina Loy, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Tom Meyer, Ralph Eugene Meatyard seem in another part of the ballpark - - but I may have it all wrong. Ultimately, I never presume to know what I want until I see it. That is a confession, but not an open sesame. . . .

“I am driving to such scintillating places as Roswell, New Mexico, Fort Worth, Texas, Biloxi, Mississippi, and Bainbridge, Georgia now, for foundation-begging, poetry reading, and seeking after two photographers. Back here April 9th.

“Best wishes,

“Jonathan Williams” (large, bold and black ink script signature)

“Jonathan Williams,” (typed)

“Director”

Long list of Directors, Advisors and Particular Friends of the Society below, a second address for Williams in Corn Close, Dentdale, Sedbergh, Cumbria, England and still one more address, a business address in Millerton, N.Y.




On another undated day in the third week of March Nelly X knocks on Pat Corcoran’s front porch door and then has trouble getting directly to the point: that is, she’d like to know if, despite the cold weather, Timothy Corcoran would like to come out and play with her son, Jimmy. Does Nelly X invite Timothy Corcoran over to the X/Kropotkin house nine blocks away? (Not said or not heard.) Stands awkwardly in the open doorway, letting cold air blow in and waiting for Pat Corcoran’s response, but Monica fails to record it.




Air like January, bird cries of March.




March 19 is a warm and comfortable day for working out of doors and Monica, though she still has laryngitis, is on the porch, writing. (No outdoor typewriting — no transcription of earlier handwritten scrawl into typewriter — until warmer weather.) Doesn’t get far into whatever it is she’s working on (not noted) when she hears Joan Regan — wheeling a chocolate brown baby carriage back and forth along her side (the west side) of ABC Street — calling up to old Rae Ryan sitting tranquilly on the Regans’ porch, waiting for the world to deposit something, as it always does.

“A terrible week, wasn’t it?”

“Awfully cold, yes.”

Street takes its time breaking through the moment and then Rae Ryan may see a little more clearly that Joan Regan isn’t just strolling back and forth, she’s wheeling a carriage. . . .

“Is that the little girl. . . ?”

“Yes, Fionnuala’s second. . . .”

From where she’s sitting (because of the pine tree or the holly bush or because of light and shadow) Monica can’t see old Rae Ryan at all and can barely see Joan Regan wheeling Fionnuala’s chocolate brown carriage.

“And just how old would she be now, Joan?”

“Well, Rae, she’ll be four months on April fourth, I think. Let’s see: December, January. . . yes, Rae, I think four months in April is right. . . .”

“Not quite four months yet, then. Let’s not take two weeks away from her already, Joan,” and she laughs. But Joan Regan, who’s much closer to Rae Ryan than Monica, doesn’t seem to hear her clearly, as if Rae Ryan’s words traveled directly across the street, over her head, missing her entirely, and she answers irrelevantly: “Yes, they had to get some groceries, so I’m watching her.”

While hearing what’s traveling her way from across the street Monica is looking at what’s near at hand:

Light on pine needles (does light on = color of?)

Light on leaves that are green all year.

Light on leaves and light on needles don’t yield the same green, but difference in the two greens is not noted here.

Looking at light on leaves and on needle-leaves and in some way trying to separate leaf masses from the light on them is it possible to still be listening — to really tune herself to listening? The street seems more silent, though it’s possible that it isn’t a question of looking-replacing-hearing, but simply that Joan Regan and Rae Ryan have stopped talking and are just existing for a little while in the warm day.

The universe of sound seems to have reorganized itself around Monica’s looking, almost the way it does around someone indoors (even with windows open): sound of human voices, sound of bird songs (rarely a complete song, usually a string of smooth or barbed wire clipped to a longer or shorter length) spin together in the air and human hearing has to drift out to it through venetian slats, into the warm breezes of middle air where voices are comfortable traveling.

Monica notes that we hear birds far more often than we see them. They populate our sound world but always surprise us in our visible world.

Reminds her to wonder: what was the large bird she spotted earlier on the 19th in a tree on Coast Boulevard? A large grey bird with a stiff tail at a severe angle. Reminds herself also to ask David if he can find out what she saw. The kind of puzzle-solving or detective-work by thumbing through reference books that David relishes.




At what time on the same warm March day does Monica hear Nelly X’s voice? And, only seconds after hearing Nelly X, Nelly X spots Monica and joins her on the porch or (not clear in Monica’s notes) Monica descends the short flight of steps and stands with Nelly X directly in warm sunlight on the sidewalk where winter is still stored in and under the yellow-grey paving blocks.

Nutty as ever or even nuttier? Song of vague yet obsessive worries (usually about handsome seven-year-old son Jimmy) escalates through endless loops and repetitions into a boring (unbearable?) shrillness. Monica can only take so much of it, but in some way feels obligated to listen to some of it. Chronicle, almost always a source of something like ecstasy for Monica, has its obligations that are not at all ecstatic yet may lead to (are a necessary part of?) ecstasy.

Notes also say “high-pitched and dry” and “a sweetly sickening little girl monotone”.

Let’s see: this is the story — story made up of nothing but worries — that Nelly X needs to tell about handsome little Jimmy (looks something like Troy Donohue): the other day Jimmy came home from school complaining (crying?) that he had no friends in class. That upset Nelly so much (remembering how she felt ostracized and isolated as a child) that she insisted that she and husband Bill Kropotkin visit Jimmy’s teacher and question her about Jimmy’s problems at school. Doesn’t Monica agree that any parent, seeing her child shunned and rejected and upset enough about it to cry to his mother, would do the same thing? Wouldn’t Monica want to know why other children don’t like her child? Try and get to the bottom of it right away? Wouldn’t she feel that her son’s teacher had some responsibility and needed to be questioned? and needed to see also that there were concerned parents. . . ?

And Bill? What does Bill think? Now that she thinks about it, Monica says, she hasn’t seen Nelly X’s husband, Bill Kropotkin, for a long time. (Nelly X’s husband Bill is of course not a member of the “X” clan, he’s a scholar who’s fallen out of the safety of the academic tree and now does this and that to help support the family and whose gloomy, somewhat angry face always has dark shadows he can never seem to shave out of their deep furrows. Nelly X may or may not call herself “Nelly Kropotkin”, but Monica’s known the X’s too long for her to think of Nelly that way.)

Bill is unconcerned. Bill Kropotkin is Bill Kropotkin and has always been Bill Kropotkin and is unconcerned about whether his son is getting along with his classmates or about anything else. His only concern, as usual, is with trying to turn his Fourier articles into a publishable book. The Anarchist Press has shown interest, but that was a year ago. Someone there read one of Bill’s articles in a scholarly journal and thought Bill had a fresh perspective, but it’s taking him forever to get it all together into book form. Never stops doing research, never stops piling up notes, and that’s why no one ever sees him. He’s home right now, indoors, up to his neck in paper on a day like this, patching together his notes on Fourier and Proudhon instead of spending the day outdoors with his son. . . . There’s no question that Bill’s unemployment compensation will run out before he submits a manuscript to the publisher. Not that the book’s going to earn anything. . . ! Bill’s been lost all his life in a period that interests very few people: the mid-nineteenth century when Communism was being hatched and there were other, secondary figures (the forgotten, somewhat cracked ones that Bill’s obsessed with) who split off from Marx and the others because they were more humanistic or romantic or utopian or because they were mystics or anarchists: that’s where her husband, Bill Kropotkin, really lives. In real life he applied for one of those grants that he never gets, his unemployment will run out and he’ll be driving a cab again this summer. . . .

And did Bill ever go with her to see the teacher?

Yes. She got Bill to go, but then of course the teacher said that she couldn’t imagine what Jimmy was talking about. Not true that he has no friends. Certainly not “ostracized”. In fact, he’s very popular and always seems happy and mischievous. So now she’s worried because Jimmy wanted her to think he’s as lonely and miserable as she was when he isn’t. . . .

*



Monica may be in MOMA on March 19 to see an exhibition of works by an artist who interests her or (more likely) to see a film, but neither film nor artist is noted. Her only notes are about a few things she observes in the MOMA sculpture garden (where already, on this warm March day, there are café tables and chairs):

a) Two people (gender not noted) at a garden café table and on the table: oranges (being sectioned and eaten), bagels (too pale a caramel to be properly baked or toasted), green bottles of beer (number not noted).

b) Beautiful New York light: at this afternoon hour (what hour exactly not noted) sun along the upper edges of buildings only, absorbed and softened by subtly different stone and reflected with different degrees of brilliance by various strips or squares of metal, glass, etc., depending on angle, composition, lack of transparency. . . and framed to make someone in the garden (or garden café) encounter the street as a real, changeable street but also as something designed into the museum’s architecture as one more aesthetic experience (and in that sense pre-experienced for you before you can experience it yourself). In Monica’s view, for things to be really random they have to be more of a mess: that is, chaos framed for viewing is already something different from chaos. (It isn’t news to anyone that artworks in museums are a little like zoo animals.)

c) And yet: there across the way from the sculpture garden in the (what story?) window of a handsome town house on W. 54 Street, an elderly woman wrapped in something beautiful in a deep chair with a tall green back is being served (what?) on a tray, just visible through distended reflections.

d) Helene, pretty blonde schoolteacher and MOMA café regular Monica runs into, generally with Helene’s little circle of café regulars, whenever Monica stops in to have a cup of coffee and a slice of maple walnut layer cake in the MOMA café: at an outdoor table (somewhat unusual for Helene not to be indoors) with a guy who’s just her type (blond, lanky, a little younger than her, and with something hard-to-put-a-finger-on that’s slightly off). Helene is wearing blue eye shadow. Helene’s blue eye shadow interests Monica more than anything else that she can see or hear in MOMA. Does the magnetic or clustering principle of events demand that Helene (once she made the decision to wear eye shadow at all on March 19, 1976) put on blue eye shadow? Also blonde, but a little more or a little less than twice as old as Lily Romero and nowhere near as pale or as strangely beautiful. An attractive, not-quite-middle-aged blonde schoolteacher whose ever-so-feminine voice spreads a sort of perfumed powder in the air around her and through her very nice, very feminine clothing and personality: a fragrant powderpuff personality, yet there’s always something odd about the men she’s with and there are hints of a more darkly shaded life outside her daytime life of teaching and museum-going.

e)     1) Now sunlight has retreated (to a degree that’s only measurable after the moment has already occurred) to tile or slate rooftops only: sunlight so delicate, so transparent it’s barely a brushed-on wash of egg thinned with water.

        2) Four people (gender not noted) arrive, compose themselves around a small café table and immediately are in the thick of a conversation in Swedish.

        3) The woman (a MOMA café regular) Monica and David have always referred to as “the Slavic woman” without actually knowing if she’s Slavic makes an appearance in the garden café for the first time (for Monica) in 1976. Monica hasn’t seen her for a long time, now here she is, looking handsome, her beautiful chestnut hair pulled back and profoundly gleaming, suggesting — together with her intelligent good looks — a fragrance and mystery that may not be justified, not at all showing to the world the money-worries that Monica knows she has. With her a handsome, chestnut-haired man who could be her twin and therefore, to Monica, becomes “the Slavic man”.

        4) Two young men excitedly looking through a New York restaurant guide (which guide not noted or Monica is seated too far away to read its cover). One of them (Germanic accent?) points to a listing in the guidebook and says: “All the drinks you can drink for only $7.75!”

f) Not indicated why Monica is still in MOMA late enough to see that, at night, on March 19, the sculpture garden is so grey and bare she’d never know that just short hours earlier it had been warm and blooming with human life: the miraculous and absurd infinity of conversation and the imaginary biographies of those we don’t know at all or may know completely in one way but not at all in others.



This is not clear to Monica: leaning in or leaning out? Typing March 19 and March 20 notes in June, July, possibly August and leaning absolutely forward into reading handwritten March notes, editing them, rewriting, translating them into typewriter and in that way reading and writing her way completely inside March — only leaning back out into June-July-August if someone or something jerks her out of March. Or, something having jerked her out of March into the warm season around her (maybe just having leaned away from scrap paper and typewriter to take a break and look around), she’s completely in summer of ‘76.

For example: notes don’t say whether Monica meets Nicole Renard on her porch, on the sidewalk in front of her porch, on the boardwalk or somewhere else. Nicole seems more dressed for a cool day in March than for any day in August, but Monica knows that the evidence of Nicole’s clothing is inconclusive. Let’s see: from the ground up: beautiful brown suede boots, blue-on-white or white-on-blue long cotton skirt, hip-length belted blue suede jacket, oversized blue canvas shoulder bag, wave on wave of honey-brown hair with lines and dashes of gold combed through it. Says she was looking for Monica because she has two stories to tell her:

1) She’s flying down to Bermuda, possibly even tomorrow. Her mother, Mildred, is getting divorced after eight years of marriage to Klaus, in some ways more of a business partnership than a marriage. She wanted to visit Mildred a month ago in London, but Mildred said no, not right now, the time’s not right, she’d explain it later, etc., etc. Nicole thinks that Mildred didn’t want her to come to London because (though she’d never admit it) she’s self-conscious about the age difference between herself and her new boyfriend. It’s no secret that she’s been living with him — she’s not embarrassed about that — if anything she seems to want her (Nicole) to know how much better she’s feeling since she’s been living with this new what’s-his-name, how wonderful friends say she looks, how youthful, how glowing, blah blah, since this guy. But the one thing she does seem self-conscious about is the fact that he can’t be more than a year or two older than Nicole. So it’s Nicole’s opinion that Mildred made her wait until she (Mildred) went to Bermuda where there’d be no chance to bump into this guy whose name Nicole really doesn’t know . . . .

2) The two stories have a common thread in this way: she’s going to Bermuda not just to see her mother: she’s using Mildred’s divorce and the trip to Bermuda to get away from her Madison Avenue executive! She desperately wants Monica’s advice about whether or not this is the right way to handle it. There’s no question that she’s running away from him, but at the same time that she’s running away from him she gave him her Bermuda telephone number, hoping (is this nuts?) that he’s intelligent enough or at least sensitive enough to get the meaning of the deliberately mixed signal she’s given (the absurd “no” hidden in the “yes” of being given the number where she can be reached by the woman who’s obviously trying to get away from you). Monica knows how much she likes his company, so why is she running away from him? Yesterday, for the first time, their relationship became sexual. She knew that sex was inevitable and in some way she was dreading it. How long could a relationship that isn’t simply a friendship go on without it becoming sexual? Even though she knew it wouldn’t be good. This may sound stupid and it may be awful in its own way, but it’s true: he’d spent so much money on her, made so many grand, expensive gestures, “wined and dined” her in the best restaurants, taken her to this opening and that opening (took her to opening night of the Joffrey last week) etc, etc. that that added to the inevitability of sex. And she likes being with him. He’s intelligent, he’s entertaining, he’s not a child, he’s a man of the world with an important job that he takes seriously, yet there’s something. To like a man, to enjoy his company and spend as much time with him as if he were your boyfriend (maybe even to think of him as your boyfriend) but to know that you really aren’t attracted to him and don’t want to sleep with him — and at the same time to be aware that he wants much more than that from you, that he’s obviously attracted to you and is dying to sleep with you, may even be in love with you, whatever his idea of “you” is — when one person has that for another and the other feels none of that, isn’t that a horrible, doomed situation? He wants to be physically close, longs to get into you (and whatever it is he imagines you are) just the way you don’t want to get close to and into him.

And it’s awkward and terrible to like everything about a man but know that you’re completely un-attracted and that the sex that’s impossible to avoid without ending the relationship is going to be clumsy and awful. The difficult question is: what’s the reason for this disconnection? Does Monica know? She thinks she’s been able to isolate something and wants to know if Monica thinks it makes sense: in the midst of everything else there’s an impossible-to-explain note of inhibition in him: the one thing that may not matter any other time (someone else might not even notice it), but that’s impossible at the moment that (for her) has to be relaxed and playful and happy. It’s not the tenderness that other women talk about that she craves in sex: it’s the sense that it’s no big deal — no more serious than if they were two children playing in the water. . . . With her Madison Avenue guy it’s the wrong kind of seriousness and the wrong kind of intensity, if Monica knows what she means. It feels as if he’s reading too much meaning into the moment and it makes her self-conscious and uncomfortable. It’s as if she sees sex as a comedy and he sees it as an opera, maybe even a tragic one. . . . Is she making herself clear? It’s such a subtle sensation that it’s hard to put into words.

There’s this too: he doesn’t leave her alone. Yesterday morning, for example, between 9 a.m. and noon, he called her twenty-one times! And there have been times that have been even worse. She’s told him more than once that it bothers her, that she finds it weird, but it doesn’t stop him. So her mother’s divorce is coming along at a perfect time: she’ll go swimming, she’ll sunbathe on the beach and at Mildred’s pool, she’ll be alone and she’ll have time to figure out what to do. . . .



Monica’s notes say clearly: at 5:15 p.m. on August 4, while typing the March Chronicle, (hidden behind the dense boughs of the tall Rhinebeck pine), she sees (just below her in the sunbaked, weedy driveway) Greg and Andy enjoying working on Greg’s old car together (make, model, not even the color are noted). Happier hunched and banging away under the hood than they ever seem during band practice in Babette’s open garage. And a little later starkly pale (white as meringue) and strangely beautiful Lily Romero adds to Greg and Andy’s pleasure working together on Greg’s old car by bringing them tall glasses of iced tea to sip as they work.



Monica wonders: does her August note about Greg and Andy (that is, knowing for sure that she made this quick sketch of Greg and Andy while leaning back out of her immersion in March notes) prove that she ran into Nicole Renard and heard her two long stories in August rather than in March?



Out of order: may be the same thing as saying that it’s the natural order of the Chronicle to find a detached bit of fabric from someone’s story sewn in later for all sorts of possible reasons (leaning into/leaning out of the written page or the surrounding moment, lengthy intrusion of passing events, digression that develops its own need to be told, etc., etc.). Monica could always go back — could go back now, for example — and re-attach the detached bit of fabric to the time and place where it belongs, but why? Here it drifted and here it stays. Monica believes that to make the Chronicle orderly in this way would be to create a more serious dis-order.



Lean back into March immersion. Notes say that “last night” in MOMA the sculpture garden was “balmy” (spring into summer on the skin), yet grey and wintry to the eye (nothing blooming). Drive back from Manhattan toward the beach through the between-zone of Brooklyn and at the beach a black and gold world is rippling: dark gold moon that’s perfectly round in a black-within-black sky ripples in threads through black ocean and threads of black cloud can be found in the moon and all of it coursing (its cold spiciness arising exactly from what?) through Monica’s hair, north in waves toward the bay, where it dies before reaching Brooklyn.



“Out of order” too? On the same night that Monica and David are in MOMA Wanda Baer is in Chinatown with her West African friend, Abebi, who changed her name from “Ababi” when she married a man whose last name is Ahwesh because she liked the sound of “Abebi Ahwesh” more than the sound of “Ababi Ahwesh”. During the drive home Wanda Baer describes their dinner in Shanghai Town like this: only the spring rolls were perfect: the spicy eggplant, the Hunan-style lamb with spicy scallions, the crabs in Hoi sin sauce were all horribly disappointing. Not the way she remembered it at all. Why did the food seem so delicious the night she was there with Monica and David and so lousy tonight with Abebi? One other thing: she’s looking forward to tomorrow when her French friend (doesn’t say her beautiful, secretive, delicate and hyper-sensitive French friend, Cristalene) will be visiting.



Must be August?

Monica (while writing on her porch) records the appearance of one of the seldom-seen Arlington sisters, all three rather small, dark-haired, a little hunched and very hard to tell apart, knowing them only by seeing them from across the street — coming or going and sometimes only peering cautiously out from the entryway, as if from the mouth of an underground burrow. The three Arlington sisters live in the righthand (northernmost) house of a long row of not-quite-new attached houses, partly brick and partly shingle. The only sister who it’s at all possible to distinguish from the others is the one Monica sees now, the one who works. At about 5:30 p.m. on an undated day in an unidentified month that must be August the Arlington sister who works returns from work wearing nothing more than a pale blue cotton skirt and darker blue jacket.

*



On Thursday March 18 Fayette Hickox of The Paris Review calls with two stories to tell and has a long conversation with David:

1) George Plimpton had to go to Jamaica (reason not given or not recorded), won’t be back in town till some time in April and wanted Fayette to call and make sure that Monica and David could schedule a lunch meeting at his townhouse to sort out the format of THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL portfolio. David doesn’t tell Fayette that Monica has laryngitis and wouldn’t be able to meet George in March in any case.

2)   FH: “By the way, I have a piece of information for you.”

      D: “You have a piece of information for me?”

      FH: “Yes. I suppose you could call it that. A piece of information for you and for Monica. It might be considered ‘good news’ or it may just be a piece of information that could be of interest to you or you could actually take it as a message passed to you through me.”

      D: “Yes?”

      FH: “Do you know someone named Dorothy Dorm?”

      D: “No, I don’t ‘know’ Dorothy Dorm, but I have some idea who she is.”

      FH: “Do you know that she runs an interesting little magazine called So What? Do you know it?”

      D: “I’m aware of it, yes.”

      FH: “Well, I was in someone’s loft for one of those things you could call an ‘event’ but actually just feels like a party and a young woman came up to me and introduced herself as Dorothy Dorm and somehow she seemed to know that Paris Review was planning an art portfolio of THE BLUE HANGAR and that we’d already published an interesting story of yours and she made it seem that speaking to you was urgent. . . .”

      D: “But what for?”

      FH: “I don’t know exactly. All she said was that she’d been trying to get in touch with you — couldn’t find any of the usual ways to get in touch with you directly — and begged me to give her your telephone number. But naturally I said I felt uncomfortable about doing that without your permission. Do you want me to give her your number? Do you have some objection?”

      D: “No particular objection, no.”

      FH: “She said she had some manuscripts of yours. Is that true? Does she have some manuscripts of yours?”

      D: “True and not true. She has something, but not much.”

      FH: “Have you noticed how she seems to have a way of getting these major figures for her magazine? I guess you have to give her credit. . . .”

      D: “Do you know anything about her history?”

      FH: “No. Nothing. She seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. One day there was no Dorothy Dorm and the next day there was nothing but Dorothy Dorm. And she comes on strong. So What? hasn’t been around very long — yet, as I say, she’s published all these important figures in it: Rauschenberg and Cage and so on — and I know for a fact that she just flew out to Arizona and persuaded Paolo Soleri to give her something substantial. And now she’s pursuing you. . . ! And yet she comes on as just one more smart but noisy girl from Roslyn. . . .”

      D: “Is the efficiency of unencumbered ambition the same as what people call ‘will power’?”

      FH: “Well, that may be true, but I didn’t know that when I met her. I didn’t know anything about her. But I think I felt that. I felt that she was looking at me solely as a path to something (you!) — that she saw me as a potentially useful implement — and it certainly doesn’t make her particularly pleasant to deal with. Not very appetizing in my opinion. . . .”



After David’s conversation with Fayette Hickox on March 18 Monica has to remind David that he already knew something about Dorothy Dorm and So What? that Fayette Hickox obviously doesn’t know, that David probably forgot and that she (Monica) may have forgotten also, but that the Chronicle can’t forget. (Chronicle is her memory and she goes to it instead of trying to “remember”.) Not sure when exactly (didn’t copy down the date), but David once recounted to her (expressly for the Chronicle) a telephone conversation he had with Larry Lille when (for reasons not remembered or recorded) Dorothy Dorm’s name came up, possibly the first time David ever heard of her. Chronicle says that Larry Lille had a story to tell about Dorothy Dorm: when Dorothy Dorm first arrived in New York (can’t remember from where) she already knew exactly what she wanted and went after it aggressively. Came armed with a pretty accurate list of who to seek out for advice on how to get connected, how to get a magazine started, how to advertise herself, how to make a few quick ripples in the downtown art pond, etc., etc. And one of the people she made a beeline for was Edgar Zacharias (not himself and not Ralph Waldo Rice). That told him that she was well-informed about who mattered: who had had (probably still had) that same kind of ambition. Wonders how many others reacted the way Edgar did (apparently not too many!). He couldn’t be bothered. Treated her as a nuisance, a tourist. “If I gave that kind of advice to everyone who asked for it. . . .” Chronicle says that Larry Lille said that he had to admit that it wasn’t uninteresting to stand back and watch their little dance: ridiculous buzzsaw of undisguised ambition and absurd posture of self-importance. And he knows that Edgar was surprised that he miscalculated to that extent, because later, when she actually succeeded in making So What? a big deal, Edgar had the nerve (the opacity?) to submit a manuscript to her — and then was nuts enough to be shocked and furious when she sent it back!



Monica comes across another fragment of David’s conversation with Larry Lille later or (more likely) David’s memory of his long-ago conversation may be re-awakened by Monica’s fresh chronicling of it and he adds this: Larry Lille asked: less nutty or more nutty? More opaque or less opaque? Possible to say: “just Edgar being Edgar”: or would David say it exceeds even Edgar Zacharias’s standard of Edgar-Zacharias-ness? Could be before Dorothy Dorm predictably rejected Edgar’s manuscript, but he thinks it may actually have been after the manuscript rejection: Edgar Zacharias suddenly remembered that, though he’d brushed Dorothy Dorm off as a vulgar, social-climbing out-of-towner, he’d actually found Dorothy Dorm somewhat attractive and saw no problem with calling her up and asking her out (to do what not stated by Larry Lille, not remembered by David or not noted by Monica). Rejected again, of course, and more or less shocked and furious than before? Or (Edgar being Edgar) hardly noticed and on to the next anthology, next seminar, next trip abroad, next brilliant graduate student. . . .



At about ten a.m. on a chilly (undated) March day Monica is writing in a porch rocker in the southernmost corner of the porch to get some sun: well behind the Rhinebeck pine but not in its shade (sun slanting in from the ocean, under the deep porch overhang).

Late in the afternoon of a hot (undated) August day Monica is working (typing March notes?) in the same, southernmost corner of the porch (not far from Pat Corcoran’s front door), but a little closer to the Rhinebeck pine in order to be in its shade.



Typing her March Chronicle in August Monica finds a notation that isn’t clear but can’t think of the right person to straighten it out. Sketchy notation seems to say that at the moment of typing March ’76 in August ’76 Kitty’s wedding, which had been set for late October, is being postponed till the following July. Makes a note to a) get an explanation for the delay and b) find someone who can confirm the accuracy of these dates.

*



Porch life is beginning next door in Greg-and-Lena’s house: on the vast, raftlike second floor front porch running the width of the massive house; on the tiny groundfloor stone platform leading to the porch enclosure where pingpong is played; and on the small, run-down porch attached to the second floor rear studio. The massive cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling where Monica has her attic apartment, by contrast, only has the single, broad “groundfloor” front porch (up a flight of six grey board steps), shaded by pine, holly bush, etc. A man and a woman (identities unknown to Monica) are on Greg-and-Lena’s second floor front porch with tall Andy Forest (in jeans and sleeveless white undershirt): sunlight on the bare, muscular arms of Greg’s buddy and band-mate, Grete’s husband, guitarist-carpenter-and-fisherman. Enormity of the ocean — even though it’s at the far end of ABC Street — shines behind everything: all human figures on all porches and everything else. Enormity of ocean’s cool and spicy aroma as well.

Monica is alive — looking, breathing, recording, feeling air on skin — on this March day in 1976, trying to quickly sketch the elements of this instant of life.

What else? Lena Coffin, thin and plaintive, appears just long enough (on the second floor porch?) to cough and to tell Monica that she has bronchitis.

In the short time Lena’s on the porch talking to Monica (with difficulty, while coughing) Greg pops out with a younger man who looks oddly like him (Greg), at least in the quick double/profile Monica glimpses: two tall, lean men with angular-but-not-unfriendly faces. Pops back in at once — directly into the Coffins' spacious (loft-like?) kitchen that’s also their livingroom, diningroom and Greg’s piano room — as if Greg didn’t expect to find Lena on the porch, coughing and talking to someone (invisible to Greg) down below. After Greg’s back inside Lena adds that she wonders if Monica has an opinion on whether or not these two facts are related: 1) Greg has pretty much stopped working, stopped playing with the band, stopped playing solo, and it’s hard to figure out what in life Greg does want if he no longer wants that and 2) she’s been sick an awful lot lately and hasn’t been sleeping. Monica knows that Lena doesn’t want an answer and knows also that if she said even a little of what she’s thinking Lena would never tell her anything again.



On an undated day in March Monica pauses at the intersection of Salem Avenue and ABA Street to look at a tree she doesn’t remember ever having stopped to look at before, not exactly the same as the way she sometimes finds herself in front of a painting, traversing the depth of its surface, no more an illusion than any other reality known only by sight. Looks at it so long she might be reading and re-reading a difficult passage in a novel, listening for a resonance with something remembered from pages or chapters read weeks earlier. What’s stopped her here is the fact that it’s a tree whose branches are reed-like wands: fuzzy and grey-green but also grey-brown with unexpected red-brown tints hard to tell apart from the red-brown and grey-brown tints of the sparrows flying in and out of its green and open tangle.

Foreground colors always intensify background colors? In this case background sky-color of palest pale blue.

Is this tree with reed-like wand-branches what’s known as a “pussy willow”?

Are the “sparrows” really purple finches?

Pausing at the intersection of sun and ocean: warmth of sun settles pleasantly in the dense waves of Monica’s hair and inside her head and clothing: can only smell (not feel on skin) the cool spiciness of ocean breezes trying as usual to see if they can get all the way south —› north across the narrow width of the peninsula and into or even across the bay to the swampy edge of another borough.



How can she possibly know this? Monica wonders while typing March notes: Vicky Liman, the eldest of the Liman children, a girl with straight blonde hair and a long face, in some way horse-like yet also almost-beautiful, has at least one story to tell and must have told it (since Monica finds it recorded in her notes). Vicky Liman’s story is in Monica’s March notes as if she’s the one Vicky told it to, but she has no memory of having talked to Vicky Liman in March or any other time. She couldn’t say two words about the sound of Vicky Liman’s voice, yet here Vicky’s story is and it doesn’t sound (to Monica) filtered through retelling by a second or third voice.

1) Twenty-year-old Vicky Liman is back in New Hampshire with her boyfriend. Therefore her “story” had to have been told before she left.

2) Vicky Liman’s boyfriend is a twenty-six-year-old carpenter, originally from Broad Channel, who moved to a small (un-named) New Hampshire town years ago (how many years not told or not noted).

3) Boyfriend’s lived in New Hampshire so long a) he no longer feels at home in New York and b) has become the town carpenter (the only carpenter in town?).

4) Vicky Liman met her boyfriend when he was on a visit home. (Exactly when and how they met not told or not noted and this missing information makes it hard for Monica to understand how they could have met simply because he was home when their homes are in different neighborhoods.)

5) Vicky’s mother, Audrey (if there’s a Liman husband/father Monica doesn’t recall ever having seen him or heard his name mentioned) “accepts” (the word used in Monica’s notes) Vicky’s boyfriend and even paid Vicky’s way back and forth between New York and New Hampshire.

6) For a few months Audrey Liman was hopeful that Vicky’s boyfriend might move back to New York. His desire to be near Vicky, to see her every day, was so strong that he took an apartment on ABC Street, in Greg-and-Lena’s house, let’s see: 1, 2, 3, 4 or is it 5 houses from the Liman’s house (sandwiched between the Coffin/Forest “mother and daughter” and the Lenehans’ sprawling mess) toward the ocean end of the street. But he had to get back to work and now Vicky’s followed him to New Hampshire.

7) It isn’t clear in Monica’s notes whether it’s Vicky or Audrey who expresses or Audrey and Vicky both who express doubt about whether things will work out now that Vicky’s living with her boyfriend in the small town in New Hampshire where he’s the only carpenter, near absolutely nothing, without her family, without a job and with nothing to do. It also isn’t clear in Monica’s notes if it’s Audrey Liman who says that now that he got exactly what he thinks he wanted the boyfriend may have ruined everything.

Let’s see: Monica doesn’t think her notes clearly tell Vicky Liman’s story. She thinks it’s possible that Vicky Liman wasn’t good at telling her story or there may be all sorts of other reasons, but it seems to her that Vicky Liman’s so-called story is just a catalogue of events whose order probably needs to be reshuffled, even though she doesn’t feel like doing it.

Wonders this too: if the order of events in Vicky Liman’s story were reshuffled would it become possible for Vicky and her boyfriend to be the couple Monica saw with Andy Forest on Greg-and-Lena’s raftlike second floor front porch or for the carpenter-boyfriend to be the tall, angular guy Monica spotted briefly twinning with Greg Coffin, also on the second floor porch?



March 22 is bitter cold and Monica tries to remember if it’s another of Audrey Liman’s definitive weather principles that any cold day after March 21 is meant to be felt as a stinging slap with an ice-covered hand. By late March the longing for spring is so overwhelming (even days of false spring won’t be questioned) that an un-gloved slap of icy rain, snow and 65-mile-an-hour wind is meant to be a cruel lesson in the stupidity of longing. It’s either on the 21st or 22nd (unclear in Monica’s notes) that Monica agrees to walk four blocks west to Lowell’s apartment on ABG Street for breakfast and finds herself walking through bitter wind and freezing rain.



Let’s see: Monica runs into Nelly X two times on March 21st or 22nd: the first time, on the way to Lowell’s place on ABG Street through bitter-cold rain and wind, Monica and Nelly X hurry by one another with only a quick hello. Cross paths, but where? on ABC Street (Monica heading south, toward the boardwalk where she’d make a sharp right turn west, Nelly X headed north toward Coast Boulevard?); on the boardwalk, Monica rushing west through wind-driven rain, Nelly east?; on Coast Boulevard?; the beach?. Nelly X may pause to explain (unclearly) why she’s running (as if the weather isn’t enough of an explanation): it’s already almost eleven (may say “past eleven”) and she was supposed to be at the bus stop on Coast Boulevard to pick up Jimmy five minutes ago!

Monica makes a mental note not to forget — at the appropriate place — to translate into typewriter her handwritten notes about her second encounter with Nelly X.



Monica finds no explanation in her notes for the fact that Lowell isn’t home. There may be an explanation, may even be a note, but all that's recorded is Lowell’s empty apartment, the fact that something is wrong with the plumbing (no running water?) — therefore making breakfast would have been impossible — and the ocean view from the windows of Lowell’s small, second story apartment (three, four, five — Monica realizes she can’t say for sure how many houses from the beach).

Moment of cold sunshine through the windows of Lowell’s empty apartment. Cold that makes ocean’s already-cold blue an odder (deeper?) blue. Long, rust-red stain of the horizon, more red than rust, vividly alive but drying. Not quite the same: the rust-red of the changeable shoreline mirror-horizon: more rust than red, closer to the rust-brown that runs through winter hedges (called “winter’s rust” by Monica and David in section 21 of their long chamber fiction called “Time Table”, still unpublished in March ’76 but written when?).



Monica starts to write something (in her original handwritten notes? or while she’s typing and has a chance to think about what she’d written) about the “chamber fictions” she and David have been experimenting with, but hesitates because there’s too much to say about them and she has the feeling that the Chronicle will spit out like a mouthful of dirt and pebbles the kind of language it would take to talk seriously about the chamber fictions’ relationship to the Space Novels, to the long Green Inventory (Chronicle turned into a symphonic version of the chamber fictions) and also their relationship to the paintings and aesthetics of Mondrian, Rothko and other painters who saw meaning in the positioning and progressive shifting of blocks of color on the painting surface as well as to Michelle Butor’s interesting (interesting-enough-so-that-it-doesn’t-matter-if-he’s-wrong) essays about Rothko, Modrian, etc. — as well as Monica’s and David’s curiosity at this time about how much added significance and depth could be layered into fiction by a) using the wasted landscape of the page, whose topography could be broken up into zones (meaning of what’s written changed by where it appears on the page and the writer bound by a sort of topographical grammar) and/or b) seeing if a second narrative path could be added to the reader’s usual path through sentences and pages: a see-through layering of blocks of narrative from page to page through the space-time within a fiction. All these ideas (and other, related ones) interest Monica and David greatly at this time, but don't interest many others, and so they gradually lose their energy.



Monica walks back toward ABC Street along the shore. Cold sun seems to have burned away cold rain, but sun and wind reinforce one another — or do her handwritten notes say “strike with equal force against her” as she tries to make her way along the beach? March sun, of course stronger than December sun, is borne by wind as a blow against Monica’s face. (Audrey Liman again?)

Now is the place and time that Monica has to remind herself not to forget to type in her second encounter with Nelly X. She can see in her notes, scrawled almost illegibly in a different color ink, that she walked to Lowell’s place by way of the beach (not boardwalk, not Coast Boulevard, etc.) and that’s where she met Nelly X frantically hurrying because she thought she was late picking up Jimmy at his Coast Boulevard bus stop. Monica finds this an interesting fact about Nelly X: frantically hurrying, worried and guilty about little Jimmy, as usual, still she made a wide, looping detour south to the ocean. Why? Because, like Monica, she wanted to feel the full, bitter force of the weather? or for some other, loonier reason? For Monica this hard-to-explain detour by Nelly X helps balance all the irritating qualities that make Nelly X someone to avoid.

Monica can’t believe it: here, exactly at the same time she’s heading back from ABG Street to ABC Street, is Nelly X again! This time with little Troy-Donahue-like Jimmy in tow, again along the shoreline, against the wind. Oddly doesn’t seem to be headed for Ma X’s apartment in the ancient yellow brick apartment house at the intersection of the boardwalk and ABC Street. Nelly pulls Jimmy off the beach with only a vaguely laughing “so long” — up across the boardwalk and down ABD Street, one block short of her mother’s. Image of disappearing, colorful beret and long wool coat down below Nelly X’s ankles. No record of Jimmy’s unremarkable clothing.

*



A few things seem to happen at 4:30 p.m. on March 21st or 22nd:

1) Monica is outside (on porch or street not noted) wrapped in her inherited brown, bear-like mouton against the bitter wind no longer west —› east along the shore, but tunneling with force north —› south down ABC Street from beyond the bay, beyond Brooklyn and Manhattan, burrowing into the ocean at so many points they seem infinite because nobody can bother counting them. Not noted why Monica returned from her cold and windy walk back from Lowell’s, went upstairs, wrapped herself in her bear-like brown mouton and went back down to put herself in the path of the cold again.

2) While standing outside Monica witnesses at least two events:

        a) A doctor enters the Greengrasses’ brick fortress directly across the way (not noted whether down the narrow driveway between the Greengrasses’ and the Sloths’ and through the side door or if allowed through the iron front gate, up the brick porch stairs and through the front door). Doctor’s visit brings to mind the fact that Monica hasn’t seen wiry Enos Greengrass for months.

        b) Not clear where Wanda Baer comes from or whether Monica only sees her in the distance, entering Greg-and-Lena’s house (where Wanda has an odd elbow of an apartment in the attic, bending through the small bedrooms of parents and children) or if Wanda Baer passes Monica and stops for a cold second to say something. She’s wearing nothing as a coat but a brown suede jacket — more like a man’s blazer or sport jacket than anything else — and the fact is, Wanda Baer says, she saw it in the men’s department (store not named or not recorded), loved it and bought it. But now she’s wondering if she looks a little too male in it. Wants Monica’s honest opinion, but she’s too cold to wait for it. May also have said something about looking forward to seeing her French friend, the beautiful and super-sensitive Cristalene — though, of course, as Monica knows, that relationship isn’t and can never be the kind of relationship Wanda would like with Cristalene. Says that everything is superficial right now: a superficial, weightless existence without work and without a relationship. . . . Or it should be weightless, should be light and carefree, but it isn’t. Or, if it’s possible, her existence is weightless but she’s not, always weighed down with anxiety. Her egg whites are never beaten completely: always some stubborn stuff that remains at the bottom of the bowl. . . .

        c) Doctor’s car is gone: never see him leave: a short visit.



On what day in late March does Pat Corcoran find Monica to tell her that Puff is gone again? Does Monica remember that the last time Puff disappeared she turned up in the Bronx?! The story of how she got there and how she was found is a long one. Too long to tell right now, Pat Corcoran says, and this is one of the many times Monica has no trouble deciding whether or not she’s grateful that (through the natural editing of the horizontal day’s random narration) a long story never gets told.



AVOCADO STORIES


In late March Monica’s brother Lowell gives her the gift of a second avocado plant grown from a pit into something beautiful. It seems that the second plant given to Monica is actually the first one grown. Grew it first, gave it second. The first-grown/second-given avocado plant is short with thick, densely leafing stems, more like a small shrub than the first-given/second-grown plant (tall, wandlike stems whose leaves begin high up on the stalk). The tall, first-given avocado plant with its high-up leaves has been standing on Monica’s enormous, found-in-the-trash oak desk/table since when? (Monica makes a mental note to go back and check to see if the arrival of plant and desk coincide and when — when exactly — that was.) At first outlined against one set of bare, nine-paned casement windows and then against the golden rods of the bamboo blinds. Second-given/first-grown, short, thick and densely leafing shrub-like avocado adds asymmetrical balance to the desk: two similar-and-dissimilar plants framing Monica at opposing corners of the desk, against the blinds and windows. It gives Monica great pleasure to work at her desk, surrounded by these never-ending gifts of Lowell’s.

Monica notes this too: all this avocado plant growing and giving (not to mention the plants grown and nurtured from pits by Lowell for himself) hint at the obsessive degree to which Lowell is an avocado-eater in 1976.



After March 22 a number of little occurrences are noted but not always dated, and for that reason it’s easy (later, in August, when Monica’s on the front porch typing her handwritten March notes and to some degree using typing as a preliminary way of editing and putting-in-order) to get the real sequence of events mixed up. Typed and mixed-up sequence of events as good as the real sequence? or do the missing dates change things in ways that matter?

For example: on an undated day that may be March 23 or 24 Monica notes a “blue chill” to the day. Chill penetrates a thin, beautiful layer of warm sunlight. Aroma that isn’t only the aroma of the ocean or even of the cool air blowing inland from it. What is this aroma exactly? Coolness itself an aroma? Sniffing cool air of at least two seasons with the self’s second nose of memory as well? Sunlight lies warmly on the surface of what? Chill is above and below it and so is the color blue, but are the chill of March 23 or 24 and the blue of March 23 or 24 exactly one and the same thing? Block of blue ocean, as always, at the end of the street as if poured there into the bottom of the tall, narrow beaker between ancient yellow and newer red brick apartment buildings. Solid block of cold blue ocean permanently poured out into the bottom end of the street. Blue sky without a cloud — and yet Monica notes the day’s sharply-defined “blue-whiteness”: sailing of 1, 2, 3, 4, maybe 5 or 6 or even more three story, turn-of-the-century white shingle houses through blue sky (and through what else?). May be on this white surface that warm sun lies, very precisely clipped-in by cold blue. . . .

March 23 is noted clearly for two things: Monica’s lingering cold (voice still not back to normal) and, in the house’s communal mail box, a letter addressed to Yvonne Wilding from a Mrs. C. Grogan, 523 Clovelly Lane, Clovelly 1302, Sydney, Australia. The surface of the envelope of course tells Monica nothing beyond the obvious, but does make her wonder what could have happened in Australia to make someone write to slouching-and-goodlooking-clever-and-indifferent Yvonne, who rarely (never?) talks about her life in Australia and seems to have severed all family ties. . . .

One day it’s cold, another day not as cold, but which ones? “Thursday” and “Saturday” are noted but not clearly attached to corresponding temperatures. And then another day is “not as cold as yesterday”. At 5 p.m. of an undated day in late March the beach is unusually long, unusually golden and the undersides of waves are both green and warm (or notes may say “a warm green”). Is it also at 5 p.m. of the same day that a ship with a red smokestack is approaching (seeming to angle southeast out of the harbor and Narrows?). By chance Monica is taking this note on an undated day in March (on the beach or when she gets home) in red ink. In red ink she notes the distant ship’s red smokestack and the distant approach along the shore of a woman in a red coat, strolling arm in arm with a man whose dark clothing is not noted. Also noted in red ink (lingering on the cold beach after dark): a red bonfire (at first only something oddly red and bright in the sand, more star-like than flame-like, before Monica realizes that it’s a bonfire no more than one block west from where she’s standing or sitting).



Monica can’t say why a television news story on August 4 makes her lean back out of March. Typing the March Chronicle on August 4 she should be outside, but (even though it’s not noted) it’s possible that she’s indoors at her enormous oak desk/table in the green room (where there’s a television that could be turned on and visible) because August heat has taken over the porch, slipping under the second story overhang with afternoon sunlight, while, with casement windows cranked wide open to catch north flowing —› breezes from the ocean or <— south flowing breezes trying to get across the Atlantic from Canada, the plaster walls retain a green coolness.

Twenty-four deaths from “a mysterious illness” are reported at an American Legion Convention in Philadelphia, “cause unknown”. One-hundred-and-forty-some-odd people who attended the convention have been hospitalized: one or two have already “recovered” and been released while those who died did so rapidly after developing fevers of up to 107 degrees. Television news report makes this much clear: the mysterious illness affects the lungs, causes dangerously high levels of fever and severe headaches. While no one has suggested the possibility of foul play, Philadelphia homicide detectives have been seen questioning those who attended the convention without having to be hospitalized and are pursuing conventioneers who’ve scattered across the country.

Then, in August, pulled out of March by this strange news report from another reality, or later, Monica wonders what about this story cut across writing or typing.



On the same or another undated day in late March Monica makes note of the fact that her new bamboo blinds will change (have already changed) her easy way of exactly locating events occurring in or across her windows: lefthand or righthand set of nine small panes and within these sets upper, middle, lower, this corner or that corner, etc.: in this way the old casement windows mapped whatever happened in them with their own very precise brand of latitude and longitude — very much like the grid structure of the Blue Hangar in Floyd Bennet Airfield that Monica and David used in THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL to pinpoint the location of random events. Now, with the blinds lowered, light is more or less intense, less or more golden within a net of imperfectly ruled horizontal lines, but no way (for example) of tracking a bird’s flight path. . . .

On the same undated day in late March the sky is as blue (and also as cloudless?) as it should be and there’s as much green in the ocean as on land: whether warm green currents or cold green currents Monica has trouble telling from porch or open window (blinds raised); a perfect blue-green world with escalating bird sounds at a broken and scattered, hard-to-locate mid-air level.



Monica notes that writing about the blue sky is always a problem: is the blue sky inevitably “sky blue”, for example? She knows that Rilke, in his letters, thinking about Cézanne, was troubled by the color blue: wrestled with all the blues there are and the need to find a new language to get at the truth of the exact blue of the moment, just as with everything. Always the imperative to push away received language, the lazy common language of approximate truth. Sky may be (as it is now, as she writes or types) “sky blue” one minute and then the fine, rounded tip of something invisible draws a thin but slightly fuzzy chalk line across a great length of it — starts as a dull or gleaming point and at once is a fuzzed chalk line getting fatter and more cottony by the millisecond, utterly changing the blue around it. White changes blue? or line may be accompanied by something rumbling and explosive that’s inaudible to Monica on the front porch on ABC Street or there may be some other inaudible or invisible disturbance that changes one blue to another blue. Now sky may even be the blue of a pack of Gauloises “disques bleu” that arrives un-asked-for in the mail. . . .

Let’s see: what else happens on this undated day (same or another): Monica can’t say how she knows which Greengrass car is Sylvia Greengrass’s and which is Enos Greengrass’s but she must know because she writes that Sylvia Greengrass’s car (make, model, color not noted) pulls up at the curb (not in the narrow driveway between the Greengrasses’ and the Sloths’) and Sylvia Greengrass, next-door-neighbor-to-the-south Al Regan, thirty-year-old Greengrass daughter, Leslie, and Enos Greengrass, looking barely alive, get out. Monica is startled: always compact and energetic — a short, sun-darkened, tightly-wired, bald and bare-chested, compulsive driveway-hoser — Enos Greengrass looks slack, yellow, boneless, a peculiarly clay yellow little chicken being gripped by its boneless wings by Al and Sylvia. . . . Doesn’t seem to want to be held up: wants to sink to the ground and they have to take deeper handfuls to get him down the driveway, Leslie Greengrass following with Enos’ walker, through the brick fortress’s side door. . . .



On the same undated March day or another.

At about the same time as the Greengrass incident (or not at the same time at all).

Ryan Lenehan (middle of the three Lenehan boys, third eldest of the four Lenehan children) passes, on the way home south <— north from school, carrying a heavy load of books.

Passes again, bicycling south —› north toward Coast Boulevard and beyond.

Passes a third time (how much later?), again heading south —› north (having bicycled round the back of everything), bouncing a basketball. Round basketball wants to get to the round center of Earth, but yellow-grey pavement rejects it. The thud of this rejection, the stunned look on the basketball’s face, then another thud — how many? — from one margin to the other. Ryan calls out to Monica, “basketball practice!”, then disappears behind the holly bushes.

Not noted how much time passes before apple-faced Finnley Lenehan passes, elated, on his skateboard.

*



At 4:30 exactly on the same day a brilliant arrow of green light darts across the Regans’ lawn, under the giant elm, altering the green of the early grass to something hard to name, more like the water-light that passes through an old bottle fired green with a mineral salt no one remembers. Arrow of light doesn’t come to rest on the Regans’ lawn. Its light is odd and beautiful, but it behaves like something aimed right at one of the three hunched and dark-haired Arlington sisters who’ve just arrived home at their little ranch house under (just south of) the Regans’ old three story white shingle. Monica tries (while writing in March or typing in June, July or August) to remember the Arlington sisters’ names: knows there’s a Lorna and then there’s one whose name Monica can’t remember, though she does remember that her daughter’s name is Eunice. And then there’s the third sister (whose name escapes Monica at the moment of writing and then again at the moment of typing) who (how does Monica know this?) stays up most of the night, doesn’t fall asleep until the world is starting to show some blue light and then sleeps till noon or beyond. (In other words, there’s an Arlington sister who keeps the same hours as David!)

Let’s see: at what hour after 4:30 does Ryan Lenehan return from basketball practice, decide to sit on the front steps with Monica and chat. Has a story to tell that, as it unfolds, Monica isn’t sure she wants to hear (yet she records it): the Lenehan family knows a woman named Carla Ray Carlson, also known simply as Carla Carlson — who for some reason (Ryan knows this for a fact because he’s seen her do it!) signs her checks Carlita Carlson. But who exactly is Carla Ray or Carlita Carlson? Monica wants to know — and how did Ryan’s mother Nora, or the whole family, get to know her? Ryan tries to find an answer by dribbling his basketball — and the basketball does have something to say, but Ryan realizes that he’d need to know more than Morse code to decipher it and says that he never asked himself that question. It’s an interesting question, but he never thought about it. There are people who are in his life as if they’ve always been there and most of them — Monica is probably right — come from his mother. Mother meets them somewhere and then the whole family gets involved one way or another and you forget how you met them.

He can say this: the thing he thinks of first when he thinks of Carla Ray Carlson is that when he met her she had to weigh 300 pounds minimum and hardly ever got out of bed. Had to go to her place to see her. Weird thing is that his mother, the one who’s friendliest with Carla Carlson and sometimes even shopped for her and did other things to help her, was the one who joked about her weight and told the family things they probably didn’t need to know. Monica knows how his mother can crack herself up: great at telling stories, great at finding exactly the right words to make you see the most ridiculous image of someone — someone who might be stupid, for example, looks like a complete idiot when she describes him — and you can’t stop laughing even if you know it’s wrong and his mother of course is doubled over coughing and laughing and getting as red as if blood is going to come out of her eyes. He knows that Monica’s seen his mother that way. Well: his mother found the image of Carla Ray Carlson in bed, getting flabbier every day, white as dough made of nothing but milk and flour, without a muscle, unable to get up and stand on her feet anymore, hilarious. Had a whole routine she did that made her hysterical. She got such a kick out of telling the story about the time Carla found blood in her panties and couldn’t figure out why (an image he wishes he didn’t have in his mind!) that she could hardly get through it. But the other side of it of course is that without his mother Carla Ray Carlson might be dead. His mother went up there (sometimes she got Bobby Rafferty or Patty Callaghan to go with her) and called for an ambulance at least three times that he knows of, but Carla Ray refused to go. And it was his mother who realized that Carla had suddenly started losing an insane amount of weight. She said “ninety pounds in two weeks”, but he has no way of knowing if that’s true. Finally it was his mother who made the decision for Carla and that’s the reason Carla Ray Carlson’s been in Bayview Hospital since December. Thinks he heard someone say “cancer”, but when he asks a question no one gives him an honest answer. Doesn’t know either what anyone’s told his father because his father’s been sneaking bottles of brandy and lemon meringue pies to Carla whenever she asks for them and who can say whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.



These are some of the things the Chronicle does:    it continues (a daily infinity).

                                                                            it walks (sometimes takes a drive) horizontally down ABC Street or through the neighborhood.

                                                                            it keeps low to the ground, as if longing to move horizontally along the ground like the passing world it records, but also likes to glide over the roofs, parallel to the ground, and to settle on tree-branches.

                                                                            It also asks itself questions: does it stay mainly in its own neighborhood because there are laws (even if they’re laws invented by itself) that keep its universe bounded?

                                                                            Is it right to feel itself to be a universe, infinite in its own way, inclusive and digressive yet absolutely made of certain materials and not others? Some materials are pulled into it, others tossed out.

                                                                            Are its laws absolute or are they free to change themselves?



On March 24 bright yellow bath towels (exactly what yellow not noted, except that the yellow is so bright, flat and saturated it’s more like the yellow sheets of scrap paper — called “canary” yellow — she sometimes uses than like the absorbent surface of dyed cotton with its micro-shadows of tiny thread-loops) and soft rose-pink bath towels are reflected in Naomi Rosenwasser’s front (east-facing) picture window. Towels are reflected in an overlapping way — yellow flaps over rose-pink, rose-pink flaps over yellow and so on, randomly as the breeze moves and changes, sometimes in surprising, multiple layers of rose-pink-yellow-rose-pink etc. Monica loves the unstable beauty of the world as it frames itself and disappears. Can’t chase this beauty or this instability; can barely notice it as it forms, reforms and goes away. Rosenwassers’ picture window is on the second floor of the two story house where the Arlington sisters have their groundfloor apartment: therefore Monica realizes that what she wrote before about the Arlingtons living in a “ranch house” isn’t true. Isn’t a ranch house, just looks like one.

Monica is awake and outside by 9 a.m. Must be on the porch, her gaze angling slightly west and south to catch sight of the briefly framed towel reflections. Also sees light (from the direction of the ocean and doubly bright for that reason, as if the air has swallowed an ocean of reflections) evenly cut and spaced out on the grey planks of the porch floor by the bars of the left-hand (southernmost) railing. What’s seen and what’s heard can (to what exact degree?) be recorded, but only a living being can feel and smell air: its precise coolness, in what way its coolness is spring-like, coolness of the particles of ocean aroma that are carried in what’s pulsing north along the street. . . .

What else?

Pinpoints of light at the needle-edges of the odd, off-green of the Rhinebeck pine.

Smoky green lawns in the distance, like so many cups of green tea giving off their vapors.

Bolts of color (flowers that are actually there, but haven’t bloomed yet).

Light now dripping in pine tree (can almost see the drops forming and dripping from the needle-edges) and the glowing undersides of the dark, not-exactly-jade-green of the boughs as well. If not exactly “jade”, then what is the name of this dark green underside that has a smoky or ashen green overside?

The yellow sun-surface of what?

At exactly the same instant: David comes downstairs with a mug of foamy, steaming coffee for Monica to sip while she works in chilly but springlike air and Lena Coffin’s old car coughs and tries to clear its throat, struggling to shake off the morning chill and get started in the cracked and weedy earth-and-pavement driveway just below the south railing of Monica’s porch and also just to the left of the front grey board steps where she’s sitting, only partly hidden by the Rhinebeck pine. Monica can’t see Lena behind the wheel, but she can see Jojo and Rosamond Coffin in the back seat, where sunlight must be making it warm and boring.


Sipping hot coffee and utterly within its steam and aroma: bubble inside the day, side door into the day or step back from the day? Sipping hot coffee on a chilly March morning also a step back from writing and a step back from writing = less looking, less hearing, less being in the day in every possible way?


Noise of a helicopter shreds experience in its blender along with leaves, wind and dirt. There it is: a blue helicopter hovering at the south end of ABC Street, above the ocean and doubly or triply noisy because it’s fallen into the narrow beaker between apartment buildings that always has dark blue ocean at the bottom of it. Shredding of Monica’s private coffee bubble makes it possible for her to see that the brilliance and deep saturation of the towel-colors in Naomi Rosenwasser’s picture window have faded to dullest yellow, weakest pink and even a lifeless white.



Where did Peter Hedges (Janey Hedges’ husband) come from? Here he is, asking Monica politely if he’s interrupting anything — if she minds him waiting for Al Szarka on the steps with her? Fact that he’s already sitting, already uncapping a bottle of beer (brand not noted) doesn’t mean he isn’t being polite. As always, Peter Hedges has a paper bag of beer bottles with him, loose and rattling and clinking, not bound in a six-pack. Offers Monica a beer and/or a cigarette. In no time at all Peter Hedges is deep into beer: one beer smoothly after the other, as if drinking one continuous beer artificially broken into units, each cap that has to be popped a tiny pause in the lifelong beer stream. Are these tiny pauses the openings Peter Hedges needs to take in the world and assess it?

Peter Hedges has stories to tell and for some reason is eager to tell them to Monica.

He’s seen Monica on the steps or on the porch for months, looking around, writing stuff down, sometimes with a typewriter, most of the time with pen and paper. What could there be to write about in this neighborhood? Looks down the street while she’s writing — as if it’s a sketch pad and she’s sketching in a hurry before something turns into something else: nothing’s happening, there’s not even anything to see. His curiosity about what she’s doing is similar to suspicion. Can’t trust anything Al Szarka or Yvonne Wilding have to say about it and if Janey says that she likes Monica that means nothing. None of them has a clue about anything. But he’s worried that he may not be able to figure out what she’s after just by studying her while he tells his story.

Janey is pregnant again (in her eighth month). Married less than a year and here comes a second kid! No! not “less than a year”! Today is actually their anniversary! She was on the pill, but it made her bleed — so they had to drop that and buy a diaphragm for $40 and of course it didn’t work. How does he know it didn’t work? Laugh is harsh. Cause they used it once and here they are! But he’s going to make sure that never happens again.

He’ll lay out their financial situation and then he’d like to hear Monica’s opinion about whether they can afford a third (can they even afford a second?) child. They’re on Welfare. They get Medicaid. They get $190 every two weeks and Medicaid is paying the $1400 medical bill. Rent is $250 a month for two bedrooms, two baths on ACE Street. A two bedroom apartment on ACE Street isn’t his idea of living. Janey thinks that new carpeting will solve all their problems. He thinks that the only thing that can possibly solve their problems is planning. Have to plan for the future. Don’t spend money on stupid stuff like carpeting. Put money away for a house. Paying rent all your life is as stupid as working for someone all your life. Doesn’t know if Monica knows that he’s already in the contracting business with his older brother, Louie, who lives just up the block from Monica with his wife and new baby daughter. The business grosses $120,000 a year, but of course that’s not figuring in all their expenses: equipment, materials, etc. And the other problem is that they can’t take on anything but meaningless jobs because they’re not declaring their earnings. They haven’t been paying taxes, period. So, until they start doing that, they can’t think of themselves as a real business, can’t expand, can’t earn serious money. . . .

The good news is that right now his father’s putting a foundation under the summer cottage he’s always had out at Windy Pass so that he and Janey can have a year-round home of their own until they can afford something else. So that’s good, but it isn’t done yet and (knowing his father) god alone knows when it will be. So that’s uncertain — and there’s the business that isn’t really a business to worry about — and the second kid on the way. But what Janey’s worried and miserable about is the old carpeting! It makes him nuts. . . !

It isn’t easy for Monica to be certain what it is (what it is exactly) Peter Hedges wants from her and before she can think of the exact right thing to say Al Szarka joins them on the porch, his energy, as usual, the energy of the point of an elbow aimed at someone’s ribs.

Peter leaves to visit his brother Louie and Al Szarka decides not to go with him. His sharp edges can’t find a comfortable spot to settle down on, but Monica can see that Al, conscious of the fact that Peter Hedges — instead of escaping upstairs to Al’s place, bringing his bag of beers with him – hung out down here with Monica, yapping about god-alone-knows-what for half-an-hour or more, has the urge to tell Monica a story (or at least some broken fragment of a story) too.

Not sure what he wants to say, so begins like this: Does Monica know (that is, did Peter tell her?) that Peter got married when he was only seventeen? He’s only eighteen now, but looks much older.

Al (Monica doesn’t see him up close too often) has home-cut blond hair, unusually sharp teeth — like a whole mouth full of incisors — and blue eyes that are intensely focused (insanely focused?) but also somewhat watery. Voice has too much emotion in it no matter what he’s talking about, and it’s not always easy to tell if he’s enraged or overjoyed or just miserable to the point of anguish.

He says the lesson of Peter and Janey is not lost on him. Al is twenty-two (an old twenty-two?) and there’s no way. . . . All you have to do is look at your friends who’re married. Take a good look, especially at the ones who ran to have children right away . . . . He can’t picture it. “Married with a baby.” And still living like this? The way they all live, crowded into these little apartments, arguing about money. . . . Can Monica imagine Yvonne. . . ? Taking care of a baby? Makes himself laugh (with affection?): thinking of the absurdity of the idea of Yvonne taking care of a baby. . . . Peter and Janey couldn’t be doing it without Welfare and Medicaid. Peter actually had someone write up a document — someone who could write decent English — that said that Peter’s mother had been supporting them but now she was sick or something and couldn’t do it anymore (mother signed an affidavit confirming it) — so they could apply for Welfare and Medicaid. And Welfare believed it and gave them everything they wanted! But all that lying and all that red tape is not for him.



Monica would like to find a way to insert a cardinal’s song right here. There it is (as it often is), blood red on her neighbor’s tv antenna, its throat pulsing as if having no choice but to translate the coded electrons arriving through its feet. The opening notes are always startling: ecstatic, lyrical and very clearly shaped, ascending in a fixed sequence of elongated ovals — up through the tangled tree branches above the roofs and antennas. Ecstasy trails off and is interfered with, as always, by codes that are less lyrical, rougher, more guttural, less shaped. Still the cardinal? Is its coded song that complex? Or just the tangle of what it’s provoked. Just as Monica thinks she may be getting the hang of the cardinal’s song so that she might find a way to note it down on paper, like overhearing and writing down from memory the long, intimate monologue of someone at a restaurant table, it leaves: over two roofs or twenty: onto another antenna or settling somewhere in the wide-open weaving of the neighborhood.

*



“Later on the same day” Monica is taking a walk and stops on ABA Street to look at a tree: its wand-like branches are a fuzzy grey-green, like pussy willows. The owner of the tree (lawn it’s on, house behind it, etc.) appears (exactly from where not noted) and greets Monica warmly. Introduces himself as Xylon and says that he’s observed Monica observing the tree many times. It gives him almost as much satisfaction that someone else is paying attention to the invisible stages of the tree’s development as the fact that the tree has been flowering since February. He’s been able to watch the tree and to keep track of the handful of neighborhood people who come by regularly to look at it because he’s been home from work, recovering from a long illness. Indoors for months, confined to bed for endless stretches, he was forced to spend long hours looking out his bedroom window. He’s seen Monica alone and also a few times with her friend and in certain ways he feels he knows them.

He has a story to tell and this is it in a nutshell: being sick is a similar twilight state to retirement or retirement is a similar twilight state to sickness, but in fact he’s a long way from retirement. Even today, for example, he was asked to travel halfway across the country as a consultant on an irrigation project but had to say no. He’s an agronomist with advanced degrees in chemistry and engineering who emigrated to the States from Greece in 1939. Initially taught at Princeton but quickly realized that he needed to make more money and took a job in private industry.

There’s more to Xylon’s story, but what is it?

Conversation goes on a while longer, but at some point Monica becomes conscious of the fact that she doesn’t want to hear or know more about Xylon; she wants to get home to get down on paper whatever it is in the meeting that interests her or find out what interests her by getting it down on paper.

Let’s see: it’s not perfectly clear to her, but she thinks that Xylon said that he has two daughters: one who’s already married and a policewoman who he admires: married and a policewoman, yet also in law school. While the other one — the younger one —cares only about marrying her boyfriend: stays in college only because he’s forcing her to get a degree. (Optimistic about one, has no hope for the other.)

Hurriedly taking notes “later on the same day” Monica wonders when in his story she became aware (what exactly in his story made her become aware) that Xylon’s older daughter once was Wanda Baer’s roommate! If, Monica reasons, Xylon voiced some worry (can’t say for sure whether he did or didn’t) that his older daughter weighs three hundred pounds or more then, logically, that should be what reminded her that Wanda Baer once had a three hundred pound policewoman-roommate, about to get married and determined to go to law school no matter what. On the other hand, Monica reasons, Xylon had to have said something about his daughter’s weight, otherwise how could it have entered her mind and helped her connect Xylon’s daughter to Wanda Baer?

Monica is positive too that Xylon said something else to reinforce her certainty about the connection between Wanda Baer and his daughter but later (while translating handwritten notes into typewriter) can’t find it.

What else?: the ball-shaped tips of the pussy willow wands are turning yellow-green and there may even be a flush of a color that may not be red but makes you think of red. . . .

This too: Xylon apologizes to Monica for the run-down condition of his lawn and house and blames their neglect on his prolonged illness.



In other words: an apology, like most, that secretly contains its own denial?



Any test for the truth of the stories we’re told? Or: whether true in some ways, not true in others, true in yet another way just because they’re told.



Monica asks herself some questions while taking her note or later, while typing and editing her note. For example:

                 Is any event ever unique (only happened once, to us, therefore no one else can truly understand it)?

                 Is any event ever universal (whatever happens to us has also happened/also will happen to everyone, therefore everyone can understand it)?

Corollary to these questions: is she the only one (because of the perspective on how life works — patterns it forms of its own accord — given to her by years of Chronicling) who sees the connection between Wanda Baer and Xylon’s daughter as the central reason for meeting and listening to Xylon?: always-always the freakish lightening bolt of randomness that strikes us in the course of our horizontal path through the day that may actually be an even more freakish lightening bolt of order — invisible as order when viewed through the microscopic or telescopic perspective of life cut into units by the sharp chef’s knife of habit.



Xylon fell in love with the pussy willow tree when he saw it in Russia, so he imported one from Russia as soon as he bought his house. Planted it on his front lawn, unlike many others who keep their pussy willow trees indoors all year so that the warm interior will make their little trees flower during the winter for their owners alone.



When does Monica find out (and who is it that could have set her straight?) that an essential fact (one that she wasn’t sure she heard or remembered clearly) in Xylon’s story is wrong?

Xylon has three daughters, not two:

Eldest daughter (one missing in Monica's notes), leading a straightforward, conventional life as wife and probably mother too.

Youngest daughter, exactly as described.

Middle daughter is the three-hundred-pound-plus policewoman, going to law school, unmarried, whether gay or not not noted (or known) who was once-upon-a-time Wanda Baer’s roommate (Monica still can’t figure out when or where).

Where does this new, correct information about Xylon and his daughters come from? Neither noted nor remembered. (Not noted = not remembered.) The only possible source Monica can think of — the only one Monica knows who would know the facts — is Wanda Baer.



Monica doesn’t feel like going back and editing what’s already written and printed to bring it in line with the true version of events learned later. Leaves it to the reader to correct it or leave it alone.



On the way down ABC Street toward the boardwalk at 9:30 a.m. (on an undated day in late March) Monica sees Jojo Coffin waving to her as she approaches Babette-and-Grete’s “mother and daughter” just before and below the ancient yellow brick apartment house. Beautiful, tadpole-faced Jojo is in the passenger seat of Babette’s cocoa brown Camaro convertible. Monica stops to chat because it’s clear that Jojo wants her attention (has a tiny fragment of a story to tell): Rosamond (frowning, looking miserable in the back seat) is waiting for Grandma to drive her to the doctor. She has an awful case of pink-eye and her teacher told her not to come to school. So she’s home — might be home for days — and she’s grumpy.

*




On a day of unearthly beauty in late March:

Pat Corcoran’s washing machine is on the blink and Pat and Philip Corcoran are on their way (by car? on foot with a shopping cart? not noted) to the big, dreary laundromat on the run-down commercial block of AAF Street leading to boardwalk and beach.

A big pile of Themis’s stained Cornucopia Diner uniforms and aprons (along with other laundry?) is heaped in a laundry basket on the porch, but no sign of Themis.

Yvonne Wilding slouches up the porch steps, looking no more depressed, no more burdened than usual under a heavy sack of freshly-washed laundry.



“On Sunday” ABC Street’s forsythias are revived by the sun: drink it up and absorb a pure yellow from it. Is it the forsythias and their agitated yellow (almost blinding: saturated with yellow and radiating what can’t be absorbed) that are fragrant? All of ABC Street (all of this unusual New York City neighborhood by the sea?) radiant with sun being converted to yellow and spicy with fragrances from sources so multiple it would be impossible for Monica to list them. Monica would have to walk down every block and find every flower and shrub that’s just reached the point of beginning to release curled-up fragrance. Too much walking? Too many steps would inevitably equal too many words. And sometimes (often) chronicling requires having to write yourself out of words.

Monica wonders this: if the forsythias of ABC Street are revived — a wide-awake yellow instead of a drowsy yellow — then what can the already-wide-awake forsythias of ABA Street be like?

Walking from ABC Street toward ABA Street through a breezy world that seems all blue and yellow, but how many blues and how many yellows? Everywhere (stopping to look up, down, sideways, sniff the air and feel air on skin, etc.) Monica finds herself looking through butter yellow blossoms and chrome yellow wands at blues that have no end or back or bottom to them. Self or soul gazes into blue as if it wants to travel into what’s programmed to move away from it.

Monica finds herself again in front of the golden branches of Xylon’s tree, which Nelly X insists is “just a willow, not a pussy willow”.

Golden yellow of the reed-or-wand-like branches of Xylon’s tree makes the sky’s blue darker. Sail-like billowing of this darker blue like a blue skirt trying to turn a windy corner.

Wind in the sails of what?

Day condenses into a concentrated little blue-and-yellow blob way up in the open tangle of wand-branches — blob that hops along the branches and then squeezes out a sequence of song notes and squawk notes so long and complex there’s no way for Monica to remember or note it: underside of fat little bird is the glowing gold-yellow of Xylon’s tree, blue of back (and beak as well?) so dark it’s even darker than the sky’s indigo through Xylon’s golden branches.

Later on the same day the ocean is golden and oddly furrowed, like a wheatfield, and all the shore birds flying over it are the color of oatmeal the way Monica likes it — with lots of melted butter and cream folded in.



On the same heavenly day or on the next colder and breezier day Monica runs into Pat Corcoran’s young friend, Cathy Castle, approaching the house — on her way to visit Pat Corcoran — just as Monica is leaving. A young mother with three children, Cathy Castle’s face is (or was when Monica first met her) a tight little acorn of girlishness. A girlish, rather short young mother — a sapling when Monica first met her, now thickening a little into a tree — whose girlish acorn-face seems to age years in the span of months between their accidental meetings.

Today Cathy Castle looks exhausted (fresh wrinkles around the eyes) and says that she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in years. Hesitates. Should she say more? She has a story to tell but doesn’t want Monica to think of her as a complainer. Doesn’t want to think of herself as a complainer: one of those chronic complainers who have a story to tell whenever you have the bad luck to run into them and whose stories are nothing but complaints. On the other hand: what story does she have to tell other than her complaints? If her life is nothing but problems and her story is nothing but complaints about them and she can tell that someone (Monica) sees in her eyes that she’s worn out — that she’s aging overnight exactly because she’s worn out — which path should you follow?: tell your endless sour story of complaints or shut up? Shut up and say nothing or tell Monica what Monica is probably already guessing. Doesn’t Monica agree that we generally only tell people what we suspect they already know? So why not tell Monica some of the things she’s probably not going to tell Pat Corcoran? (Pretty much tells Pat only what she wouldn’t mind posting on the supermarket bulletin board.)

Says that she knows she’s starting to look weird: like an aging little girl.

Hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in years. Three-year-old twins, Debby and Patrick, who she has with her now — on foot, not in their busted, hand-me-down carriage that’s impossible to wheel (might as well carry it) — sleep in the same room as her (Cathy) and her husband (name not noted or never known). Both Debby and Patrick are early risers. If one of them sleeps late the other’s sure to wake up early (this morning, for example, they both woke up pretty much simultaneously at 5 a.m.), so her sleep is always interrupted.

Yesterday she got up at 6 a.m. to take Scarlet to the hospital: her throat was painful and she had to have her tonsils out. Should have been simple, should have been “routine”, but nothing is ever routine or simple when you go to Bayview Hospital. They didn’t admit that something went wrong, but she could tell: kept Scarlet for observation all afternoon (she (Cathy) had to take a couple of buses home and then bus back in the evening to pick Scarlet up because they had no bed for her overnight) and then they gave her a thousand warnings about bleeding. “Pay close attention! Watch carefully for any sign of bleeding if she coughs!” etc. etc. So of course she was a nervous wreck, had Scarlet sleep with her and watched her all night instead of sleeping.

Life might be a little easier if she got some help, but she doesn’t.

Her husband (Monica notes that Cathy Castle never uses his name) works nights, so he’s useless night and day.

Her mother’s dead.

Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who obviously know her situation better than anyone) never ever offer to help and her husband never tells them to help, so even though she knows it might be dumb she never gets any help because she refuses to ask.

What else?

Cooped up all winter and going nuts.

Weight dropped from 135 to 117 in three months because she was so miserable she stopped eating. Cooped up, looking at the same worn-out furniture, hearing the same conversations, she couldn’t stand the sight of food. She loves chicken. Can usually eat chicken any time in any form. And she likes potatoes just about any way you cook them too. So last night she made some breast of chicken the way she likes it (no recipe given) and a big pot of fresh mashed potato and the children loved it and her husband ate a big meal before going to work but the chicken disgusted her and all she could eat was a few forkfuls of potato. . . .



Lena Coffin doesn’t know what to do.

Someone’s parked her/his car at the mouth of the driveway and gone to the beach. Driveway’s blocked and Lena can’t back out. Starts honking, quickly figures out that honking is pointless, gets out of her car, paces a little trying to find a solution by studying the driveway, says something to Monica writing on her porch without expecting an answer and gets behind the parked car and stares at it as if trying to concentrate enough furious energy to push it out of the way.

Margaret Brennan and golden, light-as-air little Daisy Brennan wave and say “hi” to Lena and to Monica on their way home from the beach to their apartment in Alexi’s house toward the northern end of the street, but Lena’s too angry to wave back or even to see them.

*



Same day or another?

Notes (“out of order”) that Monica forgot to include or different notes about a similar experience on a different day?

Light-of-day is particularly clear and clean, but the moist ash-green needles of the tall Rhinebeck pine are dripping with something that resembles sleep.

If not sleep, what is it (dark and dripping under shaggy boughs)?

As the day continues breezes wake the pine tree up and make its needles shine.

Blows light in them.

Blows light out of them.

Blows light off and through them.

Now Monica sees bits and dashes of brilliant yellow forsythia through the broken plane of ash-green pine.

Light-of-day lends radiance to needle-leaves and yellow forsythia wands and glowing yellow and shining ash-green add a lustrous moistness to light-of-day.

Everything breathing in the light of everything else.

Radiance of each becomes the radiance of the other.

Absorbed from each and given to each.

On this supremely clear and radiant day everything invents everything else.

Sky can’t escape it.

What more (Monica wonders) can be said about its blue, recessive and cloudless, hiding another blue in whatever blue you think you’ve gotten to the bottom of.



No matter what, Monica wants always to record the fact that she’s here — taking notes because she’s alive and alive because she’s taking notes — on this day (whatever day), but today even more so.



Anyone (David, for example) waking up after 11 a.m. on this day will have no idea of the day. Already fading into ordinariness by eleven. Blue whitens in a subtle way and, with the subtle whitening of sky’s blue-in-blue, light on Earth gets duller, loses its power to animate one thing with another.



Working on the porch, smoking a solitary cigarette, sipping creamy iced coffee.



Enough of March has passed (from handwritten page to typewritten page) that when Monica leans back out of March it’s Friday, August 10 and Dominick Ianni is mowing Sylvia Greengrass’s lawn in plain, bright sunshine. Hot, as it should be. Noise of cicadas at its height (also as it should be). Monica wonders if it’s accurate to say that the noise of cicadas has a tapering shape to it, drilling its way to a point, while the noise that’s made by Dominick Ianni’s crew of industrial strength lawnmowers is wide and shapeless: pointed drilling of cicadas easily threshed up in its blades and engines. Atmosphere mangled with noise is also fragrant with freshly-cut grass. (Monica wishes that a reader with some idea of the math and physics of it could supply even an approximate number of just-cut slices of grass and weed blades.)



Monica may have pulled back her porch rocker entirely — away from typewriter and March notes that aren’t always easy to decipher — because she feels compelled to stay where she is and get some things that happened/are happening today into writing before their cell structures weaken and they turn into the slush of memory.

Let’s see: the last vase of hydrangeas was discarded earlier (whether a cloud of Monica’s favorite but undescribed, light-but-saturated-not-quite-sky-or-French-or-ultramarine-blue or some other impossibly shaded hydrangea color not noted and not noted either which neighbor’s overloaded bush David clipped them from).

No more hydrangeas to cut, therefore the end of one of the season’s inner, un-named seasons?

Her rocker pushed a little back from her typewriter, Monica’s trying to block out August in one way in order to write about it in another. More about hydrangeas? She doesn’t think so: other events of this August day that she had in mind to sketch in are refusing to be re-lived in language. Why would that be? Writing isn’t “automatic”, but she doesn’t have to remind herself to do what’s harder than it seems and let the pen conform to experience. And yet: it’s as if there’s a shadow or a branch in the mind’s way. . . . Turns her head a little and sees an enormous, unfamiliar young man (a “boy” of no more than fourteen or fifteen) crossing the wide porch boards from the front door toward the porch steps with an odd, padding softness, a little bear-like. Goes down the porch steps and some of his weight seems to rejoin him: carries sacks of trash from inside the house down the steps with ordinary human thudding.

Doesn’t head back in.

Sees Monica in the south-west corner in the shade of the pine — not typing (writing in a spiral-bound, narrow-ruled notebook), but with a typewriter in front of her on a bench and seems attracted to it. Crosses the porch, traversing the length of the wall where the Corcorans’ windows and door are, all the way to the railing (and behind Monica): an enormous figure padding quietly, but not necessarily trying to be quiet. More like an animal with padded feet that manages to arrive right next to you from the deep distance: shaggy and noiseless, now you know it’s there because you can hear it breathing.

Stands behind her contemplating the back of her head and may be trying to read what she’s writing. Can’t be sure. Staring at her typewriter? Just enough of a shadow to keep her from doing the writing that took her out of March.

May stand there, staring and breathing — padding back across the porch — approaching again, etc. — going back and forth across the porch like that for a while (saying nothing) before going in. Young, completely blank (and stupid?) face may help make the enormous figure odd but not as menacing as it could be. Monica thinks, for example, of Pam Leary’s enormous brother, Rudi Jolley, who came to visit when Pam and Ted Leary lived in the apartment below Monica’s and whose aura made you look over your shoulder as you walked up the porch steps on a dark night.

Enormous boy goes in and strange, retired pharmacist, Lon Gurion (thin black hair, black worm moustache, thick and strangled voice-tone) pops out, having too-swiftly crossed the maroon-carpeted hall from his dark little ground floor rear studio apartment with (Monica thinks, but it isn’t 100% certain) one small window looking down (north) into the hedge-and-fence-filled channel between the massive three-story multiple dwelling and the squat landlord’s modern-not-modern two-story.

Monica (trying to re-focus on the August day’s events that are losing their contour and oozing into memory) braces for the inevitable interruption. Lon Gurion is sure to have a story to tell and at the same time his stories are stories they’re also loony theories.

Wants Monica to know that his grandson is not retarded. Quite the contrary, in fact — as strange as that may seem, considering his silence, his blank stare, his lumbering gait, his awkwardness, etc., etc. All that is superficial and deceiving! Others aren’t, but he knows that Monica is too insightful to be fooled by it. She probably guessed at once that that dull and clumsy affect, that manatee-like glide of speckled blubber through warm water or warm air, masks a brilliant boy! So uncommonly brilliant he’s in a school for special children: the Walter Disney School in Chicago. Not “special” used dishonestly to mean the opposite of what it really means — not “special” when they really mean “retarded” — “special” as in: so brilliant he’s classified as “schizo-hyper-active”! A surprising term that actually comes close to matching one of the terms in his own system of psychological classification. . . .

What else? His grandson has an older sister, almost sixteen, who went to the same school and is now a counselor there: not quite as brilliant as his grandson and her brilliance not nearly as disguised by dullness or disturbance. Two younger sisters, nine and eleven, have their problems, but would never be classified as “schizo-hyper-active” because everything in them is more muted: their disturbance is muted and so is their intelligence. Wants to know: on which side of the age-old debate does Monica come down?: better to be normal to the point of mediocrity or brilliant to the point of being cracked. . . ?

Let’s see: after Lon Gurion loses his head of steam (a little more relaxed now that he feels he’s persuaded Monica about his grandson’s invisible brilliance) and has gone back to his tiny groundfloor-rear apartment, Monica finds herself wondering if all Lon Gurion’s grandchildren are the offspring of the only child of Lon Gurion’s Monica knows of (and may once have met): a daughter who lives in Connecticut and who raises a rare breed of dog called a “Papillon”. Breed of dog is so rare, according to Lon Gurion, that his daughter’s Papillons constitute most of the Papillon population living in the United States. Could the odd boy on the porch, transfixed by Monica or by her typewriter — and all the other odd grandchildren as well — be the offspring of the Papillon-raising daughter in Connecticut?

It’s David’s pleasure to go to the local library on Coast Boulevard near AAF Street and look “Papillon” up in all the reference books he can find: according to the “Shorter Oxford” a Papillon is “a breed of toy spaniel, having erect ears resembling the shape of a butterfly’s wings and a white coat with a few darker patches. . . . “ (Nothing about its rarity or where it’s bred.) According to another source the “Papillon is one of the oldest of the toy spaniels”. Also: “Papillons are parti-colored (white with markings of any color). An all white dog or a dog with no white is disqualified from the conformation show ring.” Same source also provides alternate names for the Papillon:

“Phalene (drop ear type)

“Continental Toy Spaniel

“Epagneul Nain Continental” and “Nicknames:

“Butterfly dog

“Squirrel dog (due to tail 'carriage' ” and “country of origin:

“France, Spain and Belgium”.

David also finds this:

“Papillons can be registered with AKC as the following colors:

“White & Black

“White & Lemon

“White & Red

“White & Sable

“White, Black & Tan

“Black, Brown & White

“Black, Red & White

“Brown & White

“Fawn & White

“Red, White & Sable

“Sable

“White

“White & Liver

“White & Silver.

“The most distinctive aspect of the Papillon is its large ears, which are well fringed with colored (not white) silky fur. The color covers both eyes and the front and back of the ears to give the ideal butterfly look. A white blaze and noseband is preferred over a solid-colored head. Nose, eye-rims, and lips should be black. Paw pads vary in color from black or pink depending on the coloring of the dog.”



Space is at last cleared for Monica to write about this August day. Happy to be rid of Lon Gurion: space warps around such people: mind feels the force of their inner whirlpools, even though their tales can be seductive. . Only the zzz-zzz-ing of yellowjackets to get in the way of thinking: not a few — hundreds of them zzz-zzz-ing around the perfumed leaves of what plant or shrub? Such a seductive tea-and-honey fragrance (honeysuckle where Monica sees none?) that Monica’s mind (or her mind’s mind and mind’s mind’s nose as well) is zzz-zzz-ing there too. . . .


*




Why does Monica find herself writing about Peggy Quinlan’s neck? Ink forcing its way into not-very-rounded grooves in paper says: “Peggy Q’s neck and lower face are surprisingly wrinkled. Surprising because the skin of her face above that lower jaw line, above the chin, has the glow of a beautiful young woman’s. An unusual dividing line in a face." Monica’s also written the phrase “folds of flesh”, but then can’t figure out how that fits in.

In a hurry to get things down, to remember by writing (true or exaggerated to say that her pen will do the remembering?), Monica can’t let herself care about the exact order of events: let the pen outline their shapes on paper and pay attention to “order” later.

She thinks it begins like this:

David on the sidewalk in front of the house on the afternoon of this August day or the one before, looking for Lou, the rolypoly mailman, who’s way overdue, or for some other not-noted reason, spots Peggy Quinlan’s husband, Al, in the distance — 1, 2, 3, 4 or is it 5 houses north, almost at ABC Street’s intersection with Coast Boulevard — trimming the Quinlans’ hedges because some leaves or branching twigs may have randomly popped up 1/2” or more above a perfectly level plane and are spoiling Al Quinlan’s clean and trim vision of the world, which extends from his personal hygiene all the way to the farthest horizons of ABC Street.

David calls up to Monica (writing or typing on the porch) to tell her (thinking of her Chronicle) that he’s sighted Al Quinlan because a sighting of Al Quinlan (whose voice neither Monica nor David can remember ever having heard) is almost as rare as sighting an ivory-billed woodpecker would be and he knows that the Quinlans’ zone of ABC Street isn’t visible from where Monica’s working on the porch. (David wonders aloud why seeing Al Quinlan trimming his hedges should remind him of — and make him feel a restless need to — get back to the barely-written sketches for a narrative revolving around the Lenehans: Nora, Laurel, Ambrose Sr., Ambrose Jr., Riley and Ryan, the “family friend” Kevin Douglas, etc. Why would Al Quinlan make him think of the Lenehans all the way at the southern end of the block and about getting back to figuring out how Monica’s zillions of notes about the Lenehans (and about the block) might relate to another idea that’s been eating at him and that seems to have no relation to the Lenehans, but could have a powerful, inverse relationship to the Lenehans because nothing about the Lenehans has to do with the future and the character that’s been buzzing and annoying him for months is a restless and detached young woman who wants to find a way into the future. . . .

Reports to Monica that — because he’s looking north — he also sees wiry Ellen Garvey tending to her flower beds and her lawn across from the Quinlans’ (or, to be exact, Monica would have to ask David to walk north and pace off the relative positions of the facing houses), rarely upright, always kneeling or on all fours in the earth, as lean, hard-working and weathered as a pioneer wrestling with a resistant plot of land.



Monica’s notes say that Peggy Quinlan is in front of her (the Quinlans’) house in a thin sweater on a chilly evening, but they don’t say whether it’s the evening of the same day that David reported to Monica about Peggy’s husband Al quietly restoring order to their hedges. Notes also don’t say how or why David (or Monica) is close enough to Peggy Quinlan to see how thin her sweater is or hear what she’s saying. David could be walking toward Lou, the rolypoly mailman, who’s waving as he approaches from the north, turning the corner after having rolled his cart west along Coast Boulevard from ABB Street, but no way to know for sure.

Monica’s notes do make a couple of things clear:

        a) at some point David gets all the mail for the house from Lou to save him at least one trip up the porch steps out of how many trips up how many flights of how many steps per day, per week, per year and that they chat on the sidewalk for five, ten or more minutes, as usual.

And  b) Peggy Quinlan is in front of her house on a chilly evening, trying to figure out what to do about an old white car that’s blocking her driveway. Peggy says that it’s not just that a car shouldn’t be parked there at all. That’s obvious. It’s also the way it’s parked: at a crazy diagonal, as if someone wanted to make sure that there’s no way to find an inch of space to maneuver around it. As Monica and David know, she says, her mother is ninety-two — and at ninety-two there’s no such thing as being “in good health”. It’s day-to-day and minute-to-minute. Anything can happen at any moment. And if something did happen they’d be completely blocked by this idiot. Any solution they could come up with would take too long. . . .

Peggy Quinlan probably says more but Monica (pushed back out of March, but distracted from recording her August day) can’t think of it. What she writes (what she remembers thinking-but-not-saying while sympathizing with Peggy Quinlan) is that the old white car blocking the Quinlans’ driveway at a crazy angle looks like pony-tailed and permanently-stoned Artie Tilden’s. Resembles his car and the indifferent way it’s parked seems like Artie Tilden’s angle toward existence.



When does Monica find out that the car blocking Peggy Quinlan’s driveway is not Artie Tilden’s?

Let’s see:

                 1) After thinking (but not saying anything to Peggy Quinlan) about Artie Tilden, and at the same time making mental notes about the similarities and differences between Peggy Quinlan’s blocked driveway and Lena Coffin’s blocked driveway and Lena’s demeanor vs. Peggy’s demeanor, the wildly parked car starts to look less like Artie Tilden’s and more like John Corcoran’s, but that makes no sense (the Corcorans have their own cracked and weedy driveway to park in) and she dismisses it.

                 2) In Monica’s notes (struggling to concentrate and to remember by writing through distractions that are just distractions and not digressions that also have to be remembered (written)) David meets Lou, the rolypoly mailman, and takes the house’s mail from him to save him the trip, etc., but it can’t be the same August day and same moment he sees Lou wave from the corner and walks toward him (toward the Quinlans’), because all the circumstances described by Monica are different: David (seeing Lou approaching from one of the front, “green room” windows, cranked open to catch ocean breezes on an August day) hurries down two flights of steps, across the porch and down the porch steps to intercept Lou, who in any case is idling at the foot of the stairs, hoping David will appear and save him the trip up the 5, 6 or 7 wide board steps.

                 3) A package for Pat Corcoran sends David to the Corcorans’ front porch door and he’s surprised that it’s blond-blond little Timothy Corcoran who opens the door to take it. Timothy says that he’s the only one home: father’s probably at work and his mother’s on Long Island (not sure where exactly). His father came home from work last night in one of his moods — in such a bad mood he parked the car somewhere down the block and couldn’t even remember where he left it — and his mother said she was sick of it and his father got angry and they had a horrible fight. She called someone (friend or relative not said or noted), someone came for her — she tried to take him (Timothy) with her, but his father grabbed his arm and wouldn’t let go and his mother had to leave or it would have gotten even crazier.



Later on the same day David reports to Monica that he overheard (the accidental overhearing that automatically becomes deliberate listening and memorizing?) Philip Corcoran talking in the downstairs hall (not in his apartment, but why?) on a phone whose coiled wire he must have stretched to its full, straightened length through the Corcorans’ interior entrance just outside Lon Gurion’s rear studio apartment. A little unusual to hear Philip Corcoran’s voice: usually quiet and recessive with Monica and David, more loose and vocal overheard alone with Yvonne Wilding or when he’s had a few beers or smoked a joint with Al Szarka and his buddies or when he’s alone and assumes no one is within earshot and he practices the guitar and warbles weak, nasal versions of “Rocky Raccoon” and “Blackbird”, a little of the background music of his inner life leaking out.

“How is it your fault? It’s Dad’s fault, so why are you suffering so much?

“I don’t think he suffers. . . . .

“Why are you upset? Let him be upset. Why are you always the one. . . !”

Silence while he listens to a little longer speech at the other end of the line (somewhere not too far out on Long Island).

“How many times have I told you that. . . !

“You know I think that. . . . “

More anguished as it goes along?

“Of course you should leave!

“Should have left him a long time ago, but you didn’t! You always come back and he knows it. . . !”

David reports that he can still make out Philip’s voice, but it’s less intelligible, as if he’s cupped his mouth or turned away from the stairwell, so that his body’s blocking and absorbing the waves and vibrations that had been traveling all the way up to David’s ear as coherent units. . . .

“How am I hurting you? Why is it wrong to say that? Why am I always told I’m wrong when I tell the truth. . . ?

“This is what you always do to me. I didn’t say it’s your fault and I didn’t say you’re afraid to make a move. . . I only said . . . .

“Did I make a stupid joke? I don’t remember making a stupid joke — but if I did make a stupid joke I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. . . ."



When does Monica write that she forgot to record the saturated rose towel and internally shining emerald green towel framed by (ambiguously reflected on/flapping into the interior of) the front picture window of the Arlington sisters’ downstairs apartment in the attached “ranch house” just south of the Regans’ white three story shingle?



If something unexpected crosses our horizontal path along the street where we live (our horizontal path across the earth) is it out of order? Ignore it or pay attention to it? Exclude it because it doesn’t fit or chronicle it because, now that it’s crossed our path, it does fit. . . .

*



Not noted on what day in late March David reports to Monica (for her Chronicle) that he ran into Nancy Wattle’s husband/Hank and Willy Wattle’s father and — he can’t say why — ? Wattle (first name never asked or told) went out of his way to say hello and engage him in conversation. May have said more, but all David remembers is that ? Wattle was born in Brooklyn, joined the Marines as soon as he was of age, was stationed in Kentucky and never saw any sort of combat. He lived in Kentucky for six years — so he can say that the Marines changed his life by giving him a taste for open spaces. Another way: his six years in Kentucky made it impossible for him to come home and live in Brooklyn. Even this neighborhood — surrounded by water — has a completely clear horizon only to the south. To the north you can see the city and it’s his theory that if you can see it it’s too close: city’s shoulders look like their whole aim in life is to shove the waters of the bay south into the ocean. David may know (he says) that he’s a corrections officer (the story of how he came to be a corrections officer is long and depressing and David can imagine how much he hates it). How do we end up where we don’t want to be, doing what we don’t want to do? How does it happen to so many? Can it just be a question of money? He doesn’t think so. Bad luck? Who we meet? Lack of courage? No imagination? Stupid advice? Marriage and children? Another excuse. . . . So what makes us do it. . . ? Well, maybe the upside of the downside is that it’s exactly the tension of being displaced that makes the world go round. Is it some sort of necessity? Maybe it’s part of the “grand plan”. But he can tell David this: he won’t be able to take it much longer — and then one day all the Wattles will just disappear from ABC Street. . . .



Monica overhears this: one of the tellers in one of the banks on AAF Street says that she’s glad — no, she’s overjoyed — that spring is coming: “winter gives me a bad feeling.”

“Well, so-and-so,” an elderly customer answers, “no one likes winter. I’ve never liked winter. It makes us all feel bad.”

“No, Mrs. Connelly, that’s not what I mean. I have those seasonal feelings too. I suppose everyone has that. But I’m talking about something different. When I was five” (in Monica’s handwritten notes it isn’t clear whether the teller says “five” or “nine”) “I fell on the ice and broke my arm. And the shock of that single step sliding away from me and the pain when my arm shattered on the ice has never left me. That long second of falling has been with me my whole life. So, whenever it snows — as soon as it begins to snow — first thin little snowfall of the year — way before there’s ice on the ground — I go back to that second when my foot slid out from under me and I’m frightened. I’m depressed like everyone else because it’s winter, but I’m frightened because I can feel myself starting to fall: so I spend the whole winter in a kind of frightened depression, waiting for spring. . . .”



On an undated day in late March David says that when he was with Peggy Quinlan he noticed something odd about her face: youthful above the chin, “hanging in folds” below it. Monica wonders how this observation migrated here from her earlier notes about Peggy Quinlan. (Or did the migration occur the other way around?)



On Tuesday, March 30, Monica and David are in the sun at the southernmost end of the porch, trying to help each other make two lists: a little (local?) catalogue of the state of what’s blooming/not blooming in early spring and a list of neighborhood people aged by the severe, snow-laden winter of ’76.

Let’s see:

1) Walking or driving, green and yellow are still the only colors seen along the streets and avenues.

2) Forsythias haven’t lost their brilliance: sunlight still converted there to chrome yellow that drips like paint. (The long, dripping yellow tangles of the forsythias are the color of earliest spring.)

3) Still not able to trace the aroma of tea-and-honey to its source. The mildly sweet aroma seems to exactly coincide with the blooming of forsythia but doesn’t seem to come from forsythia (sniffing doesn’t isolate it there).

4) Unidentified pale yellow flowers given to Monica and Wanda Baer by the owner of “Le Beau Pere” last week are still oddly vibrant (no visible change from the moment he clipped them).

5) Lilacs just opening out of their tight green sleeves: just showing the tip of a blackberry core of darkest purple. (Spotted while walking along Salem Avenue on March 30, not one day before).

6) Driving toward Manhattan, not through Brooklyn, but through Broad Channel, along Cross Bay Boulevard: Monica doesn’t think (has never thought) that the long rows of trees lining the sides of Cross Bay Boulevard are willows, but they look like willows and Monica doesn’t know what else to call them, so in her mind she calls them “willows”: a mist of earliest pea or beansprout green not visible in one tree but spun just-visibly through their long rows when looking-while-driving under them.

7) Xylon’s pussy willow on ABA Street — yellow before? — has now become green (what shade of green exactly not noted) throughout its open web of wands and tangles.

8) Hedges everywhere still have winter inside them: their invisible core is cold wood, branching and thorny: whatever thin sprinkles of green have begun to dot their surfaces don’t seem to come from that dark, reluctant center.



BRIEF OFF-THE-TOP-of-THE-HEAD CATALOGUE OF LOCAL ACQUAINTANCES & PASSERSBY AGED BY THE BRUTAL WINTER OF ’76

1) Cathy Castle (see the undated day in late March that may be March 28 or 29 — page number uncertain — for Monica’s quick sketch of Cathy Castle’s sudden thickening and souring out of an unnaturally prolonged girlhood).

2) Old age, climbing Peggy Quinlan like a vine, has reached just below her chin.

3) Greg Coffin (neither Monica nor David had given any thought to how Greg Coffin’s been looking before deciding to sit together in the sun to try and figure out who’s been aged, damaged or seriously altered by the harsh winter of ’76). It’s not so much Greg Coffin’s face that’s changed, and it may not even be a question of his having “aged” in the usual way, as it is a subtle change in his way of gesturing and moving through space. Greg Coffin’s physical signature has always been a fluid and relaxed aloofness that suits his slender height. Now (after the bitter winter) Greg seems to have lost the ease of movement that comes with indifference: crosses space impatiently, as if whatever space he’s in is a box he can’t wait to get out of. Monica can’t help wondering if he’s come to the conclusion that life, which already hasn’t gone as expected, is going to be disappointing. May have reasoned with himself: already disappointing: therefore (looking at life clearly and unsentimentally over a dark winter) the possibility of achieving his loftier ambitions (which turned out to have complications he had no way of foreseeing) is unlikely, even absurd. To be just one more endlessly-striving, little-known musician among zillions might be good enough for Leo (happy enough just to get to play his drums!) or even for Andy (just as happy fishing, crafting a cabinet, getting high as he is playing the guitar) but not for him. No matter how anyone defines it he can’t imagine where “success” is going to come from — and his loss of faith in life’s weedy possibility of sprouting surprises is visible from below in the movements of his legs and sudden, angry swing of his shoulders across the Coffins’ second floor porch.

4) Pat Corcoran just looks lousy (face broken out, skin a yellowing putty, eyes lifeless, voice dull, almost silent, usual fire hydrant of stories not spouting).



“Let’s see,” Monica and David ask each other, “anyone left out?”

5) Enos Greengrass? Both David and Monica have the sense that Enos Greengrass should be included, but neither can remember when exactly it was they saw him last or how terrible (how terrible exactly) he looked.

6) A woman who used to be seen passing regularly by Monica or David, seen only rarely now: Monica thinks her real name is “Pat” or “Patricia”, but she was never a Pat or Patricia to them: was always an “Agnes” (along with “Fat Agnes”) in Monica’s and in David’s notes, or was she sometimes a “Gloria” (also another name for Leila X)?: an obviously once-good-looking-or-just-glamorous woman always in stiletto heels and skin-tight, tropical-colored dresses passing on the opposite (west) side of the street, walking at a rapid but broken pace (because of her high, needle-pointed heels?) from oceanfront apartment house north toward Coast Boulevard. “Agnes” or “Gloria” passes in March ’76 looking a lot worse. Face, never easy to see from across the way, is for some reason as vivid to Monica or David as if one of them were the medicine cabinet mirror where Gloria or Agnes is studying herself before applying her makeup: face alarmingly furrowed and cross-hatched with fresh wrinkles. Where have they arrived from, as if having flown there like a flock of starlings into a tree?

6 1/2) “Agnes’s” or “Gloria’s” husband — whose real name could be “Dave” but who, to Monica and David, has always been “the Clock” (never “Clockface”?) — passes, looking terribly aged (exactly how not noted). Also can’t remember exactly why they called him “the Clock” or “Clockface”: shape of head or face seems most likely but there also could have been something ridiculously regular and predictable about his appearances heading north or south. Notes say something about a terrible loss of weight always equaling a terrible increase in wrinkles.

7) True or untrue, fair or unfair, to include the winter-phobic bank teller on their list?



On an undated day in late March Monica is walking on Coast Boulevard when someone in a passing car waves, calls out “hi” and pulls up: it’s Cousin Jo Ellen in a chatty mood: a story to tell? Or one of those daily non-stories that may be made of a dozen or more pulverized stories.

Cousin Jo Ellen says that she’s on her way to pick up a friend — “not Themis”. Goes out of her way to make it clear that she doesn’t want Monica to assume it’s Themis and also goes out of her way to define him as “only a friend”. True, she says, she has to admit that she can see why someone might think or assume there’s something between her and Themis — because she’s in the Cornucopia Diner till 3, 4 in the morning almost every night. Hangs out there, but not just because of Themis. If anything, she hardly hangs out with Themis at all because he’s always in the kitchen! She spends just as much time with the owner, Christos, as she does with Themis — and she’d say of him in exactly the same way that he’s “just a friend”. For her the Cornucopia Diner is — at least late at night — a community. How can she explain? It’s a long story if you tell it one way and a very short story (or not even a story) if you tell it another way. The short-short version is that, because she lived and worked on Aruba for so many years (how many not noted), when she came back to the States and to New York she couldn’t live in Manhattan (where it should have made sense for her to live) because that kind of anonymity was not for her. She’d gotten too used to island life or village life or whatever the right term is for that scale of existence. So she moved into a neighborhood she thought would be like that, a sort of self-contained town or village: the community of the street, everyone recognizable, everyone knowing you by sight and saying hello, a village-like neighborhood where you could establish yourself as a “regular” in a café and a bar, etc., etc. But her neighborhood is not Aruba — there is no community. She’s not old enough, she’s not young enough, she’s not married, she has no children, she has no idea what category she belongs to — so there is no community and she felt totally isolated until she stumbled into the Cornucopia Diner late one night. Got talking to Christos and Themis may have wandered out from the kitchen, the cashier was nice and she probably chatted with someone at the counter – and then she tried it again another night, started to get to know the late night regulars and began to feel at home. A weird thing to say, but the Cornucopia Diner has made living around here bearable. She’s sorry she took that stupid job with the plastic surgeon in Forest Hills because she has to get up early and it’s ruining her nights. . . .

What else?

Let’s see: Cousin Jo Ellen says that she weighs exactly one-hundred-and-thirty-nine pounds and her height is 5’ 6” so she’s supposedly just the right weight for her height, but it doesn’t feel that way to her and starting tomorrow she’s limiting herself to five hundred calories a day.

“From now on it’s black coffee and cigarettes for me. . . !”



Not perfectly clear in Monica’s notes: Does Cousin Jo Ellen add this before driving away down Coast Boulevard (east) in the direction of AAF Street or beyond? Despite the community of the diner, despite Christos and Themis and the cashier and the late-night customers she now considers friends, despite her dumb new job and the fact that she no longer feels so horribly isolated, it’s always in her mind to disappear one day: just pull herself up by her shallow roots and look for another island. . . .

*



It seems to Monica that Friday, March 26, is warm in a new way: working outside (that is, coming downstairs with pen and paper and the intention of working outside she’s having trouble getting started) in a world as blue from rim to rim and 360o around as if she were on an island in the Mediterranean. To try to write is to drift in an ocean of blue paper. She feels inspired to do: nothing. Sits on the steps, pen in hand, trying to remember: was the Mediterranean the color of the blue paper she sometimes uses? Blue paper that blows up into blue sky, then falls into blue water: has nothing but sky and water in it. Or it may be altogether another blue for which she can’t find the word exactly. May be only now, reluctantly picking up her pen (probably not a blue pen, because she doesn’t like writing with blue ink), that the fluid languidness of the day — with its south to north breezes that might as well be currents of blue water — make writing as difficult as diving into blue shallows to scribble urgent notes on a pad as visible on the sunlit ocean floor as your own yellowish feet. Not as shallow as it looks? Pad not exactly situated where it seems to be? Dive and dive again, but just can’t touch it before you’re forced back to the surface. No point: might as well just float. . . .

Sky isn’t cloudless, but clouds are also blue: sky’s inner blue pulled out like pants pockets' darker cloth.

What is it that’s so urgent that Monica can’t let herself do nothing (float in the blue warmth of the day)? Monica feels compelled as a Chronicler to take notes while events are still inside language. She’s tempted to say: write with the hand of immediate experience, not with the handless glove of memory, but how long does it take for experience to become memory? Write quickly, as if you’re still where you just were. Finds herself trying to sketch in last night’s dinner and conversation with David and Wanda Baer in an odd, Romanian restaurant called “Le Beau Pere” on W. 13 Street in Manhattan — quickly, with as few pen-strokes as possible, but why? In order not to rely on memory, of course, but is there more to it? Let’s see: the restaurant is on the street level floor of a townhouse: 1313 W. 13 Street: the owner of the townhouse is the host of the restaurant (how this makes itself known not noted) and from the outset there’s the peculiar sense of being ushered into a room in a stranger’s house to have dinner. The room is dark: very little light is given off by the Victorian chandeliers hanging from a black ceiling; dim light of candlelit tables and the only other light the light of a small desk lamp on a desk toward the back of the room where the host, an exceedingly thin and pale man in a dark suit, hair as black as the ceiling and parted on the side, sits writing in a ledger with the aid of the desk lamp, bent over the desk as if seriously at work on something and not wanting to be disturbed. A banister, black, winding and shiny, leads to private quarters upstairs. The walls, not easy to make out in the dim light, appear to be red; deeper, murkier than cherry, more blood-like: a flash of color at the margins of the dark room. (Not noted who, if anyone, greeted them at the door: no record of the host rising from his desk.)

Is the atmosphere of the restaurant genuinely odd or is its oddness staged? If staged, not interesting. Not interesting to experience experience already experienced for us or foregrounded for us as an imitation of experience which we predictably experience as we’re meant to. Can our next bacon cheeseburger really be the riddle no one else has solved before? (Should we content ourselves with this?: the more naïve we are, the stupider even more so, the more surprising and entertaining life and all its imitations seem to be.)

Monica can’t help having these doubts then, while she’s in “Le Beau Pere”, or later, quickly sketching in her experience on a day whose languorous current flows against writing — but still she has to admit that she isn’t at all sure where the oddness and “mystery” of this restaurant lies between staged reality and reality. . . .



Finnley Lenehan, zipping by quickly on his skateboard (some speed wasted in friction, more lost as noise), cradling a small forest of fresh, violet-green broccoli, calls out to Monica: “my mother’s making Irish Stew!” and seems to skip from Lena’s orange brick and cracked white stucco multiple dwelling, 1, 2, 3, 4 or is it 5? houses south to the chickenwire gate of his own house, eager to get the broccoli to his mother, Nora.

Back into the fragrant day: perfume of tea, perfume of honey when there are neither.

Holly bush, green and unchanging all year, seems to be sprouting young, light green leaves — as if it wants to flower but can only manage to push out new leaves and a tea-like or honey-like fragrance that attracts the intense zzz-ing and darting of yellow jackets.



Warm shade of a pine tree on ABC Street does not resemble a sunny coastal town in southern Italy. Fragrance of strong coffee and a little plate of warm dessert on a sunny café table are not the tea-and-honey fragrance of sprouting March shrubbery in New York, but among the many things that are keeping Monica from writing about last night’s strange dinner the otherworldly perfume of early flowers on coastal breezes may be the most distracting — because the nose is sniffing it in reality and the self’s second nose of aroma-memory is sniffing it too. . . .

Lilac fragrance here or there?

Lilac even more dizzying than the others.

Aroma of lilacs leads to seeing lilacs: still in their green casings or barely opening, their tiny asparagus tips just the very earliest thought of purple.

Yellow comes first and then purple surprises us overnight, still overwhelmed by the masses of chrome yellow forsythia wands that are everywhere. Monica notes that, this year, ABC Street’s forsythias don’t compare in brilliance to the forsythias of ABA Street, as if ABC Street’s were still weakly dreaming of being forsythias instead of waking up and being forsythias.



Hard for Monica (or for anyone else) to see: skinny little Minnie Liman, Vicky Liman’s younger sister, walking by with her boyfriend, Berry: hard for Minnie and Berry to see Monica or the world through the fine blue mist that’s also a fine blue powder that’s also sea air blowing in from the ocean to the south and making Minnie and Berry quickly disappear as they hurry south toward the Limans’. . . .



Monica can’t tell clearly from her notes: does the smell of a motorcycle (its fuel, its exhaust, etc) precede or follow the noise of the motorcycle's explosion through the easily-torn fabric of the day.



Let’s see (forcing herself out of the day and all the other days it may contain): what else about “Le Beau Pere”? Wanda Baer returns from the bathroom and tells Monica that she must — she has to — go to the bathroom to see Dracula’s wallpaper! Naked women — naked voluptuous women — and a mirror directly facing the toilet, so that when you’re on the toilet you see yourself — you have no choice but to see yourself — half naked, surrounded by beautiful, naked women rolling all around each other. . . !

Monica wonders again: doing what they’re supposed to do? After Wanda Baer’s bathroom-wallpaper story Monica, David and Wanda Baer examine their surroundings, study the host, whisper and laugh about their shared observations. David, for one, thinks that the host is genuinely odd. For example: listening, as always, to conversations at other tables, using his peculiar ability to hear remotely, even to the farthest corner of any space (a kind of aural out-of-body transportation), he’s been trying to tune in to the host’s little lighted area in the darker-than-cherry-red-darkness, but the host hasn’t spoken a word — not even when an attractive young woman approached his desk to talk about a recent trip through Romania, her deep interest in Romanian cuisine, etc. She tried to ask questions about the menu, wondered if there was a French influence on what seemed to her an elevated, hard-to-define difference between the food here and what she’d been eating during her travels. . . . No answer. Ignored her completely. And when she persisted, he got up, made a little bow and walked away. . . .

What else? (Monica continues to struggle to take notes despite the double fragrance of the here-and-now and the here-and-somewhere-else.) Now they’re really curious about the food. A platter of traditional (Middle-Eastern or Greek or Turkish?) appetizers (stuffed grape leaves, artichoke hearts, humus, less-common and delicious pate or terrine or at least a thick slice of something from a baked loaf that may or may not be called “dulma bryndza” that seems to have an unfamiliar cheese as its basic ingredient) is very good, but not remarkable. What follows is so good, so unusual and hard-to-define, that Monica’s reluctance to write on this unearthly March day on ABC Street makes her write next-to-nothing in her sketchy notes: David’s “orange duckling” is nothing like the French “duck a l’orange” (possible reason the host turned his back on the young woman who found the food to be sophisticated and French?): skin is deliberately charred, not burnt, as if its impossible-to-identify spices rubbed into the skin have blackened it more than the fire of roasting, its orange sauce more bitter than sweet. Monica’s stuffed, boneless chicken is an unexplainable mystery: David and Monica keep tasting it, trying to figure it out. Skin also crisp, interior moist, stuffing and spices impossible to analyze and the flavor of the chicken different from and a thousand times better than any chicken she’s ever eaten. Can’t stop eating it, but in small mouthfuls, trying to figure out and remember the taste (nothing about the taste noted in any way that helps remember it). Wanda Baer orders moussaka and it’s very good but commonplace, like the appetizers.

Monica notes the correspondence between the otherworldly flavors of the food and the restaurant’s atmosphere, but can’t take it any further. Also writes in her notes (or types later) that she’d welcome recipes or suggestions that would help explain (and make it possible to reproduce?) what they ate.

What else? Viennese coffee, an unusually dense and dark double espresso with whipped cream and lime. Crème caramel? Other desserts, if any, not noted.

This too (almost forgotten: would be forgotten if Monica hadn’t scribbled a few “key” words on a scrap of paper in her handbag as a reminder for the next day): while they’re slowly making their way through the surprises and mysteries of the meal — tasting, talking, sharing, analyzing and also listening and looking around (Monica’s and David’s usual way of eating together, so that every meal goes on forever, a self-contained universe), Wanda Baer engages them with what may be a story — or both a story and a question she urgently needs their answer to.

In her last session with Dr. DaVinci he pretty much gave her a lecture and used a term she’d never heard before. He used the term about her and then went on about it in general — he had a lot to say about it — and she needs to know from Monica and David whether to take what Dr. DaVinci said as a criticism, or, even worse, as a sign that Dr. DaVinci’s getting sick of her: sick of her problems, sick of her complaints, sick of the flavor of the whole thing. Needs to know how concerned Monica and David think she should be.

This is what he said: psychoanalysts in the past, from Freud through someone named “Karl Abraham” and then some others after that (names not remembered by Wanda Baer), used the term “narcissistic neurosis” in a way that Reich later disagreed with. And he (Dr. DaVinci) himself has made observations in his practice that are in basic agreement with Reich but just a little different. What he’s come to believe is that she (Wanda) is a good example of what they used to call “narcissistic neurosis”: her preoccupation with her problems, incessant dwelling on her self and all its minor ups and downs, is a form of self-love, not “self-hatred” as it appears to the narcissistic patient. Obsession with your own misery is a form of self-love. The narcissistic neurotic (like Wanda) knows nothing but her own problems. Her problems and her misery are her universe. Essentially no one else exists: the lives of others are as meaningless to her as the reality of movie extras there to give flavor to the background of a scene. The narcissistic neurotic claims to hate her/his misery, but is really in love with it, otherwise why would he/she do so little to get rid of it? The stinky cheese of the self that the narcissistic neurotic loves the smell of. Nibbling on the stinky cheese of the self’s misery more enthralling to the narcissistic neurotic than a Beethoven sonata!

On the other hand (Dr. DaVinci went on) it used to be a universally held conviction that there was no way to help a narcissistic neurotic: so self-absorbed, so inward, such an endless, inward loop of self-sniffing misery, complaining and love of complaining and misery, the whole libido absorbed into this inward-turning loop, that it’s a lost cause. World is always inflicting injuries on the narcissistic neurotic and, it was thought, the narcissistic neurotic was so enamored of these injuries that it was a hopeless waste of time trying to get her/him to stop examining and lamenting them. . . . But he sees it a little differently.

He’s extremely cautious when treating the older chronically miserable patient: to interfere with the endless need to find a new grievance, new wound, new spool to wind the self around would be to block the older narcissistic neurotic’s desperate defense against the possibility of happiness, not in any cosmic sense, just in the sense of the threatening possibility of a happy moment. He lived through that catastrophe a long time ago: made a brilliant attack on such a person’s defenses and watched the whole hideous structure crumble with no way and no time to rebuild it in some better way. . . . But, with someone Wanda’s age, he feels it’s his duty to attack her, to criticize and put pressure on her — to get her moving and stop all that miserable garbage from solidifying.

Asked her three, five, ten times if she understood: wanted her to think about middle-aged or older relatives hopelessly in love with their own misery, the chronically unhappy ones it’s terrifying to think of becoming. . . . Said she understood what he was talking about, but does she? Does she really? How do you let who you are “crumble”? Is she afraid of happiness? Is Dr. DaVinci saying her self is like a stinky cheese she’s in love with and refuses to get rid of even though no one else can stand the smell. . . ?



One other note scribbled by Monica to help her remember the next day, but nevertheless overlooked — forgotten and found by accident later: Wanda Baer (before or after recounting Dr. DaVinci’s “narcissistic neurosis” lecture?) says that she’s worried about her sister, Cindy. Monica and David know of course that Cindy is twelve, but still looks and talks like a soft, blonde baby (just about kept in diapers by their father, Oscar, who gets some kind of weird thrill out of her lisping, babyish “yes Daddy’s” and “no Daddy’s”). Now Cindy is becoming anxious: an anxious, lisping baby who’s begun to pull the hairs out of her eyebrows over the tensions of the seventh grade! Calls her every day and most days more than once. For example: tomorrow Cindy has three stupid, meaningless tests and she’s having a nervous breakdown over them. She tries to be reassuring and to say the right thing — tries to imagine what Dr. DaVinci would say or Monica would say — but the truth is she has no idea how to help her. Wonders if Monica or David could give her a clue. . . .

*



On what undated day in late March, while working at her typewriter or eating breakfast at her tremendous oak-desk-and-breakfast-table under the west-facing windows of the green room, is this what Monica sees?:

Her favorite vase, given to her by a childhood friend, a smoky tower of heavy Czechoslovakian crystal tapering up in polished blocks from a narrow base, with forsythias in it for the first time. First flowers clipped for Monica by David this year (therefore first time vase has water in it)? Vase must already have been there, empty, dark, gleaming and beautiful in another way, because Monica’s notes say that yellow flowers floating on water and long, forsythia wands “bring it to life”.

Long yellow forsythia wands “brush against” and cross the dark crocodile green of the leaves of Lowell’s avocado plants flanking Monica’s typewriter, but is the darkness of the green changed by the yellow crossing it and, if so, in what way (in what way exactly)?

And, if dark crocodile green and lively chrome yellow change one another, what’s changed in Monica’s view through them toward the complex mutations of light in the bamboo blinds?: light against them, daylight/sunlight through them: on leaves, on glass, on water, on green of leaves, on completely other (chlorophyll?) green of walls, on how many yellows altering to other yellows throughout the day and on not-quite-transparency-not-quite-colorlessness of water and glass.

Things are concentrated or re-organized by other things in so many places that eye and brain have too much work to do and generally don’t bother to sort it out. . . .

Notes also say something about a certain critical moment of light in the green room — when light through bamboo is truly “golden” and all elements of the room are drawn into a fleeting internal resonance of green and gold?

Also: the beauty of the dark, upright pool of water in the Czechoslovakian vase.



On the same day as the “forsythia” day or on another day (just because two events appear side-by-side, one after the other or even tangled together on the same handwritten notebook page of Monica’s Chronicle doesn’t necessarily mean that they happened at the same time or on the same day) Cathy Castle visits Pat Corcoran with stories to tell and stops on the porch to tell her stories to Monica before telling them to Pat.

MISERY (MORE MISERY?) IN SUNLIGHT


Cathy Castle (still looking both blown-up and worn out, a cute but stubby little kirby pickled too long in the brine of a bitter winter) is worried about Scarlet. She doesn’t think Scarlet should be, but still is feeling the effects of the operation: smallest little rough edge of food hurts her throat. Last night, for example, she gave Scarlet some simple broiled chicken cut up into tiny pieces and a small amount of mashed potato whipped real smooth and creamy the way Scarlet likes it, but the potato seemed to hurt her throat even more than the chicken, so she ate practically nothing. All Scarlet can tolerate consistently are chocolate pudding and chicken broth so a) she’s running out of ideas about what to cook and b) she’s worried that there’s more to what’s wrong with Scarlet than the after-effects of the operation. For example: why is it that she can drink milk and apple juice but can’t drink orange juice? Orange juice makes her cough and every time she coughs Cathy’s afraid she’s going to bleed — so she’s still sleeping with Scarlet on the livingroom day bed and just about sleepless. Husband gets in from work at 2 a.m. and wakes everybody up: Debby thinks it’s morning, gets over-excited and wants to play.

What else? Cathy Castle wants Monica’s opinion. Obviously her first concern is Scarlet. She’s been very careful not to cook anything that could injure her throat. But then what does she do with her husband? If her husband goes too long without his favorite meals he gets all cranky and depressed and miserable and he makes life miserable for everyone else. So, over the weekend, she decided to make a roast loin of pork with red cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy. Scarlet has always liked that dish and she was hungry and she wanted some (she’s sick of chocolate pudding and chicken broth!), but she was afraid that no matter how small she cut up the roast a little dry edge of it could injure Scarlet’s throat — so, while everyone else was eating roast pork and cabbage and mashed potato and gravy and the smell was filling the house, Scarlet was eating some boring goo and there was nothing she could do or say to make it seem alright. What does Monica think: was she wrong for making the roast? for caring whether or not her husband was miserable without his meat and gravy? Is there a solution she’s not seeing. . . ?



Over a number of undated days in late March Monica walks into the green room and is struck first — immediately on entering — by the yellow of the forsythias. Yellow is striking just for being yellow: against green even more so. After a while she’s able to see that morning yellow is entirely different from afternoon yellow and for obvious reasons. In the morning — even on sunny days — at the moment of sun’s freshest, most naked clarity and brilliance — it’s at the exact, diagonally opposite pole from the green room, on the far side of the massive peaked roof, and its indirect light is a kind of daylit shadow that makes blossoms cluster more densely. Light falls on them but doesn’t get through them. Entering the green room Monica sees dense yellow masses without illumination. In the afternoon, lit up from behind, the forsythias are a thin, blazing screen.



Leaning in or sitting back?

Typing March notes in August August always has a chance to drill or talk its way through and pull Monica in a completely physical sense out of the leaning-forward position that’s necessary for her to keep her hand and eye on folded sheets of handwritten scrap paper or on handwritten notebook or pad and at the same time be able to place her fingers on the keys of her typewriter and also keep track of the new, edited version of the handwritten notes that — completing the circuit of handwritten scrawl —› into left hand, through more than one region of Monica’s brain —› into and through right hand —› into typewriter —› onto paper — has to be checked for accuracy.

This leaning-forward state is one of great intensity and focus, but it’s also fragile and easily torn: a voice, a sunspot of music, grinding motors of gardening machinery, blast of weather, even an exiled thought wandering through the frame of March walks through easily, sometimes pulling a long train of digressive note-taking with it. . . .

March in August in March in August and so on. . . .

Pat Corcoran pops out through her front porch door (having had to cork herself up too long? impatiently watching Monica leaning over her typewriter as if she’s doing something that matters) to forewarn Monica that if Lou gives her any mail for Allison Meehan it has to go in their (the Corcorans’) box. Repeats again: not in the general mailbox, but in the separate bin near their front door marked “Corcoran”!

Not clear in Monica’s notes: does Monica ask Pat Corcoran how that’s any different from the way it’s always been? What else would she do with Allison Meehan’s mail, seeing that Allison Meehan (the Corcorans’ niece) lives with the Corcorans? Or: Pat Corcoran’s meaning may be too obvious for Monica to say or write anything: Pat Corcoran went out of her way to say something stupid and meaningless to Monica, snapping her out of her leaning-out-of-August-into-March position, because she wants Monica to know that she see things. Monica may not think she sees, but she does: sees things and knows things because she watches: looks through the wooden slats of her old venetians and sees Monica downstairs sometimes or David downstairs sometimes, waiting for Lou the rolypoly mailman: and sees how Lou sometimes hands them all the house’s mail and she resents it! Bothers her, but she doesn’t want to argue with Monica or maybe not even say out loud that she spies on life in front of the house through the slats of her venetians, because in her mind’s eye she can see that if she were the one listening (Monica) she might find the one babbling and complaining (herself) a little odd and annoying, so she chooses what seems to her the middle ground: just pop out across whatever reality Monica might be leaning into: pop into Monica's March and Monica's August like the big-headed shadow crossing the auditorium — already talking and sounding like Pat Corcoran before Monica can focus and see that it's Pat Corcoran.



Monica wonders: is it true that a sentence can cancel death?

Certainly not just any sentence.

Therefore: what kind of sentence?

Worth spending a lifetime trying to write such a sentence?

Could it be the one endless, horizontal sentence it takes a lifetime to write?



On the spur of the moment Wanda Baer, Monica and David drive to Manhattan to have dinner together. Wanda Baer has nothing in particular to talk about — no urgent story to tell — and isn’t conscious of needing advice about anything: it seems to be the lack of any reason or purpose that inspires them and all three feel it equally.

A MEAL in “LA MANGEOIRE” in the FORM OF A LIST:


1) Following her impulse to do nothing but follow her impulse Monica (as soon as they cross the 59 St. Bridge) drives to a small French restaurant called “La Mangeoire” on Second Avenue between 53 Street and 54 Street. No one thought of going there and, even though Monica remembers having gone there with David, she can’t remember when and the fact that she has no idea why she drove there now makes everyone want to go there.

2) Look through the window at the owner, Gerard, a slender man with a gentle, scholarly appearance, recessively overseeing his cloud-world of food and flowers from his caisse just inside the door and to the left, then stand in the entrance for a while sniffing the permanent aromasphere of Mediterranean spices under the ceiling.

3) Is it because no one craved anything that what’s given by accident seems perfect?

4) Kept afloat on clouds of flowers and whipped cream? (“Heaven” because it’s not ours?)

5) Also just inside the entrance, on an enormous old sideboard (to the right?), a crystal punch bowl of what’s said to be “sabayon sauce”, but seems too puffed and cloud-like, as if the silken yellow custard has been folded with whipped cream; a crystal bowl of perfect strawberries; a crystal bowl of dark “champignons a la grecque”.

6) After they’re seated at a leafy table not far from the entrance David is preoccupied by the sideboard, particularly by the strawberries being spooned into long-stemmed glasses: strawberries (which David loves in any case) are so large and ideal that he can taste their perfect strawberryness from where he’s sitting: from childhood David has had the gift of teleportation: over there while appearing to others not to have moved: and there he is now, in his chair and also right next to the crystal bowl of strawberries being spooned into tall desert glasses, froth of white or just-faintly-egg-yellow-white sabayon sauce spooned over them with great care and deliberation by a waiter dedicated to his task, pausing before spooning again to allow froth, which does have a certain liquid weight to it, to run down between the berries that can’t wait to be tasted. Now their filled-to-the-skin red only shows out at a few points from the whipped-up cloud around and above them.

7) Monica wonders if it’s possible that David — before they’ve even ordered or tasted anything — is already worried that by the time dinner is over there won’t be any strawberries or sabayon sauce left for him.

8) A basket of bread (kind not noted) and small crocks of butter.

9) Only one first course noted and not noted either whether there’s more than one order of it: warm salad of sausage and potato lightly dressed with a garlic dressing of some kind. No memory (no record) of ordering or eating “champignon a la grecque”: therefore, apparently, David is not obsessed with that end of the sideboard.

10) What else? One of the day’s specials for David: roast veal with a white wine and mushroom sauce with seventeen herbs (Monica would like a list of the “seventeen herbs”, but couldn’t get one then (in the restaurant) or later (while writing or typing); steak au poivre for Wanda Baer (“Madagascar green pepper” sauce that’s dense — not a fiery black crust of cracked black pepper — more a real sauce that may have a little cream in it); and for Monica (her favorite?) duck a l’orange: skin crackling, sauce bittersweet with (Monica and David put their heads together and are pretty sure) strong stock made from duck or chicken; something caramelized yet not sweet; orange rind; dark wine with some sweetness to it (could even be port); Grand Marnier, Cointreau or some other orange liqueur or brandy; a few other things they can’t figure out.

11) Everything perfect, everything as it should be. When anticipation and imagination aren’t spoiled by experience, then in what reality are we?

12) Let’s see: perfect pommes frites, broccoli prepared how?, a good bottle of red wine chosen by David (drawn to red wine by instinct even before he knows the first thing about it — type not remembered or recorded).

13) David has no choice: he has to have the strawberries for dessert and his only disappointment is that he can barely manage one overflowing glass of them.

Wanda Baer has also been eying the sideboard, but lusting only for the cloud of sabayon sauce, not the strawberries: therefore orders chocolate mousse cake (moistened with rum) served alongside a dreamlike and towering cumulous cloud of sabayon/whipped cream Wanda Baer can’t wait to get her spoon or finger into — as if tasting and licking it might be the same as traveling across the universe on a raft of it forever.

Monica’s dessert comes last (takes the longest to prepare) and is worth waiting for. Added to her pleasure in having the best dessert: David advised her to change her mind and have the perfect strawberries like him and Wanda Baer is so lost in her whipped cream cloud — not so much in her rum-soaked chocolate mousse cake — that she doesn’t care what Monica orders. Monica’s profiteroles are as large as ostrich eggs: two egg-ovals under darkest dark chocolate that pools around them in the well, up to the inner rim of the decorative border of an oversized platter: cumulous cloud-on-cloud of just faintly eggy-white sabayon/whipped cream upright beside the two dark-chocolate-covered egg-ovals: the bowl of a large spoon brings to the mouth, all in the same moment, several layers of taste: bittersweet chocolate sauce, bit of thin, crisp, somewhat eggy dough, surprising-to-the-tongue taste of cool vanilla custard (released from interior by spoon breaking through crust), little froth of sabayon/whipped cream with its subtle tastes of marsala and orange liqueur: darkest dark and bittersweet chocolate has just a little sweetened crunch of dough hidden in it and the softening contrast of silky vanilla custard and the very slightly sweet and aromatic, melting-away-as-you-taste-it cloud that has to be chased by the tongue to be tasted and chased and tasted again and again to have the slightest reality: depth of chocolate tries to anchor everything but slides away.



Monica wonders: is the compulsion to record experience the same (exactly the same?) as the desire to be completely alive in the instant of experience?

The same question or different: where does experience happen?

While eating, consciousness and its sensory eclipse chase one another’s tail and it’s the dream of each instant to erase the one before it.

Find out what happened by writing?

No knowing without writing?

Or: writing not a way of knowing at all, but of living in a parallel, horizontal universe.

The ambiguous tang of what’s always sliding away from us.

Monica believes this: our truest autobiography happens outside our skin: is us because it isn’t us (yet draws our outline?).

*




End-of-March days may follow their usual order, but not necessarily in the Chronicle. Day follows day and event follows event, but not one day is dated and no event is matched to one dated day — so the events and days of the end-of-March might as well be laid out side-by-side on a table where they could be shuffled in any order and no one would know the difference.



On a sunny day the air is chilled: sun visible in the air can’t be felt on the skin: skin feels far-away ocean’s cold green currents more than sun that falls directly on it, while “yesterday” skin was warm without sun and without the remote touch of far-away currents.

“Today” a chilled sun falls on everything.

Fresh green grass has sprung up overnight around the far-reaching tangles of the forsythia wands. Not clear to Monica while translating her hard-to-read notes into typewriter: can it already be the edges of these new green grass-blades — green with no color in it but green — nothing but green and the light that helped it out of whatever sheath was containing it — edges of these just-born grass-blades that are at once “sharp” and “resilient” and “fluttering” because of icy ocean currents already coursing through them as south —› north breezes? Grass wasn’t there yesterday around the forsythias, but today it’s tall enough to be shaken by the force of currents going through it: currents that are also “green”, but a more unimaginable one: an iced green drink, nearly frozen, made out of water and salt and strong alcohol with something wild and herbal pounded for centuries there into a refractive crystal powder.



Same day or different? A woman’s one piece black bathing suit and a man’s mustard bathing suit are moving in Naomi Rosenwasser’s picture window in a more restricted way (stiff and heavy with water?) than the flapping white sheet that caught Monica’s attention how many days earlier? despite the severe southwest angle from the southern end of the porch.

Now that it’s happened by chance Monica’s become conscious that there’s something to observe and record at the endpoint of that angle of looking and she’s curious to see what happens if she keeps cataloguing what’s reflected in Naomi Rosenwasser’s picture window when she happens to be looking that way. Also makes a note to herself to try and figure out (by calculating the angle from porch or sidewalk?) whose flapping and fluttering sheets, pillow-cases, clothing on whose clothesline have been pictured there for years with no one to notice or record them.

What else? Note about this day or about several days: the colors of end-of-March clothing and bedding reflected in Naomi Rosenwasser’s picture window are all by-and-large muted pastels: pale pinks, mild greens, faded yellows creased and folded one across the other in patterns that can’t help changing, are often complex and occasionally beautiful.



Monica knows that in the course of a day she does an unusual amount of looking or staring at things and she also knows that the spring sun is deceptive and dangerous: seems cool in cool air (harshness of sun neutralized by cold green ocean currents?), but staring at ocean “earlier” or staring at window reflections “later” or even a bolt of light off a passing car sometimes brings on a painful sun-headache, as it does now.



Double or triple (at least triple) image of forsythias:

1) From the green room, looking down deliberately by separating the fine horizontal rods of the bamboo blinds with the fingers of one hand: a clear view of the long reach of the chrome-yellow wands from the center of the right-hand wing of the lawn all the way across it to the sidewalk.

2) From the far south boardwalk end of ABC Street: a vivid, somewhat horizontal and tangled cloud of yellow on or just off the sidewalk: distance doesn’t matter: vision flies to it, giving an odd sensation of out-of-body travel: yellow the only color other than a few thin washes of green and the dull and muddy anti-colors of brick, shingle, pavement, etc. . . .

3) From inside the green room: Monica is struck by how far the long yellow wands now seem to extend from the smoky Czechoslovakian glass vase, as if they’re growing there. Not noted before (therefore “out of place”?): Monica had loaned her Czechoslovakian crystal vase, one of the few presents from a childhood friend she’s taken with her whenever she’s moved, to her sister Kitty: reason not remembered or recorded: and Kitty returned it when she moved back to Manhattan — out of the ancient yellow brick apartment house where ABC Street meets the boardwalk — just in time for the forsythia wands David had clipped for Monica.

Does the return of the vase “mean” something? sever something? Nothing but what it is? Another way: nothing to be seen in the vase but water, trimmed lower ends of forsythia branches and a few floating yellow petals.



On March 31: a) Monica crosses paths → ← north/south with Lena Coffin, walking quickly (nervously?), carrying two long and heavy cast iron twelve-muffin muffin pans from her house to Grete/Babette’s or from Grete/Babette’s to her house (which way not noted and not noted either whether Monica’s returning from or headed for the beach).

Hardly takes time to pause and say, as if calling out to someone in the distance:

“Baking muffins for Rosa’s birthday!” “’Rosa?’” Monica never heard Rosamond called “Rosa” before, finds it odd but has no way to figure out what it means. Joshua just had his birthday: she baked something for him — so of course she has to bake something for Rosamond and now everything’s happening all at once! — there’s no time — there’s never any time — and she’s beginning to forget her own name. . . . Today is one of those days when she needs someone to remind her who she is. . . .

b) At what time does Pat Corcoran find Monica to tell her this story: earlier this morning (time not said or not noted) she smelled gas: strongest when she approached the entry door to her apartment that opens into the hall just outside the little back studio where that disgusting old man is living. Sniffed around a little to make sure that that’s where the gas was coming from, then called the gas company. How did the man from the gas company get into Lon Gurion’s musty little studio? Monica tries to find out, but can’t, because once Pat Corcoran’s mind and tongue get hooked up together and start racing around their track, two wheels up on the edge of the steep, banked wall, there’s no way for Monica’s voice to break in.

Pat makes this much clear: fire department came: gas was coming from “that repulsive man’s” dark little studio: he has a habit (Pat Corcoran says) of disappearing for days, leaving his door padlocked. This time he left his oven on and the pilot light blew out: next time it will be worse! Pat Corcoran reminds Monica that she’s been saying from the minute he moved in that that weird old man is dangerous — and that, if the landlord didn’t get rid of him, he’d end up killing them all. . . .



Which arrives first: raw green spice of just-cut grass (not sniffed by the nose, arriving through the nose instantly from any distance (demanding a better quantum physics of the senses) straight to the brain and sniffed by the startled brain only) or zzz of lawnmower cutting grass in the deep middle distance?



At about 6 p.m. on March 31 Monica hears the unmistakable sound of Al Szarka’s voice, clogged with anger and anguish. Coming from where to where?

“Where’d you get it?”

(Monica assumes that Al Szarka is talking to Yvonne Wilding, but no answer so can’t say for sure.)

“From Danny, right? You’ve been getting stuff from Danny — you’ve been sneaking it. . . !”

Now Monica clearly hears Yvonne Wilding’s voice: an odd sort of childish whining from this darkly lazy, attractively depressed woman who thinks a lot and says little.

“Sneaking into the bathroom, am I right? Shooting up there! snorting coke in there! am I right or am I wrong? Don’t lie to me, Yvonne!”

More childish whining and wheedling.

“Then what was that funnel I found in the bathroom, Yvonne? We have no funnel. You always think people are stupid, but you always get caught. Why is that, Yvonne? Huh? Can you explain that? Can you explain why someone who’s smarter than me and smarter than everyone else always gets caught — always messed up and trying to weasel her way out. . . . Explain that to me, Yvonne. . . !”

Yes, Yvonne admits, she did snort some coke in the bathroom. But absolutely did not — did not — shoot up. (Slightly less whining, slightly more like Yvonne’s normal voice, even a little irritated?) Snorted some coke, so — big deal. And she did not — repeat again, did not — get anything from Danny! She’s got other ways, her own ways, ways he knows nothing about, to get what she needs. . . .

“You’re so full of shit, Yvonne. . . !”

At intervals from Al, always clogged and anguished, but sometimes a little more anguished, sometimes a little more angry:

“is this what you want?”

“you don’t love me — can’t say you love me! — if this is what you do. . . .”

“if you really loved me, Yvonne, you wouldn’t. . . !”

“want to snort coke in the toilet? is that your idea of living, Yvonne?”

“why do you always do this stuff? You wouldn’t always do this stuff if you. . . .”

On and on like that, for how long?

And a little later it’s Yvonne, whining and wheedling like a little girl again, who says “you don’t care about me, Al — you wouldn’t talk to me this way if you loved me. Everyone says they love everyone but no one loves anyone and everyone’s full of shit. There’s something you want from me or something you need from me and that’s what it’s all about, Al.”



Is it Al Szarka or someone else who later tells Monica that Yvonne’s mother, who died a few years ago, was an alcoholic who beat Yvonne regularly. Also this: as Monica must have noticed, Yvonne has been losing weight rapidly. Losing weight suddenly and quickly, looking tired, looking lousy — drawn, droopy and haggard — and that’s not a good sign. Last time she looked and felt like that, about a year ago, they found her od’d at the Queens Plaza Mall.



March ’76 notes end with Monica and David on the porch together again, adding to their catalogue of those undone by the harsh winter of ’76. (Adding to it or repeating themselves because they don’t remember what they’ve done.)

“The Clock”

Pat Corcoran

Bank teller, with her long complaint about winter.



August in March. Or, more accurately, though it sounds more confusing, August in March in August: that is, working on the porch in August, typing (translating) handwritten March notes, the August-that's-around-her that she's blinded to sometimes intrudes, breaking March’s hold on Monica’s consciousness.

Lean back, away from the typewriter (therefore, out of March).

“Late in the afternoon” (date not noted) Monica is typing March notes behind the Rhinebeck pine, still in the afterglow of an icy swim at 1 p.m. (rough water and strong undertow). She feels compelled to stop her translation of March notes to sketch in a brief encounter with Pam Leary on Coast Boulevard.

Pam Leary’s lip is swollen and there are ugly sores on it but she says that this is nothing: she was out in San Diego visiting her family and she spent too much time in the sun. “Sun poisoning.” Sores were terrible (no one could look at her) and her lower lip swelled up to twice — more than twice? — its normal size.

Let’s see: Rudi is home, living with their parents again after all this time, and he’s gone back to college to finish his degree. She has to admit that she had a hard time with that. Had a hard time accepting Rudi being there, paying no rent, etc.: as Monica knows her parents (their parents) lost their life savings — spent every dime they had to keep Rudi out of prison. And she hates him for that. Can’t hide the fact that she resents him for that. Naturally Donald Green is back in the picture. Somehow Donny got involved with real estate. Had no idea Donny knew anything about real estate, but the story is that he makes a lot of money — goes nuts — goes broke — goes back to real estate and earns more money. Donny can survive his own craziness, but Rudi can’t. So Rudi’s living at home, Donald is buzzing around, stoking him up, filling his head with nutty ideas again and something’s bound to go wrong.

What else? Polly is in San Francisco, keeping her distance from the mess they know is brewing.




APRIL 1976




Monica’s handwritten notes for April 1, 1976 say that the light rain that’s falling has a green cast to it. Later (November?), while typing her notes up, she asks herself what kind of green? Just-born green fresh out of the pod? Not-quite-avocado green of the bushes in the narrow channel between the massive cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling and the landlord’s ugly pseudo-modern? (And, if avocado, skin of avocado or flesh of avocado?) Nothing she can think of matches the green of the rain she’s seeing.

Internal light in young leaves should be added and also external light able to pass through their thin membranes, but what else? Green mist of rain stirring slowly through the whole globe of space has something of ocean’s mineral green elixir in it too. . . .

This too: “Pine is the green of winter, light through youngest peapods the green of April.”



A question that always interests Monica, though she realizes it may be destined to always be a question: if a string of unrelated events stretches the length of a day (April 1, for example) and in that way measures the day or, more accurately, is the day — and Monica does her best to catalogue the events in the string — is it still a catalogue of “unrelated events”? or are they now related because they happened on the same day or because Monica catalogued them within the frame of the day?



a) Green light, green mist, green rain, etc.

b) Wanda Baer passes under a bright, pie-wedge umbrella of primary colors: wedges of red, blue, yellow form a brilliant pinwheel over her head against the rain that’s barely more than a green mist: while down on the ground Wanda Baer is wearing an earthen brown suede jacket (same jacket Wanda fell in love with in a department store men’s department, then worried a little later that it was a mannish jacket when she caught sight of a car window reflection of herself walking down ABC Street — or is it another brown jacket altogether, also cut to fit a man’s more squared-off frame?); chocolate brown corduroy pants; high caramel brown boots; a white turtleneck for contrast; an oversized brown leather shoulder bag that used to be Kitty’s (given to Wanda when Kitty moved back to Manhattan).

c) Lilacs are trying to flower: buds look edible, small and tight as raspberries, black-purple-violet as blackberries: small, hard and edible buds or berries barely out of their green casings: green skins bursting with the lengthening berry-tips that can’t quite get out and flower. On April 1 is the whole sprouting natural world edible, even here on ABC Street? New “snowball” leaves look like brussels sprout leaves to Monica. Lilac and hydrangea, unidentified bushes in the channel between two houses: peapod, brussels sprout, raspberry and blackberry. Only forsythias (their long wands and their yellow) don’t conjure the impulse to chew on the world to know it.

d) Is Monica’s notation that the morning of April 1 is “windy” out of order?

e) Some more notes on blue: Monica can’t say for sure whether she still has Rilke’s letters (therefore Cezanne) in mind when she struggles for the right word for the day’s mild blue. Action of pen on paper: right word might as well be right brush stroke: writing the word blue she’d love to see a creamy wash of exactly the blue of this day. What softened it to this degree? At about 3 p.m. green mist clears to reveal a sky like a tropical sea: blue of young sky is to blue as newly-minted leaves are to green: the blue and green of an underripe world. These blues and greens exist in Cezanne and in Matisse too, most vividly in Matisse’s “View of Notre Dame” where all of green nature reveals itself as a mysterious green globe in the midst of an extraordinary plane of a blue that may be the blue of April 1, 1976, but on that canvas may be a wall, a window, a sky — or sky, wall and window — though not exactly equal to the vertical plane of brushstrokes that confronts us along with the black, sketched diagram of an architectural shape. Monica’s mild blue ocean of sky can certainly be found in works by both painters, though not necessarily in their skies or their oceans. Or: their skies may not always be where we look for them. Monica wonders: where — where exactly — did they find their blue? and did they name it? This too: she’d love to know what pigments had to be mixed with winter’s cobalt to arrive at the sky that exists when the mist clears on April 1.


f) Monica notes “three blue skies in one”.

g) More notes on forsythias or some notes on the color yellow: in the “heavy wind and rain” of the morning (what time not noted) ABC Street’s forsythias lost a great number of petals: yellow on the ground, sky’s unnamable blue above (each altering the other) and a dry tangle of woody wand-branches with some weak yellow caught in it at or just below eye level. Softest of white clouds have painted themselves in to complete the image of a perfect summery day in spring.

Greg Coffin (inspired by the forsythias that colored ABC Street yellow from one end of March to the other, holding on into April?) is painting the walls of his enclosed porch/ping-pong room a harsh chrome or egg yolk yellow: vivid, saturated wall of yellow through Greg-and-Lena’s side window.

Monica can’t be sure from her angle, looking south from the porch, if the quadrant of dull wall being gradually swabbed with yellow by Greg Coffin, is really in the porch/ping-pong room or in the hall leading out of the ping-pong room and toward the inner stairs and chambers of the massive house.

h) David reports to Monica (for her Chronicle) that Mikki called (while Monica was working on the porch) with a tiny fragment of a story to add to a long story already-being-told. Tiny fragment of story splits in two: Mikki’s been enjoying herself, but now she’s not sure whether or not to be revolted by herself: been enjoying herself in a way that, while she was enjoying herself, she told herself Monica and David would think of as sloppy and stupid (but of course went ahead and enjoyed herself anyway): wallowing (the only word for it!) in hot fudge sundaes with her “little cowgirl” Marsha — gorging on cake and pastry with Marsha — having — what other way is there to put it? — simultaneous sugar, cream, chocolate and butter orgasms with Marsha — with the inevitable (horrible?) result that she put on fifteen bloated pounds and looks pretty ugly. So she’s a little guilty, a little disgusted with herself — but she’s addicted to all these sloppy pleasures and doesn’t know how to (doesn’t want to?) cure her addiction. . . .

*



On April 3 the Corcorans are hanging green-and-white checked curtains in niece Allison Meehan’s bedroom (large room that used to be the bedroom of a tenant named Marian Woolsey, now with a wall thrown up to divide it neatly in two: 1/2 for Allison Meehan, the other shared by Philip Corcoran and blond-blond younger brother, Timothy).

Monica notes (how does she know this?) that Allison Meehan’s bed is a canopy bed, that the canopy is green and white (though not “checked”) and that (obviously) the reason for the green-and-white checked curtains is to complete the look, or the hard-to-define mood, of spring-like sweetness and cheerfulness invoked by the look of crisp green-and-whiteness in Allison Meehan’s bedroom.

What else? Monica wonders if the Corcorans are going to remove the roll-down paper or vinyl shades on Allison’s bedroom windows now that they’ve hung the green-and-white checked curtains. Sometimes, still on the porch after dark and with a lamp lit in Allison’s bedroom, Monica noted with pleasure a hard-to-explain green shadow rippling through the pale, yellowish egg-white of the pulled-down shades.



On April 3 several people pass Monica while she’s writing on the porch and there are others Monica passes when she’s walking along ABC Street and through the neighborhood.

For example: 1) Margaret Brennan has a friend named Wendy who lives in the ancient yellow brick apartment house at the ocean end of the block who Monica knows exactly this much about: Wendy is an attractive woman with a solid, shoulder-length block of dark, straight hair who walks or drives by generally in the starched, form-fitting white uniform of a nurse or medical assistant; divorced or has an invisible husband; has two daughters: older, athletic and intelligent, hair a shade darker than blonde, sometimes walks, bicycles or runs by quickly, glancing inquisitively sideways at Monica; younger one, Natasha, pretty but with a dull-eyed look that makes her seem dumber than she is and with an odd impediment to her movements that makes her legs seem heavier than they are — passing now, her beautiful, dark and wavy hair curling against a brown, somewhat mannish suede jacket that looks exactly like the one Wanda Baer walked by in “the other day”. Does Monica wonder then, on April 3, or later, in October, when she’s in her red studio translating April’s handwritten notes into typewriter, if the twinning of “man-tailored” brown suede jackets is a signal that the impediments that make Natasha appear duller and heavier than she is may have something in common with the impediments that frequently make Wanda Baer seem dumber and clumsier than she is?

Twinning of suede jackets, twinning of impediments really = twinning of what?

This too: Monica would like to keep track of the suede jacket into which both Wanda Baer and Natasha fit like two names slipped into the same sentence — but she knows that chances are they’ll never come up together again or, if something accidentally links them again, it will be when Monica’s long-since forgotten about this moment — so Monica will never know if the correspondence of jackets, etc. means less or more than it seems to now and it will be up to someone else to draw a line between distant points.



2) Not noted where Monica meets (or sees from a distance) Lon Gurion, looking even more hideous than usual; wearing an overcoat in April, coat a tattered rag: pulling (or may say “pushing”) a bent-out-of-shape shopping cart overflowing with god-alone-knows-what unidentifiable junk that might draw flies if he was standing still. Looks so ragged and wretched Monica has to look twice or three times to make sure that it is Lon Gurion. As if, however horrible he looked before, complete annihilation has befallen him overnight.



3) Not noted at what time or exactly where on April 3 Monica runs into Leila X and Ma X on their way to the post office: Leila X is wheeling a creaky old baby carriage. Lanky and athletic, now somewhat slow and stooped, Ma X uses the carriage for carting heavy supermarket bags from AAC Street (or is it AAD Street?) back to her apartment in the ancient yellow brick apartment house at the ocean end of ABC Street — so Monica wonders if Ma X and Leila X are not on their way to just the post office, but also to the supermarket just another two hundred yards or so further east on Bay Drive.

Monica notes that Leila X — who still sometimes looks as breathtakingly beautiful (golden hair combed in five hundred thousand straight ruled lines down to her waist partly accounts for her beauty, but not completely) as she did when David first met her on a bus over ten years ago — looks dreadful enough to be added to the list of those undone by the bitter winter of ’75-76. “Dreadful” in what precise way not noted, only that Leila X’s fair skin looks dry, skin around the eyes like oddly bleached desert sand marked with shallow furrows that weren’t there before — eyes red with recent weeping.

What else? Leila X says that Kim visited her in Burlington “a few weeks ago” and now he’s here, supposedly visiting relatives in Brooklyn but really here to see her — to try to talk her into marrying him again — and, though she told him not to come, she’s given in, of course, and she’ll go out to Brooklyn later this afternoon. . . . Truth is she’d rather see him in Brooklyn with his relatives than alone in her apartment in Burlington because (as Monica knows) she’s not and never has been sexually attracted to Kim: much too smooth and hairless for her — a shiny, hairless little dog, while she’s attracted to men who are dark and shaggy. But doesn’t Monica agree? When someone is obsessed with you that obsession alone can sometimes be the reason you end up sleeping with him even when there’s no attraction. . . .

Ma X interjects irrelevantly that she’s suggested to Leila several times that she fly over to Korea to visit Kim when he’s there — just to see, you know, whether or not she might like to live there. Seems reasonable to her, but not of course to Leila. Might like the way of life there better than the way of life in Burlington — life in Burlington certainly doesn’t seem to be making Leila any too happy — but Leila refuses to go just because of this silly “fear of flying” people have. . . .

Ma X laughs a laugh that’s dry and whinnying. Or do Monica’s handwritten notes say “dry and unhinged”? Ma X’s somewhat droning way of talking — a voice tone that’s high, strained and boring — suddenly spikes into private laughter: an odd brain laugh that escapes through the mouth as if the ufo of the brain has launched without warning, whizzing off into regions clearly visible to her (to it), invisible to everyone else. Ma X’s brain laughter whizzes off into far-away regions, jerks back into the vibrating throat, leaving only the eyes bemused by the uncomfortable target (daughter Leila). Leila X at first looks a little red and embarrassed, but it doesn’t take long for her brain to catch Ma’s spark and start laughing oddly too. (A once-and-sometimes-still-beautiful-and-intelligent woman laughing at herself just because her mother is.) Moment crystallizes for Monica (not for the first time) the Ma X she hears in Nelly X’s and Leila X’s high, un-modulated voice tones and nutty, disconnected laughter.



4) Little, planetarium-dome-headed Rosamond Coffin passes, heading south down ABC Street toward home, holding a bright, ultramarine rabbit balloon bigger than she is. Here comes grandma Babette to meet her, her hair cut shorter than usual around her round, always-suntanned face, calling out in her subtle French accent (which Rosamond may or may not hear) that she has fresh-baked cookies for Rosamond! and Rosamond runs toward her, almost letting her huge blue balloon fly away.



5) “The rough, immeasurable coast of reality”: language that flows into its crannies and crevices doesn’t measure it, but what does it do? Takes on the form of its ragged edges? This too: ragged edges get planed away so that reality can fit into a sentence and into memory.



6) In or out of order? “Around 5 p.m. on April 3” wind is shaking the fading yellow petals of ABC Street’s forsythias: both those made to seem wide awake by lingering sunlight and those already dozing in shadow. Note taken on “April 3 around 5 p.m.” is typed on Friday, October 16 at 9:30 (morning or night not noted) in Monica’s red studio.

*




Not noted whether still April 3 or already April 4, 5 or even 6 when Laurel Lenehan passes with a friend named “Jean” (who “Jean” is not recorded and therefore absolutely not remembered). Also not recorded: whether or not it’s Laurel Lenehan (beautiful, laughing, happy and apple-faced like younger brother Finnley, not like either older brother: mysteriously burdened eldest brother Ambrose Jr. (burdened by the simple burden of being Ambrose Jr.?) or handsome and ambitious, but ambitious-about-what? next-to-oldest brother, Ryan) or someone else who calls out to Monica, “a perfect day! a perfect spring day! had to get outside and look at all the forsythias!”



Same time exactly (or just a few minutes later) as the time Laurel Lenehan passes, but not necessarily on the same day, Fionnuala Regan strolls by in a kelly green blazer that changes her shape: makes her look as matronly as she may very well be destined to look five, ten or twenty years from now: wheeling a dark cyan blue carriage with shiny chrome hardware. (Does Monica make a note to herself in April or in October to decide at some future date whether or not to insert a comment about the magnetic or clustering principle of events?: how a random event is often (so often it can be seen as one of life’s principles) followed by a related event (“related” only if an observer is there to note the relationship): and how related random events draw more related events into their orbit and then cluster magnetically together within the span of short panoramas. For example: the battered old baby carriage/shopping cart Ma X and Leila X had trouble pushing along Bay Drive and Fionnuala Regan’s new and elegant dark blue cloth and shiny chrome one that rolls by easily on ABC Street. Such occurrences, which may be patterns (the similarities and differences between baby carriages — and those wheeling them — that pass Monica within a short span of time, for example) interest Monica whether they’re patterns or not.)

Monica notes this too: she spots the forceful head of little Matthew Regan sitting up and peering around from the same blue carriage where Fionnuala’s new baby is dozing as she rolls through the world, beginning to tell herself life's horizontal story.



Monica wonders: who exactly is “the Clock” and does she call him the Clock because of the precise regularity of the hours when he passes north —› (heading toward work?) passes south <— hurrying or dragging himself home? or because he has a clock face? Knows (without knowing how she knows) that the Clock’s name is “Dave” and that she’s been seeing him pass long enough not to give it a thought when he waves and mouths “hello” (as he does today) from the west (facing) side of ABC Street.

Later Monica tells David that they need to add the Clock to their list of those destroyed by the terrible winter of ’76: at first she thought his face was oddly “creased”; then (as he turned toward her to say hello?) it seemed oddly “folded”; then (turned full-face toward her from across the way) the face was a nightmare-face in the cool sunlight of a perfect April day: seemed to her that half the Clock’s skull was missing!: or, not actually the skull, half the face covering the skull: left half (what looked oddly creased or folded before he turned) ordinary face-surface, right half exposed skull! skull with peculiarly pointed teeth (some teeth missing too?) facing her, mouthing a friendly “hello” while waving with one hand (briefcase in the other?).



Warmth and sunlight = return of spring and return of spring = return of strollers in the street. (For Monica to take a walk is a kind of writing-before-writing. Might as well take pen and paper with her. Or: might as well be paper. . . .) Those she’s been seeing and running into are joined by those she hasn’t laid eyes on for months. . . . Wonders if this is true also: warm, early spring makes the phone ring. For example her friend Howard calls from a neighborhood at the boundary between New York City and Long Island to tell her that Anthony spent the afternoon getting the grill and the outdoor furniture ready so they could eat in the garden under the trees and that made him think of Monica. . . and David too, of course, if she wants to bring him.

Let’s see: who else? Mikki calls from Manhattan to say that she’s been thinking about Monica for days — not sure why, but hard-to-define thoughts of Monica keep drifting through her mind — and then today there’s something in the air — cool spring day hidden in warm spring day hidden in etc. — and the smell and feel of the air in Manhattan (doesn’t say the smell and feel of the air below 14 St., probably somewhere near her walkup on East 10 St.) made her want to get out of Manhattan. And that feeling, together with her thoughts about Monica, compelled her to call and ask if she can come out to ABC Street. Wants to come out today! Right now! This minute, if possible! Adds that Marsha thought a day at the beach and a day talking to Monica might help clear up the terrible cold she can’t seem to get rid of — a cold that Marsha thinks is an emotional or spiritual cold — and the idea of Marsha encouraging Mikki to come to ABC Street to cure her cold turns Monica’s yes to a no.

This too: Monica’s cousin Yma calls, but nothing about it is recorded.



Monica comes across this handwritten April note while typing in October and trying to list everyone she spoke to, saw or ran into on April 6 solely because it’s a perfect day (without being 100% certain it is all on one day in early spring)) and no longer knows what it means: “it seems to get more intense every year.” The beginning of a thought that doesn’t complete itself, so Monica adds (in October, typing in her red studio), without having any idea if it’s what she had in mind in April: “every year there seems to be more to observe: the density of life increases and along with it my sense of obligation to record it and (therefore) my concentration is bound to grow more intense”. Not sure what this means either so she tries again: “the thicket of the world (ABC Street) gets thicker or thinner depending on when and how I look into it. Are ‘focus’ or ‘concentration’ the right words for it or is it something else? Wonder if it’s true that it (ABC Street) seems to have grown thicker over the years because I’ve taught myself to pay attention to it in a different way. . . .”



Monica meets Nancy St. Cloud on Coast Boulevard (assumes it’s on April 6, but date, time and cross street are not noted), wheeling nine-month-old Tristan in a carriage (mental note made when? to link it with two other baby carriages) that’s undoubtedly handsome but not described. Monica can’t helping looking (staring) at Nancy St. Cloud to see if the terrible winter of ’76 did her any damage and it’s clear that the bitterly dark lead and tin winter months of January, February and March have turned Nancy St. Cloud’s long, straight and beautifully glossy chestnut-and-caramel hair a lusterless pewter streaked with shining silver.

1) Nancy says that she’s sure that Monica remembers her good friend Georgia: while Georgia was trying to lose weight, she gained weight and now she’s up to nearly three hundred pounds!

2) She finds it interesting (and thinks Monica will too) that Georgia's weight-gain doesn’t seem to have affected her relationship with Andre’s friend Fabien. Fabien’s the purser on a ship that’s sailing to Barcelona next month — so Georgia’s going on still one more cruise. . . .

3) What else? Not really a different mini-story: a couple of even smaller fragments of the same mini-story, bits of a corner of it that crumbled off and now are trying to drift back into place in time for Nancy St. Cloud to re-attach them for Monica. There are one or two things, Nancy says, that she knows about Georgia’s relationship with Fabien that trouble her, but they don’t trouble Georgia — and for that reason she’d value Monica’s opinion. Are they the danger signs they seem to her or, as usual, is it her own life, own memories, bad experiences with men and so on, that are poisoning her judgment?

        a) According to Georgia her relationship with Fabien is both passionate and “platonic”. What can that possibly mean? Literally of course it has to mean that there’s been no sex. But what there has been is less clear. Hasn’t been able to pin her down. Doesn’t Monica find that contradiction strange and troubling?

        b) Fabien keeps warning Georgia that, no matter what, no matter how intense their feeling for each other may be, he meant it when he told her that he’s engaged to someone back home in France, a girl he’s known forever and intends to marry. Georgia is sure that the story is false and that it’s just his way of slowing things down. . . . But, to her way of thinking, if you put that together with the fact that there’s no sex. . . . Does Monica see the potential disaster waiting for Georgia that she does?

4) Andre’s parents are coming from Grenoble for a long visit this summer. The way she understands it his father’s the first person in France to survive a catheterization and it’s not completely clear to her (or it’s clear to Nancy, but not clear in Monica’s handwritten April notes) if, when Andre’s father arrives, all he’s going to want to do is rest and recuperate.

5) Andre’s parents are bringing Andre’s son with them. Monica notes that Andre’s son and Andre’s best friend are both named Fabien, but son’s age is not noted.

6) Monica has the feeling that Nancy St. Cloud — who Monica sees rarely and is always beautiful and wistful, with brown eyes that may be darkened by the same emotions as those of an actress whose profoundly rippling shallows we can’t stop diving into — is looking for ways to prolong the conversation by searching out the tiniest free-floating fragment of her mini-story.

7) Let’s see, she says, what else? Oh yes: Tristan resembles Pam and Ted Leary’s little Caitlin: blue eyes and red-blonde hair: so her mother, Nora — who, as Monica knows, is in love with Pam and Ted and spends a thousand more hours a week there than she does at her place — doesn’t seem too sure if she’s Tristan’s grandmother or Caitlin’s. The other day Nora got her two families completely mixed up and called Tristan “Teddy” and she (Nancy) lost it and told Nora to leave and not come back until she could remember her grandson’s name. She needs Monica to tell her the truth: was she justified in throwing her mother out? Is it as unforgivable as it seems to her for her mother to love an acquaintance’s family more than she loves her own? did she over-react because she has her reasons (which she’s not ready to talk about) for having to stop herself from socking her mother. . . ?

*



Yellow forsythia petals are sprinkled in the new grass (exact shade of fresh green not noted).

The same breeze blowing through the fading forsythias or a different breeze on a different day?

Same April day or another April day?

Best buddies and band-mates Greg Coffin and Andy Forest seem happy to be playing ping-pong together in Greg-and-Lena’s enclosed porch room that they’ve just painted yellow (whether a wide-awake forsythia chrome yellow or a somewhat harsher corn yellow or an even harsher and brighter chemical yellow is hard to say).

Greg-and-Andy contentedly playing ping-pong in sunlight in a yellow room.

While hearing the tock-tocking of the ping-pong balls next door and trying not to be distracted by the flashes of yellow sunlight off glossy yellow walls, Monica is reviewing some pages of her 1975 Chronicle and finds a lost card from Ralph Waldo Rice. Mailed in July ’75, lost since August ’75. (Lost but not lost? since here it is where it belongs — “out of order”, but somewhere in Monica’s thick folder of 8 1/2” x 13 1/2” folded-in-half sheets of lavender scrap paper that Monica’s ’75 Chronicle was written on.)

“Dear Monica — Dear David, good to hear from you. I ran to the Postcard Show at NYU on Saturday after we talked and found it gone. I missed it by one day which is typical of the rotten things that happen when one has employment. Glad you’re on to the Floyd Bennet Festival and hope your work goes well, there and elsewhere. It’s been a funny summer for me. I am waiting to hear about my baseball book. Will talk to Pocketbooks today. Otherwise working on a small book of cartoons with Billy Cullen. And some small fictions just to keep my hand in. Best to both of you and yourselves together, Ralph.”

Card is a slightly over-sized postcard, a left-over advertising card for Ralph Waldo Rice’s last book (how many years ago not noted) and Ralph has managed to neatly letter all his sentences around THE FLOATING PRINCIPLE by RALPH WALDO RICE in large dark letters in the center.



Each letter of each word has no more depth than the shadows cast by trees caught between a sheet of Monica’s white typing paper and sun that (today) has its whole existence along the plane of tile or shingle roofs of three-story, one-family frame houses and massive multiple dwellings the whole length of ABC Street. A plane of brilliance it’s impossible to look at: can’t look there, but it arrives here, next to Monica, on the uppermost, blinding surface of her sheets of white typing paper.

Cover it with shadows as fast as possible.

April wind below roof-level and without sufficient weight to sink down to the plane of human activity on the ground.



Two cars pull up in front of Enos and Sylvia Greengrasses’ little brick fortress: daughter Leslie arrives alone in one car (color, make or model not noted), neighbor to the left (south), Al Regan, behind the wheel of the other (also not described), Enos and Sylvia in the back seat.

Now Monica has a clear view of Enos: Al on one side, Sylvia on the other, helping the feeble, shrunken creature who must be Enos, barely taller than he must have been when he was eight or ten years old, through the rarely-used iron front gate, up the 3, 4 or 5 brick front steps to the rarely-used front door — not down the driveway to the side door, as usual.

As if he’d been taken to the hospital to give birth to the hideously shrunken child who resembles him.

Why up the front steps? Makes Monica speculate about the internal structure of the Greengrass house: what sort of steps would have to be climbed inside the side door — up to the level of livingroom, bedrooms, etc.

Barely supporting himself: legs as weak and flexible as if they have no bones. Climbs up front steps or lifted by still-vigorous Al Regan, dark and wrinkled Sylvia balancing Enos just enough from the other side to keep him from tipping that way.

Leslie’s parked, wrestled with something in the trunk, and now she follows, carrying a walker that must have some weight. . . .

What else? Seeing Enos disappear inside makes Monica think of the Sloths, the Greengrasses’ neighbors to the north (right): identically designed house, sheathed in purest white shingle. Monica’s reminded that she hasn’t seen Mr. Sloth, who had been visible on his small front porch in wheelchair and lap robe, for months. Long months of the deadly winter of ’76 only, or longer?

This too: as far as Monica knows the Sloths and Greengrasses haven’t been on speaking terms since Enos blocked the Sloth’s access to the shared driveway with an illegal fence and gate.



Monica asks David to check if Enos Greengrass is already on their list of those undone by the terrible winter of ’76.



At 10 a.m. on an April day (next April day?) — day of pale sunlight and weak breezes — Andy Forest is helping Greg and Lena Coffin polish the dull, un-polishable surface of Greg-and-Lena’s old coffee-colored stationwagon.



Same April day or another (not noted).

A van that’s an ambulance but doesn’t look like an ambulance is parked in front of the Greengrasses’ house. In a hurry to sketch in events as they’re occurring Monica doesn’t have time to do the kind of sorting through the mind’s obscure catalogues of names, resemblances, associations, Crayola crayons, paints, etc. it takes to come up with anything close to the right term for the van’s odd, ambiguous color: writes “bronze” on one line, “gold-orange” on another, and also “weird orangey gold”: “TUFARO’S NORTH SHORE AMBULANCE AND WHEEL CHAIR TRANSPORTATION” stencilled on the side.

Two blue-coated attendants (exactly what shade of blue not noted) wheel Enos Greengrass from house to van. Left out of Monica’s hurried sketch whether out rarely-used front door or more commonly used side door, but Monica is careful to note that the wooly blanket Enos is wrapped in is exactly (exactly) the same ambiguous bronze or gold-orange or orangey-gold as the van-ambulance, therefore the color was consciously chosen and is meant to have meaning/tap into an emotion that’s lost on Monica.

Notes say: “a chilly day with brilliant sunlight not on the plane of ABC Street’s roof tiles only”: therefore must be a different April day?

Sylvia Greengrass hurries out of her rarely-used front door, down the short flight of brick steps, through the rarely-used iron gate into sunlight so dazzling it’s bleaching the Rhinebeck pine’s needle-leaves of all their odd off-green: no color, nothing but light blazing there in short dashes. Birds seem too dizzy in the crisp, overly-bright air to manage their usual sequences of notes.

“New light” and also “early light”.

Sylvia seems desperate. Desperately down her stairs and even more desperately up the stairs of the Regans’ three story white shingle next door (a right turn for Sylvia, left to Monica across the way, south for both). Regans’ front door must be open: seems to Monica that Sylvia enters through it. Out again quickly. Door open but found no one home? In and out and in again, looking crazed enough to call something out to Monica in the other realm across the street. Though they’ve never spoken (and though Monica knows it’s possible that Sylvia’s never noticed her writing on the porch or steps) Sylvia may have considered for an instant (before wheeling around and re-entering the Regans’) asking the near-distant young woman with dark, wavy hair for help. Or it could be that, half-crazed, she had an impulse to call out to Monica, “oh! how yellow! how very yellow your forsythias are today!”

Now some of the pine’s ashen green returns to it, slashes of light-that’s-only-light cutting through it not randomly but according to the sun’s relation to the un-mapped angles and crevices of the houses at the north-west end of ABC Street.

Sylvia Greengrass must come out of the Regans’ house again, but Monica doesn’t see it.

Tufaro’s ambulance-that-doesn’t-look-like-an-ambulance is idling impatiently.

While Monica is wondering why it’s more important for Sylvia to find Al Regan than it is to get Enos to the hospital she’s also getting lost in the recesses of the sky’s blue: an “early morning” blue sometimes called “baby” blue that may just be a blue with not quite enough blue in it: mind swims into it, hungry for more blue.

*



On what April day in the Salem Avenue backyard is Monica noting (having trouble writing in too-bright sunlight) that the tiny, undeveloped leaves of the hedges — which should be but aren’t walling-off this large, unpaved and wild yard from neighbor Blanche’s beautifully groomed and flowery yard to the west and other paved or messy yards south and east — are providing no shade: sunlit neighboring world passes easily through them.

Porous but not porous enough? Nothing’s kept out, but very little of interest gets through.

Having trouble writing not because of the backyard’s ambiguous permeability, but because she doesn’t feel like sketching in what needs to be sketched in. For example: she has no trouble writing that, on the way over from ABC Street to the Salem Avenue backyard, she walked through a world of new green and a world of shadows and often a world of green shadows that lent space a powdered softness, as if rubbed on with the side of a soft green pencil and then possibly spread and softened even more with a fingertip. But she does have trouble writing that Lowell called to tell her a) that he went through hell talking Alyosha into going to the hospital. Not sure how it all came about, but this is how he remembers it: he picked up on something not-quite-right in the way Alyosha looked or the way he was behaving. He seemed irritable and uncomfortable. Wouldn’t admit to anything, of course, but after a lot of badgering he confessed that he was in pain and had been experiencing terrible stomach pain for days (means that it could be weeks). Tried to ignore it by working twice as hard, but Lowell suspects that Alyosha remembered exactly how he felt two years ago and knew that it was probably another heart attack. So Monica can imagine how horrible it was for him to have to lead Alyosha to the point not only of acknowledging what he knew-but-kept-himself-from-knowing, but of actually being in the reality of the hospital!

(N.B.: While translating her April notes into typewriter in October Monica comes across another version of her conversation with Lowell scribbled on another sheet of folded 8 1/2” x 13 1/2” lavender scrap paper: in this version as well Lowell says that he went through hell etc., but adds that the hospital is the Long Island hospital where he’s an intern and that, when he didn’t like what he read on Alyosha’s EKG, he rushed him to a senior cardiologist, who thought that Alyosha had probably had his heart attack no less than one week ago, possibly two, and that only Alyosha’s unbelievably strong constitution and will power made it possible for him to continue living (and working!) through all that. When he heard that Alyosha went into shock: he turned white and was barely conscious when they wheeled him over to ICU for tests.)

Monica also has trouble writing that Lowell said that b) he went through a different kind of hell when Kitty called to say that her plane had just landed: said that she was calling the second she got back from California because she needed to see Alyosha tonight — as soon as possible! He wanted to say no, that would be bad for Alyosha, but he knew what Kitty would think and how she’d react and he was too exhausted to deal with the storm. While he was deciding what to say (he couldn’t just say ok) Kitty surprised him by weeping. Voice became her warm and mushy voice, the squishy baby-talk, talking-to-an-idiot-child voice he’s hated and that’s made him sick since childhood. And for whatever reason that made it easier for him to be honest or to want to be honest to the point of cruelty. He said that his first instinct was to refuse to tell her the name of the hospital. He didn’t want her to visit Alyosha and certainly not tonight. In his opinion seeing her would be harmful. Thinks he may have blamed her for both his heart attacks. . . .

All hell broke loose, of course. Through it all he thinks he took some pleasure in the fact that he was able to make Kitty stop talking baby talk. Cut her off just when she was in the middle of talking about how much she missed hearing his voice — so happy to feel that he was talking to her again — that she hadn’t lost her little brother — how much she loved him. . . etc. etc. He couldn’t take it. Had to end it.

She hung up and he had enough sense to know that he’d better call Monica to tell her what happened and to figure out what to do next. But, by the time he called Monica, Kitty had already called Betty and Betty had gone nuts and called Monica, convinced that Kitty was going to commit suicide because he (Lowell) had said something unforgivable. Monica gave Lowell the advice that he didn’t want to hear: that he needed to call Kitty back and tell her where Alyosha was. “No matter what you feel,” she said, “you can’t prevent Kitty from seeing her father.”

Ten minutes later Lowell called again: isn’t it amazing, he said, that ten minutes ago Kitty was weeping and sentimental and happy that he was talking to her again and gushing about how much she loved him — and now she’s in a fury not because of what he said or because he refused to tell her where Alyosha is — but because he tried to stop her from going to the hospital after she’d already cancelled her patients. She’d cleared that time because that was the only convenient time for her to visit! Furious too because he told her that the time that was convenient for her was exactly the time when Monica was already scheduled to be there. And then more fury because they told her that Happy would not be allowed to enter Alyosha’s room. Visits from non-essential people like Happy were absolutely forbidden. They didn’t care that as the grieving daughter she needed to have Happy with her. She made this argument: how could Happy bother Alyosha when Alyosha hardly knows who he is?! He probably wouldn’t even know he was there — so what difference could it make? Happy would be coming for her. But none of that interested them and she seemed to be just as angry at them as she was at him. She tried to explain how she felt: “we don’t visit people in the hospital for their benefit; we visit them for our benefit. We go for our own peace of mind, for our own consolation: most of the time the person who’s seriously ill or dying doesn’t want to be seen or doesn’t have a clue who’s there. . . .” So seeing Alyosha is something she needs and she needs to have Happy’s support. . . .

“So you’re the one we should all be concerned about. You should get into bed and we should all visit you.”

Naturally they had another bitter argument.



It’s not clear to Monica when taking her notes (or not clear later when typing her notes) how she knows what Kitty said: straight from Kitty?, from Lowell, reporting on his conversations and arguments with Kitty (and therefore suspect in terms of shading, tone, inflection and accuracy)? or from Betty, who also spoke to Kitty more than once and called Monica for reassurance and for other reasons that aren’t always easy to sort out. For example: Monica thinks but isn’t sure that it’s Betty who told her that Hap’s (Happy’s) father, who lives in California, wanted them to remain in California and get married there before returning to New York. And that it was Kitty who put her foot down and said no, that’s impossible, she has so many calls on her machine, so many patients who need her, that she must, absolutely must, return to New York on Monday. This too, clearly from Lowell: “same old thing”, Kitty is reported to say. “You know that my feelings about Monica are confused: they’ve always been confused and probably always will be confused. In the rest of my life I’m the one who gives directions, but, for all the obvious reasons, with Monica I’m the one who takes directions. With her — only with her — I slip back into the self that welcomes being the one who isn’t responsible for giving directions and I hate the fact that I welcome it. There’s nothing either one of us can do about our natures, so there’s no solution. I have to admit this: when it comes to Monica I get a little crazy and there are things that I’ve done — things you know about and dislike me for and things you don’t know about — that were wrong.”

Lowell also says that Kitty reproached him for saying terrible things to her — things she’s never heard from anyone else. “You’re saying things”, she said, “that I’ve never thought about myself and that no one else thinks either.” “But that’s not fair,” he remembers answering, “I’m just repeating back stuff that you confided. You’re the one who said to me — and you may have been crying when you said it — that it tortures you that you have so much trouble feeling any real warmth toward anyone. That the feelings that others talk about and seem to feel so easily may be lost to you entirely. . . . You said that to me and now I’m saying back to you that you may be right: there’s nothing we can do about it: you’re cold and selfish and not very trustworthy either.” And, Lowell says, he added this: “If you say that you can’t feel warmth like other people, how does Hap or ‘Happy’ fit into that? You’re about to marry him so you must feel ‘warmth’ toward him. . . .” Her answer was like a shrug. The truth is that she hardly knows him. Knows him less than ten weeks. Something between them clicked but is that the same thing as the conventional idea of warmth?



Same April day or another April day Monica’s notes say:

a) “Red brick chimney isolated against a perfect blue sky. Or, blue of sky ‘perfect’, blue of sky bluer, because of brick red oblong that interrupts it.”

b) Inside softening outline of April hedges darker hedges bristle. And when light falls at certain angles there are branches that still look frozen and silvery: in the dark and thorny core of dark hedge or through the dark hedge. (Light that angles backward in time?)

c) Two dogs in what nearby backyards can’t stop barking? Not the intelligent barking of a dog that has a list of real complaints — just a low-grade argument between two dogs who have to have the last word. More bored and irritated by each other or by the neighboring world?

What else?

d) or something other than “d”? Days after her conversation with Lowell about Kitty a tiny fragment of the same conversation tries to re-attach itself to the whole that’s already drifted away. Notes say that “last night” it was impossible to separate the breeze flowing through the grass from the light (moonlight?) flowing through the grass and then (how much later not noted) both light and breeze moving along the edge of the water. Notes also say that the same breeze and same light return “tonight” and that it’s uncommon for such events and sensations to repeat themselves one day after the other. Not clear in her notes if it’s on the first or second similar night of moonlight and breezes that Lowell re-enters the Chronicle to add that Kitty couldn’t stop talking about Monica. Went on about Monica for twenty minutes or more — and he wasn’t sure if it was an obsession or if she was trying to plant an idea in his head. She wishes Monica would stop trying to inspire her, she said. It isn’t realistic. She underlined that word. She wanted Lowell to learn to be realistic about his capabilities. To want more than you’re capable of is not a path to happiness. Just because she feels a bit stalled right now, just because she feels she’s hit a plateau, doesn’t mean that Monica is right. If things feel a little stale and unsatisfying is that because she’s compromising before anyone asked her to? Does it prove that she’s capable of something greater? Doesn’t Lowell agree that that logic is ridiculous? She looks at it this way: Life without sufficient definition is a mess and her life is finally starting to take on the definition it needs: career on track, relationship with someone solid, etc. She wants Lowell’s honest opinion: if Monica would just leave them both alone wouldn’t they be free of the horrible nagging feeling that their lives are not good enough?!

Lowell says that he can’t be sure that he answered the way he thinks he answered: that if either one of them is bothered by what Monica says there must be a reason. If Kitty is not attracted to it. . . . But of course she’s attracted to it! That’s the whole point! That’s why it’s dangerous! That’s why she’s taking the time to try and get Lowell to be more realistic. She realizes how seductive Monica’s view of life is when you’re young. Who wouldn’t want to believe that life can be lived doing something “great” or “important”? But what if it doesn’t come naturally? Has Lowell thought about that? If it doesn’t come naturally and you try to do more than nature meant for you then you’re doomed to a life of struggle. . . a haunted life of unsuccessful striving. That’s a sure path to unhappiness. And, more than anything, she wants to be happy — and she wants Lowell to be happy too. . . .

It seemed to him that Kitty’s long speech about Monica and her (Kitty’s) own conflicts and what she wanted for him (Lowell) put her in a strange mood. Hard to put a finger on it, but he didn’t like her posture or the expression on her face standing next to Alyosha, half-conscious in his hospital bed. After she stopped talking she stood there, peering down at him with a grief-stricken expression, as if he were dead. Kitty’s expression didn’t change for so long it looked like she’d slipped on the mask of Tragedy. Freaked him out and he left the room.

e) On what day in early April is Bah-Wah curled up in thin, new grass and damp earth in the shade of the Salem Avenue backyard’s bare hedges, sniffing (even while dreaming?) the mild perfume of the flowers-that-may-not-even-be-flowers in Blanche’s (neighbor-to-the-west’s) garden? Bah-Wah is dozing and dreaming of flowers not far from where Monica is sitting, editing February notes about early budding and snow-on-the-ground in exactly the same spot.

f) On still one more un-dated day muted dark shadow of hedges lies right up against irregular sunlight through hedges.

David is sitting in the Salem Avenue backyard, addressing envelopes (reason not noted). Distracted by 1) birds (what kind?) resting on the first story roof of what house? 2) a wrinkled blue window curtain and bottles of different shapes and sizes — too many to count, though he does start counting left to right — 1, 3, 7 — loses track after 10, 11 or 13 — lined up behind the window glass and against the wrinkled blue curtain. 3) the unstable beauty of someone’s clothesline: so many sleeves and legs swimming between bay and ocean in blue air (colors, patterns and types of clothing not catalogued, as both David and Monica sometimes like to do).

David and Bah-Wah soak up the last warmth of the sun together.

*



It rains the whole morning of April 9, then clears into an afternoon of cold sunlight. Warm enough for Monica to head downstairs and work on the front porch. First thing she notes is the dipping and rebounding of forsythia wands as the weight of unseen birds (unseen, therefore kind not noted) settles and hops through them.

Also on April 9: Greg and Lena’s coffee-colored stationwagon is washed clean and shiny by the morning’s rain. Right now, before sun dries it back to its usual dullness, its shiny skin looks as alive as a crab shell with its living creature still inside and crawling under its own weight and the weight of the ocean too.

Let’s see: little Rosamond Coffin waves as she passes and Monica and David (what time David joined Monica on the porch not noted) remark to each other that Rosamond’s spectacular melon-head or planetarium-dome-head has been shrinking down to normal, uninteresting proportions. But Monica sees in her notes (as she’s preparing them for translation into typewriter) that Rosamond Coffin’s head is a subject that comes up again later in Lin’s Garden with Wanda Baer, and she stops short of adding details that she may be sketching in backward from a later event.

Monica feels compelled to write about Rosamond Coffin’s head because it makes her think of the perfectly smooth egg-oval of Alyosha’s head with its rough grey stubble or close-cropped soft fuzz haircut, which she does not want to think about. Monica would prefer any subject to the sunny afternoons spent with her father in his hospital room. Alone with her he expresses anguish that she doesn’t know how to deal with. Should she write it down or not? Write about something when you don’t know the meaning of it? Beloved Alyosha, the soul of kindness, crying in anguish about his harshness to others. In his hospital bed on sunny April afternoons he can’t help thinking about the times he was angry, unsympathetic or mocking. (Toward whom not remembered or not noted.) Causes him grief now, when he has time to think about how much he disappointed himself, but even then — when it was happening — life had ways of telling him that it knew what he’d done. In the middle of a job a hammer would suddenly take aim at the back of his hand or a finger or fingernail and hit it as hard as it could. Pain would be unbearable, but he’d welcome it. He remembers thanking the hammer. “Good! good that you did that! I deserve it!” Monica finds it hard to remember or to write about this emotion. His grief fills her with grief and makes her look for something else to write about.

Also on April 9: Molly M calls from the Paris Review to ask if it’s alright with Monica and David if they get together at George’s a little later on Tuesday than they’d planned. He doesn’t want to delay THE BLUE HANGAR portfolio any longer, but he finally agreed to do the Saab ad and of course they’re insisting that that has to happen exactly at lunch hour on Tuesday.



“That night” Monica and David have dinner with Wanda Baer in Lin’s Garden and it’s there, over snails in black bean sauce, roast duck and clams (done how?), that Wanda brings up the subject of Rosamond Coffin’s head. Wants to know if either of them has noticed how it’s changing. Used to be incredible, as they know, as big and round — as monumental — as a Central American stone head you see in National Geographic, but now it’s getting to be just about like any other pretty little girl’s head! What could have happened? Should she ask Lena if she has Rosamond on some sort of stupid diet? The stupid diet of normalcy every odd child ends up on. . . .

What else? Wanda Baer says that she had a horrible, exhausting week — so can’t figure out why she’s feeling good. In a good mood for no good reason just the same way she’s sometimes in a bad mood for no good reason. What happened is this: a few days ago she knew that no one would be home so she went over to her parents’ apartment. Can’t even remember what reason she gave herself. Might have been about taxes. That sounds logical. Knows that she needs to start getting her papers together — but can’t think what could possibly be at her parents’ apartment that — at this point — has anything to do with her! She was there, trying to think of a reason for being there, and found herself fishing through her mother’s bedroom bureau drawers — looking for the mysterious secret something she always felt was there. Everything so false, so concealed, there had to be something — or a zillion secret somethings — and she found it! (Or at least a part of it.) Made her dizzy and exhausted and she wonders why. Maybe Monica or David can figure it out. Could it be this?: even though you’ve always known that your parents are lying — have always lied and are telling the same disgusting lie right now — you’re never one thousand percent certain. Even though you know for sure, you question your own instincts and your own experience. Know for a fact and have known for a fact forever what both your parents separately and especially together are capable of — yet you doubt what you know. Is that it? So then, when the truth of the truth that they’ve always denied clicks into place before your eyes, it’s actually nauseating. Does that make any sense?

This is what happened: she found a little wooden box under her mother’s nightgowns and inside the box little scraps of paper she recognized immediately as her mother’s little reminder slips or “to do” lists, scribbled little strips of cut or torn paper she’s always found around the house with her mother’s handwriting. The slips in the box didn’t resemble any of the others in this way: they were lists of bank account numbers and amounts of money! How could that be? From the beginning of the universe until yesterday there’s been no time when she’s asked her father or her mother for as little as five dollars when both of them haven’t answered with pretty much the same words that they had nothing — no savings, no pocket money, no dollar to spare, nothing — probably not even any loose change. But here, under her mother’s nightgowns in her bedroom bureau, was a list of secret bank accounts that she was too sweaty and dizzy to add up accurately — $50,000, $100,000, $200,000. . . she couldn’t handle it and stopped adding and just started to copy it all down for Monica so Monica could tell her if she’d lost her mind. . . .

Wanda Baer, Monica and David start to go over Wanda’s scribbled notes while still nibbling at their snails, etc.: Monica can see clearly $178,000 in a savings account in Harriet Kurtz’s (Wanda’s mother’s) name; a $150,000 account in both Oscar and Harriet Kurtz’s names with an ambiguous notation about a trust for the three children, Wanda Baer (birth name “Joyce Kurtz”), Libby and Cindy Kurtz; $11,000 in a checking account for daily spending money; muddled figures that neither Monica nor David can figure out but which seem to add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash hidden in safe deposit boxes plus other accounts in Oscar Kurtz’s name alone (Wanda Baer’s handwriting too scrawled and shaky to read).

Wanda Baer says that when she got home that night she couldn’t concentrate on her taxes and still hasn’t been able to do them — that’s how messed up her head is!

She says sheepishly that she knows that she should be sharing these thoughts with Dr. DaVinci — knows that it’s a stupid waste of time to hide everything important (everything that makes you nuts!) from your psychiatrist — but she’s had a couple of sessions with Dr. DaVinci and for some reason she still hasn’t told him anything. . . !

Also in Lin’s Garden: Wanda Baer starts to tell a story about a “bizarre experience” she had while dancing in The Duchess: a well-dressed woman, attractive but clearly in her mid-sixties, approached her and said. . . . . Story never gets told by Wanda or recording of story by Monica in April or retelling of it by Monica in August is interrupted by events in August or April and the story is erased from Monica’s memory. Or, though the continuity of the fabric of Wanda’s story is torn by events in April or August, Monica manages to scribble down enough marginal notes, key words or private codes so that she may be able to piece it together later, out of view of the present instant.



Monica isn’t sure if she can honestly ask herself “why here and not somewhere else?” While writing about Wanda Baer she comes across a detached fragment of the same bitter argument between Lowell and Kitty she translated from handwritten notes to typewriter before or a fragment of some other bitter argument that wants to rejoin the whole but can’t unless Monica agrees to it. She’s sick of writing about their arguments and can’t make up her mind whether she has a responsibility to the Chronicle to let it re-attach itself. Or is it the Chronicle that spit it out in the first place? She decides to include it and let others (or the pressure of the extreme length of the Chronicle, which may be the same thing as talking about the slow sifting, the natural decision-making, of time) decide for her.

Little length of bitter sparring to this effect: Kitty warns Lowell that he’s just a little too hostile — too aggressive toward her — for her to think of re-establishing a relationship with him and admits that she miscalculated the degree of his aggression and hostility. Lowell answers that she also miscalculated the degree of his desire to have a relationship with her at all! His definition of life is not her definition of life. She wants to be “normal” and wants him to want to be normal, but that’s exactly what he doesn’t want and doesn’t even want to want! He knows that she thinks that she is normal and that Monica and David aren’t, but, whatever you call it, he likes the flavor of their world and hopes that in ten years, when he really is leading his own life, he’ll be living among people like that and that he won’t have become normal like her without even having a clue how it happened. Kitty says with maddening certainty: “you only think that because you’re twenty-two.” By the time he’s thirty-two all his ideas will have changed. Things are just never the same when you’re thirty-two as they are when you’re twenty-two. Yes, Lowell says, he knows that she believes that when you’re in your thirties you’ve started to make your peace with the idea that your most ambitious ideal for yourself, your dream-outline of your life, is already nothing but a nostalgic memory. Or an absurd second life in your brain only. Or it’s completely dead. And the dead dream-ideals of the twenty-year-old are the building blocks of normalcy. . . .

More along the same lines. The argument escalates and ends in near-violence.

*



How does Monica know this? From Wanda Baer (therefore still in Lin’s Garden)? Might also be directly from Lena Coffin during one of the mini-conversations Lena seems to like to strike up with David while she brooms dry, dusty earth into the air in the cracked and weedy shared driveway, but Monica doesn’t think so.

Lena told Greg (exactly when not told or not noted) that lately, when she’s alone in the enormous multiple dwelling during the day (everyone out working or playing), she sometimes finds the house frightening. Might be a sound and no way to know where in all those empty rooms it’s coming from. At night, when you’d think it would be more frightening, it isn’t, because so many people are home and the sounds of life being lived are ordinary and explainable. No idea why the feeling has only come over her lately. So she asked Greg to make the front door more secure and today he’s changing the lock.

Another note makes it clear that Wanda Baer is the source of information about Lena Coffin, but it’s not certain if it’s a continuation of the first conversation or a different conversation entirely.

Wanda Baer says that lately Lena’s eyes have been large and staring, as if always in a state of terror. Terror of what she has no clue, but she thinks Lena’s terror is the reason for the crazy decision to paint the enclosed front porch “ping-pong” room such a hideously over-bright shade of yellow — as if the phony cheeriness of that nauseating yellow could burn away all the shadows and all the creaking in all the house’s million little hidden corners and cubbyholes.



On Sunday April 11 Monica hears the sharp, lightweight tok-toking of ping-pong balls being struck, struck again, struck back, back again, then bouncing off table, floor or wall on the other side of Greg-and-Lena’s porch room’s striped curtains.



Monica often has this debate with herself: if a note is fragmented (or not even “fragmented” because it was never whole): if one event is recorded in little bits on widely separated pages for all the usual reasons, should these bits of separated note-taking be left as they are, as fragments that may never cohere — on paper or in the reader’s mind — even as the tiniest of mini-narratives? Or should she make some effort (for the reader’s sake) to sweep them together in one spot? Sometimes (because of her argument with herself) she does sweep or stitch them together, sometimes she lets things fall as they do according to the nature of chronicling.

For example: at some point after Tommy Liman’s March 31 birthday party Vicky Liman runs into Wanda Baer somewhere along the south <—> north track of the beach block of ABC Street and tells her to report to Monica for her Chronicle (or Vicky probably says for her “writing”, for her “journal”, for her “sketchbook”, etc. not for her “Chronicle”) that her brother was ten years old on March 31 and that, at the party, he announced to everyone that he’s been seeing mourning doves in the backyard and that he wished he’d invited Monica from down the block so he could ask her to explain what they were suddenly doing there. Vicky (according to Wanda Baer) thinks that Monica might find it interesting also that Tommy’s finally become friendly with beautiful Martina (Tina) Lima next door. (That is, Tommy’s finally old enough to notice how beautiful Tina Lima is.)



Yellow is the last color of autumn and the first color of spring.

On April 11 (for example) a cold wind is stripping yellow blossoms from the long forsythia wands of ABC Street and turning them green.

Hedges and trees are sprouting and the green of a tree at the corner (North, South, East, West not noted) of ABC Street and Coast Boulevard is so new, so fresh, so mild it’s almost milky. A milky green that, from the middle distance, is just a mist in the branches.

Daffodils are also new and yellow (what yellow exactly?) and are springing up at how many locations along the boulevards and cross streets?



An undated note about Alyosha that belongs here or doesn’t: belongs here because it is here, but is also separated from the hard-to-write note of what date? about Alyosha’s time in the hospital. During one of Monica’s sunny April afternoon visits to the hospital (clearly just after Kitty had been there — with or without Hap (“Happy”) not noted) Alyosha had stories to tell about Kitty and Happy (things he’d observed and stories told to him by Kitty) and needed to re-tell them to Monica.

Let’s see:

1) Kitty and Happy are already having a plumbing problem in their new apartment on the nineteenth floor of a twenty-one story highrise on University in the Village. There seems to be a break in one of the water lines every seventh floor: toilets don’t flush or get stuffed and whoever’s in an apartment just below one of the breaks is in trouble. Kitty and Happy came home after a weekend away and found raw sewage backed up out of the toilet into every room, hundreds of books that hadn’t been shelved yet ruined, etc. Happy told Kitty to stop payment on the rent check and wants to move out, but Kitty says that’s crazy because they just moved in. What else? Alyosha wants Monica’s opinion: is Kitty bragging or complaining (or is it a special kind of bragging-complaining) when she says that the high rent (about seven hundred a month) is a little bit of a burden or could easily become a burden if Happy doesn’t find a way to earn more money (only pulls in twenty to her thirty-two!).

2) Alyosha says that he has no idea what it means, but Kitty says that Happy is “interested in” real estate. Thinks he may have said that to Kitty: what does it mean that he’s “interested” in real estate? Does he own any? Does he have some kind of license? Exactly what does it mean to be interested in it? But he didn’t get an answer.

3) Kitty also says that Happy “likes to take photographs” — but he (Alyosha) doesn’t know what that means either.

4) Happy’s parents live in California, somewhere near San Diego, and seem to have money, but he doesn’t get the feeling that their money has anything to do with Happy.

5) All Happy’s nieces and nephews are lawyers or doctors or the ones that are lawyers and doctors are the only ones Happy talks about.

6) Alyosha calls Happy “a smoothie”: first time they met, before they said two words to each other, Happy threw his arms around him (Alyosha). Some people might find that a beautiful thing — and maybe it is a beautiful thing — and it’s possible that Happy is just a warm and beautiful person — but (he’d like to have Monica’s opinion about this too) for him it’s just a little too quick. What does Monica think: is it wrong to question someone’s warmth and friendliness? should we just accept it for what it seems to be? or is it alright to find it a little weird?

7) This too: (proof that Happy was with Kitty when she visited Alyosha in the hospital — therefore, obviously, someone has to go back and change Monica’s earlier doubt to certainty): Alyosha says that Happy brought zillions of snapshots to the hospital. (Does Alyosha speculate then or is it Monica who speculates later that it’s Happy’s obsessive snapshot-taking — not photography as one of the half-dozen or dozen possible professions Kitty says Happy is “interested in” — that Kitty was talking about when she said that “Happy likes to take photographs”?) Fifty, a hundred or more snapshots of the early days of Kitty-and-Happy’s relationship, though it isn’t clear to Monica what “early days” means when she still doesn't know if Kitty’s known Happy for weeks or months: Kitty and Happy posing together, Kitty alone, Kitty with friends (with or without Happy). Nothing random or “candid”: every shot posed.

While typing (rewriting) her painful April notes about Alyosha’s hospital stay, Monica sees that at a later, undated day in April Lowell spent time with her in the Salem Avenue backyard, talking over a late breakfast of David’s baked pancake.

Lowell has his own stories to tell about Happy’s snapshots and about a dinner he had with Happy and Kitty at Betty-and-Alyosha’s where more of Happy’s snapshots were passed around and he had a chance to verify “in the flesh” what he thought he saw in the snapshots.

Trying to sort out Lowell’s stories from Alyosha’s while re-viewing and typing her April notes (in November?) it seems obvious to Monica that all Alyosha expressed to her in his hospital room on a sunny afternoon in April was the kind of amazement that anyone would take that many snapshots and then bring that many snapshots to the hospital! Also: it’s fair to say that Alyosha seemed to find Happy hard to figure out and that it bothers him that Kitty doesn’t seem to be able to figure Happy out either. All other opinions and analysis are probably Lowell’s.

Let’s see: Lowell thinks that there’s a distinct difference in the way Kitty’s face looks in the earlier snapshots compared to the more recent ones (and there are so insanely many of them — so many alternate views and angles — it’s easy to reach some conclusions).

In the earlier shots Kitty looks — he’s not sure how to say it — can he say “sexual”? She looks hyper-excited, charged by something that’s either already gone on just before the picture was snapped or that she knows is going to go on just after the picture is snapped. Caught in the act of thinking about it — and he’s tempted to say that what she’s thinking about seems a little decadent (if that’s the right word): face shows that Kitty’s anticipating or savoring the memory of something sexual that she thinks would shock the people sitting near her if they knew about it. . . .

In the recent snapshots Kitty looks dull, fat and puffy. No sexual charge at all. If anything she looks uncomfortable — reluctant to be photographed — maybe even sick of being photographed, possibly depressed by something she’s discovered. In some of the shots (even the early ones, but certainly lately) she’s trying to conceal her discomfort and unhappiness by making stupid faces.

Something else: when he was with Kitty and Happy at Alyosha-and-Betty’s he didn’t like the way Kitty’s eyes looked. She seemed exhausted and her eyes were horribly dark. And she was silent. She let Happy do all the talking and you could tell right away that he’s a performer: a showboat and a windbag who likes to take center stage and has a way of talking that’s grand and nasal. Demands your attention, needs your attention — as if it’s his mission in life to bore as large an audience as possible. He went on and on (playing up to Betty and Alyosha?) about how he’s tried to get Kitty to stop smoking. He’s tried everything! He knows hypnosis and even tried that, but it didn’t work because she was resistant — and now he’s trying to get her to go through a full course of EST training (as if Alyosha or Betty had a clue what he was talking about!).

It’s clear to him (does anyone else see it? does Monica see it?) that Kitty is trying to let Happy — because he’s tall and talks a lot and likes to be the center of attention — play the role of someone strong she can lean on (allow her to not be the loud and strong one for a change). But something’s wrong. It’s false and it’s not working and Kitty is beginning to let herself know it.

*



On what undated April day does Ambrose Lenehan Sr. pass, heading south toward his house (1, 2, 3 or is it 4? houses from boardwalk, beach and ocean) with Kitty’s ex-lover, Owen. Monica knows that Kitty met him through Nora Lenehan and went to a lot of bars and dances with him while she lived on ABC Street. Here he is now, passing quickly, a short, no-longer-quite-so-young-but-still-young-seeming man (dwarfed by Ambrose Lenehan) in a slightly too-large royal blue suit: not bad-looking, but not pleasant-looking either: a small man with a cruel face and a nose that looks a bit bent out of shape from fighting.

Monica wishes someone would catalogue everyone who passes on ABC Street wearing royal blue.



One handwritten note says something about spending April “shuttling back and forth between ABC Street and Salem Avenue”, but why the Salem Avenue house with its spacious farmhouse kitchen and big, densely leafy backyard is available to Monica and David isn’t noted. (Monica could fill this information in later (while typing) or later still, but chooses not to.)



On the way to Salem Avenue on what April day? Monica finds Xylon’s tree bare: pale green fuzz balls (seed pods?) around it on earth that should be a lawn but isn’t: not a hint of the early washes of green being colored in everywhere, but Monica is unable to interpret what the dropping of the green fuzz-balls signals. Must have some relationship to the subtle but unmistakable fragrance of new green plant life and new flower life on the spring-like breezes, but what? what exactly?



The silence of the spacious Salem Avenue kitchen seems to Monica related to the long, rectangular fluorescent ceiling fixture: a silence that’s an audible hum that tunes itself out the longer you listen to it.



At 3:20 on another undated April day sunlight in the Salem Avenue backyard is a property of the day’s breeziness: it breathes through April’s pages. Both sunlight and breezes are chilly — so it’s a chilled sunlight that passes across Monica’s skin and then through every sentence. Monica is spending the afternoon outside with Bah-Wah (dozing in sun or in shadow?), numbering April pages and trying to index earlier handwritten notes up to March ’74 (remainder of handwritten ’74 notes — on folded-in-half 8 1/2” x 13 1/2” sheets of lavender scrap paper or 8 1/2” x 13 1/2” thin and glossy white paper with one green stripe — are stored in a carton with other cartons in the damp basement of a friend’s house). So Monica’s forced to skip indexing months of the Chronicle, pick up indexing again with June of ’75, then is cut off again when she reaches July.



On the same or another cold and windy, sunlit April day in the Salem Avenue backyard Monica spots tiny pink flowers already emerging on neighbor-to-the-west Blanche’s one flowering tree — a low tree that seems to want to branch out horizontally but has no interest in climbing vertically. Monica sees this too: a reddish glow in cold sunlight blowing through the tiny, not-quite-olive-green leaves of the hedges.



On “Sunday April 14” Wanda Baer wants Monica’s opinion. Hands Monica a picture postcard addressed to “The happy gang!” at Greg-and-Lena’s massive multiple dwelling and wants to know if Monica interprets the card in the same way she does. Lou the rolypoly mailman handed her the mail for the house so she’s the only one who’s read it.

“To the happy gang! —

“Dear Lena, Greg, Josh, Jo-Jo, Rosalita, Grete, Andy F, Tina, Babette, Hank, Allison, Jackie, Ralph, Michelle, Leo, Lily, Wanda and of course Grendel.

“We’re on our way back from 9 beautiful, rainless days on Ibiza — where this was our view from the balcony (almost like ABC Street!). Happy Easter to you all and we’ll see you in a month.

“Love, Andy and Nadja.”

While Wanda Baer is asking Monica if she thinks it’s wrong — if she thinks it’s dumb — to resent Andy and Nadja’s stupid card, Monica is looking closely at the printed text at the upper left corner of the back:

“San Jose (Ibiza)

“Es Vedra Puerta de Sol

“ ‘Es Vedra Goucher de Soleil’

“ ‘Es Vedra sunset’

“ ‘Es Vedra Sonnenuntergeng’. ”

Wanda Baer says (and she wishes Monica would tell her if it’s ridiculous!) that she doesn’t think she’ll ever think about Andy and Nadja the same way again. She always thought that Andy and Nadja were just two unusually relaxed, suntanned and athletic people who traveled just so they could always be in summer — maybe not always on the beach, but always outside. You could even say: two completely outside people — people with no inside — therefore not neurotic. No room in their physical, summery life for stupid emotions (the kind of stupid emotions she has, for example). But now she knows that can’t be true. You have to have an inside life and that inside life has to be as stupid as everyone else’s if you can sit on a terrace on Ibiza and write a card naming every single person you supposedly like and respect back home just to let each and every one of them know that he or she (even her, named just before the dog!) is just one more dull jerk stuck on ABC Street — which does not — repeat, does not — for one single second resemble the view from a terrace on Ibiza!



Monica’s notes can at rare moments be difficult to situate in time, even for Monica. And exactly how much after the fact she’s rereading (re-writing) them isn’t noted either.

For example: an April note begins: “there are fresh green leaves on the overgrown hedges surrounding the Salem Avenue house, front and back. The green of these fresh April leaves is pale — lacking the deep green blood of summer.” But then it goes on: “And something similar can be said about the dying green of the hedge rows of November: also pale and with summer’s blood drained away. Is it surprising that last green and first green have something so vitally important in common?” Monica also wonders if as much needs to be said about the effect of April and November light on leaves as about April and November leaves themselves.

If the next paragraph on the same typewritten page begins: “November 1 is cold and windy”: does that fact alone prove that her handwritten April notes were typed in November? This too has to be taken into account: the next line on the same page begins to record an event in July of ’76, therefore what?



On what day in July not noted and not noted either exactly where on Coast Boulevard Monica (walking west toward nothing in particular instead of east in the direction of. the Salem Avenue house and the local shopping street beyond), who hasn’t made a plan to meet Nancy St. Cloud for a long time, is happy to run into her by chance. Nancy is in a hurry but has a story to tell and lingers to tell it.

Nancy St. Cloud says that she can’t remember what she told Monica about her friend Georgia the last time she and Monica spoke. Can’t recall: aside from the fact that just about every story about Georgia is a story about weight, did Georgia’s story leave off at a point where Georgia had put on or taken off a huge amount of weight? Up or down? And for what reason? Elated or depressed? The eternal soap opera of the waist line and all its orbiting mini-dramas, each one with its own cast of characters.

This is the question: Georgia is going on still one more cruise (her third this year!) and she wants to know if Monica thinks that all this cruising has more to do with the depressing weirdness of Georgia’s relationship with Fabien in general or with the specific fact that Georgia met Fabien because Fabien was the Entertainment Director on the very first cruise she took.

There’s more: Fabien is supposedly getting married, but not to any of the women he usually tortures Georgia with: not to the “wealthy older woman” and not to the “pretty blonde” girl who’s more-or-less Georgia’s age. According to Fabien he’s marrying a twenty-one-year-old girl he hardly knows (met a couple of months ago on her first cruise!).

Georgia doesn’t believe it and she (Nancy) isn’t sure if she does either. Wants to know if Monica agrees that this is one of those times when it’s impossible to know what’s true.

There are one or two other hard-to-answer questions: Georgia has gained nearly fifty pounds since last summer and right now probably weighs around three hundred. What — exactly what — is the equation between weight gain/weight loss and the ups and downs of her relationship with Fabien? Are there actually ups and downs? What (and how can anyone tell, since the relationship exists essentially in the stories Georgia tells her about it) is the reality of that relationship? For example: has there ever been any sex there at all? Georgia has always claimed that sex was not an important part of their relationship — but what does that mean? At times she suspected that Georgia was shading the truth and that there was sex in some sense of the word, at least occasionally. And at other times she believed that both Fabien and Georgia could take sex or leave it — that the intensity of the emotion might actually make up for it — or that intense emotion might be sex for them.

Now that Fabien is saying that he’s getting married Georgia is insisting that the relationship was “platonic”: no sex at all (no matter how you define it)! Therefore certainly never any intercourse or anything resembling it. She finds that unbelievable and wants to know if Monica does too.

And then there’s the other side of it: if Georgia is telling the truth, then what kind of game could Fabien have been playing? Certainly no delusion of a grand, sexless love (like an opera with no singing) for him. So — what did Fabien get out of it? Sex for him just the thrill of playing with her? Enough for him to manipulate her and watch her pathetic reactions? Enough pleasure in that for him? Like the swarms of flies you see sometimes that seem to be feeding off the smell of something?

No way (is there?) to get to the bottom of a story that is just a story someone’s been telling you in bits and pieces for months or years. . . .



Continuing her random walk west along Coast Boulevard (left turn from ABC Street) after parting with Nancy St. Cloud, Monica can’t help thinking that when we talk about love and sex the assumption of a common language is built on complete ignorance. That is to say: not knowing what we’re talking about and not really knowing who we’re talking to makes communication possible.

*



Noted in April (typed in November) east <—> west breezes along the one-and-three-quarter mile length of Salem Avenue are blowing through cherry blossoms “today” and have already been thinning them out for a week or more: wherever Monica walks in the neighborhood lawns now have little drifts and washes of petals.



Same time or another: unmistakable fragrance of lilacs and then the hard little cone-tips of lilacs, fat and dark as darkest grape or even darker blackberry, in front of the Salem Avenue house. Passersby stop to sniff and touch. Touch is loving and tender: the upturned face and the extended hand.



April and November are not only linked, but penetrate and flavor one another — but only on the 8 1/2” x 11” typed white sheets and/or folded 8 1/2” x 13 1/2” handwritten lavender scrap paper notes of Monica’s Chronicle. In November Monica is typing (not noted if she’s in the red room, blue room or green room of her attic apartment and studio) about two months or seasons. Icy winds are rattling the windows (let’s see: two sets of casement swing-arm, nine panel dormer windows facing south and one deep and tiny dovecote window facing east in the red room bedroom/studio; two sets of casement swing-arm, nine panel dormer windows facing east in the blue room; two sets of casement swing-arm, nine panel dormer windows facing west (also north <—> south if Monica leans out and cranes her neck in the direction of ocean or bay) and one deep and tiny dovecote window facing north in the green room studio) and Monica can’t help thinking with some dread about the steep slide into the nearly aromaless, nearly colorless months of winter that seems to be starting right now, at the instant of typing: streets either scraped bare, down to their grey bone, or one continuous plane of harsh, unmodulated light. And at the same time/on the same page as she’s typing about what she sees through blue, green or red room windows she’s transcribing handwritten April notes that say that she’s in the Salem Avenue backyard: lifts her face to the sun, therefore has to close her eyes: with eyes closed sees amethyst shadows that remain when she opens them — only now they’re inside the new green of the tiny hedge-leaves and, even more deeply, in the shallow plane of grass that borders them.

This is the mulberry shadow of afternoon.

Mulberry shadow of late afternoon in April.

Around five p.m., to be exact.

Presence of night already on the roofs.

Dozing there half-asleep — and when it wakes up will roll off easily and all the backyards of the neighborhood will be dark.

While night dozes on the roof Bah-Wah dozes in mild April breezes and in shadows under the hedges whose exact shade of purple changes with every twitch of Bah-Wah's eyebrows.



Still in the Salem Avenue backyard? And on what day, at what hour? David says that he’s been thinking about a children’s book for a long time. It has something to do with the overheard voices of children, the parallel story-world of the children on a street like ABC Street and of course it would be dedicated to the children of ABC Street (that is: only the children of ABC Street Monica’s chronicled). And of course a little bubble of experience surrounds each fraction of an overheard story that’s always exactly as long and as complete as it needs to be. Monica and David are both aware — while they’re discussing David’s kernel of an idea for a book — how seldom such “kernels of ideas” become books. Books accumulate from the habit of writing, not from ideas about writing. One day you’re surprised that you’ve accumulated something that might be a book. In one sense it’s a symphony of problems and in another you can hear the buzz of an internal resonance inside the knots and tangles of recorded events, ideas, little flights of narration and language you like the sound of.

*



On April 15 Monica doesn’t see children on ABC Street. She sees two old women walking slowly together in the heat that spreads as a powder through the light of a summer’s day in April. From a distance (which amounts to the same thing as not looking or recording carefully the true details of what’s seen) there are two old women, similarly dressed in black, walking slowly through the powdery light of summer-in-April. But of course the two old women don’t resemble one another and one is wearing a coat that’s made of slick, black seal and the other’s wearing a black wool coat with a seal collar.



Every observation raises questions.

For example: if the fine powder that changes the light on April 15 isn’t heat, what is it?

This too: tiny insects, more like swarming particles than anything else, are creating another kind of cloud or powder in the powdery air, but only around the forsythias. Swarming around the shedding petals? Swarming around the color yellow? Swarming around or in the aroma rising from the yellow petals? Aroma of shedding forsythia petals substantial enough for the tiny, swarming insects to feed on? Therefore: aroma of forsythia and other flowering plants another kind of atomized powder of particles spreading through the air and light of April 15.



Notes offer two possibilities: blades of new grass thread green or shoot green through broken yellow plane of forsythia petals: yellow on green and green through yellow.

Cherry blossoms (particularly along Salem Avenue and here and there on north/south cross-streets) are also shedding petals with every breeze — so that Monica would love to diagram the neighborhood, mapping the frequency and distribution of pink and yellow zones on fresh green grass. (Dreams of doing it, but doesn’t do it: why?)

Surprised (as always) to see a block of blue water at the distant southmost endpoints of all north <—> south cross streets.

Another kind of blue — a bright line of silver blue? — on first blue (and what blue, what blue exactly, is that?): silver blue of ship on darker-but-hard-to-name blue of water and against a white sky that also seems to have a very small amount of blue blended unevenly through it with a fingertip.



All on April 15 or distributed through how many uncounted and undated days in the second half of April:

1) For the first time: there are screens on the Corcorans’ front porch windows.

2) Fred Rosenwasser waves to Monica from a short diagonal across the way. It’s a persistent and overly friendly wave from someone who rarely waves or is friendly. Even worse: a determined, smiling expression signals that he has a story to tell — has a story he’s determined to tell — and that if Monica doesn’t descend and cross to him he’ll cross and join her on the porch. Story is short, but still manages to be as boring as she dreaded it would be. Every boring story Monica’s ever heard from Fred Rosenwasser is about his son or his daughter, daughter’s husband, son’s wife, or son’s or daughter’s children, etc.. Could still be a good-looking, even a handsome, man — always darkly tanned and with a strong profile like something stamped on the face of a small coin — but he isn’t good-looking because he’s so boring. An educated mind, but a dull one. An educated bore that can’t imagine he’s a bore because he’s educated. A handsome profile that isn’t handsome because he’s such a dull story-teller. An oddly clogged voice thickens the soup.

What is it this time? He and his wife, Naomi, are leaving for Guelph tomorrow to visit their son Warren. It’s the last chance they’ll have to visit Warren and his family in Guelph because all the articles Warren’s been publishing and the fact that a principle of particle physics has been named after Warren — the Rosenwasser Principle! —has led to Warren’s first permanent teaching position — so Warren and his family will be moving to Tallahassee at the end of the semester.

What else? Fred Rosenwasser seems to feel that he hasn’t bored Monica long enough and is casting around in his darkly suntanned, could-have-been-handsome profile for another tidbit of family news. How could he forget?! Daughter Annie is coming in for a visit this summer! He’s sure that Monica remembers — or maybe she doesn’t? — that Annie has been living and teaching in Copenhagen for two years so he and Naomi haven’t seen her for exactly that length of time — etc. etc. etc. for how much longer?



Monica has to perpetually wrestle with this issue: choosing to work outside — deliberately putting herself in the path of the local universe walking through her writing — it isn’t always easy to determine which intrusions can/cannot be excluded from the Chronicle.

Monica asks herself this: to what extent is she the one who decides and to what extent does the nature of the Chronicle decide for her? Are there boundaries, principles, reasons for leaving in and leaving out that can be expressed? Is she unconsciously or half-consciously following a set of rules or laws? Or — if no rules, laws, principles or reasons — is the Chronicle a self-determining plasma that accepts into itself only what already resembles or resonates with it and spits out what doesn’t? What internal forces shape it and in response to what? There are other questions, but she can’t think of them.



3 (or not-3) Same day or another? Should there be only two items in her list or more? Seems to Monica that it can’t be the same day that Fred Rosenwasser made it his mission to bore her with family tales because all the curtains are drawn inside the Rosenwassers’ second floor apartment above the apartment shared by the three Arlington sisters (in the house owned by the Arlington sisters). Therefore it must be the next day or even the day after that, when the Rosenwassers are already in Guelph with their son, Warren, that Monica is pre-occupied by reflections in the Rosenwassers’ picture window. Do the Rosenwassers’ drawn curtains make their picture window more or less reflective? Interfere with or enhance the moving image of white sheets being projected there?

Thin, dull wash of green lawn below the shining plane of white sheets with their creases.

Sunlight on white sheets would make them blinding if they were seen without the absorbent transfer from the window glass.

Rosenwassers’ drawn curtains are also white, but duller: boring and tasteful off-white whose pleats fold in a complicated way into the flat and creased white-white brilliance of the sheets that have as much reality there as the curtains do.

Figure of a woman passes in front of the sheets: stops there: testing to see if they’re dry? straightening out the creases and trying to smooth them flat? Must still be damp, because she leaves them there and disappears.

As usual, Monica is trying to figure out whose wash, whose clothesline, whose backyard it is that’s reflected in the Rosenwassers’ picture window, but (also as usual) can’t do it. Backyard remains invisible — has no life in the window — unless wash is hanging there. The second life of the Rosenwassers’ picture window depends entirely on the washing schedule of the neighbor who lives at an angle Monica hasn’t been able to calculate.

Woman’s figure returns to check the sheets for dryness. This time she’s wheeling a baby carriage: bringing a baby out to feel the mild sun and mild breezes of a spring day. Monica wonders what memories-that-won't-be-memories the baby is forming: resonates with her own memory-before-memory, but of course she can't put a finger on it any more than the baby can or will.

Monica tries to concentrate: get the mind to tighten a screw and narrow its focus. Woman resembles Joan Regan! Reflection on Rosenwassers’ window angles backward (northwest) into the Regans’ yard? Joan Regan wheeling daughter Fionnuala’s baby carriage? Therefore sunning Fionnuala’s baby in the Regan backyard. That would mean that the laundry that brings the Rosenwassers’ second floor picture window to life is always Joan Regan’s laundry. But Monica isn’t 100% certain that the figure checking the wash is Joan Regan. . . .



4) David starts to talk about a Michael Snow film they’ve seen recently (title of film and date and location seen not noted): says that he sees some parallel between Snow’s attempt to pick apart strands of perceived reality assumed to be an integrated whole in consciousness and some aspects of Monica’s Chronicle (or of their joint work in general). Something about Snow’s use of a candle and melting candle wax and competing representations of reality or realities of representation, but Monica’s notes are incomplete and unclear — and, in any case, Monica isn’t sure that David is right that what Snow cares about has anything to do with the Chronicle’s obsessive need to pay attention to the laundry reflected in the Rosenwassers’ picture window.

*



Probably not on the same day (date not noted) Monica, David and Bah-Wah are having breakfast in the Salem Avenue backyard. Breakfast is simple: iced A & P “Bokar” coffee, crusty bread (from the famous Peninsula Bake Shop on AAF Street?), nutty and buttery and uniquely “woodsy” Vacherin-type cheese (not the real, un-pasteurized Vacherin from France or Switzerland that’s impossible to find in the United States) and bitter orange marmalade (brand not noted). Bah-Wah lies alertly on her stomach in the new grass, facing their chairs and whatever they’re using as a makeshift table: not asking, begging or demanding, not calm or patient either. Impatiently, confidently expectant? Focus as sharp as if she’s hunting, though she knows that breakfast is as much hers as theirs: ears erect and rotating this way and that way, nose quivering, eyes tracking movements that are about to happen. Monica holds out a small wedge of “Vacherin” and Bah-Wah regards it skeptically. Sniffs it as if offended. Sneezes violently, returns for more serious sniffing. Mouth opens to accept not-quite-Vacherin reluctantly, disappointed in what breakfast amounts to: grips it very lightly and gingerly with front teeth — trying to prevent lips, tongue and palate from having to taste it. Disappointed, but why? Aromas must have told her a long time ago that David wasn’t making her favorite baked pancake, buttery and eggy yet with a lot of crunch and sweetness. . . . Bah-Wah likes a cheese breakfast, but doesn’t like having to adjust to new and strange flavors: no foil boursin wrapper it’s an inexhaustible pleasure to try to lick clean, no snowy or not-quite brown rind of Brie or Camembert to chew on, trying to gnaw her way with back molars through the complicated problem of flavor and texture as if mouth-and-jaw were a particularly powerful tool for thinking. Not familiar Edam or Emmenthaler either. . . . By now she’s tasted and swallowed the small wedge of “Vacherin” and she looks dreamy and unfocused. Has trouble standing up. Legs seem weak and wobbly. Smacks her lips and barks plaintively for another taste. Forehead is creased with troubled thought, as if she can’t decide whether to call the flavor “buttery” or “woodsy”, some combination of the two or if these words are just lazy clichés and she needs to make up a brand-new word that can’t be spoken. . . .



Monica runs into third floor (attic) tenant, Pat Czorny, on the sidewalk in front of the Salem Avenue house’s solid frontyard hedgerow. They seldom see each other, but, when they bump into each other like this, Pat Czorny — who has a middleweight’s or even a light-heavyweight’s shoulders and arms and a boxer’s flattened features and who seems ready to sock anyone who offends her — always greets Monica warmly, as if they have good reason to see life from the same angle.

Pat Czorny is with her eighteen-year-old girlfriend, Lorelle: eighteen but looks thirty-five. Good-looking or not Monica can never decide, but certainly better-looking than Pat Czorny, whose face and thick, guarded way of talking both could have accumulated drip by drip over galactic centuries.

What’s up? Not much: they’re on their way to the hospital. Lorelle’s baby is seven months old already! Wants to know if Monica remembers (she does, because she chronicled it) that the last time Monica saw Lorelle — in February — Lorelle was pregnant. Well, now the baby’s back in the hospital — with viral pneumonia. Sounds bad, but no big deal according to the doctor. Just picked up a cough somewhere. Of course Lorelle says no, but it could be — could very well be — from Lorelle’s stupid smoking night and day!

Monica wants to know if her memory’s correct: doesn’t Lorelle live on ABH Street, the same block as Pat’s sister Janey? Pat can’t believe that Monica remembers that! She loves that about Monica and says to Lorelle: “see, I told you how smart she is! she’s got a memory that remembers every single thing you ever told her and everything she ever saw you do!”



No longer on Salem Avenue.

Eighty-two degrees on Saturday, April 17 and John Corcoran is as red as a mid-summer cherry. His face is often red for other reasons, but today Monica can see the sun in it. Seeing that she’s noticed his burning color he explains that he’s been on the beach all morning (hour not noted) with Pat and Timmy. John Corcoran never has much to say — hardly ever or never has a story to tell — and seems to be trying to think of something to add to his tiny sentence now. What does Monica think?: can this mean that the horrible winter is finally over?! It’s not just him! The whole family’s been going nuts waiting for warm weather! Must have felt the warm air in their sleep, because he and Pat were up at five-thirty, out in the backyard by six-thirty. . . . What else? He’s been transferred to Brooklyn — so couldn’t wait to get to the beach to soak in some sun and warm sea breezes before he has to head inland. . . . Everyone else is enjoying the day, but he has no idea where Philip is, as usual. In his own world and whatever stupid world that is he won’t know whether it’s spring or summer or if it’s snowing. . . !



Eighty-nine degrees at two p.m. and at three-thirty Monica writes the words “summer curtains”. She doesn’t explain what summer curtains she’s talking about, but later (typing April notes in fall or winter) assumes that she meant the lightweight green-and-white checked cotton curtains visibly moving through the screens in Allison Meehan’s bedroom window. (Reminds Monica that it’s time to put screens in her windows.)

Monica notes this too:

A large charcoal bird with a long, quivering tail (“earlier”).

Leaves of her avocado plants quivering in breezes through un-screened west-facing green room windows.

Iced coffee and a cigarette (not noted whether on the shaded front porch or in the sun-and-shadow of her green room studio/breakfast room) in the coolness pulsing irregularly in off the ocean.

Beautiful little tadpole-faced Johanna Coffin is “on the porch” (not noted whether raft-like second story porch outside the Coffins’ loftlike front kitchen-breakfastroom-diningroom-parlor-and-piano-practice-room or tiny ground floor orange brick and iron railing front porch under a deteriorating orange plastic awning, just a small platform at the head of the orange brick stairs leading to the street) with her tall, graceful and musical father, Greg. Greg’s in a bathing suit (color and type not noted), but Johanna’s in street clothes.

It sometimes happens that events that seem simultaneous to Monica have to be written as if they’re occurring one after the other (even if only seconds apart). For example:

Greg Coffin in his what-color-and-style bathing suit strolling with long, easy strides toward the beach;

Johanna Coffin in front of her house, hopping and making faces with her best friend, delicate and mermaid-like Daisy Brennan;

And, not far away from Daisy and Johanna, a huge bee, fat and swollen from what?, barely able to fly, is hovering in a delirium of stationary velocity over buds on a tiny bush — green and red and fat as fruits far too large and heavy for the green stems they’re on. (Whose lawn not noted.)

It’s not clear in Monica’s notes if she observes and sketches in these next-door events herself or if some of them are reported to her by David, who’s gone all the way up to Wanda Baer’s narrow little elbow of an apartment in the Coffins’ attic for a jar of strawberry jam Wanda had picked up for them and forgotten to drop off.

*



Monica neglects to record in what old black-and-white film seen on television a woman longs for sunlight. Winter has lasted so long and she’s so profoundly cold that she can’t get close enough to the fire. Can’t warm up and can’t even bear it when the sun passes behind a cloud and casts a quick, cold shadow.



“Gloria” (also known as “Agnes”?) passes: beautiful legs and a tired, aging face: always walks with unstable speed on pencil-thin high heels: today in a form-fitting pink waitress’s uniform that Monica doesn’t find familiar.

“Gloria’s” husband Dave’s face (not noted if he passes at the same time as Gloria/Agnes or later) is neither turned toward Monica nor away from Monica, but, while facing rigidly forward, gives a strong impression of having become strangely tanned and leathery and at the same time (hard to picture later) horribly blotched and with a sharp crease in it, so that its skin can, if necessary, fold over neatly and close like a leather book cover.



Not noted on what day Monica and David keep their appointment with George Plimpton in his E. 72 Street townhouse to iron out details for the planned Paris Review THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL portfolio.

Glancing ahead through her sketchy notes (while getting them ready for typing) Monica is surprised that she wrote so little about it and wonders if more will pop up later, detached, far away and “out of place”.

Let’s see:

Fayette Hickox greets Monica and David at the front door and ushers them into George Plimpton’s first floor office: walls of bookshelves (of course) and a tall window with a direct, bright view of the street from a slight elevation. (Exactly the same elevation that gives Monica a view down into the Salem Avenue backyard from the tall back bedroom windows?) It’s a quiet, pleasant street and Monica finds herself wondering if there are enough random passersby and/or regularly appearing residents to work their way into the visual life and writing life of someone writing daily at the desk where Molly McKaughan is sitting now, facing the window while taking care of Paris Review business.

George Plimpton is on the phone, slouched deep in an office chair that doesn’t have much depth to it. Monica discovers later, when she and David compare notes, that David was as stunned as she was by Plimpton’s look of exhaustion: talking wearily as if to someone resistant or uncomprehending, skin an unnatural grey, drained of blood. Fayette Hickox seems to notice Monica’s look of dismay because he goes out of his way to explain (whispering in the office or in an ordinary tone later) that George took a glucose tolerance test earlier and for whatever reason they drew an extraordinary quantity of blood and it seems that the doctor wants him back again this afternoon — so George probably won’t be able to take as much time to figure out the portfolio as he planned and isn’t even certain if he’ll be allowed to eat. . . .

What else?

While George is on the phone Monica and David have a few minutes to talk to Molly McKaughan, but don’t have time to learn much more than that she also lives in the 70’s: only it’s on the west side, not the east side, nowhere near the park and definitely not with anything like these wonderful views of the river. . . all the way across town and in the middle of nowhere. . . . Fayette chimes in that they all seem to be clustered around the 70’s: he’s much closer to the park than Molly, around Madison and 71st. . . .

Monica is trying to sketch in Fayette and Molly quickly in her mind: to write about them before writing about them so memory will have as little to do with it as possible: but she’s finding it hard to sum them up with a few strokes that satisfy her because she knows so little or not quite little enough. (A few minutes’ conversation can hopelessly stain the truth of a purely visual impression.) So she’s left with this: Molly leaves a too-uncomplicated image of a good-natured and fresh-faced young woman (late twenties?), efficient and unpretentious, and Fayette is pale and slight to the point of delicacy, with a quick wit and a pleasant manner. . . .

Now George is off the phone and he and Fayette lead the way upstairs to a large livingroom. Oversized posters of George Plimpton fighting Archie Moore, George Plimpton playing tennis with Pancho Gonzales, others lost to memory — along with several posters of blown-up Paris Review covers. If there’s any art on the walls Monica doesn’t pay attention to it (why?), therefore doesn’t sketch it in mentally or “memorize” it, therefore can’t note it down later. She does pay attention to the things that dominate the room as if they were works of art: powerful, immediate views of the East River and 59th Street Bridge; hidden source of light lighting up the beautiful green surface of a pool table in an adjoining room, making it stand up vertically near her like the solid-seeming surface of a green painting; black spiral staircase drilling through a circular opening toward one corner of the ceiling, drawing Monica’s attention like a sculpture that’s also the real, corkscrew path up and down between public and private existence.

They get down to business, but where are the preliminary conversations? No exchanges with George are noted, only the general observation that “George Plimpton seems to have very little understanding of THE BLUE HANGAR”. It interests him, it intrigues him, he wants to publish it and to feature it — he suspects that it’s important — but confesses that he’s “not sure what to make of it or how to do it”. . . .

*



Not noted how Monica knows (on what undated April day) that Kitty’s car breaks down on Cropsey Avenue in Brooklyn. (Not noted either what Kitty is doing on Cropsey Avenue or even in Brooklyn.) The story (told directly to Monica by Kitty or arriving by way of Betty (if Kitty called Betty from Cropsey Avenue so she could hear what she needed to hear in her mother’s voice) or told to Monica some other way she can’t think of) gets more puzzling with every added detail. Somehow Kitty makes her way to a garage where the mechanic can’t figure out what’s wrong with her car; Kitty calls Happy who, for reasons not given or noted, is all the way out on Long Island, not too far from Stony Brook. Happy tells Kitty to stay where she is, he’s on his way as fast as he can with a Long Island mechanic he’s known for years. Kitty finds Happy’s advice loony and does not stay put, waiting for Happy to ride to her rescue all the way from the nether end of Long Island, but leaves her car in the garage and accepts a life from a guy who strikes up a conversation with her while her car is on the lift. (Not told to Monica or not noted if Happy drives to Brooklyn even though Kitty won’t be there or whether or not Kitty told him she was hitching a ride with a stranger.) All the questions come to Monica’s mind that are likely to come to the mind of anyone listening to Kitty’s puzzling story (why, for example, a man Kitty meets by accident in a random garage on or near Cropsey Avenue would, through sheer chance, be headed exactly where Kitty needs to go) but Monica’s only concern is getting the puzzling story down as accurately as possible and, working quickly, she doesn’t have time to figure anything out.

Let’s see: while they’re driving each finds the other strangely familiar. Or it’s only Kitty who has that slightly creepy sensation while the man already knew who she was when he spotted her in the garage. It’s not clear, but he may confess that he recognized her (is he therefore definitely the one who approached her and offered her a lift rather than Kitty approaching him and asking for a lift?): she won’t remember him but he definitely remembers her! She was very young then — really just a kid — probably still a student or an intern — but she was definitely there when he was hospitalized at Pilgrim State. . . . Of course he was completely nuts then, but always thought she was nice — not like the others, who he could have gladly killed — and always hoped to see her again — and now here they are. . . !



Monica hesitates to talk about the Chronicle in a general way (that is: every work of art should in its own form and expression be a model of what it wants a work of art to be and in that sense be its own best argument), but sometimes (often?) sentences insist on being written. Less often they “write themselves”, whether or not they need re-writing later. Monica and David both love, but don’t often find, the sentence that arrives complete and unchangeable, like a pebble found on the road and carried around as a charm.

One day in April (date not noted), in the middle of taking notes about Kitty and Happy and the Salem Avenue backyard, Monica finds herself writing about the yearning that expresses itself in writing as a kind of persistent stammering: this day happened and is happening: the Chronicle attests to the existence of the moment and of itself and of the chronicler: of life being lived exactly this odd way and no other: chronicler chronicling the life of this day existed through and in this process if nothing else: it happened and will continue to happen, but only if what?



It seems logical to Monica that it’s on the same undated April day that she writes “summer days in April” that she also writes “record-breaking temperature on Saturday (ninety-one degrees)” and notes that it should be the same “today” (Easter Sunday, “around 10 am”). But there’s no way to tell for sure if either Saturday or Sunday or both days are the days she notes, toward evening, that it’s “cooler now, with strong ocean breezes” and that the weight of the sun going down can’t be overestimated: draws all the day’s warmth down with it as abruptly as a human hand tugs a warm bedsheet off the line and into the laundry basket.



The parking lot outside the Long Island hospital where Alyosha is recuperating is hot (no temperature recorded) on the undated April afternoon (same afternoon that Monica writes “summer days in April”?) when Monica visits. Alyosha is beginning to look more like himself: allowed to walk the corridors with her and to visit together in the overly warm and sunny lounge.



Just before or just after “Easter Sunday” someone (most likely Wanda Baer) passing Greg and Lena Coffin’s open bedroom door in the low-ceilinged attic of their massive orange brick and white stucco multiple dwelling (where Wanda Baer has her own narrow little elbow of an apartment) — her attention drawn sideways by the breathing in or breathing out of thin, yellow summer curtains — glances into the room. Sees that Greg and Lena are asleep and stops in the doorway to deliberately stare (telling herself that she should try to memorize her experience so she can report it to Monica later for the Chronicle). Greg and Lena are sleeping side by side: Greg’s long form is curled up on its side into a broken and tangled S-curve, Lena is face-up on her back: both under the shared weight of one unseasonably heavy yellow blanket. Not a sound. Absence of the intimate, private sound of sleeping-breathing strikes her as noteworthy, but she doesn’t know how to interpret it. She also wonders why their bedroom door is open and can’t tell herself with certainty if that’s a common or uncommon occurrence. Reasons (then or later) that it must be uncommon because she’s noticing it. Could be this simple: to encourage warm breezes to breathe in and breathe out from window to door and door to window. But then why not every warm night with weak breezes?

What else?:

Monica’s notes seem to say something about being told that the light in the bedroom is yellow — and that the one (definitely Wanda Baer?) lingering in the doorway to watch Greg and Lena sleeping is acutely conscious of the yellow curtains, yellow blanket, air that also (because of blanket and curtains?) seems yellow, light that has the weight of air with yellow pollen in it.

Slight oscillation of what?

Hard not to pay attention to the slight movement of the side-by-side breathing bodies under the too-heavy yellow blanket. Asks herself if sleeping side by side (even more so sharing one blanket?) alters the inner life of the sleepers. Or does sleep angle them completely away from one another so that they only appear to be side by side. . . ?

A slight movement by one of the sleepers makes Wanda Baer hurry downstairs (on her way out of the house in the middle of the night?). She’s surprised to find that the door of a ground floor apartment is open as well: lights are on, rugs and furniture pushed to the margins, bare floorboards — exposed in the center of the room — almost brown with age.

Beautiful, palest pale blonde Lily Romero is in the center of the bare wood floor (light reflecting there from overhead fixture or floor lamps) in a forest green polo and yellow (word unreadable in handwritten notes), hair bound up with what not noted: cleaning or painting or sanding.

Light seems dusty, because of cleaning, sanding, etc.? Room strikes Wanda Baer as warm at the cluttered margins, cool around Lily’s green, yellow and pale blonde figure at the center of the brown wood floor — doing exactly what not certain — and not certain either whether Lily and Wanda see each other or talk.

*




On an April day that feels like summer (Easter Sunday or another day):

a) The Corcorans are setting out for the beach again and their happiness about going to the beach makes the atmosphere feel more summery than it is.

Handwritten notes say: “Pat Corcoran, John Corcoran and Timothy Corcoran are headed for the beach.”

Then: "Now they’re headed back from the beach”.

At another point “they’re on the beach”.

In order, out of order or in the horizontal order of events as they naturally occur on a street or anywhere horizontally across the surface of the earth that can make things appear “out of order” only because the order they’re in has nothing to do with the order of turning pages.



Monica asks herself this: is the person referred to (mistakenly?) in her handwritten April notes as “Dave” — and who’s said to be carrying two instruments (“a guitar and a mandolin”) toward the beach — actually Philip Corcoran? She can’t imagine who else “Dave” could be. The only Dave who comes to mind is Agnes/Gloria’s husband Dave (“the Clock”), who passes regularly on the other (west) side of the street — to and from work — with a briefcase and a badly disfigured face. That makes no sense, while Philip Corcoran does. Therefore, she concludes, she must have been sketching events in quickly (too quickly) and scribbled the wrong name down.



Notes say that a small flock of “friends and their children” are headed toward the beach just after the Corcorans, but does that mean (is it logical to conclude?) that “friends” was meant to be shorthand for “friends of the Corcorans”? Sentence occurs in the middle of sentences about the Corcorans, but Monica is well aware that the order of chronicling and the order of events are not necessarily the same order and that neither order invalidates the other.



Let’s see: Pat Corcoran says that she doesn’t mind walking barefoot on hot pavement. Others flinch — others have to put on sandals or sneakers or flip-flops — but the burning touch of pavement doesn’t bother her at all. Speculates that it’s her “Indian blood”. Seems to realize that her tone — always rapid and slippery and without any gravity to it — makes it hard to take her seriously, because she adds that she’s serious: she really does have “Indian blood”: grandmother on her mother’s side was “a full-blooded Indian”! (Can’t remember what tribe.) Wants Monica’s opinion: does it make sense to Monica that her Indian ancestry — for some reason “Cherokee” comes to mind, but on the other hand it might be “Cheyenne” or “Choctaw” or even “Chippewa” or “Chicasaw” — explains her lifelong desire — her unfulfilled longing — for Hawaii?

John Corcoran runs out of the water almost as soon as he dives into it. “That water is ice. . . !” Clearly desperate for a towel or robe to wrap himself in, yet no one hurries toward him: has to scurry all the way up across a slope of wet sand and an uneven plane of dry sand to the blanket. Monica can’t tell if it’s sun or exertion that’s making his red face stand out against his white skin from shoulders to ankles.

Philip Corcoran has to leave for work, but doesn’t have to head inland to Brooklyn like his father. Reminds someone that he’s working in Boggiano’s Clam Bar for the season — down on what is it?: can’t remember exactly what street: IA Street? or could be IB or C Street — one of those three, it doesn’t really matter — but the one thing that does matter for sure is that he’s got to be there no later than two! Wants to know if anyone knows what time it is. . . .



“Out of order” Monica’s notes say that the flock of friends and their children headed for the beach just after the Corcorans are carrying with them sandwiches (Monica doesn’t, but would love to know what kind), lots of Pepsi, giant thermos of what? and a small cooler loaded with ice.



In the cool sun and cool shadow of Monica’s green room studio the curling lines of two avocado plants and of the flowers just cut by David stand out against the lime-and-avocado green of the walls in an un-designed way Monica finds beautiful. Flowers sprang up overnight around the north and east perimeters of the massive cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling, but the flowers in her vases don’t exactly match those ABC Street flowers. For example: Monica doesn’t record and can’t think of any lawn or garden on ABC Street where lilacs are growing, but she’s getting a whiff of lilacs and there are some dark branches of unripe lilac buds in one or two of her vases. She wonders if David cut flowers all the way over in front of the Salem Avenue house where lilacs are blooming: tall bush with a wide, irregular wingspan that spreads out from its essential sphere over the cement walk from a narrow strip of lawn to the left and a smaller, less wildly spreading bush all the way in the far (west) corner of the broad oblong of lawn to the right of the cement walk: and not only in front of the Salem Avenue house: scattered lilacs are blooming at so many points along Salem Avenue that Monica isn’t tempted to catalogue them.

Unripe lilacs have the fragrance of tea with lemon in it. A sweet bar-of-soap or perfume floweriness is cut by the spray from a knife slicing citrus. Nose a too-short tunnel to the brain: brain sniffs lilac scent directly and isn’t sure it has its feet on the ground. Tart sweetness brain is tasting doesn’t quite match the deep, jammy blackberry of the lilac buds, darker and darker, almost beyond purple or any combination of purple, blue and black, because they refuse to open.

What else?: long green stems are beautiful in water through clear glass, even without thinking about the white flowers with egg-yolk orange centers above the rim. These, Monica assumes, are the flowers David found in the narrow between-house space along the northern perimeter of the ABC Street house or in the paved and usually barren east-facing backyard.



One more April note about flowers on ABC Street: Yvonne Wilding arrives carrying a potted, flowering plant that she pauses to talk to Monica about: traveled all the way out near Windy Pass to buy it because Easter lilies are only five dollars out there. Doesn’t know it for a fact, but thinks they’re called that not only because they bloom in early spring, but because of their impossibly pure white color.

Monica notes the trouble Yvonne Wilding took to get her Easter lilies (not noted how many buses she had to take to and from Windy Pass) and the tenderness with which she’s carrying them upstairs.

*



A father with a small head and athletic but over-muscled body is teaching his daughter to ride a two wheeler. A wavering, wobbly back-and-forth S <—> N path along the middle section of ABC Street between Coast Boulevard and the ocean. Many details are missing (age of daughter, color of bicycle, etc.), but the father’s small head, overly-muscled arms and torso in a tight (blue-and-white?) striped sleeveless “muscle shirt” imprint themselves vividly into the fibers of the printer’s discarded, off-size scrap paper Monica sketches her notes on — as if etched there with a sharp-pointed tool. Also etched there are a pair of unusually tight, sky blue pants and a short neck to go with the small head. David thinks Monica should call him “Alley Oop” if he continues to run horizontally across her Chronicle as he is now (keeping up easily with his daughter’s dashes forward and near-topples sideways), but Monica wonders if she can call him “Alley Oop” because — by the time anyone reads an edited and published version of her notes for April ’76 — no one may remember who “Alley Oop” was. . . .



Odds and ends on ABC Street on the same April day:

1) because a) Greg and Lena are spending the weekend at Lena’s parents’ in New Jersey (a vacation?) and b) Wanda Baer’s parents (Oscar and Harriet Kurtz) are away (where not reported or not noted) Wanda Baer is able to “borrow” the Kurtz’s grey Pinto and park it in Greg and Lena’s driveway.

1a) Who is it that tells Monica (anyone possible other than Wanda Baer?) that Jojo sleeps with Lena, not in the same room as Rosamond and Joshua. One of the reasons given is that Jojo and Joshua fight so much that they have to be separated at night if there’s going to be any peace, but it’s not clear in Monica’s notes if Jojo always sleeps with Lena or only on the nights when she and Joshua have to be separated.

2) “On Easter Sunday” (same April day or another?) Fionnuala Regan is visiting her parents: visible on and off all afternoon in a flowered Easter slack set: on the Regans’ porch or walking back and forth in front of the clean white shingle three story house across the street from Monica at a very slight southwest diagonal

Regans


               \


                    Monica

                                  and pretty much staying within the South <—> North poles of the Arlington/Rosenwasser deep, but narrow and attached, two family brick-and-shingle pseudo-modern shoebox and the Greengrass’s brick fortress, pushing baby (no-name-noted) in his elegant dark cyan blue carriage with shiny chrome hardware, little Matthew walking alongside, one hand on the carriage.

3) An orange frisbee is sailing in flat, wobbly arcs without much force a short distance down the middle of ABC Street (not even the span of Fionnuala Regan’s strolling) from the small, pink hand of Monica’s landlord’s squat son Kenny to the weak and bony hand of his thin and awkward best friend, Huey.



Monica isn’t certain if it’s on the same day (“Friday”) that she and David are in Manhattan to see Louis Malle’s adaptation of Queneau’s Zazie dans le Metro and they’re looking forward to the film for reasons that have to do with Queneau (a narrow pleasure), with Malle (an uneven director, dropping off severely after Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (“Elevator to the Gallows”) and Le Feu Follet (“Will-o’-the-Wisp” or “The Fire Within”)) and with the relation of Malle and Queneau to an idea about the nature of comedy Monica and David have been discussing since thinking and arguing about Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies in graduate school. Idea they’ve hatched between them is roughly this: comedy depends on wordplay or wordplay = comedy and, conversely, wordplay can lead to nothing but comedy. And, corollary to that, in the theater the figures on stage may be “characters”, but are really dancing figures of the language-play in the written text (specific flesh and voice of the actor disguise language as much as they embody it). Queneau’s breakneck pace, ecstatic wordplay, game-playing and near-nonsense invention bring all their ideas about comedy back to mind and they’re curious to see what visual language Malle will find to suggest Queneau’s tone and pace. Another idea about comedy and tragedy from that earlier time — that a comedy is a tragedy that happens to fools — may not hold true for all comedies and doesn’t come into play in Queneau, so Monica doesn’t think there’s any point to dwelling on it.

What else? Monica isn’t sure if it’s on the same day they see Zazie that, “at night”, she and David have a dinner of moules remoulade (according to David, not the simple “mustard sauce” blend of homemade mayonnaise and best Dijon mustard some cookbook authors say it is, but a more complex mix — spicy and with varied textures — of homemade mayonnaise, best Dijon mustard, capers, anchovies (optional), cornichons, celery (optional) and herbs like the one served at Larrés with poached mussels and elsewhere tossed with grated celeriac (celery root); rillettes (a relatively uncommon pork pate Monica and David are addicted to — coarse strands through a smooth, somewhat creamy body and with a characteristic flavor that depends on what?); ris de veau (veal sweetbreads prepared how not noted); beef Wellington (fillet of beef spread with a layer of (if you’re lucky) foie gras, more likely chicken liver pate, baked in a buttery and flaky pastry envelope and served in a pool of what’s often called “Madeira Sauce” (profound and complex wine and “brown” sauce that involves veal bones and a dozen other things); coupe au marrons (candied chestnuts and chestnut or simple syrup over vanilla ice cream); Monica’s favorite profiteroles (coffee or vanilla ice cream in puff pastry in a puddle of darkest dark chocolate sauce); coffee. What else? Monica isn’t sure if it’s on the same day as Larrés or Zazie, same day as Larrés and Zazie or on a day that has nothing to with either that Wanda Baer is in Manhattan (at least in the afternoon), playing softball in an un-named park on the Lower East Side with “Betty” (Monica has no idea who Betty is, though Wanda Baer reports it as if she should) and “a few other friends”.



On Monday, April 19, there are signs that a few neighbors who’d been traveling or visiting relatives out-of-state over the Easter weekend are back on ABC Street. For example: the shades that had been lowered in the Rosenwassers’ picture window, intensifying reflections of neighboring yards at odd angles, are up. Reflections don’t disappear, but are far thinner and more confused, some of them finding hiding places in the shaded interior darkness of the Rosenwassers’ livingroom. Back home with boring stories to tell after visiting their son in Guelph, a married professor with two children. Stories about the brilliant son, stories about the brilliant grandchildren, seldom about the daughter-in-law (who Monica finds the most interesting of the lot): Fred Rosenwasser has fresh ammunition and tomorrow or later today he’ll plant himself stoically on the sidewalk in front of his (actually the Arlington sisters’) house, suntanned, a little bow-legged, with a powerful profile a little like an “Indian head” nickel, scanning the street for someone too innocent or sleepy to think of avoiding his gaze or for someone ready to accept a premature death-by-listening. Monica remarks to herself — not for the first time — on the narcissistic opacity that doesn’t mind peppering the ionosphere with its boring mini-tales of children, grandchildren, ailments and grievances that can’t be kept in, they have to be told. Fred Rosenwasser (and every other Fred Rosenwasser) plants himself on the sidewalk, an amiable death ray of all that’s boring, trivial and irrelevant in life, scanning the local horizon for an easy or reluctant target, he doesn’t care which. . . . Monica knows that this is the time (even more than usual) to avoid all eye contact with Fred, who’s probably already craning his impressive head to see if she’s working outside. . . .

Another tell-tale sign of a neighbor’s return to ABC Street: hiding behind the dense boughs of the Rhinebeck pine, Monica hears the pleasant sound of Greg practicing his piano in the Coffins’ second story front (west-facing) kitchen-diningroom-breakfast-nook-music room. (Whether scales or melodies, the sound of Greg playing never bothers her — but it seems to her that for weeks or months she’s heard more ping-pong balls being struck by Greg than piano keys.)



On the same April day or another (notes only say that it’s “a heat wave” in April: “96o yesterday, supposed to be ninety today”) Leslie Greengrass is carrying clothing (Monica’s not able to tell from across the way whether they’re a man’s, therefore father Enos’) down the front steps and out through the iron gate of her parents’ house. (Is it logical to assume that the little boy with Leslie Greengrass is her son, even though this would be the first time Monica’s seen any sign of a son and there are, obviously, all sorts of other possible (and logical) explanations for who the little boy might be?)



Cherry and dogwood are both blossoming on “another 90o day” (date not noted), but there are strong winds in the Salem Avenue backyard. (Only in the Salem Avenue backyard?)

Tiny leaves, pink buds not much larger than pink peppercorns “in the peach tree”. (Location not noted and, when it’s time to type up her handwritten notes, Monica can’t even remember what “peach tree” she was talking about.)

Pink becomes a color that pops up here and there across the local universe only at this moment in April. And everywhere pink is visible the blossoms are delicate and feathery, never assertive.

Lilacs have opened from darkest through merely dark purple into a soft lavender that Monica (though lilacs are the flowers she feels were born with her from pre-being into being and then into the mysterious consciousness of infancy, the fragrance of memory-before-memory) is beginning to find washed out, yet with a repulsive, dying sweetness.

Monica would like to know: what flowers can these be: bright pink/rose pink/fuchsia all layered in one flower.



Riley Liman needs to tell Monica that he was wrong! He gave her the wrong information and feels terrible that by now she must have put that wrong information into the story she’s writing! Mr. and Mrs. Coffin did not go to Mrs. Coffin’s parents’ in New Jersey; they did something they never do: they drove all the way up to Downsville to visit Mr. Coffin’s father — who no one calls “Mr. Coffin” — he (Riley) knows for a fact that no one in the family likes him, so no one says “Dad” or “Granpa”, they say “Dean” or even “Dean Coffin”. He’s 100% sure that all this is true and that Monica can write it down.

*



When days aren’t dated in Monica’s handwritten, scrap paper notes (often the case) it’s impossible to be certain of the order of days within a week or even of events within a day. Sometimes things explain themselves as they go along and sometimes they don’t and then that disorder becomes another idea of order, perhaps the most natural one.

For example: day in Manhattan first or arrival first (before the day in Manhattan) of the April or May or April/May issue of the Poets & Writers newsletter (Coda volume 3 #4 ) impossible to know.



Notes say “hot in Manhattan/cool on porch steps”. And that the “same sun” agitating not only every molecule but every atom and every unit smaller than an atom of every surface in Manhattan is also agitating the molecules, atoms, particles, etc. of auto hoods, roof tiles, street signs, etc. on ABC Street, but that here they’re isolated as burning points within the cool and level plane of south —> north ocean breezes.

Another note adds that Mikki calls from Manhattan and complains about the heat.



On p. 27 of volume 3 #4 Coda, in the interior of an article about “visual poetry” and taking up the bottom third of the page from spine to edge, there’s a large, horizontal photo of two men (David and Lowell) — shot from behind (by whom?) and from the near-to-middle-distance — crossing a spacious, open area of monumental cement slabs bounded by irregular black tar lines: crossing from a “here” that must have started behind the photographer, the no-man’s-land between photographer and reader, toward a “there” hidden inside the Blue Hangar (dark opening — where the massive door has been rolled back a little — about one fifth of the way from the left edge of the structure: upper torsos and heads of both men stand out against the angled length of the enormous Blue Hangar. Figure on right (Lowell), in black t shirt and black jeans, stands out more vividly against the sunlit panels of the hangar doors: bushy hair, long body, long arms. Photo suggests the physical adventure that reading THE BLUE HANGAR is meant to be.

Caption at left of photo reads “THE BLUE HANGAR: A SPACE NOVEL/TO BE READ WHILE WALKING consisted of brief fictions to be read while walking around the site and a number of instructions, diagrams, and ‘scores’ generally in visual poetry format. The piece concerned language as a material inscribed among other naturally occurring materials — as sculpture, architecture, etc.”

Monica and David find the Coda caption true as far as it goes, but also limited as a summary of the idea of THE BLUE HANGAR and of the Space Novel in general. Idea is to make the novel develop as an event in the world. The fiction event would still be a book, but the book would be bound by an existing structure in the physical world (an airport, an art gallery, a museum, a bank, etc.): book would use the physical properties of the structure as a frame to give it its shape and the nature of the events that ordinarily happen in the existing structure would help determine the content. Because the Space Novel is an event happening in the world and readers have to come to it and participate in it physically in order for it to exist as a book, it has an inevitable time limit and its inevitable time limit (along with the pre-existing structure that binds it) helps determine its nature and shape. Meant to be temporary and to disappear, but there’s always a cultural vibration and sooner or later, one way or another, the culture demands documentation, repetition, preservation, collection and even re-enactment, etc. etc. (George Plimpton and the Paris Review, Dorothy Dorm and So What? , etc.). The most radical gesture is too easily understood and what was meant to be indigestible is now a popular snack food. Incomprehensible yesterday, a cliché today. Therefore: the more excerpts and descriptions and photo documentation of the SPACE NOVELS begin to pop up here and there the more Monica and David are troubled by the ease with which they could make a career out of making more polished or spectacular variations of it.



Let’s see: belongs here because it is here? or “out of order” with no explanation — having drifted here on currents that should come as no surprise, but do because we never see them.

The “scraps of paper” that Wanda Baer talked about with urgency in Lin’s Garden — torn strips that Harriet Kurtz uses for scribbling down shopping lists, “to do” lists and secret financial records later hidden away in one of her lingerie drawers as if forbidden and exciting — are now (date not noted) in Monica’s hands. Handwriting is dense but orderly (if not hastily scribbled, why on such roughly torn strips of paper?): an extraordinary amount of information on 1, 2, 3 long strips (no measurement): first strip lists 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 account numbers in one Manhattan bank (amount of money in each account not listed and in whose name not listed either); strip of paper no. 2 lists an account in Oscar Kurtz’s name in a savings bank in Brooklyn, another account in the same bank in trust for Libby Kurtz, another in trust for Cindy Kurtz in a different Brooklyn bank and another four accounts in two other Brooklyn banks. Names and addresses of banks are carefully documented, but identity of account holders and dollar amounts are not. Let’s see: third strip is a bit different: all accounts seem to be in one bank in Queens: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 accounts in that one bank! and every one of them in Harriet Kurtz’s name, three with Cindy’s name added, three with Libby’s name added, two with both Libby and Wanda, two with only Harriet and Wanda and one with Harriet’s mother.

No way to know what it all adds up to, but Wanda Baer (driven a little crazy by the discovery of the Kurtz’s hidden money) has stayed up nights obsessively trying to make calculations based solely on the interest listed next to several of the accounts. Comes up with a rough estimate of 194,000 but can see at once how little information she had to go on and feels the needs to start re-calculating. Wants to know what Monica thinks and Monica has to agree that it’s shocking to discover that the Kurtzs have anything, when for all these years they’ve claimed to have nothing.



On another late April day (not necessarily the next day) Monica finds herself wondering to what extent Wanda Baer is right about her mother, Harriet. Of course she’s right that her mother hides her scribbled-but-compulsively-orderly financial notes from the children — but is it from the children only? For example: is it possible that some of Harriet Kurtz’s financial records are hidden from Oscar Kurtz also? And isn’t this possible too?: the act of hiding the record of secretly accumulating money and keeping that knowledge to herself (the only one able to sneak a look at them when the family’s asleep or she’s alone in the house) in itself a private pleasure (therefore the lingerie-drawer hiding place). It seems to Monica that it’s true that Harriet and Oscar Kurtz do not want Wanda (or Libby or Cindy) to know that they have any savings, but it may also be true that the act of hiding her scribbled records may be complex in ways that are unknowable to Wanda, just as unknowable to Monica and maybe to Harriet Kurtz as well.

*



On April 20 heat from a white sky arrives on Earth as sunlight. And the harshness of this hot, white-sky sunlight is not distributed evenly. For example: sunlight seems to build up in one white shingle house in a monumental way (which one and at what exact angle to Monica’s front porch not noted: Garveys’ tall white shingle across the way to her right, Sloths’ smaller white shingle directly across the way, Regans’ tall and pure white shingle across the way to her left or one or two more she can’t think of at the instant of typing her notes) to such a degree of white heat that clusters of flowers that weren’t there earlier are now blossoming behind the white shingle house (but not so far behind that Monica can’t see them).

White-sky sunlight on white flowers makes them look just as harsh as the white-painted surface of the shingle. Vegetable, mineral, synthetic — the white sunlight of April 20 has no trouble making them all look the same.

From the coolness of her front porch Monica finds color to be a soothing antidote to the harshness of every white surface. There’s summer heat in the too-red red, red-orange, orange popsicle colors of the tulips that have suddenly popped up on Greg-and-Lena’s miserable front lawn, but whatever is corrosive in the light of April 20 seems to be absorbed there and converted into something childishly pleasing: only certain colors or all colors? — color itself?

Are the colors of all tulips everywhere this concentrated? An impossibly bright cherry so tart to the mind’s tongue it’s almost orange — orange with some cherry in it — yet bleeding over to others as a darker cherry syrup. And others that are a ridiculously childish cupcake pink.

What else?

Here and there along the whole length of Salem Avenue and Coast Boulevard and all possible cross-streets: flowering cherry blossom and dogwood: no great clusters of them, but enough to change the flavor of the neighborhood for anyone walking or driving slowly with windows down to sniff the air of the new season.

Lilacs: aroma only? Flowers beginning to be absorbed into the invisible background.

The world spreads out horizontally, as always, to the driver or walker — in broad, thin washes of new green lawn broken by low vertical blocks of dark green hedge — here and there the injections, the eruptions, the fountains of impossible color.

This too: a line of green (from a distance? from Coast Boulevard?) bursts into life at the boardwalk end of every side street: yellow wildflowers — not gardened into fixed tableaux — are (even from a distance) a buzzing, tangled, developing hive of yellow in the bright green line along the boardwalk. (Impossible to know: yellow dazzling only because it’s tangled in bright new green?)



There’s a relationship between heat-and-sunlight trapped in a white sky and the excessive red of the tulip, but what is it?



Cold flows into April 21 without warning: that is, without Monica having paid enough attention to it. For example: it’s only now that she has an irritating cold that she finds herself writing about the chill she felt “the other night” when she sat out late with Mikki, talking on the front porch. (Lengthy conversation not recorded.)

“Now” (on April 21) she has a cold and hates having experience filtered through it.



Twins pass twinning: untranslatable grumbling and growling from one (something like a dog when its sharp bark cooks down into a stew of snarling), aggressive silence from the other (as usual). Pair of aging, eternally grumbling men in old suits: pair of voices: pair of voice tones: pair of sounds and rhythms: periodically make their way down ABC Street, cross the open length of the sidewalk between Rhinebeck pine and holly bush — loud only for that length — and gradually diminish with an unmistakable rhythm: seemingly stoical silence of one doesn’t seem like stoicism or silence to Monica and perpetual rumbling complaint of the other seems to her to have something else even more deeply rumbling in it. For example:


                                                    twins twinning April 21

OH!        (give it to him)

                                                                                                        what'y'a say

____________________

                                                                                                             1

WHAT!

                                                                                                             | | |

KNOW WHAT TO SAY!

                                                                                                             /

HE KNOWS WHAT

I GOT TO SAY!

                                                                                                             | | | | |

WHAT I GOT TO SAY

HE KNOWS ALREADY

BUT WILL HE SAY

IT TO ME BEFORE

I SAY IT TO HIM!

                                                                                                                 +

SO!!

                                                                                                                 |

WHAT CAN I SAY!

                                                                                                             ______________





“Late last night” (before or after experience began to be filtered through a terrible head cold?) Monica was in the twenty-four-hour Cornucopia Diner with Mikki and David having an un-recorded conversation while eating: both Monica and David are having Rueben sandwiches and coffee ice cream sodas, while Mikki, in the mood for breakfast, has French toast. (David loves French toast, but never orders French toast in the Cornucopia Diner or anyplace else because he knows how to make French toast the way it should be made but never is — with the usual, simple ingredients in slightly different proportions):

Beat egg in wide, low bowl (wide enough to accommodate a slice of best quality white bread).

To lightly beaten egg add whole milk in sufficient quantity (more than is customary) to create a thin enough mixture to penetrate and saturate the bread, not lie on the surface as an egg coating that will turn leathery in the pan: trial and error will be necessary to find a balance that’s liquid enough but still retains some body and a somewhat yolk-colored look to the milk. David finds it impossible to give precise measurements because this is a case of look and feel, rather than of measurement. Results will force adjustments.

Using a fork, make sure egg and milk are well combined. Soak one slice of bread at a time in milk-egg mixture, turning over once. (Can lay the weight of a spatula blade on bread to help it sink into liquid.)

Sauté over medium-high heat in generous butter to desired degree of golden-brown-ness on both sides. (Exterior should have some snap and crispness, while interior, because of increased milk, should be tender and moist: so heat may have to be adjusted higher to achieve goal of crisp, golden-brown exterior/soft interior, depending on heat source.)

Sometimes David likes his French toast with strawberry preserves, sometimes with butter and maple syrup, and he’s even used both.

The Cornucopia Diner — neon-trimmed swept-wing airline terminal — is situated on a triangular island at the triple intersection of Salem Avenue, AAF Street and Bay Drive and faces the dark, quietly heaving waters of the bay through the panoramic windows of its longest (north-facing) side. When Monica and/or David occasionally eat there late at night it’s always in a booth at this north end that they position themselves for a view of the small, laterally traveling blood red, amber-yellow, lime or emerald lights of night-time water traffic, more mysterious and beautiful because they’re purely visual — isolated in dark water and in silence, as if no streets existed on the other side of the diner.

This too: Monica sees in a later sentence that “last night” a tug could be seen pulling (or may say “pushing”) a black and heavy (nearly sunken) line dotted with bright lights that seems to dock “across from the diner”, but she can’t figure out what that means — because across from the diner a small, uninhabited island called “Waffle Bar” is far away and invisible in the darkness. She’s puzzled by this too: the later sentence also says that the reflections of tug, barge and fishing-boat lights are “yellow, green and purple”, but the lights of the boats that slide through these waters at night are always red, green and/or yellow-amber, never “purple”.



Lou, the rolypoly mailman, takes a two week vacation and his replacement (who doesn’t know the route or anyone along it) delivers Monica’s mail to the parallel house on ABB Street.



Shades of lavender, white, cupcake pink closing up into a dark cherry seem to match lilac, cherry blossoms and a flowering tree Monica can’t identify when she’s typing (in November?) — though the match between color and flower or tree isn’t made clearly in Monica’s handwritten notes.

What is noted clearly is that “on November 29” Monica is typing (re-writing) her handwritten April notes on Lowell’s old manual typewriter (manufacturer not noted), that Lowell left “yesterday” for Kansas by train and that Monica calculates that he should have arrived “by now” (no time noted). Also says: “first snowflakes fell earlier today”.



A tiny note about Mikki’s visit that’s drifted away from the rest and landed here: Mikki’s brought David a bag of breakfast coffee that she loves and neither Monica nor David can figure out why. Monica’s best guess is that it’s because Mikki knows that it’s David’s coffee-obsession that’s spread to her. He used to be addicted (to find out exactly how long ago Monica would have to find the carton where her pre-Chronicle notes are buried) to the heady Mocha-Java-ish aroma of A&P Bokar coffee — an aroma that actually translated exactly into a taste and then into an aroma-memory that he finds it impossible to reproduce. Monica thinks that part of his impossible aroma-memory has to do with the old A&P store on Bay Drive and the sacks of coffee in the coffee aisle where he used to grind Bokar coffee beans (no grinder of his own). After that he became influenced by the coffee drinking notes of the Dutch amateur chef and (again Monica isn’t sure) journalist and/or broadcaster, Roy Andries de Groot, in his somewhat rambling and highly personal cookbook, Feasts for All Seasons, that David borrowed from the local library and pretty much made his own for two, three or more years.

What else?: Mikki says that it took her a long time to figure out her blend, adding and subtracting different types of beans before arriving at something that she loves and is addicted to: “a blend of ten or twelve different types of beans”, rich and complex yet oddly syrupy and soothing. (Names of varieties of beans not told or not noted.)

*



Monica’s lingering cold continues to cloud experience: she takes notes even though she isn’t convinced that she’s there in the way she’s used to being there. Notes say, for example, that “today”, determined not to give in to her cold, Monica spends time on the beach, though cold winds are whipping up a rough ocean. Roughness of wind and ocean may make it impossible not to know that she's experiencing the day: whips through it, whips through her. From her perspective on the shore a fishing boat seems to be having a hard time: can’t tell if it’s making any forward progress, chopping through bottle-green waves that foam over its decks: every wave cut through means a sudden plunge into a dark vacuum that immediately fills up and heaves the boat nose-up where, at once, it cuts downward through another foaming wave, etc.

Seems to Monica that all this strenuous plunging down into/up through cold water — chilled green bottle and swallow after swallow of the salted ale of the ocean — has begun to cure her cold.



Only one day (April 22) is dated, but that one dated day is adrift in undated paragraphs and it’s hard, if not impossible, to tell which of these paragraphs attach to it. (For example: is April 22 the day when Monica is so tired (after a day on the beach) that she can’t go down to the front porch to work?)

Rare for Monica to be in bed in daylight. It’s as if, no matter where the bed is located and at what point in her life she might be horizontal in it, to find herself there in the afternoon is to re-enter a realm that’s too familiar and too specific to be what’s called a "memory". Has to do with childhood illness. Childhood illness changes the meaning of childhood and that different meaning is always there as an alternate reality that can be slipped back into along the horizontal chute of a tired afternoon: sun is warm and she feels it, yet she’s also sensitive to the coolness, the absence of weight or pressure that = shade. Can’t say for sure if sun is in shade, shade is in sun, if they’re side by side or what, if anything, cool shade and warm sun have to do with the very specific childhood sensation of the far-awayness of the world.

Bed is not too far from the window, but infinitely far from the street.

Window view down into the street from the third floor attic on ABC Street can’t correspond to her childhood room's view down into a far more urban street, yet something else slips together perfectly.

Home from school, therefore already distant from the complex and busy daily world: absence of that busy world quietly present in this room as the glass of water on the bedside table.

Because the moment is a pathway back into childhood doesn’t mean that there’s anything “nostalgic” about it, but it may prove that time has a network in us that resembles the network of veins and arteries in the body and that something's always sloshing through it in any direction it pleases.

Slip into bed while the sun's still shining, too exhausted to do anything else. Also slipping into bed there, inside that remoteness?

Radio voices have something to do with it and the remote voices of children playing in the street are not the voices of living children.



It’s not clear in Monica’s handwritten notes when (and where) she experiences a moment of peculiar clarity: a strange, panoramic sense of time: where she was passing through where she is into where she’ll be. Writes only that she has the moment of panoramic clarity, but says nothing about the content of her vision. Must have something to do with her lingering, terrible cold, with lying in bed in the afternoon, etc., but nothing is spelled out so she can’t (at the instant of typing) say more. (She has to consider the possibility that the terrible cold is in and of itself the channel backward <—> forward, but she isn’t convinced and wonders what else it could be.)

She feels that it’s hard to disagree with the idea that the days of a life are connected — in the sense that, while each day may seem to be its own freshly cracked egg frying alone in a buttered pan or, the way stories are bound into books may give the brain the idea of an unfolding narrative, days and events flipping one after the other (because we fall asleep and wake up it all seems broken into units and these units seem to succeed each other), but the truth is far more horizontal and undivided, like the dream where your gaze into the distance is equivalent to being there.

Slip a horizontal plane under it all, just like a table top. . . .

Her moment of clarity has something to do with this horizontal vision across the surface of life, but she can’t take it any further.



This is puzzling too: Monica can’t figure out where she and Mikki could have run into Monica’s mother, Betty. It sounds more like a dream than reality, but Monica’s notes talk about it as something that happened.

Let’s see: notes say that the accidental meeting happens in a post office. Betty is already there when Monica and Mikki walk in. She’s just torn open a letter from Kitty and something about the way Kitty looks in a photograph seems to be bothering her. Betty greets Monica and Mikki normally. Face shows involuntary pleasure at seeing Monica, but nothing that could be taken as surprise. Monica, on the other hand, can’t understand what Betty is doing here (or “there”), why she’s opening a letter from Kitty, etc. Betty is in a hurry, therefore Monica and Mikki only have a few seconds to examine the photograph of Kitty: long enough for Mikki to have opinions to express to Monica that she can barely contain until Betty hurries off. Did Monica notice, she says, that Kitty was wearing the blue ski jacket — weak shade of blue she can’t stand — that used to belong to Wanda Baer!? Mikki knows for a fact that Wanda Baer doesn’t own that jacket any more, but how could it possibly have ended up on Kitty? Not the same jacket, just identical to it? Seems to her there were a couple of smudges on Wanda’s jacket that she spotted in the few seconds she had to look at the photograph. This too, and much more important than the fact that Kitty seems to be wearing Wanda Baer’s old ski jacket that’s not only a weak and ugly blue but looks much too girlish on Kitty, therefore makes her look old: Kitty’s face is in no way the face she remembers. Does Monica know enough to know if the change in Kitty’s face has something to do with Happy? Looks this odd way because she’s on vacation with Happy? One face when Hap or Happy’s around, another when he’s not? Does Kitty’s old face (her “real” face) come back when he’s not there? Do the people in our lives change us permanently or only superficially? How deep does it go? This is her first glimpse of Happy and all she can say for sure is that he’s not what she would have predicted. Struck most by how tall and droopy he looks. Face to match, in the sense that it’s as long and droopy as the body, but also sad. A sad and droopy face that’s long but might have a collapsible bottom: chin like a collapsible drinking cup you take on a camping trip. Collapse into what from what it would be ridiculous to guess just from looking at Betty’s vacation photo of Kitty and Happy for twenty seconds, but a trembling sort of depression — “fear and trembling”? — wouldn’t surprise her. . . .

*



“I think I have to cry, not you!”

Not noted where Monica is, though it’s logical that she’s on the porch, probably hidden behind the holly bush screening the porch’s right (northern) wing, when she hears her squat landlord bargaining with a house painter or contractor. Laughs while singing his tale of woe. Good-natured laughter meant to be disarming, therefore a bargaining tool? or just the landlord’s nature: lots of cracked pebbles and other sharp bits of stuff worked into the essentially good-natured dough. Complaints, jokes, money worries, charm and self-pity are all stirred into the confusing mix that also includes the suspicious gaze of a survivor and a short man’s darting way of moving across the ground.

The two men seem to be debating the urgency of re-shingling and possibly painting the massive cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling, probably unrenovated for decades. Could also be talking about the landlord’s ugly, no-longer-modern two-family brick and shingle shoebox next door.

“I know I have to do it,” the landlord is saying with three or four different tones and emotions woven together. “You don’t need to convince me. I tell you the truth: I don’t have the money! I’d do it right now if I have the money!” And so on, mixed with laughter that might in some way be genuine.

“So the answer is that you know you should do it and I shouldn’t bother explaining to you why you really have to do it, but you’re not going to do it because you don’t have the money and you knew you didn’t have the money when you called me.”



Monica wonders if she’s the only one who thinks that p. 138 might read better without these two sentences:

“Mulberry shadow of late afternoon in April.

“And five p.m., to be exact.”

Without them the page would read like this:

“This is the mulberry shadow of afternoon.

“Presence of night already on the roofs.”

She likes this more economical version better, but she’s not certain enough to go back and change it.

There’s this problem too: it seems to her that there’s no time to go back: world keeps passing horizontally and keeps pushing sentences onto the page: so the law for the Chronicle has to be: keep going forward and don’t look back.



This strikes Monica as an important fact: forsythias are losing their yellow. But does the vanishing yellow of the forsythias have anything to do with the spring breezes that are shaking the lilac bushes? Notes say lilacs are fully grown, but not fully opened: both green leaves and conical lilac clusters are as large as they’re going to get and some of the conical, blackberry-like clusters are so dark and clenched that the spring breezes that are blowing through an open world of unripe green and first flushes of color can’t get through: redirected to the forsythias, where they strip away any last thread of yellow?

World looks as light and open as it does on this breezy day because moving trees are still as bare as if they’ll never sprout leaves again. This too: hedgerows are washed with green, but the green may only be a thin, vine-like covering, not the internal, interwoven green of sprouted leaf buds.



Monica’s handwritten notes say that today is the day Alyosha is leaving the hospital.



May be on the same almost-perfect spring day that Alyosha is scheduled to leave the hospital that someone reports to Monica (“for the Chronicle”) that Nora Lenehan passed with “an unfamiliar man” (age not reported or not noted) in a red-and-white-striped long-sleeved shirt.

*



On one more un-dated day in late April Lowell has a nightmare, tries to recount the narrative element of it to Monica and (in accordance with the “magnetic principle”) events related to the nightmare are inevitably drawn to it, so that a cluster of similar events ends up forming.

Let’s see: to begin with, it isn’t clear if Lowell talks to Monica about his nightmare alone and in person; to her alone, but over the telephone: or during the scene of no more than three sentences on folded-in-half handwritten scrap paper when Monica, Lowell, Kitty and David have breakfast together in the Salem Avenue backyard.

a) Lowell dreamed that he had a fatal illness. He knows (from Monica) that he should have forced himself to write the dream down immediately, but he was lazy (didn’t want to re-live it) and that’s why the dream has no narrative and no images, no compressed narrative whose infinite geometry unfolds as you scribble it down. All he came away with was the awareness that he has a rare and fatal illness and that it’s called “Agammaglobulinemia”.

He doesn’t believe that the cliché that medical students are always sure they have the disease they’re studying explains this nightmare — because Agammaglobulinemia is an extremely rare disease and he hasn’t studied it. On the other hand, since the name popped up in his nightmare, it had to at some time have become embedded in his consciousness: read it, heard it, knew it for a second, then forgot it. But that’s still no reason to dream about it! Whatever he knows about it now he knows because the nightmare terrified him and he ran to look it up.

It’s often referred to as an auto-immune disease, but that’s not strictly accurate: to a great extent it seems to be an inherited immune abnormality that affects men more than women: the abnormality interferes with the development of immune cells resulting in low levels of cortical immunoglobulins: therefore children afflicted with Agammaglobulinemia have little or no immune defense and are subject to constant bacterial infections that can become fatal if untreated. Serious lung and other respiratory tract infections are common. . . .

b) Monica’s notes record matter-of-factly that she, David, Kitty and Lowell are talking in the Salem Avenue backyard (reason not given). Lowell is telling a story (very well may be the story of his medical nightmare, but notes don’t say so) and Kitty interrupts and contradicts him. Lowell is clearly enraged, but has trouble answering. May be because he’s unprepared (always has to get himself ready to do battle with Kitty) or his problems with Kitty go much deeper than the need to rehearse what he’s going to say: either way, his voice trembles and comes close to taking on a little boy’s lisp. Monica is dismayed for him (knows that when Lowell is with Kitty there’s no neutral ground between eye-popping rage and humiliating passivity and that the struggle to solve it is going to be a difficult mess) and can’t help saying something to Kitty, though she knows that that only makes matters worse.

c) Not noted when Lowell finishes telling Monica his Agammaglobulinemia nightmare: something like this: “the next night” in the St. Vincent’s emergency room an attractive young woman in a wheelchair caught his eye. No visible signs of an emergency. The fact that she was in a wheelchair meant nothing: just standard procedure. Her pallor and (he knows it sounds odd) her beautiful look of exhaustion interested him and the suitcase by her side was interesting too. That was unusual. A good-looking, pale and exhausted young woman with a suitcase. He had to talk to her and hear her story, which goes something like this: she’s a nurse in Philadelphia, in New York on vacation (may have said “to celebrate Easter”, but that’s not certain). “That morning” she became violently ill: started throwing up and couldn’t stop. Didn’t take a genius to know that that could be symptomatic of a thousand things, so he started asking questions and taking notes (really taking notes or only taking notes to make an impression). She said that this was not the first time she’d unexpectedly started throwing up, but never so violently. If only someone in Washington had warned her that throwing up is a symptom of her illness she probably wouldn’t have been alarmed. Her illness is considered so rare that they’re studying her at the National Institute of Health and treating her for nothing. . . .

He can’t remember if he even bothered asking her what she’s being treated for: he knew what she was going to say. When she said “National Institute of Health” he started to become dizzy and nauseated and when she said “Agammaglobulinemia” his brain became paralyzed.



“On Tuesday” Lowell has a session with Dr. DaVinci and tries to tell him the story of what happened in the Salem Avenue backyard — he said this, Kitty said that, he felt this or that — but Dr. DaVinci cuts him off sharply. “I don’t want to hear about Kitty! At least not the way you tell it!” Monica can’t say with any certainty if there’s an adjective before “way”, such as “flabby” or “mushy” or “nauseating”, deleted by Lowell.

Dr. DaVinci commands Lowell to stop babbling and move his eyes (sitting up or lying down not noted): “move your eyes from side to side”. He’s able to do that with no problem. It stirs up nothing: just a matter of looking back and forth at the familiar walls and objects of Dr. DaVinci’s smallish basement office. “Look behind you!” The command terrifies him. What does Dr. DaVinci mean? Twist his neck and head and look all the way around like that. . . ? That would probably be the normal thing, but, instead, he starts to try to look behind himself by tilting his head back as far as it can go — chin toward ceiling — rolling his eyes in their sockets so that he can see a few wisps of hair at the edge of his forehead. . . . He can’t do it! Terror overcomes him completely. He doesn’t know if he’s made a conscious effort to jerk himself out of that state — stop himself from falling into the abyss — tell himself (as if talking to himself) to stop feeling anything — or if in some unclear way he’s lost consciousness and can’t feel his own presence in the room. Had fallen into the abyss without knowing it. . . . And that ends the session. He wanted to ask Dr. DaVinci (and he may be asking Monica now) if it’s just that the hidden, empty space behind us is always a frightening place, but by then he was out on the very nice suburban street of Dr. DaVinci’s leafy neighborhood.

*



On another undated day in mid-or-just-past-mid-April Mikki travels out by subway and bus from E. 10 Street in Manhattan to visit Monica. She has all sorts of things on her mind to share, but Monica doesn’t think any of them add up to a “story”. Let’s see:

a) Mikki wants Monica to help her figure out why what sometimes happens to her (as Monica knows) is happening now: suddenly and for no apparent reason eight pounds of blubbery weight have wadded themselves around her middle! Hasn’t been making a pig of herself, so where did it come from? And who is this big bowl of mush walking around in her shoes?

Monica has to agree: Mikki’s one-hundred-and-forty-seven pounds looks like more: her famous “bloated” look: and not just around her middle: her throat gets fat and swollen too. . . ! It’s not clear in Monica’s notes, but she seems to make a conscious decision not to enter into the psychological conversation that Mikki’s inviting, beginning with memories that may have welled up (not for the first time) that Mikki doesn’t want to face up to. Dark problem that may have already been solved, that’s now become un-solved and needs to be solved again. Therefore harder to solve than before? And there’s this too: Monica has no way of knowing if it’s exactly at these times of having to re-solve dark problems already believed to be solved that Mikki starts stuffing herself. . . .

b) Not long ago (date not noted) Mikki met her sister Patti for lunch. Monica doubts that Mikki traveled (and it’s not noted whether she did or didn’t) all the way up to Brewster to have lunch with Patti, but it isn’t impossible, knowing, as Monica does, that Patti is happy to stay in her own house, neighborhood and town and is reluctant to travel anywhere for anything. A phlegmatic nature or an assertively contented nature? Assertively contented with home, husband, children, job (pharmacist in a Brewster drugstore, if Monica remembers). Therefore: less or more likely that Mikki (who doesn’t like to go above Fourteenth Street) traveled all the way up to Brewster or that Patti traveled from Brewster to Tenth Street in Manhattan for lunch?

Patti has a tiny fragment of a story to tell, photographs to show and little bits of commentary about the photographs that may imply something that could add up to a story. Patti is still friendly with Mikki’s ex-husband, Al, former linebacker and successful soybean executive, therefore sees the two girls that Mikki gave up to Al when she divorced him, while Mikki is not allowed to. Patti has recent photographs of the girls and says that Maureen (the ten year old) has changed much more than Emily (the eight year old). Emily is still the off-center clown Mikki remembers and that Al has a hard time controlling, but Maureen’s embraced Al’s orderly, upper-middle-class life with a vengeance: result is that Maureen’s beginning to look a little like Al — squarish, no longer pretty, face flattened by a kind of angry dullness: main thing driving her (as far as she (Patti) can tell) is the desire to blot out all memory of Mikki and the messy life she lived with her.

c) What else? Mikki says that Monica’s news (that Coda is using one of her (Mikki’s) photographs to illustrate their little feature about Monica-and-David’s use of “visual language” in THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL at Floyd Bennett Airfield) comes at just the right time. She needed something — some evidence that her floundering around in photography has some value in the real world. Despair is never too far away: the dream of life as one long horizontal afternoon of depressed sex and Sunday football. She’s been on the verge of one more slide into it until today. . . .

d) Mikki wants to know if Monica can help her figure out a way to get away from Manhattan and spend the summer at the beach, near Monica. The other day she was trying to do some reading on her front steps, but the stench of un-collected garbage drove her inside where there’s no air-conditioning. True or not true? Stench of garbage is compounded by the fact that, given the right circumstances, heat itself acquires a stench and of course when something stinks enough it gives off heat. But the heat and stench on E. 10 Street are not the main reason she needs to get out of Manhattan. Main reason is that Frederique is having another bout of cosmic depression and Monica knows what an idiot she’s always been about Frederique’s depressions. She’s afraid that she still believes that Frederique’s depression — because it’s a philosophical depression and/or a political depression — is somehow superior to and more attractive than her own or anyone else’s ordinary depression. (There’s a style to Frederique’s depression, but when it’s her (Mikki’s) depression she’s just another blob lying on the couch.)

Let’s see: the story of what depressed Frederique this time is short and goes like this: elated at first about starting up “Downtown Woman” with a like-minded group of radical academic women, a couple of months later Frederique was in despair. No one else is in despair because Frederique (now she admits it, but only to her (Mikki)) is the only one who saw “Downtown Woman” as a money-making, life-changing venture. The others see it for what it is and are having fun, while Frederique had cosmic dreams but saw very quickly that nothing cosmic was going to happen: “Downtown Woman” wasn’t going to keep her from spending the rest of her life as an un-tenured assistant professor making no money: an un-appreciated genius assistant professor and political philosopher always worried about not having a job. Once she saw how nutty her dreams about “Downtown Woman” were she lost all interest in it and began to spiral into despair. Only she knows how much Frederique hates her life and dreads what she sees ahead. All the other radical academic women think that Frederique is like them, but she isn’t. All Frederique’s cosmic misery is reserved for her (Mikki) and now — still one more time! — Frederique is sending out her seductive signals and she (Mikki) can feel something in herself longing to respond. . . . So Monica has to help her get out of Manhattan. . . !


*

On what mid-April day in ’76 does it take Monica more than a few minutes to figure out why brontosaurus-like Nancy Wattle is snapping photos of little, waggle-headed Hank Wattle and younger (also waggle-headed, but less so?) brother Willy Wattle together with all sorts of other ABC Street children, all wearing party hats?

It’s not clear in Monica’s notes if she figures it out before she hears slightly older Jimmy X (mini-Troy-Donahue-look-alike) say (with deliberate cruelty?) to Hank Forest (who’s come all the way down the block S —> N from Babette-Grete-and-Andy’s mother-and-daughter two family at the ocean end of the street just so he can be photographed by Nancy Wattle with all the other ABC Street children): “who told you that you’re six? you don’t look six! I think you’re probably five — or maybe not even five. . . !” Seems to Monica that there are tears in Hank Forest’s voice when he asks Nancy Wattle if she knows how old he is, but Nancy Wattle doesn’t hear him (or acts as if she doesn’t hear him) and keeps on snapping photos.

What else? Monica notes that a child named “Sean” (no idea who he is) and his older brother (not named) are “the first to leave” Hank Forest’s party of the group of children being photographed on the dry lawn in front of the sprawling, hacienda-style yellow stucco and brown-painted stone and wood multiple dwelling across the way, where the Wattles have a ground floor rear apartment (no idea how many rooms).

This too: not recorded how Monica knows what she knows when she hasn’t seen, heard and chronicled an event herself. There are times when someone wants to help out with her-or-his idea of what Monica must be doing, sitting half-hidden or in full view on her porch or porch steps, apparently sketching with words the way an artist might sketch the random life of the street as it passes or stops for a minute to have its portrait drawn. Monica thinks of these helpful people as collaborators, but she doesn’t always record who they are and there are other ways that information can arrive. In this case she has no clear idea how she knows that all the children at Hank Forest’s birthday party were told that the party would end at four so they could let their parents know when to pick them up at Hank Forest’s house at the ocean end of the block. Also doesn’t know how she knows that, at a little after four, the only child not picked up is Jimmy X, whose mother, Nelly, of all the mothers Monica knows on ABC Street and in the neighborhood, is by far the most over-protective, the most paranoid and cracked in at least this one way — to such an embarrassing degree that Jimmy X often pretends not to see or even know her.

A little later, at about four thirty, Jimmy X bounds up the porch steps where Monica is writing, just a step behind blond-blond Timothy Corcoran. Says that his mother forgot all about him. “Your mother has no head,” Timothy Corcoran says. True, his mother has no head. Worries about him and worries about him and then forgets that he’s alive. Timmy was the only one who noticed that he was alone: invited him home and then wanted to race him here, but he can’t do that because there’s something wrong with his leg: acts up when he runs too fast and no one knows why. . . .

Monica can see that Jimmy X is in a strange state: something in him is over-excited and nothing on earth can calm it down. His party hat and gift bag of candy are still in his fist, crumpled and crushed, and at the same time he keeps trying to force Monica to take the crushed bag and hat from him as a present while something dark and disk-like in his eyes is visibly spinning.

Monica notes that all the children at Hank Forest’s party — with the sole exception of Jimmy X — live on ABC Street and then wonders how many of these ABC Street children have recently had a birthday party.

Let’s see:         Rosamond Coffin, two years old, had a birthday party on March 3.

                        Joshua Coffin, nine years old, should be having a birthday party soon (date of Joshua’s birthday never recorded, therefore lost to memory).

                        Riley Liman was ten years old on March 31, but didn’t have a birthday party until sometime in early April. . . .

                        And now of course Hank Forest turns six “today”.



Scarlet and Debby Castle pass, headed which way (toward beach or boulevard)?, carrying pastel balloons (exact shades of blue, pink or green not recorded).

An unfamiliar little girl in a forsythia yellow spring coat and white bonnet passes, trailing a rose balloon on a long string.

*



Typing her handwritten notes Monica is having trouble sorting out what happened on April 23 from what didn’t. It seems to her that everything happened on April 23, but cut into the events chronicled on (and about) April 23 there are references to events that couldn’t have happened on April 23 and that most likely happened earlier. She may take the time to sort things out (putting herself on the side of the reader) so that the intrusion of events one through the other in the natural course of passing life’s horizontal narrative doesn’t seem chaotic or she may feel that if she stops to straighten out every knot and tangle she’ll never get close to translating all her handwritten notes into typewriter. Consciousness of time sometimes makes her plow ahead, aware that she’s leaving behind tangles she could untangle and hoping that a reader (a curious stranger) will come along not too far down the path to infinity with the passion to figure out the relationship of each thing to the other.

Let’s see: On April 23 Monica’s terrible cold — the same one that had her in bed and orbiting her own life — hasn’t left her entirely. Or her cold’s returned with rainy weather. Rain has left the visible world a deeper black and a deeper green: green plane of suddenly-larger leaves above drawing a darker, juicier green from the sodden blackness of soil and tree bark below. (Of course something black and un-asked-for comes mixed with the dark green syrup being pumped into the swelling leaves.)

Recorded at the same time and intercut with her record of April 23 is a tiny account of how she and David spent some of their time after leaving George Plimpton’s 72 Street townhouse after the aborted Paris Review portfolio planning session for THE BLUE HANGAR SPACE NOVEL. Notes say that the mint green scrap paper she’s writing on “now” is a much lighter shade than the dark green of the leaves in the Museum of Modern Art sculpture garden “last week”, when she and David walked to 53 Street after their brief encounter with Plimpton. Leaves were darker than her green scrap paper, but just as paper-thin.

This is the knot inside the tangle: if on April 23 “Monica is driving Alyosha home from the hospital” can April 23 also be the day (as noted) that she’s in the MOMA garden café “after her meeting with George Plimpton” etc. (and outside in the sculpture garden also), scribbling notes about the rain, the green and black of leaves and tree bark, shade of green paper she’s writing on, droplets that may or may not lose their green passing from leaf to iron garden chair?

There’s more to this knot or to knot and tangle both:

It’s raining hard on ABC Street at three p.m. (has to be the 23? can’t be the 23?) as Monica begins her circuitous bus trip to Manhattan: skies clear into blinding sunlight in the marshes along the inner edges of Jamaica Bay: from the impossible-to-look-at bits and lengths of water that must be angled at sun, not sky, eyes take respite in the soft brush-strokes of dry, yellow-green grass and rushes.

Skies open again only when the bus reaches Roosevelt Avenue, near the spot where there may still be the same depressing all-night cafeteria visible in The Wrong Man when Henry Fonda descends from the elevated subway platform, exhausted from a long night’s bass-playing in the Stork Club band, eager to get home to Vera Miles — but gets arrested by two plainclothes detectives just as he reaches the front steps of his narrow, attached house . . . .

A short subway ride leads to rain in Manhattan that quickly becomes ambiguous: not dry and not raining: because it already has rained there are puddles everywhere, some of them too profoundly dark and potentially infinite to walk through, others interesting and beautiful abstractions of this or that bright or colored aspect of the street.

Notes talk only a little about the look of the leaves and the chairs in the MOMA garden now that the rain is over and the streets would love to dry out but don’t seem to know how. Notes only say that people have started to come out again, to walk the streets and even to sit in the sculpture garden, ignoring the fact that the chairs need to be toweled off.



A few other things may or may not be knotted or tangled in the knots and tangles that Monica isn’t certain belong to April 23 and that she doesn’t have time to pause and try to disentangle:

“On April 23” the forsythias on ABC Street are green and nothing but green. Monica would like to, but can’t, figure out a way to say that there’s no yellow without including the word “yellow” in any sentence about them. (Only green is there in reality and only green should be in a sentence in her Chronicle.)

What else?

“White towels reflected in the Rosenwassers’ second floor, north-facing picture window.” Monica feels that she may finally have a pretty good idea where the clothesline — which she knows only from its image or reflection in the Rosenwassers’ window — is located.

Breezes that may not be warm themselves, yet have in them unmistakable signs of a warm April day, blow an unusual white butterfly into sunlight in Monica’s immediate field of vision and then whisk it off at once to the side and into shadow. Sunlight in membrane of wings leaves the impression of a butterfly that’s uncommonly large, unusually silken. Breezes also move it like silk. Moves for a second or less in a jumpy, connect-the-dots way from point to point that may have some hidden logic to it, pauses exactly at the X mark where breeze and sunlight intersect and then isn’t seen again.

Breeze carrying the warm day around it continues to pass across Monica’s skin and to shift the position of the white towels in the Rosenwassers’ picture window.

*



Monica’s terrible head cold is not only lingering, but still bad enough for her to keep noting its effects. For example: on “Friday, around 5 pm,” she notes that she feels the symptoms of her cold far more than any feeling of the world she’s looking at and trying to record. The symptoms of course in and of themselves help keep the world at arm’s length (vision unable to bridge the gap for the weakened other senses), but they’ve also kept her up at night, so the far-away-ness of the world has exhaustion in it too. Even worse: a gland at the right side of her jaw is swollen and painful and the pain forces the self — already too much inside its own head — to concentrate itself further.

Looking at the world is not the same as seeing the world and sometimes even writing can’t wake you up to the fact that you’re alive in an absolutely specific place and moment. (The struggle to feel alive in the moment is familiar to David — it’s his definition of being alive — but it’s alien to Monica and she hates anything that gets in the way of what, for her, is natural and pleasurable.)

She has to force herself to see the golden light arriving in leaves from a hidden source and then rebounding in the same stroke, bypassing distance straight to the eye (interval too fast for the human brain to catch it): glowing, golden and without clear definition.



“Yesterday”, walking on AAF Street (one of two neighborhood North-South commercial streets), Monica is stopped by a woman she doesn’t remember at all, but who remembers her well and (for what reason?) wants to remind Monica who she is and introduce her to her two clumsy daughters. It matters to her that Monica — even if she has to be told what to remember — recognize her as “Leonora Blume’s daughter-in-law”. Therefore these are Leonora Blume’s grand-daughters! Monica remarks on the obvious resemblance between the older of the two granddaughters and Leonora Blume, but doesn’t say what an unlucky thing that is for the girl, whose face and body are just as lumpen as her grandmother’s and still have time to flower into an ugliness as rare as beauty. Monica hasn’t thought of Leonora Blume — hasn’t heard the name “Leonora Blume” — for a long time, probably not since she died (“about one year ago”) and hearing it again conjures up a constellation of unpleasant memories. What she remembers most is the effort of avoiding Leonora Blume when Leonora Blume was a tenant in the same house and after that the always-revolting shock of running into her unexpectedly as if Leonora Blume had been waiting for her in a dark turn of the stairwell or in a blind spot of the downstairs hallway, toward the back, near the door leading to the basement. Monica can see her now not-quite-exactly as then: white and stout in her burgundy-violet velvet dress, cockatoo mane of red-in-black-in-red hair, flesh a waxy rouge-white dough randomly sprouting with hairs, eyes somewhat bulging, face expressionless or deadened by medication. Voice is hard to remember and what she had to say even more so. Not talking but wanting to talk? Always just to the side of some point? Frightening remnant of what exactly. . . ?

While Monica is trying to figure out why Leonora Blume’s daughter-in-law seems so tense, the daughter-in-law is reminding Monica (for the second time?) that Leonora Blume died exactly one year ago and wonders if Monica knew that, among other things, her mother-in-law suffered from extreme high blood pressure. Was her blood pressure a significant factor in what killed her? A significant factor in her behavior? There are long stories to tell about Leonora Blume that might or might not explain everything, but the daughter-in-law doesn’t know them or is too anxious to tell them.



Notes say that the light shining off leaves (nothing golden arriving in them) is now “the last light of the day”.



“On the night of April 23” (hour not noted) Monica is trying to sleep, but can’t because a) swollen gland at right side of throat and jaw is still painfully sensitive to pressure; b) terrible head cold stubbornly persists; c) room is unnaturally over-heated (residual warmth of used-up light?); d) noise from apartment below. Of course a) is related to b) and a) and b) make Monica sensitive to c) and d) and in that sense a), b), c) and d) fuse into one sensation that keeps her from sleeping and muffles the world: what’s near is far away, what’s far-away oddly penetrating. For example: thumping vibration of Artie Tilden’s record player (type of music not noted) is Monica’s most vivid sensation of being alive. Arguing voices arrive with rattling vibration and bass thumping: what started as coherent music has had its melodic and harmonic elements filtered out by the dense weave of old wood. Artie Tilden, always as sour and peevish as an older man so defeated by age and failure he’s beginning to lose his pleasure in complaining, is clearly the male voice crabbing, louder than the young woman’s voice, girlish but angry, both sharply audible against the usual blended aggregate of surging male laughter that may not be as dumb as it sounds, a solitary cry occasionally detaching from the pack as an individual voice speaking a human sentence.

David slips into the hall to listen to the voices that are more distinct and articulate in the stairwell than they are through the floorboards and in the walls (despite all their cracked and porous zones and channels) and returns to report to Monica that Artie Tilden’s girlfriend, Anne Marie, is angry at Artie and his friends. Anne Marie and Artie finally got engaged (on the very same day that Kitty and Hap (Happy) Huntington Blank got married!) and now Artie Tilden’s friends are making fun of the whole idea of marriage and engagement. They’re saying that an engaged Artie Tilden is no longer really Artie Tilden and they can’t believe that any friend of theirs would let himself be led around by the nose by a stupid eighteen-year-old girl with her stupid eighteen-year-old ideas about marriage and engagement. “Can you believe that it was really ‘Artie Tilden’ who went shopping for an engagement ring for this little girl?” one of them says. “No, I can’t picture it,” another one says. “It couldn’t have been our Artie Tilden.” And they all go off on that. Anne Marie’s trying to defend herself, but Artie’s quiet. She’d rather be eighteen and conventional and still have her dreams and ideals than stunted and going on thirty and just as bored and stupid as they were when they were fifteen, sixteen, seventeen or twenty. What they don’t know, David thinks she says, is that Artie secretly thinks they’re boring and stunted too: can’t wait to get away from them and start living “like a real person”.

*



Alyosha remembers (and is able to give Monica thumbnail summaries of) three dreams he’s had while he’s been in the hospital. Most of the details have faded (begin fading while you’re dreaming?), but one odd thing stays with him: all three dreams (which he’s pretty sure he did not have on the same night, one after the other or as scenes in the same dream, but at different times during his stay) took place in the house in Brooklyn where he lived forty years ago, when he was between thirteen and sixteen, definitely no more, probably no less. Every time he began to drift off and his eyes would close he found himself there. His waking time in the hospital, eyes open in daylight, was one thing and his sleeping and half-sleeping time something else altogether. He wants Monica to help him figure out why he spent all his sleeping time and dream time in that house. Why not some other house? Why not some other time in his life? And, if there’s an unhappy mood while you’re in your dream and in that house, why are you even sadder when you wake up and you’re not there. . . ?

Let’s see: in one dream he’s alone in the house with his mother and he’s happy to be under the kitchen sink, fixing a leaky pipe for her. The second dream makes no sense to him. There’s a vampire in it: a complete stranger who doesn’t remind him of anyone he’s ever known. And yet this strange man is able to get very close to him. He’s so close he almost has a smell. And he’s got his lips right up against his (Alyosha’s) chest, about to take a bite — but he doesn’t remember the feeling of the bite ever happening. . . . In the third dream (the truth is that he has no idea what order they come in or — for all he knows — they were like movies showing at the same time on different screens) he was living on the fourth (top) floor of the same house in Brooklyn, sharing a small apartment with his good friend, who never had any name but his nickname, “Sam the Goof”. He remembers looking at “Sam the Goof” and really being surprised and saying “how come you look so young? All these years have gone by and you haven’t changed! I’ve changed — I’m getting older — but you’re not! What is it? What’s the secret? Is the secret being goofy?” He got so upset that it woke him up.



Finnley Lenehan passes and stops to report to Monica that Donald Crosley (who for some reason sometimes calls himself “Alan Ryder”) was caught “having sex” (no one explained to him exactly what that means) with a guy named Lenny — not from ABC Street and not exactly Donald’s (or Alan’s) age — who lives in the neighborhood and works in one of the pizza parlors on AAF Street, so Monica might know him — probably in his twenties, but still hangs out on the beach. Thinks (not sure) Alan (or Donald) and Lenny were caught by Lenny’s snoopy landlady because of all the noise they were making. (No surprise, both of them being cacklers and screamers even when they’re supposedly having a normal conversation, if Monica knows what he means. . . . ) And he thinks Mr. Crosley pretty much grabbed “Alan” or Donald by his mop handle and beat the shit out of him and now they’ve got him “in therapy”, whatever that means, and he’s not even sure if Donald (Alan) is still living with the Crosleys or if they sent him away somewhere to get re-wired.



The lilacs in Monica’s green room studio and along Salem Avenue are at this instant (date not noted) as fragrant as they are when they’re in full flower and the larger, more spherically visible their rose-purple, lavender-pink, chlorophyll green (green plus, green times, green divided by, green root of lavender, rose, purple, etc. in all possible combinations) the more their complex scent travels through the neighborhood along pulsing horizontal breezes that shred and drift up to Monica’s and every other second floor and attic window for a mile or a mile-and-a-half — from AAH or AAI Street all the way west to ADD Street and beyond — into the open green of public parkland.



Not noted who calls Monica to let her know that Kitty’s car broke down again, this time a little closer to home.



Monica’s notes say that she caught sight of Nicole Renard “earlier” in a car (whose not noted) with Babette Coffin, passing slowly south <— down ABC Street toward the ocean end of the block, but notes don’t say where or how Monica and Nicole meet and talk for a few minutes and Nicole Renard’s stories don’t get told as they usually do. Notes only record that Nicole hints that she has all kinds of things to tell Monica and wishes they could figure out a way to get together so she can tell them. She only has time to tell Monica this: all the children — Jojo, Joshua and little Rosamond — are upstate somewhere (thinks someone said that it’s “a farm near Lexington, New York”, in the mountains a little west of the Hudson) with Greg, Andy, Grete and Lena: a nice vacation for the kids, but Greg and Andy have a gig up there (with or without the rest of the band she’s not sure) and they only get to stay in the farmhouse in exchange for painting a tremendous, run-down old barn. . . .



Now that the ABC Street forsythias are green-and-nothing-but-green their green looks different than when it was a background color and the forsythias look just-born and shiny, a different plant altogether.

*



It’s not spelled out clearly in Monica’s notes what Riley Liman (younger and slighter than older, blond brother Tommy, his fine, milk-chocolate hair combed in a straight, flossy diagonal across his forehead and always-beautifully-tanned skin making him look un-related to any other Liman) is doing on the porch with her: that is, not all the children of ABC Street, but only a certain set stop from time to time in their horizontal South <—> North running, roller-skating, skipping, bicycling paths to take a break on Monica’s porch and share their broken bits of tales that are sometimes complete and factual little stories, sometimes something else, beautiful or senseless as the coded strings of notes of birds that land on the droopy telephone lines over the driveway. There are other ABC Street children she doesn’t think of as a group, certainly not a set, that have never interested her and that seem to have no interest in her either and therefore remain part of the loosely brushed-in background of whatever continues to define itself for Monica as ABC Street’s foreground.

Riley Liman tells no story or story-fragment that Monica records: may be about to tell her something when he thinks he hears a voice calling “Ri-leee!” from a short diagonal across the way, somewhere within the green-and-white sphere of the Regans’ handsome three story shingle (white with green shutters), uncluttered green lawn and splendid old elm: voice could also be coming from the space between the Regans’ and the Arlington sisters’ boring pseudo-modern two family whose only interesting feature is the side (north-facing) picture window in the Rosenwassers’ upstairs apartment.

Riley goes to the head of the stairs to look, but sees no one: nothing but one blinding white surface next to and/or on top of another: hard to even look there. . . !

Let’s see: white (unmarked) truck in the Regans’ driveway (space between Regans and Arlingtons), a tall enough cube to block at least one half of the Rosenwassers’ picture window.

In what’s visible of the Rosenwassers’ picture window above the blinding white truck-cube swimming of white shirt sleeves and white shirt bodies is dazzling to a degree that doesn’t make sense.

White of the shingle of the Regans’ handsome three story house is relatively mild and absorbent.

Puffed-up white clouds over the Regans’ house even milder than white of the Regans’ house and probably more absorbent — with only an oddly burning edge here and there that’s impossible to look at.

What else?

“A little later”, after Riley’s continued north, the white truck is gone from the Regans’ driveway without Monica having seen or heard it go.

This too, but only when Monica gets out of her porch rocker, stands up and changes her angle (it doesn’t take much to alter our relationship to the local universe): a chalky white picket fence is visible in a ghostly way through the white shirts treading water in the Rosenwassers’ picture window, as if separating one interior shadow zone from another: here and there interior darkness seems to gather and get darker and more velvety, as if the Rosenwassers’ furniture is taking this quiet little eternity to think deeply about its problems.

Something else?

Whiteness of the Regans’ front (porch) door is apparent to Monica now only because the light at this hour (and her exact angle in relation to the Regans’) seems to have coated the door with a slightly tacky plastic, something milky in the light that sticks to it.



“Out of order”: now Monica can see little Matthew Regan on his tricycle, rolling and dinging back and forth in a toy-like way within a tiny loop in front of the Regans’: and she wonders: is it possible that the voice calling “Ri-leee!” earlier from some blind slot in the green-and-white space around the Regans’ belonged to little Matthew Regan? Is that possible? a) Monica would have to hear little forsythia-yellow-haired Matthew’s voice call out again to know for sure and b) she has to make an adjustment and allow her mind to drift across the way and look at her side (the east side) of ABC Street as the local universe that’s been forming for Matthew Regan, rolling back and forth — first in a handsome dark cyan blue carriage with shiny chrome hardware, now on his dinging, toy-like tricycle (color not noted).



On what late April day exactly does Pat Corcoran tell Monica that she’s a super’s daughter? The sentences may not be word-for-word in Monica’s notes, but the sense of what Pat says is something like: “I’m a super’s daughter: I grew up surrounded by garbage — so I’m as comfortable around garbage as I am walking barefoot on burning pavement or burning sand.”

*



The day Alyosha returns from the hospital (a Friday) is described in Monica’s notes as a spring day, while Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are all called “wintry”, Monday the worst of all. “On Monday”, as Monica is getting ready to leave for a meeting in Manhattan of the “Participation Project Foundation” (an association of dancers, musicians, conceptual, environmental, site-specific, performance and mixed-media artists who in one way or another see audience participation as an essential feature of their work, Monica and David the only members who are writers, largely (but not solely) because of their SPACE NOVELS), Monica tries to quickly chronicle the state of her stubborn cold. Notes that, while it may have reluctantly begun to fade away, the bitter winter hidden in this day is bringing it back to life in a different form.

She feels too weak to travel to Manhattan, yet insists on going and gets ready quickly: first on foot along the cold length of seven avenue blocks and short sections of two cross-streets from ABC Street to AAF Street, then by bus to Woodside, Queens (swinging, tipping, short-stopping, fuming of large volume and weight of body of bus against the action of the tires, which seem to have other ideas about how to get where they’re going, makes Monica sick to her stomach), then on to the connecting subway link (what line?) to Manhattan. Already can’t explain to herself why it seemed important to go to the meeting.



Later (in November?), when it’s time to type her April notes, or looking them over a few days after writing them to see if she left anything out and needs to fill in a detail, Monica sees how scattered her notes are about the night of the meeting: sentences and parts of sentences sprinkled through other April notes, intruding into/intruded on by other events as Monica hurries to sketch them in before they empty out into conventional memory or their color is heightened a little too much by imagination.

Can’t record anything at the meeting and in no shape to get anything down when she’s made it home and can’t wait to get under the covers on a cold and unheated night in her attic apartment. Therefore: experience of the meeting and of the trip to Manhattan comes back coded and condensed for days, competing with the urgency of fresh experience for the region of the mind where the Chronicle is always scrolling.

Out of order.

In its own natural order.

Re-ordered according to principles someone (not Monica) could sift from the Chronicle as a guide to an odd fiction drawn directly from life.

Let’s see: cold enough this April night for Monica to already be wearing her enormous hand-me-down bruiny brown mouton (from which aunt not noted). Bus is heated yet she can’t warm up. Cold because she’s exhausted and the other way around.



Notes say something about traveling by bus across Manhattan and then “down Fifth Avenue” to Twenty-sixth Street. On foot at Fifth and Twenty-sixth and then standing chilled at the corner of Fifth and Twenty-third “at 7:30”: notes (written when?) say that winter in April leaves Monica chilled on the ground (pavement in shadow) while the building tops are glowing warmly over Madison Square Park’s shaded green mass. While standing chilled on the sidewalk at Fifth and Twenty-third or later in the week, quickly dashing down the most vivid flashes of experience as they come back to her, or later still, while typing her notes, Monica debates whether or not the glow of the building-tops is a New York glow — what we think of as “New York light”, which, in general, is a form of Dutch light (light of Dutch interiors furnishing the out-of-doors). On the other hand, Dutch light can’t be the only New York light because here she is in Manhattan and she’s struck — not for the first time — by a light that is in no way the light of Vermeer, Rembrandt, etc.: not an inside-out Dutch interior deep in mahogany shoe leather and sticky licorice varnish, but warm and red-gold, both sunlit and candle lit: the well-worn (and well known) sienna, burnt-sienna, umber and burnt-umber afternoon glow of Umbrian light on Umbrian stone.



Monica’s notes also say (without giving any reason or background) that Monica and David walk down Fifth Avenue to Fifteenth Street with the thought of stopping on the way to the PPF meeting to say hello to Nicole Renard. Looking carefully through pages of notes (hard to disentangle digressions from main threads) and underlining any sentence that seems related to the night of the meeting, Monica underscores a line that says that Nicole Renard isn’t home and that they have to walk back up Fifth Avenue to Twenty-third Street to look for the apartment of “Jonathan Atkin” (the PPF member — completely unknown to Monica and David — hosting the meeting). Another sentence underscored on another page in the midst of other events talks about Monica’s growing exhaustion, but again explains nothing about the decision to walk so far out of their way to say hello to Nicole Renard on their way to the meeting. This too: from Fifth Avenue they walk toward Seventh Avenue before realizing that “Jonathan Atkin” lives on East Twenty-third: they’d walked west instead of east and therefore have to retrace their steps to Fifth, then continue how far east not noted.

Monica begins to feel stomach pains at the foot of Jonathan Atkin’s stairs. Seems to Monica (then or later?) that there’s a relationship between her sudden stomach pain and the energy used traveling, walking and trying not to feel ill (self’s exhaustion from trying to trick itself into believing the decision to drag itself into Manhattan for this meeting wasn’t an idiotic one). Knowledge of the stupidity of our own actions generally leaves the body, gathers and tightens itself somewhere not too far way and rebounds back into the body as a painful knot or fatal contraction — in this case a small but terrible ache near her bellybutton.

They climb the steep stairs and are greeted (whether by name or not not noted) with exaggerated shock by “Jonathan Atkin”: can’t believe that anyone came up the stairs! no one ever uses the stairs! Everyone else used the elevator!: stairs are only there because the city requires them to be there as what’s the right term for it? a "fail safe”. Is that it? Why doesn’t that sound right to him? In any case, the door to the stairs is supposed to be padlocked and he wonders who could have left it open. On and on in that vein, drawing attention to their late arrival, Monica’s exhaustion, the oddity and stupidity of their having come up by way of the stairs, etc.

It’s not clear whether it’s before or after finding a soft floor-mattress to sink into with others already sunk there reclining or sitting and talking that Monica is able to gather herself sufficiently to take in the fact that Jonathan Atkin’s apartment is a loft similar to the downtown lofts she’s familiar with, possibly a little less square, a little longer than most: a long, clean space that manages to be colorful yet strikingly neat — and she wonders then or later if she’s unfairly contrasting it with Nelson Howe’s and Linda’s mess. For example: dirty dishes piled up in sink, on counter, etc. there, not one dirty dish anywhere here. Monica makes a note to herself that a mess can easily be misinterpreted. Piles of dirty dishes can be a good or a bad sign and absence of dirty dishes as well. (This too: as we step quickly through the puddles in other people’s lives, the mind amuses itself with judgments and observations that are only useful if they fall into place in the never-ending scrolling panorama that requires a special kind of attention.)

Sitting on the soft mattress Monica can hear David, who’s next to her, beginning to get into conversations as if he were at a party, while only a struggle is keeping her from sliding into unconsciousness.

Later (in the isolation of the car (whose car not noted)), heading home, Monica is able to allow herself to feel sick and she finds that in itself a relief. Can it be true (Monica wonders) that illness has to be allowed to express itself like an emotion? That illness (swallowed or suppressed) becomes more serious illness? It’s an odd idea and not thought through while riding home in the back seat of the car, but her exhausted logic seems beautiful to her and she tries to see how her theory arose out of her day. Compelled to feel ill in public (on buses and subways, in the street and among near-strangers for eight hours or more) her illness had to crouch in a corner and hide its face: crouched and kneeling and compressed there, knee or knuckle pressing against the inside of the bellybutton, what started as the remnant of a terrible cold, closeted and ignored, started to become something else. . . .

Body beginning to relax against the back seat’s resistant cushions might feel pleasant if the cushions didn’t also feel like the slope along which the mind is slipping dizzily into unconsciousness. Later she realizes — and notes in a fast scribble — that she has no memories between her long sequence of thoughts about illness and the instant of waking up suddenly in her bed with terrible stomach pain and no idea where she’s been. The terror of having lost time (can a little knot of pain be holding it?) doesn’t begin to subside until David shows her on the clock that it’s only 3:30: therefore she was able to slip through a full day’s oblivion in one, two or three hours at most.

*



On an undated day in late April (one or two days after the PPF meeting?), when the blue-in-blue of the sky has (ranged side-by-side and stacked and layered as if filed on shelves) huge steel-wool clouds, bright-edged white clouds (a drizzle of syrupy gold at the bottom of them), dark rays scraping through as bright daylight that might be a broad, blinding plane of sunlight if not diffused through clouds.

Less April-as-April than July-in-April or even February-in April.

A little later and out of order Monica adds: not just white and steel-wool clouds, but blues and other blues against them and blues that become other blues because they’re within blues and all of it sculpting itself as it goes along, rapidly shifting and sliding-through in a wispy way as always.

Shifting and deep interior darkening and bluing of cloud ranges parts and there it is: a glowing mountain valley of pure April-as-April: sun “at last”. Falling on earth true April sun seems to instantly wash dull lawn-mounds and dry garden plots with the eternal green light of first grass (again “at last”?).

On the same undated April day and in this light Greg-Coffin's-and-Andy-Forest's band is practicing in the ground floor “ping-pong” room next door, not (as usual) in Babette’s open garage.



Same day or another: Andy and Nadja (no last name ever known by Monica) are there on ABC Street without anyone having seen them arrive: here they are one day in late April sunlight, deeply tanned and happy in a purely physical way — as if the psychological plane of existence has been scorched away by long days on beaches all over the world — not like anyone else on ABC Street Monica can think of. Someone (most likely Wanda Baer) already knows and reports to Monica that after their long stay in Spain Andy and Nadja decided to visit France: length of visit and exact location not reported by (not reported to?) Wanda Baer, but Monica is certain that more detailed information will flow in later. Andy for sure, and probably the easy-going (lazy?) Nadja too, won’t think twice about tormenting their ABC-Street-bound friends from the block’s two outposts of the Coffin/Forest galaxy with tales of their sensuous sojourn in France and Spain.



Notes talk about lilacs, but say nothing about their stage of development (how much cream stirred into their blackberry darkness, for example) on this undated day — only that they’ll arrive at their full, blossoming fragrance “on May 3”. Notes also go backward to paint in (out of order) the special green — externally vibrant and internally glowing, more mineral than vegetable — and the equally electric (but not internally glowing) not-quite-amethyst of the clustered banks of azaleas blooming along the bus route through Queens to Manhattan on the way to the PPF meeting at Jonathan Atkin’s.



A sign that she’s beginning to feel better? Monica notes that the fragrance of cigarette smoke is pleasant with a cup of tea.



The tea-like aroma of unsmoked cigarette tobacco.



Monica takes notes while David reports to her (for the Chronicle) about a telephone conversation he just had with Mikki. Says that he knows he had a reason for calling, but can’t remember what it was: reason may have gone out of his mind when Mikki answered with her mouth full and kept munching noisily while she talked. Munching as if she wanted him to hear her munching and ask about it — so he did. He could tell that Mikki was eager to tell him (using the cute-and-happy child-voice she uses when she wants to make sure you know she’s happy if you’ve missed all other signals) that she and Margo are sharing a delicious salad and that Frederique is there too! — not eating, just didn’t feel like being alone in her apartment while she tried to put together the next issue of Downtown Woman. So she came over and buried herself in paper in a corner the whole time she and Margo were making the salad and now, still, the whole time they’re eating the salad — and missed all the fun of eating out of the same big salad bowl together! What’s in the salad exactly? Let’s see: Boston lettuce and walnuts and tomatoes — David thinks he hears Margo chime in brightly, with meant-to-be-heard (by Frederique?) over-excitement: “oh! and scallions! and blue cheese! avocados? didn’t we put in avocados too?”. And then Mikki adds “cider vinegar and safflower oil”, but thinks they’ve left something out.

While they’re talking (and Mikki continues to disgust David by talking with a mouthful of salad, acting out munching to broadcast pleasure) Mikki reports that Frederique’s pushed away her papers, but still won’t eat! Won’t eat because the idea of eating salad from the same bowl (“the same trough”) she and Margo are eating from revolts her: stopped working only because she has a migraine and needs to lie down in Mikki’s bed.



Frederique’s headache reminds Monica that her own head still aches (therefore she’s not completely well) and every once in a while there’s a sharp pain in her stomach. She finds herself wondering also if there’s more to Frederique’s revulsion than the simple fact that Mikki and Margo are putting forks and fingers into the same bowl. Frederique seems to find something about Mikki when she’s around Margo disgusting in a larger sense. Can’t quite put a finger on it without a few hours alone with pen and paper, but remembers clearly that she’s said to herself more than once that when Mikki spends too much time in Margo’s company she becomes a different, nauseating Mikki: weak, eager-to-please, almost fawning, without self-respect, needy, doggy even — longing for something (what?, for heaven’s sake) from that unresponsive turnip. May be a whole class of people (Frederique reasons) who spend their lives longing for love from unresponsive turnips, but to see someone like Mikki doing it — turning into infantile mush because of it —is so disappointing it makes her ill.



Out of order and detached from what conversation?

Someone says: “it’s chilly — it’s almost wintry — today and I don’t like it! If this were the beginning of winter — if I knew for a fact that winter was coming — I don’t know what I’d do with myself! But, because I know that spring and summer are coming, I can live through just about anything. . . .”

It seems to Monica that the voice she hears saying these words is Pat Corcoran’s fast and slippery one and wonders if it was part of the conversation when Pat said that she’s “good with garbage” or “used to garbage” because she’s “a super’s daughter”.

*




On what undated day toward the end of April does Monica see and record these things:

A small cloud of lilacs (not “lilac” at all, but oddly darkened just by being removed from outdoor light and whatever gets absorbed from it) in Monica’s smoky Czechoslovakian crystal vase on the dark, scuffed wood of her enormous breakfast table/desk.

Billows of white clouds that can’t stop billowing out of themselves, like sails that sail away from their sailboats which nevertheless keep sailing under fresh white sails.

Sails and clouds bring their own billowing blue sky sailing with them.

Billowing blue and billowing white are seen directly through the small panes of the green room’s west-facing casement windows and at the same time as reflections in the Rosenwassers’ picture window.

Notes also say something about “an empty clothesline”, but Monica (rereading or typing later?) can’t understand how a clothesline with no clothing on it could possibly be visible in the midst of sky reflections, cloud reflections, light reflections, ghostly bulk of interior objects, etc. from across the way and through windows at a steep 45o angle NE of it, then sees that the Chronicle later comments that the reflected clothesline and everything that happens on it are only visible from her porch and even then only from certain precise locations and angles. Therefore: the note about the empty clothesline had to have been inserted into her notes later and “out of order”: trying to get it all down (as always) before it keeps rotating out of view.

What else on the same undated late April day? Mind can’t tell the scent of lilacs and the color of lilacs apart: approaches the small cloud of lilacs inside the green room windows and could be chewing and tasting a lilac candy wafer or could be atomized with atoms of lilac in the light over the enormous oak desk. No sense is able to keep from crossing and confusing itself with another along an X or of scent/taste/vision/breathing/thinking and what else?

One more thing: Monica notes that David changes the flowers in her Czechoslovakian crystal vase every two or three weeks: and that during the month of April there have been forsythias, apple blossoms, cherry blossoms, dogwood, un-identified wildflowers and now, near May 3, Monica’s favorite lilacs.



It’s not clear on what day (same un-dated day or a different one) that Lou, the rolypoly mailman, delivers a letter from Martin Tucker of Confrontation.

“Dear Monica and David:

“You’ll simply have to forgive me for the long, long delay. The problem has been that a number of the editors really like your piece (including me), and some demurrals — but there is also the real problem of space. We’re heavily overcommitted both to prose and poetry. What I’d like to do is accept, conditionally that is, “How the Vacation Begins”. That is, I will authorize payment for the story and hopefully we will print it within a year. (The Spring/Summer 1976 issue is coming off the press this week.) If we do not publish it for reasons of space by the time our Spring/Summer 1977 issue comes out, then you will have the option of withdrawing it and publishing it elsewhere. Of course, you can leave it with us until we have the space to print it.

“I hope all of this may be unnecessary and that we can print it in our next issue, or the one immediately following that one. But it is only fair to let you know the situation.

“Please let me know how you feel about this.

“With best wishes, sincerely, Martin Tucker.”

Not noted what Monica and David decide to do.



On what day: clouds covering the sun are as blue as the sky when the moon is out. And some of these longer wavelengths — these delphinium and ultramarine moon-or-sun-in-cloud rays — fall precisely on a strolling woman’s royal blue raincoat and nowhere else, refreshing its blue by adding a dark stroke or a thin, bright wash of another blue to its blue. Nothing else about the woman has even the tiniest dash of blue except possibly in her purple canvas tote bag where, on the chemical level, blue and red are bound together. Let’s see: depending on whether the woman is passing through sun, shadow or an inseparable tangle of sun and shadow her hair is a flaming red or fiery orange or red flaming through orange (Monica would love to, but can’t, take the time to research and name the chemicals that make up the dyes staining the woman’s wild mass of head-hair); synthetic, too-green lime green slack set (slacks and matching jacket) with big white (pure white or “off” white?) polka dots; purple (again, exactly what shade of purple would take too long to research and name) tote bag in left hand; brilliantly reflective black vinyl “leaf pocket book” (Monica’s not sure later if her handwritten notes say shaped like a leaf (what kind of leaf?) or that ugly leaf decals in a bright, contrasting color are glued to the cheap black vinyl) in right hand.

So many things she needs to know and no time to find out about them all: names of colors as they occur in nature, names of natural and synthetic oil pigments, history and chemistry of dyes, physics of color, of vision, etc., and something comparable for the other senses. These are not small things to Monica, but she’s not sure there’s any way to balance the unhurried pleasure of writing, the near-impossibility of trying to get down everything that interests the Chronicle and the imperative of finding language that’s both fresh and true for physical detail.

World always finds ways to express its existence: through color, smell, noise (voice of a child across the way, for example). Notes say that the child’s name is “Christopher” (though Monica isn’t sure when typing who that is) and that “Christopher” is calling “Eddy! — Ed-deee! —Ehh-deeee!!” over and-over. Child he’s calling must be the infant further north on ABC Street, contentedly in his stroller, dressed in bright cardinal red from head to toe and sucking milk from his bottle.



“A little later” Monica can make out Joan Regan’s voice and can locate it in the Regans’ driveway, but can’t make out what she’s saying or if she’s calling “Christopher” or “Eddy”.



*



Same day, another day or still a different day from “another day” Monica is overjoyed to rediscover tulips. She only notes that they’re here and that their arrival fully-popped with perfect form — colorful, childish, drawn with crayon — is always a surprise and a perfectly simple pleasure at this time of year. She considers it her time of year and it’s populated by her favorite flowers: tulips, lilacs, dogwood, cherry blossoms, apple blossoms, azaleas — and of course the new green that washes behind them all.

To be born in May is to be born into a fragrant world, but not an overly-perfumed one: fragrances of flowers are, in general, still fresh and light, dispersed and thinned by April —> May breezes and are atomized along with green aromas sprayed out for the first time from mower blades.



David interrupts Monica’s chronicling (not noted, but she seems to be writing outdoors) because he’s been reading a softbound book (taken out and renewed so often from the local library it might as well be his own) titled Cubism and written, with thoughtful, reasonably cliché-free language, by an art critic named Paul Waldo Schwartz, a volume in Praeger’s “World of Art Paperbacks” series. The book has started to become one of David’s many long-term companions in writing-and-thinking (pushing aside other books that had pre-occupied him for a while) and, because of it, he and Monica are having their first encounters with Apollinaire’s Calligrammes and Alcools, with Blaise Cendrars, etc. He’s too excited to keep what he’s reading to himself: just now, for example, he’s read a tiny poem by Cendrars called “Je Nage” and has to read it to Monica:

                                   “Je plonge je nage je fais la planche

                                   “Je n’ecris plus

                                   “Il fait bon vivre.”

Schwartz’s translation (“I dive I swim I float

                                   I no longer write

                                   That’s the life.”)

                                                           is hard to improve on, so Monica transcribes French and English versions into the note she was taking when David interrupted her. She also notes that Schwartz says that Cendrars wrote the poem after swimming in a pool on board an ocean liner and he adds that the act of writing the poem is meant to be an ambiguous contradiction of what it seems to propose. He notes also that “it seems hardly likely that any Cubist parallel occurred to Cendrars”, but Schwartz suggests some similarity in thinking to Cubist still lifes with double or ambiguously contradictory images yoked together. Monica and David like the fact that he speaks of a “cubist intelligence” in the air rather than a Cubist “style” or “method” and they feel an exhilarating kinship with this quote from Reverdy: “I write in order to live —that is to say, in order to create myself”.



At the end of April it’s clear to Monica that the terrible winter of ’76 lingers only in people. Human damage and deterioration is visible, while nature refreshes itself all around them. (No memory in nature.)

For example: “a few months ago” Dominick Ianni’s open red and green gardening truck was parked in front of the Greengrasses’ tight little brick fortress: in Monica’s notes the truck blocks Monica’s view of the gardeners working inside the Greengrasses’ low brick and cast iron fence and the whole local sound universe is threshed up by Dominick Ianni’s power mowers and trimmers, while the aroma of earth, grass and water (water in and through cut grass, water mixed with earth) is released and exploded in the atmosphere of ABC Street. Continues to flavor the day even after the truck is gone and Sylvia and Leslie Greengrass pull up. A man is in the car with them, but it isn’t Enos. (Monica hasn’t seen Enos since he was taken away by ambulance at the beginning of April.)

It may or may not be on the same day at the end of April that Agnes (sometimes, in other situations, called “Gloria”) passes, walking quickly, as usual, in her pencil heels and tight pink uniform. Even from across the way (is visibility down at street level particularly good?) Monica can see that Agnes/Gloria looks lousy: she’s lost weight, her body isn’t as voluptuous as it once was and her face seems almost as bony as her husband, the Clock’s, whose face is disfigured and may have some bone showing. Agnes/Gloria’s face is not only bony, but exhausted and it seems to Monica that her exhaustion is the particular exhaustion of anxiety. The Chronicle notes that Monica can’t remember what Agnes/Gloria’s “real” name is, thinks it might be “Joan”, but still feels that “Joan” doesn’t match the woman she sees and that either “Agnes” or “Gloria” are more real than the name Agnes/Gloria’s parents gave her.



Is it Pat Corcoran herself who tells Monica that she spent the day (same end-of-April day or a different one?) on the beach drinking Pepsi after Pepsi with ice? Could also be Allison Meehan, the Corcorans’ live-in niece, who, unlike everyone else Monica’s seen today, looks good, untroubled, even happy talking to Monica about driving out to Gimbels to get herself the beautiful ice blue bicycle that’s on sale for $150.

Notes also say that Monica’s happy to see cousin Linda (healthy again?) and Linda’s pretty blonde friend “Lisa” wave as they roll by slowly in Lisa’s white Fiat convertible. Later (in November?), while translating her hurried notes into typewriter, Monica wonders how she knows that the convertible belongs to “Lisa”, how she knows Lisa’s name, when or if she’s spoken to Lisa, etc.



Now Monica can see that it can’t be the same end-of-April day as the day Dominick Ianni is mowing the Greengrasses’ fenced-in front lawn squares because notes say “the smell of the air on ABC Street is different today” and talk about a smell that = cool breezes in hot sun: that is, cool ocean breezes that pick up the scent of flowers as they pass through hot sun: a fragrant world with a sense of watery movement in the air. This must be the day that Pat Corcoran spends on the beach, etc.

Un-named children carry the feeling of the beach with them, eating chocolate-covered chocolate ice cream pops as they pass.

Monica notes that she sees beautiful Martina (Tina) Lima sitting on her grandma Babette’s lap, as if she were even younger than she is, but doesn’t note where Babette and Tina are or how she happens to see them.

What else?

A child (also un-named) is throwing a ball in the gutter. Stands in the middle of the gutter and keeps throwing the ball straight up with tremendous effort and with a senseless cry of exertion. Heaves the ball up as far as possible and stares after it for a long time while screaming.



Notes say something about “sitting in Dr. X’s ancient dentist chair on Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn last night”. Trees are moving in sunlight on the way there and by the time the dentist is finishing his work Monica sees a star in the black sky through his venetians.



The eternal horizontal continues going by in the eternal present tense.

MAY 1976



May begins with rain and lilacs: May 1 a window looking out on nothing but rain and with rain altering the view through its glass. Even the two swollen cloud-clusters of lilacs David’s put on Monica’s green room desk/breakfast table carry drops of rain indoors with them.

Notes also say that May 1 may be called “May 1”, but it’s really a day in March: wind spends the day rattling Monica’s old casement and dormer windows and is wild enough to tear off fresh cherry blossoms and blow them this way and that way across the thin green lawns of ABC Street.



Blond-blond Timothy Corcoran joins Monica on the porch to tell her that his uncle Jim is coming out on the weekend: he’s big and he’s fat and he lives all the way up on Riverside Drive in Manhattan and his Mom says that it’s too much trouble for him to get out here himself, so either his Dad or Philip will have to drive up there to get him. And he thinks that that’s pretty much why they hardly ever see him.



Still May 1?

Monica and David are on AAF Street (hour not noted): rain’s given them the foolish idea that it’s a good time to go to the laundromat (the one on the beach block of AAF Street — as dismal as the rest, but only a few steps from boardwalk, beach and ocean: even though, on a day like this, AAF Street, boardwalk, beach, even the ocean are as dismal as any laundromat anywhere). Must be late afternoon or early evening because Monica’s notes say that they’re the only ones in the laundromat and that the old man who looks after the place has already locked the front door. Notes don’t say whether it’s light out or dark, but they do say that someone is rapping furiously on the locked glass door. Fury of expression of the thirty-forty-year-old man knocking pretzels age and time in his face. Knocking grows more furious the longer it takes to get the old man’s attention. Filthy old army jacket and coarse and filthy old army pants of someone who’s often too drunk to stand, so that pants and jacket roll themselves up like a bedroll with the man inside as best they can for one, two, three or more nights in the deepest doorway they can find somewhere not too far from the boardwalk and AAF Street, where there’s at least a public toilet to use. Despite the thirty/fortyish man’s obvious fury the old man shuffles over and opens the door so the furious man can punch him in the face. Actual violence to real, living flesh where we can see, hear and smell it comes with the shock of a super-reality we feel as unreal. A half-second’s paralyzing surprise can be fatal, but Monica and David recover in time to keep the younger man from beating the older man to death. Fury does not turn on them. Monica finds that odd: has to mean that the furious man’s violence really was intentional and focused on the old man, that there’s some reason for it. . . . His breath stinks of yesterday’s alcohol and everything else about him stinks too. Eyes are blind except when they focus on the old man curled up on the linoleum that’s not too filthy because the old man’s just swept it. What the furious man is screaming is perfectly clear: he knows that the dirty old bastard’s done something to his boys! Are they hidden here somewhere or did he throw them out in the rain?! He left them here and now he can’t find them! Where are they?!! Dirty old bastard knows where they are! etc. etc.

Handwritten notes don’t make it clear how Monica and David manage to get the furious man to leave, but they do say that before they can get him out the door he tries to attack the old man again. “You’re dead! You’re a dead man! You don’t know it, but you’re already in your grave. . . !”

After he’s gone the old man says he’s not worried. Drunken loonies wander in off AAF Street every day. He’s pretty sure he’s seen this guy on the street before, but he was never in here today and neither were any boys. Guy could’ve dumped them off somewhere before he got drunk and now he hasn’t got a clue what he did with them. . . or it could also be that he’s got no “boys”. . . .

Old man wants to know: “what’s the stupidest thing that any human being on Earth did today?” Stupidest thing anyone on Earth did today has got to be when he opened the stupid door. What made him open the door to a guy who wanted to kill him? Can they explain it? Has anyone ever explained the fatal second of stupidity you sometimes survive and sometimes don’t?



Monica and David have just started walking north on AAF Street, pulling their top-heavy and wobbly shopping cart and still a long way from Coast Boulevard where they have to make a 90o left (west) turn at the corner, when a police car pulls up sharply against the sidewalk not far ahead, two cops jump out, grab hold of a woman, handcuff her and throw the slumping body toward the patrol car.

All their gestures are violent, but quick and efficient, and their aim is good: the collapsed body sails through the open patrol car door without any audible thud or scream. It could be that the two cops know precisely what spots to press to make the body fold on its hinges or it could be that the woman’s long experience with being handled makes her bundle herself quickly into a package convenient for throwing. The memory of violence may be enough to make the body compliant and self-packaging. . . .



Streets remain damp long after the sun starts shining.

Tv reports call it “a record rain fall” (2.35 inches).

Monica writes that she has things to record and would like to sit with pen and paper and do her recording in the open air of the porch, but the chairs are damp, the porch boards are damp and it isn’t until “late afternoon”, after “long hours of warm sunlight,” that the porch and the world that can be seen from it have begun to visibly dry out.

*




On May 1 or May 2, at an hour when the porch is dry enough for Monica to write there, sun is out and street is active, green seed pods shoot out from an unknown source on the freshly-green lawn somewhere behind the Rhinebeck pine and into Monica’s line-of-sight, just before Tommy Liman comes out of hiding, climbs the porch steps and sits on the railing to talk to Monica. He has a couple of fragments of a story to tell and Monica is the one he wants to tell them to, hoping that she’ll write some of it down for the endless story she’s always working on.

Tommy says that his family (as far as Monica knows that means his mother, Audrey, two older sisters, Vicky and Minnie, and Tommy’s little brother, Riley, father a mystery because Monica’s never seen him or heard him mentioned) will be going up to Newfoundland in July. At least he’s pretty sure Vicky’s coming along, but she might only go if his mother agrees to drop her off in New Hampshire so she can visit her boyfriend. On the way back they’d stop to pick Vicky up or she might decide to stay in New Hampshire with her boyfriend and go to college there. If she does that she’ll be changing her life completely, because her boyfriend was only able to get a job in a town so tiny you could go nuts in five minutes cause there’s nothing to do there and hardly anybody living there either because everyone born there gets out as soon as they can. He’s noticed this too: Vicky seems a little nervous and jumpy and he wonders if that means that she isn’t sure if moving to New Hampshire is a good idea. . . .



Later (exactly when not noted) dark-haired and dark-faced Riley and blond and red-faced Tommy Liman are laughing and shooting senseless words and parts-of-words at each other at the same time they’re getting each other soaked with high-powered water pistols, chasing each other in wild loops across lawns and through hedges.



How does Wanda Baer enter the day? Here she is in Monica’s handwritten notes for May 1 or 2 without having passed through any visible entry point. Wanda says that she has a little story to tell Monica that seemed like a funny story to her while it was happening, but now she’s not sure if it’s a funny story about Cristalene (what she thought originally!) or if it’s a stupid story about herself — one more stupid thing she’s done to make Cristalene stop confiding in her, to make it impossible for Cristalene to ever feel the kind of love for her she dreams of Cristalene feeling. (Monica has an idea, doesn’t she?, how exquisite, how intelligent and super-sensitive Cristalene is!?) She may have finally, once-and-for-all, forced Cristalene to see the selfish moron that’s always lurking inside her, the gross lust that’s just below the surface of her so-called friendship. . . .

This is what happened, though she’s not sure whose idea it was. One of them —could have been herself, but she doesn’t think so— Lizzy, April, Holly or Sabrina — said, “Let’s go see a porno play!” (one of them had heard about something all the way downtown) — and it sounded like fun to her because they were going as a group of women and could laugh at it together and because, to be honest, she was actually in the mood for something like that. . . . But then, after she parked and they were walking around looking for the theater, just by sheer accident she spotted Cristalene window-shopping! She’s always a little out of her mind when she sees Cristalene, so, without thinking about any possible consequences, she talked Cristalene into coming along (and — she’s not certain — but, knowing herself, she probably lied a little about what kind of play they were going to see). The play turned out to be crude and stupid and not at all funny, unless you could trick yourself into believing there was some entertainment value in watching all the slugs and grubs and mealworms in the audience working themselves into the lather always in them waiting to be lathered. Mildly depressing and disappointing for her, but easy to see that it was sickening for Cristalene. Cristalene ran out of the theater as soon as she could without drawing attention to herself and she (Wanda) of course ran out after her, always-always-always searching for ways to be Cristalene’s knight in armor.

Evening was beginning to feel like a disaster.

Tried to salvage it by talking Cristalene into letting her drive her home (spending time alone in the car with Cristalene is something she loves and dreams about), but Cristalene kept her beautiful face turned away and refused to talk.

She made a feeble attempt to apologize for the vulgar stupidity she’d talked Cristalene into witnessing, but she knew that it was her (Wanda’s) vulgarity, her stupidity, her ugliness that Cristalene had discovered and that was making her ill.

She thinks the evening was fatal and she’s in despair. She thinks she’s finally succeeded in giving Cristalene such a deep look into the shallowness of her inner life that there’s no way to erase or explain it. Even Monica won’t be able to figure out a solution. . . .

There’s this too: thinking later how all of them — as a group, herself situated in that group of women, headed for that disgusting play, yukking it up on the way over — must have looked to Cristalene, makes her wonder what’s happening to her. Lizzy, as Monica knows, is so masculine that her voice is deeper than most men’s and she has to shave every day to keep from looking like a wolfhound and Nikki, a member of the group who wasn’t there that night and who Monica has never met, is so ugly that her ugliness is just as rare and extraordinary as Cristalene’s beauty. So: what’s the meaning of the fact that these are the women she’s been hanging out with? That she’s made herself part of that unhappy group? And now — doesn’t Monica agree? — Cristalene must see her as just one more orbiting lump in that little constellation, one of a zillion depressing constellations of cosmic gas and debris that are always orbiting the internally glowing Cristalenes of the universe.



It was just May 1 and, glancing ahead through her notes while typing in November, Monica sees that it says “May 3” on the next handwritten page, so logic tells her that the notes she’s typing are from (though not necessarily about) May 2 (though notes don’t say so explicitly).

Cousin Linda goes by again (“second time in three days”) with her pretty blonde friend Lisa in Lisa’s white Fiat convertible: a laughing, carefree cousin Linda pried loose from the familiar family context. Cousin Linda honks the horn of Lisa’s Fiat on the return trip down the block, calls out to Monica and makes Lisa pull up so Monica can come over and say hello. Jokes that she couldn’t say no to driving around with Lisa because she has a paper due and can’t even remember what it’s about! Another car (an American sedan: make, color, model not noted) pulls up (by chance?) alongside the Fiat and cousin Linda introduces the lanky brunette driver as her friend, MaryAnn “Macaroni” Monahan. While they’re chatting and cousin Linda is having fun explaining the meaning of “Macaroni” rosy-cheeked Finnley Lenehan walks by, heading north, recognizes “Macaroni” Monahan and stops to say hi. He’s pretty good friends with MaryAnn’s brother, Mickey, and may even be telling a long story about Mickey Monahan when Wanda Baer shows up (having seen Monica, cousin Linda, Lisa, MaryAnn Monahan and Finnley Lenehan gathering around two double-parked cars from one of the windows of Greg-and-Lena’s house) with her deep-voiced friend, Lizzy. Seems over-joyed to see cousin Linda and, even more so, “Macaroni” Monahan, because she remembers hanging out with “Macaroni” ’s younger brother, Billy, or for some other, unstated reason. Wanda Baer tries to introduce her friend, Lizzy, but Lizzy takes one look at the constellation of relaxed, cheerful and friendly people gathering around the two cars and tries to hide herself in open space. What’s worse: just yesterday she lost her pipe and can’t figure out what to do with her mouth and hands.



So many things are in fact at all times unclear and/or disorderly that (it seems to Monica) to clarify them or to straighten them out would be to lie about reality in a fundamental way — something like wanting to iron out the tangles and digressions in her notes rather than keeping an eye out for the same kind of disorderly order the universe likes to live with, taking forever to let anyone taste the food that’s been cooking in its kitchen since before there was a kitchen to cook in.

Monica isn’t sure if this is an example or not: both Lowell and Ryan Lenehan show up on the same page as Wanda Baer, cousin Linda, Linda’s friend Lisa, Lisa’s white Fiat, Wanda’s friend Lizzy, Finnley Lenehan, “Macaroni” Monahan, etc., but Monica’s notes don’t say that either Ryan or Lowell walk across the horizontal path of the Chronicle to stop and join the little constellation forming around the two cars.

Same page, different day is one obvious possibility, but there are other possibilities that Monica isn’t in the mood to stop and catalogue.

Ryan Lenehan and Lowell appear in Monica’s notes on an undated day that may be the same day or not in this way:

Ryan Lenehan passes loaded down with over-sized shopping bags and stops to say hello to Monica: just back from mass at St. Rose and then from a flea market at St. Francis, and he went a little nuts. . . !

Lowell approaches from the direction of Coast Boulevard (loaded down with cake boxes for Monica’s birthday) with his tall and skinny childhood friend, Matthew: hasn’t seen him for aeons and — unbelievably — ran into him just now on the way back from the Peninsula Bake Shop. . . .

Monica is puzzled that the only traces in her notes of the visit from her brother and his childhood friend (who Monica knows well and would have questioned about his life all the while he was out of view) are references to a birthday card from Lowell without its message recorded and to Matthew’s unhappiness about having to move back home and live with his parents after having been where doing what?

Among many possible reasons why Monica didn’t take notes about her conversation with Lowell:

        a conscious decision (nothing worth recording)

        inevitable editing of forgetfulness

        Chronicle’s own laws and forces, its internal reasons for allowing things that cross its path to leave their mark and its reasons for erasing them before they stick.


*




On May 2 all possible local (coastal?) New York City birds are active or hyper-active on ABC Street: red wing blackbirds, mourning doves, pigeons, robins, towhees, cardinals, seagulls, terns and, of course, no way for Monica to know how many varieties of sparrows, starlings and other blackbirds are perched and hopping in or circling above and around trees, shrubs, flowers, roofs, roof drains, telephone lines and sky: lilacs, azaleas and all other possible local flowers are flowering and doing whatever else they should be doing on May 2, but with an exaggerated amount of energy. Animated by the fact that it is a sunny Sunday in May and by the fact that the local universe seems to need whatever happens in May to be happening today.

True or only seems to be true that the tall, graceful figure of Greg Coffin crystallizes everything around it: tall figure on Greg-and-Lena’s raftlike second-story porch extending out over their barren front garden to the lip of ABC Street, embedded in the sky’s mild blue so tender and yielding that the pressure of Greg’s figure on it (and on the whole buzzing world of ABC Street) provokes blossoming, leafing, gliding, darting, chirping, squeaking etc. This too: Greg and a younger man (unfamiliar to Monica), not as tall as Greg, seem to be surveying the length of ABC Street in the direction of beach and ocean. Gulls and other shore birds cross the local bubble-world 360o around, pausing in the updrafts in the broad path of the sun’s blue or gliding above the scattered figures on porches scribbling in pads as if sketching or doing nothing but drinking coffee and talking.



An early bath on May 3 seems to Monica a solution to the sultriness of the day: after that it’s pleasant to work at her green room desk for a couple of hours. She can see, through two sets of casement windows (each half of each set of nine small panes on a folding swing-arm operated by a stiff hand crank), bamboo blinds rolled up, so that the day’s penned-up and overheated sun is arriving through thick clouds, here and there white and blazing, but mostly as grey as plowed and dirty snow.

After 11 a.m. the temperature begins to drop sharply, from 90o plus to no more than 70 — and by 1 p.m. it’s as chilly as a day in September (the narrative of seasons is much more mingled, more intercut and “out of order” than the lazy, chronological story we think we know.)

Let’s see: as soon as the temperature starts dropping and Monica feels like taking a break, she goes out for a walk:

a)       Making a small loop down ABC Street (south) to the boardwalk, left (east) on the boardwalk one block to ABB Street, left on ABB Street (north) to Coast Boulevard, left (west) on Coast Boulevard to ABF Street, left (south) on ABF Street to the boardwalk (where the boardwalk ends), not recorded if left (west) back home to ABC Street and left again (north) on ABC Street to her apartment (smallest possible loop) or left on boardwalk and continuing east on boardwalk indefinitely (or just to the shopping street, AAF Street) or off the boardwalk at ABF Street, down onto the sand, right (west) along the edge of the ocean — a long walk all the way up to ADB Street and beyond, possibly even into public park land: during her short loop around a few streets and then home or spinning out of her intended short loop into a long, wandering trip around the neighborhood or on the beach, Monica runs across Nelly X (who lives on ACA Street), Pat Corcoran, Cathy Castle and Nancy Wattle (all from ABC Street) chatting while waiting together for their children on the ABB Street bus stop and then, two blocks further west on Coast Boulevard (at ABD Street), sees Lena Coffin waiting alone on the bus stop for little tadpole-faced Jojo. No notes on conversations with any of the mothers at either bus stop, but it strikes Monica later (while translating her notes into typewriter) that, if the mothers are waiting for their children to come home from school, it must already be 3 p.m. or even 3:30 p.m. when she (Monica) passes them — therefore at the end of her walk, not at the beginning — and her notes say that “by 3:30 wind has blown a clean blue across the sky”.

b)       At 1 p.m. (location not noted) Monica sees Pam Leary walking toward her with her little daughter, Caitlin. Pam Leary is from California, but (it seems to Monica) could be from just about anywhere west of New York City. Something about Pam Leary is different from others who arrive in New York and don’t necessarily “fit in”, but — just by wanting to be here — help animate New York as a metaphysical terminal of possibility. Pam Leary, on the other hand, is just someone who landed here through the accident of marrying Ted Leary, a very nice, somewhat bland and pink-faced member of an exploded local family. The think-positive perkiness and get-it-done cheeriness of a pie bake-off contestant can’t quite stifle Pam Leary’s eternal homesickness: eternally missing Mom, Dad and kid sister, Polly, she has (for Monica) an irritating way of subtly making sure you know that she’s making the best of a disappointing situation until she can get Ted Leary to move to California.

May or may not be happy to run into Monica, but greets her as if she is. It’s been such a long time!, etc. Last time Monica saw Caitlin. Caitlin was just an infant — and now she’s a “toddler”! Monica has the feeling that Pam — an always-cheerful person with stories to tell that are rarely cheerful — has stories to tell her now (stories she wants to and needs to tell), but isn’t going to tell them for all sorts of reasons easily passed off as lack of time (accidental meeting, on her busy way from here to there, etc.). Permits herself only a few little fragments: 1) now that Caitlin’s “a toddler” she plans to “start trying to get pregnant this summer” and 2) unfortunately, they see a fair amount of Ted’s father because he’s in the neighborhood, but Ted’s mother — as Monica knows — has become strange: still lives in Vegas, but that’s no explanation for the distance she keeps from Ted and everyone else. (May be in hiding from Ted’s awful father, but she doesn’t believe that’s the whole story.) There’s this too: according to Ted his mother never used to drink. Not a drinker and, if anything, fanatically religious, but now she doesn’t seem to be all that religious and her whole life revolves around AA! How can that be? There’s a huge missing piece to Ted’s Mom’s story and no one’s ever going to tell it! Ted says that AA’s his mother’s new religion, but what does that actually mean? It’s just one of those things people say without really thinking, doesn’t Monica agree? The only thing she can say that she knows is true is that having to spend time with Ted’s crazy family and having to listen to stories about Ted’s crazy family is making it unbearable not to be with her own family.



c)      Still May 3?

        Taking a walk around the neighborhood Monica sees in no particular order:

        1) bright yellow little birds in newest of new green: yellow lit from outside, green from inside: yellow underbellies like strokes of fresh paint (eye can feel the ridges of the brush strokes in the thick paste of oil and flavonoid pigment): some, not all, of these yellow birds dashing through new green appear to Monica to have velvety blue-black head-stripes: stripes may in fact be nothing but a velvety black, but — against yellow and against yellow-in-green — look like the luminous blue-black of a night sky to Monica.

        2) the relation between lawn and cherry blossom reverses itself so quickly, in two or three days, that Monica has a hard time sorting it out: the green lawns of yesterday are not pools reflecting the full and completely round pink trees above them like a sky that’s fat and pink from end to end. Lawns that were perfectly, beautifully green are now themselves pink and fluffy almost to their green edges. Each lawn now each tree? densely packed and fluffed with pink blossoms exactly or not exactly the way each tree was more like one enormous blossom than a tree. Trees now nothing but low, shiny posts with dark skin hammered into humped-up ground, supporting horizontal tangles of branching branches with green leaves not much bigger than buds. A very short season whose quick reversal comes and goes invisibly for anyone who hasn’t taken a long (an endless?) walk around the neighborhood.

        3) JoAnne Renard (Nicole Renard’s older sister) passes along with unrecorded others who’re passing for the first time — as if May 3 is the first spring day after the almost unlivable winter of ’75-76. It isn’t clear in Monica’s handwritten notes if JoAnne Renard sees Monica and stops to say something about the dizzying sweetness of the fresh green world that’s leapfrogged visual distance through smell (enters us easily here from over there) or if she passes on the other side of whatever street Monica’s walking on, without seeing Monica and without saying anything.

        4) (or not-4): Not noted when a detached mini-fragment of Pam Leary’s fragmentary mini-stories about Ted’s Mom in Vegas drifts back toward the original mass. While Monica is still walking? When she gets back to her green room desk and she’s transcribing her notes? Or later still. . . . Let’s see: Pam says that what Ted finds weird about his mother talking about herself as a former alcoholic, a reformed and struggling alcoholic, is that almost all his memories of his mother are of someone who practically lived in church — and the little time she didn’t spend in church she spent taking care of and worrying about her children. It’s his father who was and is a drunk. But now supposedly she’s a drunk and has no use for the church or for her children. When and how did all that happen? Where was he while it was happening? Was he that unconscious? What is it that he’s not noticing now that will come as a shock later? Etc., etc. Ted doesn’t say anything, but she knows that’s what he’s thinking. And she thinks that both Ted’s Mom and Ted’s Dad are there under the surface like a hook he’s swallowed but is able to swim around with while he’s bleeding to death. She’d like to know this: if Monica were writing about Ted would she describe him as “happy” or “unhappy”? Or maybe she’s not asking the right question. On the surface Ted is out of step with his whole family: he doesn’t drink, he’s quiet and considerate, he’s well-balanced, he’s what people call “nice”, etc. So why does his not drinking make her think of his father’s (and now his mother’s) drinking? And his happy unhappiness or unhappy happiness reminds her of them too — but why?



        5) (or not-5): Possibly still May 3 or could be May 4 without the slide from May 3 into May 4 having been noted. Monica wonders for a second if it’s really only a convention and a convenience for herself and the reader to distinguish “May 3” from “May 4” and so on — or if it’s in some way necessary to parcel out days by giving them their names in exactly the same way we name towns, avenues, boroughs, counties, etc. even if there’s truth in the fact that all of space is spread out on a horizontal, undifferentiated plane. Each day like a neighborhood with its own character, one separated from the other by nothing more than a long walk, a short drive, an hour’s nap. . . .



*




Notes say that Monica is working outdoors on a morning that’s sunny but not warm: blue of sky marked by white clouds that get bigger (and less white?) as the temperature drops. Dominant color across earth is oily green chlorophyll paste squeezed straight out of the tube and spread smoothly with fingertip or roughly with brush, broader areas thinned in pale washes. It’s a fragile moment for other colors. For example: the dominant chrome yellow masses of forsythias’ tangled wands as well as dogwood, apple and cherry blossoms’ mid-air palette of rose, pink and all possible rose-pink variations blended with white altered by daylight have dissolved away from the green landscape.

Same day or another (May 3, May 4 or still one more possible day she hasn’t taken into account) the far more vibrant and intense colors of azaleas and lilacs have already begun to stain the green world at or below eye level with blots of flaming dye — alizarin crimson, carmine violet, scarlet, kermes red, rose madder, magenta, mauve with a little orange in it — like fountain pens of colored ink left open on a green bedspread and emptying themselves there. Colors so chemically complicated and wildly clashing the eye can’t get enough of them while the brain spins on its axis trying to sort them out, let alone find words for them.



Let’s see: also on May 3 sliding through other days or other days in May 3 another copy of Coda with THE BLUE HANGER photo and a fragment of text in it arrives with a tiny note dated April 23, 1976:

“Dear Monica and David,

“Please see p. 27 for your Blue Hanger plot. Thank you very much for your help.

                                                                                           Sincerely,

                                                                                           Nelson Richardson

                                                                                           (document enclosed).”

The word “plot” is the only thing that interests Monica in the little note because she can’t figure out what it means.

Wanda Baer also gets mail delivered to her by Lou, the rolypoly mailman, and searches for Monica because she needs help translating the picture postcard written to her in French by the exquisitely beautiful Cristalene, who (without Wanda knowing about it) is traveling in California. Her French is terrible, Wanda Baer says, but of course that isn’t why she needs Monica’s help. When she saw that the card was from Cristalene — that Cristalene had bothered to write to her while she was traveling and that she’d written to her in French, the intimate language of her mind, not the public language of everyday speech — her brain went numb. . . .

Card reads (with a few words that are illegible or copied over incorrectly):

“Ma chere Wanda,

“Je pouvais toujourus esperer et imaginer. . . point de suspension — c’etait au dessus de tout. Enfin c’etait tres chauette. C’etait parce que je suis rentree. Je t’envoie cette carte de JFK et je parlerai dans quelque heures.

                                                                                           A bientot. Je t’embrasse.

                                                                                           Cristalene”

Glossy view is a standard tourist shot of Powell Street cable cars and the printed back text reads: “Busy cable cars climb the steep, terraced Powell Street hill at twilight time. San Francisco.”



Notes that are unquestionably from May 4 (without any ambiguity about May 3 or 5 leeching into them) suggest that May 4 is a particularly long day: begins early with too many clouds and too little sun and Monica can see that she’s going to have to search through an unusually thick stack of folded, handwritten lavender sheets of scrap paper to find out how the day drifts toward the boundary of the neighboring day.

The first person that Monica sees when she descends the front porch steps and is about to turn left (south) to head for the beach is Patty (“Twiggy”) Garvey, smoking while she walks (which direction not noted). Monica has no memory of “Twiggy” having been a smoker when she was younger — therefore the cigarettes must have something to do with her recent weight loss and the general change in her appearance. What strikes Monica is what’s missing: Twiggy no longer gives an immediate impression of size and pinkness: a large, somewhat puffy young woman with fluffy blonde waves of hair and a bright, bubble-gum pink complexion. Now she’s less noticeable: a fairly ordinary blonde young woman, not thin or fat, skin a common shade of pinkish-white.

On the way south (left from the porch) Monica has time to wonder if she’s ever had a conversation with Twiggy Garvey or if, in all the years she’s been seeing her in and out of the constellation of her family (four older sisters, wiry mother and largely absent handsome father), she’s only known Twiggy from across the way with never more than a wave and possibly not even a “hello”. Just an image in her image-world, never a sentence or two in all these years. . . ?

Now Monica’s stepped down onto the sand and the wind is so strong and cold it shuts down all thinking. She just has time to take in two ships on the horizon: a red one very low in the water, sinking into the horizon as if weighed down with too much freight, wallowing slowly east, toward Long Island: the other with slightly more stacked-up layers above the water, 1/2 red, 1/2 black (not noted how the colors are divided: above and below, side by side, etc.) and headed west, toward the Narrows and New York harbor. In the time it takes for Monica to sort out the two ships passing and separating on the horizon and to make up her mind whether a walk on the beach would be pleasant or impossible in the cold wind blowing from under the hull of the wallowing red freighter → through deep ocean → straight across the beach, she spots Leo Romero walking Greg and Lena’s old, black and drooly Newfoundland, Grendel. (Monica notes later that she has no way of knowing how odd or ordinary it is for Leo Romero to be walking the Coffin family dog.) Leo’s already spotted Monica and steers Grendel in her direction so he can stop and tell whatever stories he needs to tell. (Monica has the feeling later, while transcribing her notes into typewriter, that the order, if any, of Leo Romero’s stories has been re-ordered equally by wind and forgetfulness into a disorder just as orderly and inevitable-seeming as the surface of beach or ocean at any given instant.)

Leo says that the band has an agent now, but he isn’t sure that the agent knows what he’s doing — because the first thing the agent did was to change their name from a stupid outdated name to a stupid senseless one. They used to call themselves “Gregory and the Greyhounds” and the agent’s only valid point is that that made them sound like a revival band, a retread “doo-wop” band, but his genius idea is even worse: he re-named them “The C-Notes” and it’s cheesy and stupid and empty and none of them has a clue what it’s supposed to mean. But now the stupid jerk got them a week’s gig at the “Monte Carlo” near JFK so he’ll have to live with being a “C-Note”. . . .

Before the agent Greg was the one who arranged all their bookings and maybe they were better off, but Greg’s happy to be left alone to do his music. No question that, of all of them, Greg is the only one who could have a solo career. He gets calls to do studio work and for all sorts of other stuff, but no one else does. Is Greg the most talented? May be the most talented, but he thinks that what’s more important is that he loves to practice. Practices ten thousand times more than the rest of them put together. He (Leo) likes to practice, but has no time. Andy’s lazy and never really thought of music as a career (he’d just as soon go fishing) and the bass player’s just a stupid slob.

Is it possible that loyalty to the band’s gotten in the way of Greg’s career? He’s thought of that and it bothers him, but on the other hand he thinks it’s possible that their loyalty to each other may be what’s kept them alive. Greg and Andy have known each other forever and he’s known them both since 1970.

Speaking of loyalty, he wants to know if Monica remembers their old bass player, Colin: a very good bass player, much better than the dummy they have now, but a worthless dirtbag as a human being. When he quit without warning to start his own band and asked him (Leo) to join he didn’t have to think to say no. What he remembers saying to Colin was that out of the two or three hundred good reasons he could easily come up with for not going with Colin, the first thing that came to mind was that Colin had no sense of gratitude or loyalty or responsibility and that that would be more than enough, even if Colin didn’t sleep all day and shower every other week. . . .

Leo is jumpy, as always. Jumping around while he talks: jumpy and speeding through broken sentences, maybe even more than usual. Hopping from one foot to the other, from one half-sentence to the other because he’s freezing? Freezing and jumpy, but still not ready to stop talking. Some fragments of stories may be a bit stuck, but need to come out.

Monica knows (doesn’t she?) that he lives rent free? The house pays the rent for him is how he likes to think of it. And then of course there’s the family carpet-cleaning business: has to work there, no choice: hates it, but probably can’t do without that income, if he’s ten thousand percent honest with himself. So he’s basically got two things going for him always: his drumming (he’d have to be dead and maybe even dead and then buried to give up drumming) and the family business, always there if he needs it. Greg has his outside gigs and Andy and Grete (Monica probably knows this too) pick up a little extra change every week dealing small quantities across the Nassau County line. Very, very little, sometimes just an extra hundred or so, because what they make otherwise isn’t enough to support themselves and the two children. But never-ever the eight hundred or more other dealers make easily doing the same exact thing, because Grete and Andy know that once you start dealing at that even slightly higher level that’s when you get noticed and shit starts to happen. . . .


*




Cold light and cold air of a northern city make Monica wonder if it’s still May 4. New green tulips make David think of Amsterdam, but Monica doesn’t remember the quantity of light that’s falling today falling there or the precise way every green space conforms to the shadow of a cloud, no matter how the clouds shift and re-arrange themselves with the ambling pace of cows in a meadow. This day is cold and exact, she says, and that doesn’t bring Amsterdam to mind. There’s this too: her handwritten notes (which are sometimes hard for Monica to read when it’s time to type them months later) seem to talk in one place about light being blown through new green leaves and even through grass, though it’s barely started to grow: whatever light isn’t absorbed by leaves blows through and blows back very quickly, so that light flashes there and is eclipsed there in dots and dashes of movement that build up into masses of green and green shadow. But in another place her notes (still talking about light) seem to say “thrown” and not “blown”: “light comes and goes quickly, as if thrown with a strong arm into the far corner of green space” and, likewise, “a shadow tossed from the distance to cover something that was just clear and immediate”.

Can’t say that any of it reminds her of Amsterdam. Or, more exactly, the only thing that reminds her of Amsterdam or anything Dutch at all are the number of breezes and the complexity of the aromas blowing with them through the streets: so many breezes and aromas (most of them cold and spicy ocean breezes) that some of them may have passed through ground floor kitchens of three story shingle houses, second story kitchens of multiple dwellings and fourth, fifth or sixth floor kitchens of apartment houses, carrying cooking aromas down ABC Street, right under Monica’s nose — and that mixture of warm cooking aromas and cold ocean aromas is a heady smell that brings her directly back to the deck of a small Dutch ocean liner, the Maasdam, crossing the Atlantic with David.



On the same or another cold, clear day with shifting clouds, therefore shifting sun and shadow across ABC Street and the whole island-like neighborhood, Monica feels the need to wear a jacket and button up the top button, while Al Regan (diagonally across the way directly to the southwest) is out early without a shirt on, digging up one side of the Regans’ lawn (which side not noted) with pitchfork and shovel. Monica can’t remember ever seeing Al Regan working outside without a shirt. It’s not his style, in cold weather or warm, and she wonders if it’s only now that bald, wiry and suntanned Enos Greengrass — whose great passion was to sweep and hose his driveway in all possible weather in nothing but a faded and baggy pair of long blue shorts, heavy cotton socks and brown moccasins — has died, that Al Regan feels a responsibility to do some bare-chested lawnwork on a day that looks sunny but feels cold.

What else is happening pretty much at the same time?

1, 2, 3, 4 houses north on the west side of the street (next to the last house before the intersection with Coast Boulevard) tall, thin and pretty Elizabeth Garvey is mowing the Garvey family lawn in jeans and a long-sleeved rose or blue polo (Elizabeth Garvey’s colors, though color not noted).

Blond-blond little Timothy Corcoran is stuffing his face with Jujubes and another kind of candy he says is called a “Slow Poke”. Likes to talk to Monica and likes to talk in general, but doesn’t really have a story to tell so only says that he knows that eating so much candy isn’t good for him, but that he can’t help it because he’s a sugar freak. He’s an addict, but what choice did he have? Monica knows about his mom’s Pepsi addiction: sick already, she’s been warned but still can’t stop. So now his teeth aren’t coming in normally and some of them are even starting to rot. . . .



A dark-haired and attractive waitress still wearing her Cornucopia Diner uniform finds the keys Themis left for her in the mailbox and goes in.



Let’s see: who passes Monica on the porch next? which one before the other? They all pass, they all stop to say something even when there’s no story to tell, but Monica’s notes (and the Chronicle too?) have no concern for their order and that makes Monica think (not for the first time) that it’s possible that, no matter how experience actually unfolds, there’s a sense in which all of it — an entire afternoon and even a day or more than one day — can exist simultaneously across a horizontal plane in the mind, a horizontal narrative made up of mini-narratives that can be arranged in many different ways until freak events push them off the table. These passing horizontal units, these mini-narratives, are the way the day passes and the way life passes: therefore the Chronicle Monica’s way of putting the mind’s horizontal, simultaneous plane of story fragments on paper? An endless task and an endless pleasure, because new events are always occurring: new stories are always being told to Monica as acquaintances arrive and pass, and events that interest her are always in danger of falling off the table.



Yvonne Wilding, bored and slouching, passes, stops to poke around in the mailbox, perks up a little because she’s found something addressed to her, pauses for a few seconds to say (to Monica or herself) “letter from Vegas” before she heads inside while tearing open the envelope.



Monica tries to figure out how long it’s been since she last saw Artie Tilden, but can’t. It would take time to search backward through the Chronicle and, as always, she feels compelled to go forward. She doesn’t run into him often, so his long red ponytail that makes his smallish head look compressed and shrunken, skin so white his face is like a drawing of a face on white paper, small nose, tired eyes, perpetual jeans, jeans jacket and worn brown cowboy boots suddenly appearing before her on the porch always come as a surprise. Today (May 4?) Artie Tilden appears (out from inside or up from sidewalk not noted), leans against the railing near Monica, signaling to her that he has stories to tell and may even have been looking for her to tell them.

Let’s see: begins by remarking (apropos of nothing) that there are odd things about this neighborhood that he thinks about and he knows that it’s the kind of stuff that Monica thinks about too. For example: you can look at this neighborhood as being in the middle — the center point between two other neighborhoods that are geographically connected to it and that resemble it in the ways that all town-like neighborhoods that sit next to bays or oceans resemble each other, but are different from it in all kinds of other, important ways. You’ve got the very insular, airtight little community of Windy Pass over at the far western tip of the peninsula and then, across a little bridge, directly to the north, the tight-knit but not-quite-so-airtight neighborhood of Narrow Straits. (Can’t be so insular because so many cars carrying so many strangers have to pass through Narrow Straits to get to major highway connections, other, more populated neighborhoods, the airport, etc.) Has Monica noticed that — even though Windy Pass and Narrow Straits have stayed the same forever, generation after generation living there with no thought of leaving — lately some of the children have started to try to break away. In general they don’t get very far. Most of them (himself included!) gravitate toward this neighborhood, right in the middle, no more than fifteen minutes drive in either direction to the Pass or to the Straits. So he knows firsthand how hard it is to pull against the gravity that keeps us from leaving what we know too well for it to be good for us. . . .

Let’s see: what else? Artie wants to talk more and decides to tell Monica a tale that’s more of a tale than anything he’s said so far (possibly the tale he looked for her to tell). Monica may not remember, he says, but some time in the later part of April (not too long before his girlfriend Anne Marie’s birthday) they had a terrible hot spell. Made him itch to get out on his motorcycle and he and Anne Marie set out with no particular plan except getting out on the open road somewhere and feeling the wind. But there is no real “open road” around here. To get to anything like that the most logical thing is to head in the direction of Long Island, but you still have to go through a lot of populated territory to get anywhere near open terrain — and at the first red light in Hewlett or Woodmere or some stupid place like that he was hit hard from behind. Motorcycle flipped up in the air and all 500 pounds of it landed on the car in front. (Says parenthetically that he’s told the story to all his friends and he’s curious to see if Monica agrees with the ones who think it’s a story about bad luck or the ones who think it’s about good luck.) Motorcycle pretty much caved in the trunk of the car in front. Not his fault, but could have gotten complicated because he has no insurance. Guy who hit him from behind was clearly responsible, but, without insurance, it could still get ugly. Five hundred dollar fine, if nothing else. Unlucky because he was hit? Doubly unlucky because he has no insurance? Or are the people who jump to that conclusion stupid? Consider this: neither he nor Anne Marie were seriously injured (both were thrown off right away); car in front (the one with the smashed-in trunk) turned out to be stolen so the guy took off and disappeared; and the guy who hit him from behind didn’t want the insurance companies involved so he was happy to write a check and go home. The end result of his “bad luck” is that someone paid to have his motorcycle rebuilt. It’s running better than it did before, he and Anne Marie are feeling fine and they’d be looking for some open road right now if the weather wasn’t so lousy!



Monica says that she loves the lengthening of afternoon: when the bright and sparkling day takes its time being carried toward evening.



Who else of those who pass and keep passing on this ambiguously dated day in early May stops to tell a story (or at least speak a sentence or two that might turn into a story)?

Clear-eyed and businesslike little Ryan Lenehan surprises Monica by telling her that he not only plays the drums, but he’s learning the guitar! And not only that: he has his own space now: they’ve let him have Lenny’s old room in the basement: plenty of privacy and the thick walls swallow the sound of his drums.

Notes also say something about the unmistakable sound of a mourning dove, a cooing that’s throaty yet stuttering, not drawn out long enough to extend far out into woodland and certainly not into darkness, deceptively like the beginning of an owl’s hoo-hoo-hooing, except that it always comes up short and flaps around where it is, dripping its tiny dose of mystery by the eyedropper-full: draws Monica’s attention (while Ryan Lenehan is talking) up into the thin and cracked orange plastic awning over Greg-and-Lena Coffin’s front steps next door, where blinding sunlight has collected in a shadowy pool deep enough for birds that Monica can’t see to make a racket in, wallowing in light as in water.

Ryan Lenehan has something else on his mind. Meant to tell Monica something, but can’t remember what it is or even if it’s something he’s already told her. Could this be it? Did he tell Monica that Carla Ray Carlson is in a nursing home? And that they discovered that Carla Ray signed a lot of her checks Carlita Carlson? So right now they’re not at all sure what “Carla Ray” or just “Carla” or “Carlita” Carlson’s real name is or how much of what they thought they knew about her is true.



*




“Out of order”: a handwritten note dated “June ‘74” has found its way into handwritten May ’76 and it doesn’t seem in any way related to anything that comes before or after. How did it get here? Un-named force could have washed it to this spot in Monica’s notes from where it was anchored seven hundred miles or seventy days up or down the coast: not a coherent story, just a broken angle of one, as usual. Story-fragment that’s drifted this way says that red-haired, asthmatic and weakly handsome Matty Maple (friend of Norma Rosenkranz, Jerry and Reggy H. and others from a small constellation of 19-22-year-old friends Monica knows but who haven’t walked, driven or bicycled across the April or May ’76 Chronicle) has (and wants to introduce Monica to?) a new Portuguese girlfriend with the beautiful name “Madalena Fonseca” who’s determined to change her name to “Madalena Maple” just because she likes the way the two “M ’s” sound more than she likes her own “M” and “F”.



The fact that it’s “May 5” is clearly indicated on paper and also clearly marked in space by pink cherry blossom petals whipping by at eye level. A very mild storm of May breezes shifts soft pink masses from small trees to green lawn after green lawn. Spray from who-can-say-how-many sprinkler systems blows from one lawn to the other as well. Breezes just strong enough to shred flowers seem to dig into ocean-to-the-south with force, raking up dark water like dirt. Over and over, as far as Monica can see, wind digs into slate-blue-sliding-into-slate-grey peaks about to slide out into troughs with no blue in them at all, at the same time throwing off a beautiful green foam — not a dark seaweed green, more the green light of trees, vines or hedgerows. Wind sweeps across everything horizontally from bay to ocean, bounding back to bay, re-arranging masses and spinning whatever spins, tearing at leaves, flowers and bits of weakly attached alphabet.



A letter dated April 26 from Bill Fox, West Coast Poetry Review (WCPR), 1127 Codel Way, Reno, Nevada 89503, arrives on May 5.

“Dear Monica and David —

“Thanks for all the materials. I’d like to use the following from AS IT RETURNS — the photos and all the accompanying prose. What I’m sending back I can’t use unless you think it critical to publication. The mounting guide, for instance, would have to be photoed from the original photos — the ones you sent could be better, more indicative, illustrative even of the text itself, presenting more than just the installation view. If you have more photos, may I see them for possible use?

“I like TIME TABLE very much and will be very jealous to see it from another publisher. But there’s just no room here for it as a chapbook (ideally) or even in the magazine (a second best).

“AS IT RETURNS will appear in WCPR #2.0, as far as I can tell. Again, as far as I can tell, that issue will appear in a year. I’ve been turning away everything because we’re so full, but I simply can’t deny your work space somehow, sometime. So. . . .

“My wife and child and I will be in N.Y.C. from May 4 through the 9. I’ll bring along your address and perhaps try to get in touch.

“Let me know about the material I’m returning, and also if the documentation is to appear elsewhere. I’m not against that, just don’t want to cross over too much into similar territories.

Very best,

“Bill

“W.L. Fox.”



“Out of order”: belongs here or it doesn’t. Monica can’t decide (but will have to decide) whether or not to include the April 12 letter (from herself and David) to Bill Fox that Fox’s letter of April 26 is clearly an answer to.

Let’s see: Argument (with herself) for including it: though it’s not in any way inserted into her handwritten notes for either April 12 or 26 (all their writing-related correspondence to others is filed away in used grey return envelopes labeled “Correspondence”, envelopes then dropped into cardboard cartons under the eaves, therefore rarely or never included in the Chronicle, therefore not truly chronicled), it does help explain most of what’s in Bill Fox’s letter.

Argument (with herself) for leaving it out: a) since the letter of April 12 to Bill Fox was never meant to be chronicled, inserting it violates one of the Chronicle’s unstated but natural laws, specifically its principle of exclusion; b) neither Monica nor David are in love with letter-writing, even less so with writing letters that restate in worse language ideas about their work already expressed as they wanted to in the work: therefore Monica has always found it uninteresting to chronicle their letters — while the letters of others to herself (or to herself and David) seem to her just one more external event, no less or more superficial than any event in nature, any passing figure, overheard conversation, fragment of story told to her, etc. that arrives of its own accord and allows her to chronicle herself solely by chronicling everything that makes an outline around her.

She decides (and already regrets the decision?) to include this much of their April 12 letter to Bill Fox:

“Dear Bill Fox,

“Enclosing a number of things:

“1) The photographic documentation you wanted to see of AS IT RETURNS, our environmental, wall-mounted “space novel”. Also including, in conjunction with the photographs: some reduced-scale models of a number of auxiliary charts, guides to mounting, proposals, etc., that were mounted with the wall grids; a two page “score” for the event.

“2) Time Table: 22 items on 22 sheets. It was shown as a 22 panel wall piece (along with a number of other language art table and wall texts) in the “Language and Structure in North America” exhibition, traveling language art exhibition that had its opening installation (nov. 3-30) at the 567 Gallery, Toronto.

“It’s a text designed to function as a conceptual whole, meaning in the total form, and we’d like you to consider it as a chapbook or whatever.

“The 22nd sheet comprises a location code or graph for the placement of the preceding 21 on a continuous flat surface: so that what at first appears a wholly sequential (temporal) reading experience can be experienced as a simultaneous inventory of events, things, speech, and so on. The 21 items on the first 21 pages are re-placed within a sort of spherical graph, a dense and lucid mass of space/time, a conceptually transparent ‘world’.”

“What follows is a chart of twenty-one lines in four columns detailing the ideal design for printing TIME TABLE, plus some paragraphs about some upcoming SPACE NOVEL activities.”



Still on May 5? Lena Coffin gives Monica a quick hello before hurrying up her orange brick front steps with a fast, almost hopping gait that’s both nervous and athletic and Monica can see that Lena’s oval, too-thin-once-plum-like face and always-plaintive eyes have a new, softer and fluffier frame of hair that’s been given a curly look with red tones added to its chestnut. (Pauses for a split second to say hello precisely so Monica will notice her hair?)

At the same time and in the same way that Monica is able to see the change in Lena Coffin’s hair, she thinks she can see a more silvery tone to the fresh green leaves of the Regans’ magnificent, old elm across the way (250 angle SW?), in its own way giving a quick, rustling hello to anyone paying attention to it across the way.



Is whatever’s written a score for something not completely on the page that the writer hears and wants the reader to hear? A score in the sense that what’s on the page has to be brought to life by the addition of what exactly from the reader? (Played where and with what?) There’s this too: writing’s existence on the page is real, but only in the odd sense that it’s not life and knows it’s not life or even a replica of life, but has its own, other, thin but infinite life here, on paper, that is at the same time an enormous virtual life, like every other reality that isn’t the one-and-only first reality. Most interesting when a bridge between writer and reader can, one way or another, be crossed?



*

 



Not recorded at the time or even just after, but a day later “from memory”. Handwritten notes say that on May 6 Monica is working outside though it’s just stopped raining, trying to chronicle “yesterday’s” trip to David’s childhood dentist in Brooklyn. “Today”, while writing, the ground is drying on a day that seemed as if it would stay wet forever and the air rising from it is damp and cool while (with pen and paper) she’s setting out again from the coolness of ABC Street wearing a turtleneck that will make her suffer every minute she's driving through the super-heated streets of Brooklyn.

According to Monica’s notes her route through Brooklyn goes something like this (though it doesn’t make perfect sense to her later, while typing, and probably should be checked for accuracy with a map):

path to Avenue K not noted

tree-lined Avenue K to Ocean Avenue

Ocean Avenue to McDonald Avenue

trees and pleasant, turn-of-the-century houses give way on McDonald Avenue to trolley tracks still embedded in the road under an elevated subway line: long rows of two or three story brick (and what other pale but dirty stone?) facades look as if they’re tired of what they have to look at and what they have to listen to. A horribly slow trip because the tires keep getting stuck and Monica has to maneuver to unstick them from the narrow grooves of the useless trolley tracks under the el.

Long trip under the el seems to be or really is hotter than the drive along Avenue K and then Ocean.

Let’s see, what else?:       McDonald to Cortelyou

                                       Cortelyou to Flatbush

                                       Flatbush to Beverly

                                       Beverly to Brooklyn Avenue (though Monica doesn’t remember a “Brooklyn Avenue” in Brooklyn)

                                       "Brooklyn Avenue” to the dentist’s office (street not noted).

David’s childhood dentist says that he’s sick of Brooklyn and sick of this neighborhood and sick of just about everything. Certainly sick of looking at the same thing out his back office window. He’s lived and worked in Brooklyn too long. So he’s sold his office and this is the last time they’ll ever see him here.



“Later on the same day”, on the way home, while trying to find their way to Nostrand Avenue, Monica and David drive along Avenue X, turn down S or T, turn another corner and have no idea where they are. The feeling of unfamiliarity is a pleasant one (as if there are pockets of unknown cities in your own familiar one) and they decide to spend a little time there before finding their way home. A small restaurant turns up so they can linger at a quiet, un-Brooklyn-like intersection, broad and light and looking out on the long, green space of a park-like playing field and they stay as long as possible in this little pocket of unfamiliarity before finding an avenue that leads back into the Brooklyn they know.



“Later on the same day” (at about 10 p.m.) Monica is on the boardwalk between ABC Street and ABD Street, doing nothing but breathing in the peculiarly sweet and grassy fragrance that can’t be separated (she tries to separate them) from the cool waves of air drifting north from the ocean. Not far away from her Joshua Coffin and Riley Liman are hanging out together (doing what exactly?) and Monica hears something about Hank Forest’s first birthday party “this afternoon”. Whatever it is Riley and Joshua are talking about isn’t remembered or noted, but it reminds Monica that she’d meant to scribble down but didn’t that, before leaving for Brooklyn, she’d seen Lena Coffin all dressed up and making a bee-line (south) for Babette-Grete-and-Andy’s shared two-family at the ocean end of the block. Invited to Hank Forest’s party, but any memory of it wiped out because of the long, hot trip to David’s childhood dentist in Brooklyn.



It’s not clear in her handwritten notes, but it may be from the perspective of Alyosha’s car (borrowed pretty much whenever she needs it and parked on ABC Street near the massive, cocoa-shingled multiple dwelling where Monica has her attic apartment) that Monica sees Artie Tilden’s small head, absolute-zero-color white skin, red ponytail going in and out the front (porch) door, carrying stuff and dumping it over the north-facing railing into the paved and grassy space (where the trash cans are kept) between the multiple dwelling and the landlord’s boxy pseudo-modern. Repeated trips, carrying and dumping junk — therefore “spring cleaning” of Artie’s small, second floor apartment, which, like every other apartment, is able to contain ten thousand times more junk then there’s room for because most of it is invisible until we think about it. . . .



At around 6 p.m. on May 6 rain begins to fall while Monica is sitting in Alyosha’s parked car (reason not noted). Starts suddenly and becomes heavy almost at once and in that way the space Monica is sitting in (looking out at the world) and the world “out there” (being looked at) are re-invented in a twinkling: all at once the wide, neutral basin of experience from a point inside the self to the endpoint of its gaze out of itself is flooded with pitcher after pitcher of sensation poured down as green water from a height over the roof of the car, sliding out across the windows in sheets and horizontally into the world where a green puddle might also be a green pond or a green tree. Thunder and lightning help far and near get mixed up and shoot the green puddle of the street through with cosmic energy. Fresh-minted green and mossy green, bright and blurred, are dispersed in droplets across a broad horizon of asphalt that might as well be the sky.



Not clear to Monica (while typing May notes in November) whether it's later on May 6 and still raining or already May 7, but notes say clearly that whether on the 6 or the 7 a seagull's cry (right outside her third floor attic windows) wakes her up in pitch darkness “at 5 a.m.”: wind blowing darkness across her windows as if it were snow. A cold storm of darkness that gives her apartment an unpleasant chill.

Later (on what must be May 7) rain has stopped, the apartment is bright and Monica is at her enormous oak desk-and-breakfast-table, giving herself the pleasure of editing the Chronicle while smoking a solitary cigarette and drinking from a tall glass of mild and creamy iced coffee (made for her by David?) while nibbling at a good-sized wedge of the famous Peninsula Bake Shop’s perfect cream cheese cake (with or without Monica’s favorite cherry topping not noted). The recipe seems to be a classic “New York Cheesecake” recipe and probably resembles the best ones David’s able to find in some of the American cookbooks he borrows over and over from the local library, but there must be some subtle difference in balance of ingredients (quantity of cream cheese, sour cream and/or heavy cream, number and size of eggs, quantity of sugar, vanilla extract or no vanilla extract, etc.) and/or execution (Peninsula Bake Shop’s top surface is always a deep and beautiful caramelized brown, rich and dense interior always seems to get even creamier and more melting the deeper you dig toward the center, cookie dough base (though Monica loves a buttery graham cracker crust) is crisp and crunchy, never sugary).



Lilacs in Monica’s modernist Czechoslovakian vase (tapering, faceted blocks of smoky grey crystal) and green avocado vines against golden bamboo blinds are the perpetual April/May background to writing, editing, typing, sipping iced coffee and having breakfast (with or without David there to make it) at the massive oak desk-and-breakfast-table in her green front (west-facing) studio.

Let’s see: winding tangles of green avocado vines and branches of cut lilacs that may not keep opening after they’re cut and either lose color with time or have another element added by time that bleaches their deep amethyst and syrupy blackberry down to a colorless lilac with no more tint or flavor to it than a violet pastille that’s been in someone’s mouth too long.

What else? By chance Monica is at the left-hand (south-most) of the two sets of west-facing green studio casement windows (taking a break from editing/typing?) just at the instant Wanda Baer is passing, heading S —> N from her elbow-shaped attic apartment in the Coffins’ massive orange brick and cracked white stucco multiple dwelling next door (south) toward Coast Boulevard and beyond: Monica has a chance to look at Wanda Baer for a peculiarly drawn out length of time, given the length of space she has to traverse window edge to window edge before her image is cut off by the lip of the landlord’s roof, because she’s moving as if the soles of her heavy boots are gummy and each step takes forever to get unstuck from the rough skin of the sidewalk. That makes Monica focus. Wanda Baer’s body looks unusually squared-off and bulky, as if shape-shifting in the direction of her friend Lizzy’s outline, heavy-legged, lumpen and depressed. Monica makes a note to herself to look back through her notes to see if she missed the-signs-that-should-be-noticeable-but-never-are of Wanda Baer’s metamorphosis.

*

 



“I was born when I met you.

“I died when you left me.

“I was alive for a few weeks while you loved me.”



At her desk on the same day (while drinking iced coffee, etc.)? Is it purely “memory” or is it something about her position and, because of her position, the direction she’s looking (out through plants and bamboo toward roofs and sky cut and pieced into blue and black lines and blots) that sends her tunneling back through days that may be the same day in early May: May ’75, May ’74, possibly even May ’73 or ’72. Monica could find out for sure on what day in early May of what year in the early ‘70’s she and David saw Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place in the downstairs movie theater in The Museum of Modern Art and if that day was a July-like 97 degrees (though “97 degrees” may refer to another day entirely, because the notes on the folded-in-half sheet of scrap paper are bristling with references in many directions) if she wanted to search back through her notes for May of those years, but she doesn’t (first principle of the Chronicle is to go back just enough to keep going forward).

Because Monica wants to keep traveling forward through the long (infinite?) tunnel of folded sheets of handwritten Chronicle — heavy lavender sheets that may be watermarked bond with cotton content, thinner and glossier white sheets with a green stripe along one margin, and all sorts of other scrap paper of better or worse quality, but always 8 1/2” x 11” or larger — she’s reluctant to take time to explore the importance of seeing In a Lonely Place for her writing life (and for David’s writing life equally) at that time. She finds it enough to say that, from that moment on, both she and David looked for, educated themselves about and taught themselves to pay a different kind of attention to certain kinds of black and white American crime films and melodramas. In particular, when they watched these films separately or together (avoiding even then the common terms for the categories usually used for these films because the assumption of a common understanding implied by using universally accepted terms inevitably leads to the meaningless muddle taken for cultural truth) they each began in their own way to make an effort to recreate scenes, to copy out dialogue from memory (that is, to re-invent it) and to note down precisely (while in the act of watching) names of characters, hotels, clubs, etc. For example: Monica notes the double-triple-or-quadruple-centeredness of In a Lonely Place: bitter inside-Hollywood drama centered on the screenwriter, Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart); Humphrey Bogart’s (Dixon Steele’s) combustible temper; effect of Steele-Bogart’s combustible temper on a) his love affair with Gloria Graham (Laurel Grey) and b) the policier/murder mystery centering on the investigation of the death of Bogart-Steele’s script girl or studio secretary. (A lot could also be said about Monica-and-David’s scene-by-scene re-creation of the film Dark Passage, for example, and what they tried to do with it in a 500 page novel called Locked Room, but she feels the need to keep climbing horizontally forward through the days of May ’76.)



Monica reminds herself also how much could be said — how much she and David have said to each other and how much she’d like to say here — about the Hollywood studio film and its familiar actors (only of a certain kind and a certain era?) as a body (the only body) of authentic American myth: the actors and actresses as figures whose adventures can be followed from film to film, exactly the way the adventures of Odysseus, Herakles, Athena, Artemis, etc. can be followed. (And probably the only myth-system an American writer can make use of without being literary in the wrong way.)



Out the side window of Monica’s green room studio on the evening of the same day in early May?: resonant dark-blue-in-luminous-blue sky (each blue rebounds off the other in a shimmering way that may create still other blues) above roofs as black as if night is resting there before standing to its full length upward. Let’s see: it may be while looking out the green room side window and trying to figure out how far into first or second blue the fourth or fifth blue she’s staring at is sinking (walking back and forth while thinking about something she was typing from her handwritten notes) that she continues to try to make a mental list of those who were very much in her life, but who she now hardly ever sees or doesn’t see at all. List begins easily with her sister, Kitty, with Lowell’s ex-girlfriend, the young violinist, Jill (who became Monica’s friend through Lowell) and with someone Monica knew in college — unmarried then and named Amanda Schiller and both then and now that she’s married a plum-dark jam of nervous intelligence, unhappy good looks, imagination, anxiety and awkwardness – who she now knows (but rarely sees) as Warren Rosenwasser’s academic wife and Fred Rosenwasser’s hardly-ever-mentioned daughter-in-law.



Five in the afternoon of what day Monica’s sitting on the front porch steps in bright sunlight, happily writing about what (aside from the hour that she’s sitting on the steps, etc.)?

Next notes are clearly dated May 8: taking a walk with David and circling around the neighborhood by way of the boardwalk, Monica is struck by the degree to which the white illumination of the moon alters blue of sky, water and land. The effect of particle-waves of light traveling through everything blue as powerful as what waves traveling through the human body?

White moon and long clouds that began as “fishbone” clouds minute-by-minute grow softer and more feathery as if combing themselves out from within.

Blue sky, blue water, blue land, blue evening: all different shades of blue to begin with, each blue needing to be named or in some way distinguished from the others and then named again in their altered (illuminated) state: cyan, hyacinth, indigo, cobalt, gentian and delphinium, azure shaded into gas flame and bluejay blue-grey and pure blue and then out into morning glory and what else, all there in hues that are variations of other hues and therefore can’t be named because of varying degrees of brightness, intensity, fading, reflectivity, absorbance and presence of anthocyanin, commelinin, delphinidin and other pigments and the interaction of these blue pigments with various ions, acids, etc. that change blues to other blues or change blue into something else altogether. It would take forever to name each blue precisely and Monica would like to have the time to do it, but that time would be infinity.

Let’s see: where exactly in their circling walk around the neighborhood do Monica and David become conscious that the “twins” are twinning behind them? Amid all other voices, noises, events, things to look at the unmistakable see-sawing of profoundly grumbling bass and bitter silence works its way into consciousness.

One sentence in her notes mentions Coast Boulevard, but only for the reason that Monica isn’t sure that following the twins while they’re twinning by allowing them to think they’re following her (and David) along an unrecorded circuitous route, justifies the fact that she was not able to see what she set out to see: she loves the long, late-afternoon moment when orange sunlight travels the length of Coast Boulevard’s double row of trees and builds up orange-green pyramids of light and leaf and leaf + leaf and light x leaf x light from the farthest point west to wherever she’s standing. May love it more because she usually misses it and misses it again today because she decides to follow the twins by allowing them to follow her.

TWINS TWINNING (May 8, ’76)


A. Look at that bum! no coat, no hat, no nothin!

B.

A. You remind me of fuckn Moriarity!

B.

A. All y’have t’do is look at the guy, am I right?

B.

A. I drink with a lot of pigs, so what?!

B.

A. You were talkin? I hadda talk!

B.

A. Rockefeller!? Forgettabout ‘m!

B.

A. Wait a minute! wait a minute! wait a minute!

B.

A. No-no-no-no! Eh?

B.

A. You got the bag without payin? And you asked me if I. . . !

B.

A. Oh! I’m tired! Tired of this neighborhood! Tired of this town! What else are we tired of . . .?

B.



David is slicing apples, but when?

Monica notes the aroma of apples and a sentence before or after (which doesn’t necessarily mean a second before or after) notes the strange double aroma of lilacs and sweet potato.

This too (and also not certain when): David reports to Monica for the Chronicle that he was surprised to see swallows on the beach, flying as low over the sand as they do over meadows, ponds, etc. And the same handwritten line says something about “sitting with Lowell in warm sunlight, around noon”. But do the way her sentences are written mean that a) David is sitting with Lowell in warm, noontime sunlight on the beach when he’s surprised to see swallows, etc. or b) she herself is with Lowell in warm sunlight, in his small, second floor, south-east facing apartment near the beach or in her attic apartment three blocks east, when she catches 1, 2 or 3 aromas — sweet potato, lilac and apple — one by one or all together.

*




May 9 and May 10 are spring days with no other season in them: warm and cool, already-green yet still-sprouting.

At different moments during these two days, which flow one into the other with little or no distinction, the Rosenwassers’ north-facing picture window (which is highly reflective, almost mirror-like, with only here-and-there a dark patch that could either be interior shadow with a mahogany or plum-colored easy chair at the bottom of it or layers of shade cradled inside a tree that may also cradle curtains and bookshelves) reflects sunlit movement of green branches and rows of pastel-colored towels.

The colors of the towels in the Rosenwassers’ picture window have replaced the colors of flowers: chemical lime green, vacant pale green there’s no name for in nature, weakest of weak and watery yellows, pink that hardly has any color in it at all and that you’ve only called “pink” because you can’t think of any other color to call it and a dissolving blue diluted to match pink, yellow, green.

As sun grows warmer and its power forces itself up inside and through shoots, stems, blades, leaves and vines, every street has its fountains and its flood plains of green: too many shades of green to catalogue and every other color drowned in or stained by green. Must still be flowers blooming on ABC Street or in the neighborhood, but on May 9 and 10 Monica doesn’t see them.



Let’s see: Al Szarka, who says very little to Monica, stops on his unusually bounding way across the porch and down the stairs (excited and smiling in a way that’s very un-Al-Szarka-like) to tell her that he’s on his way to play paddle ball and he has to hurry! . . . has to be back by (time not noted).

Almost at the same instant Al Szarka is rushing down the front porch stairs, acting in every way like someone who only looks like Al Szarka, apple-faced Finnley Lenehan is coming up the stairs two at a time to talk to Monica though he doesn’t really have a story to tell. He’s on his way back from mass and has to hurry if he wants to get over to the Peninsula Bake Shop in time to surprise his mom with a whipped cream cake for Mother’s Day. The cake he wants is expensive, but he should be able to do it because he’s chipping in with Teddy Finch, the tenant who moved into their tiniest studio two weeks ago and is already pretty much in love with his mother, like everybody else. . . !



More on Sunday, May 9:

Lena Coffin’s parents are visiting from New Jersey (city or town not noted or not known) and their visit has given Greg-and-Lena’s seldom-used-front-porch-ping-pong-room new life: hollow pip-pop/tik-tok double and quadruple bouncing of ping-pong balls this way and that without much force, strenuous lunging and darting of lit-up figures — glimpsed in flashes through the curtained frames of the porch room’s two north-facing driveway windows: one of them clearly Grete Forest (long, beautiful and suntanned arms and legs), the other most likely Lena’s father.

Earlier or later on the same day? Same day or another? JoAnne Renard bicycles up — not just in short, white tennis shorts, but in a coordinated white tennis outfit — racket carried how? Stops short of Lena-and-Greg’s (headed there to say hello to Lena’s visiting parents?) to chat with Monica, who’s not hidden as well as she thinks she is behind the tall and wide pyramid of the Rhinebeck pine. She has no story to tell or she may think that talking about gardening is a story: she’s had no luck with her garden this year: gave up and tried planting some flowers in flower pots, but that hasn’t worked either! “Not like Lena”, she adds — “just look at Lena’s tulips!” Voice seems meant to carry to Lena — who at this moment is working desperately on her threadbare lawn.

Lena says that she has no idea what JoAnne is talking about: she has no feeling for plants at all! All anyone has to do is look at her miserable lawn. . . ! She’s sure Monica looks at it every day and can’t believe she’s living next to something so ugly. Grass is dry and dead and nothing seems able to revive it, hedges are such a mess you can’t even tell that they are hedges, nothing but a few pathetic tulips, the easiest thing to grow. . . .

JoAnne says absurd things sometimes, Lena says, shaking her head, and goes back to trimming vigorous weeds at the edges of her barren lawn with a pair of oversized and powerful garden shears that, it seems to Monica, are exactly identical to the pair of oversized garden shears she saw being used early this morning — when ABC Street was quiet, moist and empty — by always-upright-and-immaculate Al Quinlan to keep in precise, military trim the L-shaped block of hedges around the Quinlans’ corner property at the Southeast intersection of ABC Street and Coast Boulevard.



Grete Forest appears (not noted whether from the direction of Greg-and-Lena’s front porch ping-pong room or from the two family at the ocean end of the street that Grete Forest, Andy Forest, Hank Forest and Martina (Tina) Lima share with Greg and Grete’s mother, round, tawny and attractive Babette, and therefore not at all certain whether the fact that Grete has heavy little six-year-old Hank on her back makes it impossible for this to be the same occasion when she’s playing ping-pong with Lena’s father) and agrees (having heard Monica-Lena-and-JoAnne’s conversation from where?) that Lena’s lawn is disgusting. JoAnne should know that the only one in their little world with a so-called green thumb is Babette. Her mother just has to look at a plant, while everyone from their generation. . . .

Lena wants to know if she’s the only one who’s noticed that her tulips and everyone else’s tulips — always the same childish blobs of high-intensity red, high-intensity purple and weird but electric not-quite-azalea — are the only colors left in the streets other than green. It’s as if the ocean had turned as green as a pond and flooded the streets.



Without Monica having seen Al Szarka return from playing paddleball here he is again — in a fresh shirt and bluer, crisper jeans — on his way out the front door with Yvonne Wilding, carrying two gift-wrapped packages and looking happy about it. Yvonne’s mother is alive or dead in Australia and it comes as a surprise to Monica that a) Al Szarka’s mother is alive and that b) he gets along with her well enough to be happily visiting her on Mother’s Day. Someone (a bad or false “collaborator”?) had told her that Al’s bad moods and heavy drinking had to do with a brutal childhood, but now Monica wonders if there’s any truth in that thumbnail version of Al’s life. Wonders also if, as a general principle, we need to know any more about anyone than what we see and hear.

*



Still on May 10? David is writing on Monica’s porch in the southernmost corner behind the tall Rhinebeck pine where Monica usually works, but Jojo Coffin and Daisy Brennan both know very well where Monica and David half-heartedly try to hide and they both run up the stairs to spend a little time with David, telling him stories (hoping he’ll write them down later, mixed in with the story he was writing when they walked through it.)

Let’s see: they spend a lot of time examining the pen David’s writing with: a plastic four-color pen with a clever system of pop-out ink tubes, given to him (he tells Jojo and Daisy) by Monica’s brother, Lowell, a medical student. And, according to Lowell, it’s a pen used by all medical students because they use the four colored inks to underscore words and ideas in their notes. David adds that, while he’s not in love with the pen because he finds the colors a little thin and lifeless, he’s touched by the fact that Lowell gave it to him because Lowell knows that his mind works in a peculiar way: thinks of every sentence in multiple constructions and — rather than waste time choosing between possibilities — prefers to get all possibilities on paper quickly, each one in a different colored ink. Or sometimes he uses a simple two color system, but that would take too long to explain. Jojo and Daisy like to hear such details and generally ask very sensible questions about them, but, even more, like to entertain David with stories and details of their own. Jojo begins by saying (while she and Daisy take turns clicking the springed levers and popping the colored pen-tips in and out of their chambers, experimenting by scrawling nonsense sentences in David's note pad) that she and Daisy were in the hospital together: Joshua broke his collar bone and, Daisy says, weaving her story in with Jojo’s, she had to find out why her hands were swollen: they swelled up suddenly and while they were swollen she couldn’t touch anything (or be touched by anything) because the slightest pressure made her skin hurt.

What else?

David can’t remember, so can’t report to Monica, which one of them asked the other if she remembered seeing at least one doctor using a pen like the one Monica’s brother Lowell gave David. (It’s a detail that interests them and that they both feel the need to get settled.)

This too: Jojo wants to know if David has any idea what happened to the two sisters. She’s pretty sure that one of them is called “Nora Salerno” and the other one “Marian Woolsey”, but she can’t remember which one of them was nicer and gave them tons of candy; thinks it was the one who went by bus and subway to work in the city every day and maybe drank a little and not the one who was retired from something and home all day and had a nervous, purry way of talking, but she can’t be sure. Can David solve it? Does he know which one was the nice one and which one is “Marian Woolsey” and which one is “Nora Salerno”? It always confused them, but now both of them seem to have disappeared and they miss them (even the one they didn’t like). Miss them or miss the candy, Jojo says, and David can’t help laughing with them.



Not noted when Jimmy X says that he can’t stay at Timmy’s any longer: it’s Mother’s Day and he has to get home quick because his grandparents are coming from the Bronx. Not the X’s — there is no Grandpa X, only Grandma — but the Kropotkins, his father’s parents who he hardly knows!



In one of at least two dreams “the other night” Monica is in the kitchen of her mother Betty’s house. It seems to Monica that the dreams are not discrete entities, but islands in a dream system: an archipelago of narratives more transparent than green and solid little hills in the water: a chain and a system only because the dream-islands are strung together along the thread of one emotion and because any look out of the self, even one into the near distance, can transport the self without limit into any one of a number of dream-narratives in the island chain.

A self that may be Monica’s self or not (like the disembodied movie-goer’s self, in the dark, watching as if acting) is looking at Monica’s mother listen with impatient sympathy to a woman she’s related to (not identified in the dream, therefore faceless later, when Monica’s awake and trying to write about it) tell a long, hopeful yet depressing tale about her ailing, eighty-seven-year-old mother. Someone’s informed her: “your mother’s had a stroke and she may not have two days to live!” And this too: “basically, your mother’s dead, but her pacemaker’s alive! And the fact that the pacemaker’s alive, even though not one organ or system of the actual body is working, gives us hope that the whole thing might kick into gear and start living again.”

So she rushed down to Florida — as fast as it takes to think about it — to be at her mother’s bedside when she died. But her mother didn’t die. The doctors were wrong. They didn’t admit they were wrong, they just called it “a remarkable recovery” and here she is together with her mother on Mother’s Day in Betty’s kitchen, arguing about where to eat. . . .

While the woman is telling her tale Monica is looking at her own mother and making the mistake of allowing her gaze to slip past her mother into the larger dream that includes this one or into another one visible through its teleporting membrane.

Glance into it takes you there.

The dream “in Monica’s mother’s kitchen” occupies a space about the size of a kitchen in the larger dream, which resembles the mansion-like Victorian house of Monica’s childhood friend, Alana (room enough there for Alana’s elderly unmarried aunts, Thelma and Wilma).

Let’s see: Alana’s cousin Billie is visiting: Billie wants Alana to meet the man she intends to marry and also has a story to tell “about her father’s heart attack”. The words “heart attack” feel to the dreaming self more like a terrible throbbing of the arteries of its brain than like words spoken by Alana’s cousin Billie. Monica’s notes aren’t clear: Alana may say, “my mother really did just have a heart attack: her heart attack is real, but I’m not sure if your father’s had a heart attack or if you just needed to attack my brain and my arteries with the words ‘heart attack’”. It’s probably not in the dream, it’s only later when she’s working quickly to get the large dream and all its little, internal dreams down, that Monica thinks about her own father Alyosha’s presence (the fact that he’s had a heart attack, for example) in one dream or another.

What else? It seems to Monica that she’s conscious in the dream of the fact that, in reality, Alana’s aunt Wilma has just died. Wilma’s death is palpable (visible?) in the dream in two ways: in the fact that the corpse being carried in a stretcher looks like Wilma and in the fact that grief has turned Wilma’s sister Thelma, always a pleasant-looking, likeable person, into a grotesque near-corpse, bald, shaking and unsteady on her wooden leg. She can’t let go of the stretcher that’s turned into a wheelbarrow being wheeled absurdly low to the ground (Wilma’s corpse makes such a heavy, sinking shape in the loose cloth that everyone’s surprised that death could add such weight), its noisy squealing waking Monica up at 4 a.m.

*



On a grey and chilly May 11 Monica first catches sight of Nelly X’s husband, Bill Kropotkin, as he’s heading into the post office on Bay Drive (between AAF Street and the supermarket) as she’s pulling away in Alyosha’s old two-tone Chevy. Can’t be anyone else: familiar slumping gait that gives the not-necessarily-true impression that he’s depressed; cheeks and chin that aren’t bearded but do have a permanent growth of un-shavable cobalt shadow that may or may not be the dark side of a bright, scholarly intelligence finding less and less use for itself out here in the infinite delta of the everyday; shirt and trousers that could be the unhappy three-hundred-times-washed shirt and trousers of a government clerk.

A little before noon and then again a little after noon of the same day, while taking a long walk with David around the neighborhood in the double shade of a cloudy day under dark and thickly-leafing trees on avenues, boulevards and cross streets, Monica spots Bill Kropotkin at least two times, no longer alone, Nelly X walking in her somewhat stork-like way at his side: always self-conscious (as if she can feel the pressure of downward glances from second or even third story windows like breezes blowing the exaggeratedly loose and superfluous cloth of her blouse and pants), always distracted and often privately laughing, thin and long-legged in homemade or mismatched thrift shop clothing. Deeply bitter voice and anxious whisper make for another kind of twinning as Bill Kropotkin and Nelly X approach under the trees.

Order is uncertain, but while typing, editing and trying to add a missing, perhaps unwanted element of order to her handwritten notes, Monica makes a little catalogue of the times she runs into Bill Kropotkin with or without Nelly X on May 11.

1. On ABC Street (where there aren’t enough trees to make a shaded tunnel the length of the street) Bill and Nelly are searching frantically together for Jimmy X, calling his name and poking around in driveways and other even narrower spaces between houses as if Jimmy might be hiding from them.

2 and/or 3. On Coast Boulevard in the dark shade of a row of massive old trees.

And if not on Coast Boulevard or first on Coast Boulevard and then again on ABG Street: Bill Kropotkin stops to talk because, almost against his will, he has a story he needs to tell to Monica and David in the dense and greenly leafy, arbor-like darkness of ABG Street between Coast Boulevard and Salem Avenue or in the open, relatively bright stretch where ABG Street approaches beach and ocean while (in either location) Monica is transfixed for ten, fifteen minutes or even half-an-hour by a bed of tulips whose near-black purple she knows is going to give her trouble naming (except by easy, half-true analogy) when she’s sitting on the porch with pen and paper.

Bill Kropotkin (who has no interest in the too-dark-to-be-called-“purple” tulips or in dark ocean (darker than blackest purple? darker than color?) made turbulent by absence of sunlight (absence of weight of sunlight releases breezes and churning of unbound breezes through ocean allows cold that had been sitting on the bottom to swim to the surface) begins his story on an optimistic note.

He has a grant! Monica and David must know — or maybe they don’t — how hard he’s worked and how hard it is to do the kind of serious scholarship he’s doing living the life he’s living! They know how he lives. They’ve seen the corner of the kitchen Nelly likes to call his “study”. So now, finally, there’s some hope of feeling or actually being accepted and acknowledged by the scholarly community despite the fact that life led him out here to this wasteland. . . .

Monica makes the mistake of congratulating Bill and that causes him to qualify his optimism.

To be strictly accurate, he says, he doesn’t actually have the grant: he filed his application before the May 1 deadline and the final decision won’t be announced until May 31, but his sponsor says that he’s been assured privately that he (Bill) will be awarded a $12,000 Mellon Grant, if nothing else. His sponsor says that what carried a lot of weight was that, out of thousands of graduates, he’s one of the very few who’s published articles in leading academic journals.

Tone still optimistic or not?

It seems to Monica that both Bill Kropotkin’s demeanor and the beard-like cobalt shadows that have never been shaven out of their skin-folds are getting darker and that the longer it takes to unfold his story the more gloominess has a chance to bloom into what Monica knows as Bill Kropotkin.

This is what worries him, he says: the person assuring him that he has the grant (though no official announcement has been made) is his sponsor and his sponsor is a fool. The books he’s published are unimportant, no one respects his scholarship, therefore his word carries no weight. While, on the other side, there are influential people arrayed against him. Gertrude Himmelfarb, for one, hates his guts and sits on the Mellon Foundation board. A couple of years ago he sent her his paper on Anti-Semitism in 19th Century France (hoping for what?) and he found the note she sent him insulting and misinformed — so naturally (stupidly) he wrote back and called her criticism reactionary, politically motivated and factually incorrect and she’s been his enemy ever since. And then, when the article was published in a respected journal, he may have sent another, even nastier note. There’s this too: even if they’d never argued, he was never Himmelfarb’s student so she has no reason to care if he gets a grant or not. Himmelfarb’s students generally end up with foundation money (because Himmelfarb is Himmelfarb) while his sponsor is a fool and a nobody whose students never end up with anything. . . .

Monica can see that Bill Kropotkin is now in his element (soul in its own bathwater in its own bath tub). He’s warmed to the subject of his own probable failure and (from where Monica’s standing) seems to be trying to coax the mass of miserable energy that’s always invisibly in him into a visibly foaming collapse.

What else? Bill says that, because he knows that Monica and David separately or together have seen just about every film ever made, he assumes that they’ve seen Taxi Driver. He and Nelly hardly ever go to the movies, but the young actor who plays the lead in Taxi Driver is Nelly’s art teacher’s son, so she was curious and wanted to go. The film was ok and probably meant to be depressing, but it depressed him for reasons that couldn’t have been anyone else’s. Of course he’s nothing like the young DeNiro and his life is nothing like the character’s life, but he is going to be driving a taxi. His unemployment runs out at the end of the month and he has to do something: over-educated for most things, unqualified for the rest. No teaching jobs available on the college or graduate level, so what’s left for him to do? He’s a good driver and (with the exception of Staten Island) knows the five boroughs. And that’s why he’s free to be wandering around the neighborhood all day long. Gave himself a mental vacation until the end of the month — and then there’ll either be a $12,000 grant or one more taxi driver loose in the city in a permanently lousy mood.

That reminds him: he and Nelly never go to films and they never eat in restaurants, but the night they went to Taxi Driver they ate in the same Chinatown restaurant they eat in whenever they eat in a restaurant and that he recommended to Monica and David. Did they love it as much as he does?

Monica has to admit that they never tried it. Can’t remember the name of the restaurant and can’t even remember Bill recommending anything.

Now Bill is enraged. All Bill’s shadows gather and turn a different color. So they were only pretending to be interested, he says with venom. They eat in Manhattan restaurants all the time, but don’t have enough respect for his opinion to try his restaurant even once! True, he doesn’t know the name of it and may never have known the name of it or told them the name of it, but that’s not the point! If they wanted to find it they would have! He must have told them and he’ll tell them again now that it’s the one at the intersection of Mott and Hester where you can fill up for a dollar fifty! All the rice dishes are so cheap and delicious, he says, that he can name and describe everything they ate and, to prove it, catalogues the ingredients of two dishes in detail (details not interesting to Monica and not noted).

Monica sees while typing that Nelly X’s presence doesn’t register in her handwritten notes and she thinks it’s safe to assume that Bill Kropotkin does a lot of his wandering around the neighborhood alone.



Monica wonders: why this sudden sudsing-up of light? No other way to say it, but what is it made of? Moisture added to the dazzling electrons of azaleas may have something to do with it — and then beaten by what? — by what exactly? — into an impossibly foaming atmosphere charged and clouded and azalea at its core: its un-namable color having something to do with the electrons of hyacinth and magenta flavonoid pigments speeded up and smashed together.

*



Nadja bicycles by (on what mid-May day exactly? tanned and beautiful in green and silky track shorts and raspberry halter top) and calls out “hello!” in her sweetly lazy, difficult-to-identify accent. Then adds cryptically but still sweetly: “a long winter!” “But,” Monica thinks she answers, “weren’t you away for the winter? didn’t you spend your winter someplace tropical?” “Yes, oh yes, you’re right, that’s so,” Nadja sings out, maybe with even more syrup that may be the syrup of laziness or the syrup of unhurried sensuality or just the simple syrup of untroubled friendliness, “but — I don’t know if I can explain it — I would get such a longing sometimes and I’m so happy to be home in this neighborhood where I can at least see a face I know. . . .”



There’s Bill Kropotkin again — this time walking S → N on ABC Street from boardwalk toward Coast Boulevard, not alone and not only with his immediate family (Nelly X and little Jimmy X), but with rarely seen, shy and nervous Philida (or “Phil”) X in even-more-ill-fitting-and-uglier-than-Nelly’s home-made blouse and trousers.



Through the horizontally scrolling panorama of chronicling Monica is used to seeing one thing turn into another: last night’s rain, for example, turning into the morning breeze that puffs up green, white and blue and moves them all against and through one another.

And this too: inspired by the life-giving sweetness of this morning’s breeze? an unknown woman telescopically in the remote-yet-near-distance south toward the boardwalk on ABC Street is stretching forward over her porch railing, shaking out a grape-purple rug violently into the common space of the street, sending dust on a journey that could end in ocean or bay or could continue out over Jersey, Brooklyn, Manhattan or upward into the stratosphere.



What’s likely to travel further: dust shaken from a grape-purple rug or a sentence you try to memorize until you can write it down?



Same day or another a purple that has more burgundy in it than “grape” appears as a sleepy, floating island in blue-green water. Seems to wriggle and shudder into life and then dive under in one muscular bolt, a powerful marine animal with wine-colored skin: blue-green water stops moving above it and turns into a sluggish and sedgy yellow-green wallow.



Joan Regan calls out from across the way to Monica or to Babette or even little dome-headed Rosamond Coffin getting into Babette’s two-tone caramel-and-coffee convertible: “Do you know? Can anyone tell me? Did it rain much last night? It smells like rain, but if it rained I slept through it!”



While typing her handwritten notes Monica sees that someone named “Ronnie” passed and said “hello” on Coast Boulevard earlier, but now she’s not sure who “Ronnie” is. Notes only say that it’s a long time since she’s run into “Ronnie” and she’d like to (but can’t) measure time by counting pages backward to the last time “Ronnie” was recorded. (Can only anchor herself with certainty, as always, in this moment of consciousness, typing (editing) May ’76 notes on December 12, 1976 on the ground floor of the Salem Avenue house in a livingroom too comfortable to be hers.)



Even though Monica is sitting behind the tall “Rhinebeck” pine (in the SW corner of the porch) with the idea of working, as usual, she notes that it’s too hot to work (hour of the day not noted) and instead half-heartedly tries to catalogue fictions scheduled to be published:

                           "Winter/       /Winter” in Exile (Toronto)

                            “How Many Twilights” in Gallimaufry

                                                                                     : thinks there’s more, but gives up because even cataloguing feels too much like work. Is it possible to allow the day to take over — for the day to simply be a day — without feeling the imperative to chronicle it?

Sitting in the massive, darker than pine green shadow-pyramid of the pine does not mean an escape from the sun: for the eye, sun on leaves — even on the clusters of tiny needle-leaves — is powerful and concentrated enough in its explosive energy packets that eyes pass rapidly through the common stages of eye-blindness, brain-blindness, dizziness, eye-ache, headache to a sober visual reality: real world before her looks solid and well-lit: through shaggy branches of black-green pine mass, through surprisingly tender green, sunlit cone tips: at a slight southwest diagonal toward the unnatural green of far-away tree masses that may or may not be the Regans’ elm or even further west, on ABD Street or beyond, moving in silken ways deep inside the green-black space that Monica can’t say for sure is exactly equal to the Rosenwassers’ picture window.

Breezes blow equally through what can be felt and what can’t be felt and aren’t even deadened by the weight of sunlight.



Johanna (Jojo) Coffin and Daisy Brennan are having one of their prolonged goodbyes not far from the porch where Monica is writing half-hidden (though Monica knows that Jojo and Daisy not only know very well that she’s there, but can easily find her in any of her hiding places). Their goodbyes are a drawn out separation as sticky as chewed bubble gum. This time Jojo is retreating toward her orange brick porch with a small red box of raisins in her left hand and a rocket-shaped bar of orange ices-on-a-stick in the other. The last “goodbye” is Daisy’s, a sweet, other-worldly aria traveling toward Jojo from somewhere near Alexi’s house (where Daisy and her mother Margaret have a small, ground-floor-rear apartment) through dark green tree masses and the blue-and-white of the enormous day.



A day of pairing?

“Twins” pass, twinning as always, right after Grete Forest passes with Donald Crosley’s (aka Alan Ryder’s) mother, Kate, also wife of red-faced, bullish and bristly “Donald Crosley Sr.”. The fact that the twins pass twinning (David hears their familiar see-saw harsh and rumbling bass/rumbling or miserable silence/rumbling bass/etc. before he spots them passing from where he’s working, hidden in the narrow, overgrown walkway between two houses, and sets out to follow, listen and memorize for Monica’s Chronicle) right after Jojo and Daisy, then Grete Forest and Kate Crosley and just a little later in the other direction Grete Forest and Nadja makes Monica wonder if there’s something she hasn’t thought about in either or both Nadja and/or Grete and/or Grete and Kate that allows them to twin, at least for the length of a stroll down ABC Street.

Let’s see: similarities (enough similarities to = anything like “twinning”) between Grete Forest and Kate Crosley seem unlikely to Monica, with the possible exception of a weak and smiling passivity oddly dissolved and hidden in Grete’s physical beauty, but converted completely into anxious movement in Kate Crosley, where a foxy wariness adds more tension to her quick, sparrow-like hip-hopping through the local universe. Still, the tenuous connection between the mild, watery weakness of Grete Forest’s mouth and ankles and Kate Crosley’s nervous, hopping tension can’t be enough of a similarity for true twinning. Comparisons between Grete Forest and Nadja, on the other hand, are far more interesting and hard to sort out, having to do with complex differences and similarities revolving around questions of beauty, laziness, athleticism, etc. Monica likes to get things down while they’re passing, likes to keep moving forward, and to take the time to figure out the parallels and differences between Grete and Nadja would make her feel stalled while important events are going by in the horizontal rapids of the day’s flat revolutions.



David reports to Monica that for a long time — “too long” — the “twins” said nothing: two different weights of silence see-sawing back and forth. Or it’s possible that what sounds to him like the silence of twin #1 (or twin A) is really a rumbling kind of grumbling below human hearing. Maybe coded too. Silence of 1 (or A) = coded grumbling below hearing, silence of 2 (B) a pure silence that for A or 1 is always an audible complaint.

After they turned the corner (right turn East on Coast Boulevard), David says, it went like this:

A. “y’know what I mean?”

B.

A. “does it make sense?”

B.

A. “make sense t’you?!

     “make sense t’me!?

                           “t’me too?

                           “t’me either!”

B.

A. “see what I mean?”

B.

A. “no, t’see what I mean y’ really hafta take a look!”

B.

A. “take a good look

     “Ok?”

B.

A. “fuckn’ dummy can look as much as he wants!

     “fuckn’ dummy never looks at nothin’!

     “fuckn’ dummy looks ‘n looks ‘n looks ‘n looks an’ looks an’ looks an’ looks, but he don’t see what’s fuckn’ in front of’m! Is he the only dummy? No! nothin’ but dummies in this whole town!”

*





On Wednesday May 12 Monica notes that Bah-Wah, on impulse, takes a stroll from Salem Avenue to ABC Street and does her best to interrupt Monica while she’s writing by pushing her hand away from the page with the strength of her nose. Monica doesn’t find it hard to read Bah-Wah’s mind: she wants to play on the beach and thinks Monica works too much and can use some playtime too.

Waits for Monica on the porch while Monica goes upstairs to put her work away and then they walk about 3/4 of the length of ABC Street south ← to the beach and then down to the wet sand at the edge of the surf — heading in a looping, leisurely way in the direction (west ↑) of Lowell’s small, ocean-facing apartment on ABH Street, Bah-Wah sprinting, woofing, digging, drooling, chasing, splashing all the way with unhinged ecstasy.

Monica is surprised to find Lowell home, on the beach, in a beach chair reading, not at the hospital. Says that he left early and isn’t sure he wants to go back. The more he learns, the more he sees and hears, the more the direction psychiatry is taking disgusts him. All the ideas that attracted him to psychiatry are dismissed as time-consuming fossils and there’s no one to complain to because agreement is universal. The original discoveries, principles and arguments among the giants are considered outdated and un-scientific — more literature than medicine. So he’s looked at not only as out of tune with the times, but as absurd for still finding Freud, Jung, Reich and their disagreements exhilarating. Maybe one day, after they’ve worked on him long enough, he’ll soften up and learn to accept the golden eggs that can’t help dropping into every doctor’s basket. But right now, today, he’d rather be on the beach, sinking into the sand and re-reading The Brothers Karamazov. . . .

Lowell catches himself crabbing and says that he’s happy Bah-Wah dragged Monica over to his place: talking to Monica has changed his mood, as usual, and now he feels like getting off the beach and going somewhere with her.

They drop book and beach chair off at his place and head for Salem Avenue with Bah-Wah (zig-zag dog-path from the beach and ABH Street north and east to Salem Avenue between AAH and AAI Streets) and along the way Monica can’t help noting that spring is coasting through its second stage into summer: all first growth is gone: all fresh, mild green of new leaves is gone: eruption of flowers and colors everywhere is gone: now only a matter (until the next stage) of leaves growing larger, green getting darker and more densely layered, summer everywhere building itself into green-and-darker-green masses: higher, thicker and with one loaded branch resting its full weight on the heavy branch below it, branch on branch on branch and green on green on green, light and shade slightly altering each green below and above each other green and so on and so on.

The hedges framing the Salem Avenue backyard have also grown up into solid screens walling off all neighboring yards and gardens.

Also on May 12, but Monica's notes don't say when exactly: blinding sun off leaves or

                                                                                        blinding sun off green in leaves bleached into the same odd, hard-to-look-at shade visible in the underside of waves just before they rise into even more blinding white foam.

And this also: whatever vegetable (chemical) portals were open and able to alchemize themselves into color are exactly the same portals that still welcome sun in and are burned by it: only where there was life and color and only in those saturated color zones pulsing with frequencies (only there exactly) are there now on May 12 no-color zones that are burnt, bleached and shriveled.



Monica wonders if the sky of May 14 is the sky of May 14 or if either sky or she herself has drifted within the Chronicle. Typed version of handwritten note says "sitting on the front porch under a white sky" and also that only the weakest and palest of possible sunlights — hardly more than a mist — is falling not only on the always-odd ashen green of the Rhinebeck pine needle-leaves, but on everything, making every single thing in the world look like a white stocking has been slipped over it.

But, re-reading her typed notes she finds that her account of the white sky on May 14 was typed (edited) with views of deep snow through the windows of the Salem Avenue house in the bitter winter of December/January ‘76/’77 and that fact unhinges Monica’s certainty about what sky she was chronicling and what might have drifted where.



On Friday May 14 the Twins pass twinning, but not for long. Even less is said than usual.

A. "You say ‘it’s a good buy’, but what the fuck is a ‘good buy’?

B.

A. "If I don’t need it, if you don't need it, what the fuck is good about buying it?!"

B.

A. "You say I should have said ‘goodbye’?"

B.

A. "I don’t say goodbye to no one!"

B.

A. "Ah!"

B.

A. "Eh."

B.

A. "Today?"

B.

A. "Today you say?"

B.

A. "Today is our 'lucky day'?"

B.

A. "Yesterday was our 'lucky day'?"

B.

A. "Who in this nothing town. . . ?"

B.

A. ". . . don't have a day. . . ."

B.

A. "Don't even want to have a day!"

B.

A. "How can any day be my 'lucky' day?!"



Is it before or after the Twins pass twinning to the right → (north), already growing fainter as they pass the landlord’s, slightly fainter still past the attached and matching everyday pseudo-modern and then inaudible or truly silent by the time they’ve reached Alexi’s wide grey board multiple dwelling (where Margaret and Daisy Brennan have a small groundfloor rear apartment), then right around Al and Peggy Quinlan’s long white two story corner frame precisely clipped in by a leaf-perfect flat top elbow of hedges that Nadja and Andy pass smoothly and quickly together without a glance, as if bicycling for bicycling’s sake (which is or isn't exactly the same as bicycling for the sake of being in the day together, golden-brown and sandy, sailing as if on breezes that feel like water).

Another looping, zigzag journey (trotting, nose up, sniffing air?) from Salem Avenue and AAH Street to ABC Street south of Coast Boulevard and Bah-Wah climbs Monica’s front porch steps and folds up quietly near her, not even trying to ask her to stop writing and go to the beach. Before or after Andy and Nadja bicycle by (Andy’s Christ-like profile and dense tobacco-gold beard, Nadja’s glossy green shorts and beautiful legs), after, during or before the Twins grumble by, etc.? (Time is tangled on this day and Monica’s notes don’t untangle it.)

Bah-Wah seems content to lie curled in a circle or flat-out on her side near Monica’s chair and listen to her read aloud to David a letter from Barry Callaghan of Exile magazine (Toronto), just delivered by Lou, the rolypoly mailman.

"I’ve read this new manuscript [Winter/      /Winter] with real interest. I find it formally among the most interesting I’ve seen in a long time. But I’m convinced it needs editing. I’m of the school that believes that whatever point you’re making, it should emerge ‘out’ of the story: you shouldn’t feel it’s being stated and re-stated, hammered home, and maybe even a trick of mind — or habit, as if under the influence of some potent professor (and there are moments when Winter sags under such weight). Still I think it could be quite good and interesting if you’d edit, cut it down, not try all the stops in one story, leave some air — but you may disagree entirely, let me know, sincerely.

                                                                                                                                                      B. Callaghan."



Green renews itself, but so does brown.

Green boughs of Rhinebeck pine refresh themselves and, if anything, appear "greener" (less ashen?): green so soft eye feels it can send out a finger to press into it. Handwritten notes may say that the fresh needle-leaves are "the color of new pine cones" or that this greener green is the cover of new pine cones that (under a velvety green membrane) are themselves a lighter, softer brown that renews the Rhinebeck pine by surging through the pulp and forcing last year's dry, woody cones to the ground.



Time in the Chronicle often flows in an easy and obvious way, like a stream not so much down the 45o slope of a hillside as one that’s racing along horizontally (up or down as needed), parallel to the isolated county route you’re riding on. But, other times, time is so layered, looped and tangled that nothing in nature resembles it.

For example: when events observed and recorded in May are typed and edited in December fresh notes taken in December are allowed to enter the typed record of May side by side and on the same plane as anything recorded in May.

This too: later (now), preparing the Chronicle for others to read, Monica is always confronted with the question of whether to leave her notes just as they were sketched in quickly, no matter how a coherent event is pulled apart and dispersed through other narratives, or to slip around to the side of the reader and make things clearer than they were when they happened by pulling all the dispersed fragments together into the coherent narrative she didn't record.

To make one choice or the other is to choose realism in relation to what?

Monica decides that the only decision that makes sense is to plunge into it and let the internal forces of the Chronicle (weight and pressure caused by duration) decide for her.



Still on May 14 (or on the 12 or 13 and only noted on the 14 in a warm atmosphere of sun through clouds) Yvonne Wilding says hello to Monica as she (Yvonne) lopes up or down the stairs carrying clean laundry in or dirty laundry out. Yvonne says "hello" just before or just after Monica runs into Nora Salerno on the boardwalk, out for a stroll (strolling back and forth between ABB Street and ABD Street, hoping Monica will take a walk at the same time?) with Pam Leary’s little girl, Erin.

Nora Salerno doesn’t seem surprised to see Monica, only a little over-excited, and says that she hoped they’d bump into each other because she has a lot to tell her and always likes to hear what Monica has to say. Thought she knew where she wanted to begin, but now can’t decide. Let’s see: did Monica know that Yvonne Wilding (the attractive but lazy Australian girl living with Al Szarka in the second floor apartment right under Monica) isn’t staying here (not just in the neighborhood or in New York, but in the United States!) only because she likes it here, but because she can’t go home?! Did Monica know that? She didn’t know that until Teddy Leary told her a story about Yvonne and Teddy’s older brother Billy (who she (Nora) can’t really say she knows). She knew (and she’s sure Monica knows) that Yvonne knew Teddy’s brother in Australia, but she always thought that Billy Leary was in the Navy and was stationed in Australia and that, when he had to leave and return to the States with his ship, Yvonne followed him over. But the story is more confused and complicated than that. The brother must have left the Navy or been kicked out of the Navy somehow, because (according to this new story Teddy just told her) Billy Leary and Yvonne Wilding worked in a hotel together in Australia. Was Teddy’s older brother a sailor at all? Now she’s not sure. She should have asked Ted that, but didn’t, and now she’ll have to get that part of the story straightened out. They worked in a hotel together and there seems to have been the usual mishmash of sex and romance or friendship or friendship and romance plus drugs and alcohol that people call "falling in love" and (unless she’s got it all mixed up) whatever there was between them seems to have been strong enough for the two of them to leave Australia together and then return to Australia together, get jobs in the same hotel where they worked before and then rob the hotel of a lot of money together! What happened to all that money she has no clue (because Teddy has no clue and Yvonne doesn’t talk about it and certainly doesn’t seem to have any money), but Teddy says that one thing he knows for sure is that neither his brother or Yvonne can ever set foot in Australia again.

Nora says that she can’t imagine why that would matter to Billy Leary, but she’s pretty sure (though not absolutely certain) that Yvonne sometimes falls into depression because she might never see her mother again. (On the other hand, she’s not sure if Yvonne’s mother is alive!)

What else? Another piece of news she doesn’t think is true. Ted’s kid sister Susie says that Ted told her that Yvonne Wilding is getting married. Even though she didn’t say to who, it has to be to Al Szarka, but, whether to Al Szarka or to someone she never heard of, how can it be true? How can Yvonne marry anyone when she’s here illegally? She’s hoping that Monica can get to the bottom of it.

Searching for more stories to tell? There’s a little more about Susie Leary, she says: Susie moved from the crummy apartment house at ABD Street and Coast Boulevard to a much nicer one on the boardwalk near AAI Street. Sounds positive and Susie arranged her voice tone to sound positive, but she had a feeling there was more to the story that Susie was leaving out. One day when she was over at Teddy and Pammy’s (maybe on a day like today when she was going to baby sit for little Erin) she ended up alone with Pammy and Pammy was happy to go into deeper, darker detail about Susie. The truth (according to Pammy) is that Susie was able to move from ABD Street to AAI Street only because her boyfriend is moving there with her. Nora wonders if Monica would recognize Susie’s boyfriend from the neighborhood: a lot older than Susie, a gambler who used to be a bartender in the bar on the Southwest corner of the intersection of Salem Avenue and AAF Street, right where the route of the blue bus line begins and ends.

The story she was told goes like this: at the same time the boyfriend was bartending at the bar at the intersection he was running numbers for either the Mafia or for some other mob (not clear to Pam or to Nora or to both, therefore can’t be clear to Monica) and one way or the other he was stupid enough to take somebody’s bet and then either not play it or not pay off on it when it hit (no clue how it works), so of course he ended up in a lot of trouble: lost his job, owed the man thousands of dollars, afraid what his bosses might do to him, etc. But — this is odd — she thought she saw him the other day limping and swinging his body on crutches along AAF Street!

She can’t be sure it was him, of course, and she could have but didn’t call out to him. She did follow him along AAF Street trying to get a better look at his face, but he crossed over and went into the candy and cigarette store (the one that has the soda fountain and lunch counter) near the corner of the Boulevard. Doesn’t Monica agree that it stands to reason that the limping guy she followed was Susie’s boyfriend because the Mob (no matter which one) probably broke one of his legs?! And it’s logical that he could be in the neighborhood because he’s supposedly moving into the new apartment with Susie! But it could also not be him, because Pam says that, whoever he was working for before, the Mafia now definitely has him working at one of their bars out in Maspeth. . . .



Monica can tell that Nora Salerno’s told all the stories she needed to tell, but doesn’t want to stop walking and talking with Monica and is searching for story fragments that may also be tidbits of information. For example, Monica knows, doesn’t she, that Teddy’s mother works (or worked) for the phone company? Not sure — because Teddy doesn’t talk about her very much — if she’s still around New York somewhere or if she’s out in Vegas doing the same sort of job.

What else?

She can’t believe that Nancy didn’t send her a Mother’s Day card. Have things really gotten that bad? Does Monica know? She knows that Nancy confides in her. Monica seems to have the patience for Nancy’s moods, but she doesn’t. Of course Monica isn’t Nancy’s mother, so she doesn’t have to endure Nancy’s abuse. Monica hasn’t seen Nancy at her worst, but that’s too long a story. . . .

*



Still on May 14?

After walking on the boardwalk with Nora Salerno and only short minutes after Monica reaches her front porch steps ABC Street’s look is completely altered by mist that Monica didn’t see arrive (as if it was following her as she made her way north from the boardwalk) and that’s at once sheer enough so that shapes can be made out through it and powdery enough so that everything looks different because of it. Notes about the mist appear on three or four hard-to-read handwritten pages separated by substantial blocks of quickly-sketched-in notes about other events. On one page Monica says that trees, lawns, houses, etc. appear as if sheathed in a white cotton stocking. On another page Monica says that “a fine white powder” of mist coats green leaves “in the distance” or it may say “with distance” (sketchy, rapid handwriting can be read either way). This too: mist obscures memory (which in any case erases itself within seconds). Monica can’t remember for sure what was in the center of the Regans’ lawn before the mist arrived: thinks there’s always been a small, spherical flowering shrub there, but now the mist has made her uncertain: looks more like an impossibly large bouquet (scribbled note may say: “a bushel”) of roses there.

When is it exactly (not clear in Monica's sentences about the mist, bobbing around un-anchored) that the low-to-the-horizon notes of small fishing boats — horizontally flattened and spreading along ocean’s shifting mineral surface, a sort of fearful lowing that speaks of the terror of invisibility and of moving cautious inches in darkness — signal that it hasn’t taken long for mist to turn into fog and that not one thing can be told apart from any other thing for the whole length of ABC Street from bay to ocean, maybe even from Cape Breton to Bermuda.



Monica’s notes say that Nancy St. Cloud (Nora Salerno’s daughter) hasn’t paid Monica a visit since her mother and her aunt (Nora Salerno and Marian Woolsey) moved out of the house and off the street (whether living separately or together now and on what street exactly not noted), but chooses this day (“today”, May 14) — the very same day as Monica’s long conversation on the boardwalk with Nancy’s mother, Nora — to take a walk from her house on ABB Street and appear on Monica’s porch for a little visit.

It unfolds like this: Monica sees Nancy St. Cloud arrive before she arrives: from her hidden position in the southwest corner of the porch behind the Rhinebeck pine and near the Coffins’ massive orange-brick-and-white-stucco multiple dwelling Monica very clearly hears boys shouting and cursing across the way:

“You’re a freak!”

“Your mother’s a freak too!”

“And your father’s the freakiest freak in your whole freakn family!"

“Don’t want no freaks on our block!”

“Let’s beat its ass!”

Monica has to shift her position so she can see around the wide, ragged blot of the pine. Her first impression is an odd one: Jimmy X is alone on the Sloths’ barren lawn and seems to be slinging pebbles at the Sloths’ pure white shingle twin of the Greengrasses’ dark and inwardly compacted little brick and iron fortress next door (left of the Sloths' for Monica looking at it from across the way, right of it (south) in reality). It doesn’t make sense to her that Jimmy X would have come all this way just to throw pebbles at the house of people so recessive no one would know they exist without the obsessive attention of a chronicler chronicling.

Something like a daily prayer:

pay closer attention (never close enough):

look longer (never long enough):

knowing that things always change into other things when we look longer and closer.

Now Monica’s not so sure that Jimmy X is throwing pebbles at the Sloths’ house: may be whirling wildly on the knobby lawn as if something's got hold of him and is swinging him, one hand flinging pebbles in all directions, some banging off the Sloths’ unstained white shingle by accident.

Now a pack of six or more eight-to-ten-year-old boys is closing in on Jimmy and now Jimmy’s rolling on the barren lawn, kicking and swinging and being punched. Cries coming from the pack of boys are as human as they are hound-like and have a tortured joy in them.

This is the moment Monica spots Nancy St. Cloud before she’s meant to. Can’t hear what Nancy St. Cloud says (no shouting) and it isn’t clear what it is exactly she does to intercede, but the pack of boys can be seen dispersing in the direction (north) of Coast Boulevard and Jimmy X is able to pull himself together and limp off south toward beach or boardwalk.



Minutes later Nancy St. Cloud is paying what’s supposed to be a surprise visit to Monica on the porch. She has a few things to say that don’t quite add up to a story. On the way over (may have been on Coast Boulevard, but she’s not sure) she saw (that is, she’s almost 100% certain that she saw) her mother coming toward her: she (Nancy) was still two-or-more blocks away and invisible to her mother because of her mother’s fading vision: so she crossed the street. She has to admit that she felt a little odd about avoiding her (she was acutely conscious of the fact that she was avoiding her), but the odd feeling wasn’t guilt. Not guilt, but what was it? The desire not to see her is very definite. She knows that she needs to stay away from her and that there's an emotion that's paralyzing connected to the need to stay away from her that must have a name, but she doesn't know it. What else? Even from a distance (and it’s the only thing that gave her any doubt that it was her mother) her mother looked strange. She didn’t look well. Her mother’s weight has always been stable, but she looked heavier, almost jowly. A jowlier, heavier version of her mother, but of course with the same blonde curls and white-white powderpuff skin. And the strange child she was with! Who is that? Is that Ted and Pam’s child? Ted and Pam’s child is a girl and this might have been a girl, but looked more like a boy! A strange boyish-looking little girl or the other way around.

What else? Nothing much. Does Monica remember Andre’s cousin Ugo? (Really “Hugues”, but everyone calls him “Ugo” because he’s been working for an Italian airline for so long and "Ugo" is easier to remember and pronounce.) Working for an airline for years, yet still only twenty, a handsome spoiled baby so in love with American culture he wants to come to them in New York for an indefinite visit. That’s ok with Andre, of course. Andre wouldn’t mind if “Ugo” planted himself here forever, but she’s already dreading it: catering to two European men instead of one! Andre at least is a grownup who knows how to take care of himself if he has to. But Ugo's just another narcissistic slobby baby who'll be a teenage baby till he’s forty: first Mommy, then the girlfriend, then the wife who’ll take care of cute little Ugo while he sleeps past noon and crawls into the kitchen in his underwear asking “what’s for breakfast?”

And before the endless “Ugo” visit Andre’s encouraging his parents to fly in from Grenoble. That would certainly be another long visit and she’s even more anxious about that than about “Ugo”. She can’t explain her anxiety and because she can’t explain it there’s no way she can tell Andre without offending him that the idea of his father sleeping in their small apartment fills her with dread. The only one who understands her is Dr. Beechnut and months ago Dr. Beechnut came up with a plan that isn’t working: try to talk Andre into buying a house upstate, not far from West Point, in a town called “Cornwall”, where Dr. Beechnut has a beautiful second home and another large practice. The argument she makes to Andre is that with a house there’d always be room for his family to visit and, at the same time, Dr. Beechnut could continue training her to become her assistant. She’d work for Dr. Beechnut, she’d become a counselor and the money she earned from that would help pay for the house. It’s a perfect plan so of course Andre doesn’t like it. He has a thousand reasons for hating the plan and some of them are reasonable and most of them aren’t. The fact that she'd have a good excuse for getting away from her mother and her aunt means nothing to him. He and her mother are pretty lovey-dovey. When Andre enters the room the air around her turns to powdered sugar. She’s sweet, she’s a complete phony, she’s sickening when he’s around and of course he laps it up and does her all sorts of little favors.

Here are Andre's arguments that may or may not be reasonable:

a) He’s only fifteen-twenty minutes from the airport now so moving upstate will mean a new, hellish life of endless driving-in-traffic.

b) She has no idea how isolated she’ll feel in the country and how that isolation will affect them both psychologically and change their relationship.

c) He has a financial “masterplan” and this is not the time to buy a house.

She needs Monica to tell her (she walked here from ABB Street just to get her opinion!): are Andre’s arguments honest or is everything he says designed to keep her away from Dr. Beechnut? In her mind all his arguments are false arguments (even the ones that seem reasonable) because he’s threatened by Dr. Beechnut and suspicious of any idea he assumes comes from her. . . .

What else?

While transcribing her notes it seems to Monica that Nancy St. Cloud had more to say (couldn’t stop talking and it never got recorded).


*




May ’76 notes are being typed (therefore edited) in December ‘76/January ’77 and the complex ebb and flow of time in the Chronicle (not only because of its habit of digressing from and returning to the immediate moment) is further wrinkled and folded by this forced intrusion of each season into the other.

While editing (typing) on an undated day in mid-or-just-past-mid-May, for example, Monica notes that, while walking west on Salem Avenue between 3:30 and 4 p.m. on an undated day in late December (that is, on the day she’s typing handwritten notes written in mid-May), winter light — on and through the thin leaves of the hedgerows of the long avenue — tunnels through time in this way: in one direction (west) “the bright red coals of winter” (the colder the day, the brighter red leaves burn), the fire of winter’s coldness; in the other direction (east) “winter’s rust" (last vestige of an exhausted purple drying into brown, oddly similar to the purple-brown drying into death of azaleas in Fall) and both winter’s rust and the bright red coals of winter are the hedgerows’ signal that they’re about to lose their leaves to the far sharper edge already there in whatever the eye still sees as warmth.

Monica asks herself, but can't come up with an answer: how many Decembers have she and David observed Salem Avenue tunneling west (red spark in leaves all the way to the horizon) and east (hedgerows as heathery, as lilac-brown and brittle as dried flowers tied in bunches). Time in the hedgerows, laid out horizontally, also cuts a section deep as a mineshaft back through the Chronicle.



December/January notes being scribbled quickly (after Monica'd been standing on the cold porch for a few minutes, then seconds later carrying whatever she experienced indoors to be transferred instantly to paper like something dumped from pan to plate before it has a chance to congeal into something else) have a harsher texture than May notes being polished a little for the first time. (In winter, of course, everyone is indoors and the pleasure of the surprising encounter, vision of the random figure strolling horizontally between the curved edges of the local universe are missing.)

There is this: “today” (same day that the Chronicle says “being typed after playing with Bah-Wah in the deep snow of January 6”?) Monica is house-sitting in the Salem Avenue house (between AAH Street and AAI Street) and sees (through the tall downstairs front windows looking out on the open breadth of Salem Avenue or through the not-quite-so-tall back (south-facing) windows looking down and out into a backyard that begins a long channel of backyards cut behind the houses facing AAH and I Streets all the way to the wall of apartment houses screening off beach and ocean) a bird she hasn’t seen before: woodpecker that doesn't belong here and may be migrating and just passing through or may have taken a wrong turn, got stuck here or stayed too long. Let's see: pattern of alternating, vivid black and white bars on the back with one startling bolt of red that Monica’s quickly scribbled notes locate on the bird’s beak, but research (searching through whatever field guides David can lay his hands on (at the local library?)) uncovers no black-and-white woodpecker with a dash of red on beak: black-and-white with blood red on crown or side of head, on cheek, on back of neck, on throat, covering entire head, patch on underside below wingtips, etc., but never-ever on beak. Therefore Monica’s hurried description is wrong or unreadable, David’s research is hasty and sloppy or the beautiful black, white and red bird hammering at the thin branches of the leafless lilac bush is not a woodpecker.



On May 15, a day that's meltingly warm on the skin after an unusually cold night, Monica spots "Gloria" (in her and/or David's writing sometimes called “Agnes”) pass on the other (west) side of the street, heading north → in her form-fitting pink waitress’s uniform, on wobbly, highest-of-high heels at exactly the same instant she smells heat in green leaves. Or the smell of heat in green leaves bypasses nose and goes straight to the brain. A brain aroma (world inside the body) rather than a nose aroma (world outside the body). Thinks a bit more and tries to memorize what she's thinking (a familiar kind of writing-in-advance-of-writing) about the aroma-world of the out-of-doors absolutely erased from winter: green juice strained straight into the brain as if into a pan on the stove plus earth aroma heating up to the point of unearthliness, the whole raw world beginning to cook just enough that the mouth doesn't want to wait for the other senses, wants to bite into the green world just before too many things begin to flower all at once and all of nature's sweetness boils over into an undifferentiated green goo that scorches on the burner.

Monica sees Gloria/Agnes passing exactly at the instant she takes mental note of a season she hasn’t smelled before and also (exactly-exactly at the same instant?) spots a purple bedspread (recorded earlier in the week when someone was folding it or shaking it out) draped across the groundfloor porch railing (midway down the block south) of one of ABC Street’s massive Victorian mansions turned into beachtown multiple dwellings.

Seconds later Margaret Brennan passes and stops to talk because she has stories she needs to tell.

Says that she just wants to let Monica know that the severity of her heart murmur has subsided a bit and the doctors say that their only concern is with some of the after-effects of both the condition and the treatment, such as glaucoma. Can't remember what else they're worried about and didn't stop to talk about herself. There are a few things she needs to tell Monica about Daisy, even though Daisy made her swear she wouldn't talk about it, not even to Jojo. Daisy was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, but they won't know the results of all the tests "until Monday”. She's out of the hospital (they kept her over a week) and what she needs to know from Monica is (if and when Daisy decides to show her face) whether or not Daisy is the same child Monica remembers.

Daisy was always unusually sensitive and intelligent, but a sensitive and intelligent four-year-old. Now, to her, Daisy isn't acting like a child who's going to be five in November. She isn't even a child. She went to the hospital for ten days and it's as if she came back from the dead. She isn't with her in the same way she was before and needs to know if Monica feels it too or if she (Margaret) is imagining things.

Daisy doesn't want to see anyone or talk to anyone, particularly not anyone she loved. This is what Daisy said: "I hate compliments and I hate anyone who 'admires' me. I wish I was invisible so no one would know I'm here." And there are times now when she's almost transparent: look in Daisy's direction and you can see the wallpaper through her. While Daisy was in the hospital she had the inspiration to buy her a beautiful spring coat in Daisy's favorite blue-cloud-in-blue-sky blue and was looking forward to giving it to her and watching her try it on, but Daisy has no interest in it.

She wants Monica's opinion: is it truer to say that Daisy has become "deep" since she was wherever she was for however long she was there (hospital is stupid and insists that Daisy was there and visible and acting like any other child the whole time she was there) or that she went someplace deep and that deep place came back with her as the place she's in now.

There are some other odd facts: Daisy has never been afraid of the dark. On the contrary, Daisy liked the dark. Exactly the opposite of most children who need to have their bedroom doors left open at least a crack so a little light can get in from the hall or so they can feel a drop closer to mommy or daddy in the next room. Daisy could never fall asleep unless her bedroom door was shut so no light could get in. The other night, after Daisy'd gone to bed and all the lights were out, Daisy called out in a voice so frightened she hardly recognized it. Said she could hear a spider crawling across the ceiling and getting closer and closer to her bed and she knew that the spider could only keep crawling toward her if the room was completely dark so it could feel invisible. So, from now on, light has to be on in the hall and door has to be left open a little. . . .

This too: Daisy (as Monica knows) has always looked a little unreal, as if she could live on nothing but the sweetness in the air around a bed of flowers, but (in private) she’s always had the appetite of a wolf. All that changed while she was away. Came back from wherever she was while she seemed to be in the hospital unbearably thin and disgusted by food. Can’t afford to lose an ounce, but nothing tempts her.

No one at the hospital worth talking to. Doctors clam up whenever you ask a question. Why, for example, did they have Daisy on so many baby aspirin before and why have they suddenly reduced the dose to only two a day? Was it good for her then, but bad for her now? Never good for her? A mistake from the beginning? Is it the reason for Daisy’s condition? Is there something else they’re not telling her? She can’t get them to talk. Hospital's their world and whatever happens there, even if it's happening to you, is none of your business. . . .



On the same May day or another one very similar to it an open-backed blue truck loaded with oversized clay pots of sapling-size red-flowering, leafy green plants bounces loudly up the block (south) toward the ocean end of the street.



Monica can’t see who Lou the rolypoly mailman is talking to.

“Trying to work without a bag!”

Sometimes he has the wheel cart, he explains, but other times they want him to carry the shoulder bag. Don’t ask him why. Today there’s not much mail, thank god, because, in this heat and without the wheel cart. . . . So he doesn’t want the big shoulder bag weighing on his shoulder and he’s trying to see if this way is possible. . . .

Now Lou comes into view and Monica can see that he’s without shoulder bag or wheel cart and he’s juggling and fumbling with loose armfuls of envelopes. . . .

An unfamiliar woman's voice yells out, friendly but frantic, “hi, Lou!” “Oh, hi there Ronnie.” “I want my own mail, Lou!”

A red-haired woman in loose blue slacks runs down the block and Monica can see her go up the front steps of the vast roominghouse toward the ocean end of ABC Street (cracked and crumbling stucco not exactly the color of dried hotdog mustard (dark or yellow?), long, swayback structure not quite as depressing as an old state hospital, still in use or abandoned), where Fat Agnes and her invalid husband live in a basement cubbyhole behind the boiler room.

Later Lou explains to Monica that “Ronnie” is crazy. Or maybe that’s not fair: maybe he should just say that Ronnie's spent at least half her life in mental hospitals. Half in, half out and when she’s out she's in toilets like the one down the block. If she has a family, he hasn’t seen it or delivered any mail from anyone with the same name. Fat Agnes makes Ronnie crazy because Ronnie knows that Agnes always comes up the block to meet him so she can get everyone’s mail before he can deliver it. . . .

*




Monica notes a hot (undated) summer day with clouds

                                                                            super-abundant green

                                                                            “tropical" bird noises

                                                                            new (as if freshly peeled) green pine needles laid against old (black-green) pine needles

                                                                            spattered red of cardinal's broken flight through leaves and branches, viewed out the side (green room's north-facing dovecote?) window by David, who wonders if the cardinal’s song-like sequence of broken notes while flying are what Monica meant by “tropical bird noises”.

Whatever else she was paying attention to gets erased by the loud passing of the twins, twinning as they go.

Twin in shabby navy peacoat says: “green as a stupid young pine needle!'

                                                          No audible answer from twin in soiled black trenchcoat.

                                                          "stupid enough for what?"

                                                          No answer.

                                                          "to be showing its face on a day like this? as if it was a real leaf?!"

                                                          Inaudible complaint.

                                                          "who doesn't know that a winter pine needle is a dark pine needle? Darker than spinach soup but not as brittle as we are!”

                                                          Louder, but still inaudible grumbling.

                                                          Peacoat twin gets louder too: “we get shit, while they get. . . ?"

                                                          Long answer below human hearing still sets something vibrating.

                                                          "air up there? everybody knows they get air up there! But whadaya call this shit down here?!"

                                                          Deeply rumbling bass of audible peacoat twin, almost as deep, even more rumbling than the bass rumbling of the delivery trucks speeding through the ruts and hollows of Salem Avenue?

                                                          Audible twin continues complaining even around the corner.

                                                          "blue of what, of what exactly?!"

                                                          Inaudible twin transmits nothing from around the right angle of hedgerows.

                                                          "color yellow that yellow can never be the color of. . . ?"

After they've vanished over any possible sound horizon Monica wishes she knew the sign for the voice about to disappear or the other sign for the voice that has disappeared, a simple mark on paper like the brick-orange blood of a tiny insect you didn't even know was an insect till you pressed it with your thumb and squashed it.



"Same day or another.”

“Green leaves under grey skies.”

Air smells like water and there’s a distant sound-horizon to the south made more complex by sounds that invoke distance: extended basso foghorn voice holding its note to the point of irritation and far deeper and more horizontally extended basso foghorn voice underlying the soprano voice and gradually finding a way to get exactly synchronized with it in order to swallow it. Long, irritating note of soprano foghorn drowns itself in the extended depths of basso foghorn and isn’t heard again, while basso foghorn note persists as if drawing a dark blue circle of midnight around the world.

Deep voice of foghorn gets deeper and quieter as it moves in and out of waves toward what should be the southeast, but could even turn out to be the northwest because the sea strikes the coast of New York at an odd angle or the other way around.

Roses should be blooming, but aren’t: can’t escape from their fat green buds. (How close does Monica have to get to see any red in them?)

The dizzying tea aroma of un-bloomed roses.

To the eye the world is nothing but mist from end to end, but the world also comes close to the skin as an unpleasant chill.

While taking still more notes about the Rhinebeck pine’s new needles Monica also notes (on this May day that could just as easily be another May day because no date is noted) that this may be the first year she’s paid close attention to changes in the pine. And exactly at the second of writing (cold pencil between cold fingers makes her conscious of the moment) that the new, spring needles are not simply a “fresh green” as she'd thought (they have a yellow in them as similar to the yellow of yellow split peas as their green is to the green of green split peas) Monica sees two things at once (as if one through the other): palest blonde/whitest white-skinned yet oddly beautiful Lily Romero passing while waving hello and looking pregnant and a yellow bird with black stripes landing just about at eye-level in the broad, deep green boughs (with their thin new layer of yellow-green needle-leaves) of the Rhinebeck pine, not ten feet from where she’s sitting.

Writing quickly Monica first identifies the bird as a ”chickadee”, immediately thinks better of it (though not completely certain it isn’t a chickadee and without any idea how to distinguish this yellow-and-black bird from all other possible black-on-yellow and yellow-on-black birds) so asks David if he’d mind doing the research it would take to identify the bird accurately (knowing very well that any sort of research that resembles detective work is one of David’s pleasures).

Let’s see: does David have to go to the local library on Coast Boulevard between AAF and AAG Streets or does he already have all the local library’s bird-identification guides on more-or-less permanent loan along with who-can-say-how-many food-stained cookbooks?

Quickly able to rule out the family of vireos because not one vireo appears to have a true "black mask”.

The family of warblers, on the other hand, takes David a long time to sort through because, in the first place, so many warblers are yellow and because most of the warblers that are yellow also have some degree of black marking the yellow one way or another.

Let’s see: how many yellow warblers with some black stripes, streaks or patches are there for David to consider before he reports to Monica? The Common Yellow-throat, Wilson’s, Hooded, Cape May, Magnolia, Golden-Winged, “Lawrence’s”, Black-Throated, Townsend's, Hermit, Golden-Cheeked, Yellow-Throated, Kentucky, Black-Throated Grey and Tennessee all have yellow and black in various patterns, but (to David’s eye) only the “Black-Throated Grey”, the “Tennessee” and "Common Yellow-throat” are serious possibilities for Monica to identify as the bird she saw in the deeply shaded green of the Rhinebeck pine’s broad boughs (while at the same instant looking through the pine at Lily Romero) and of the three the “Common Yellowthroat” stands out because of its vivid black “bandit’s mask”, yellow throat and beautiful white streak arching above the top edge of the mask.



Artie Tilden’s girlfriend, Anne Marie (pretty little oval face and long, straight licorice-brown hair), is carrying a heavy air conditioner section from Artie’s car (parked far away), along the sidewalk, up the porch steps, across the wide porch boards to the front door (where she’ll cross the hall’s worn-out maroon carpet and then carry the heavy air conditioner section up and around two bends of the hall stairs to Artie’s second floor front apartment). Anne Marie pauses to tell Monica that she hates days like this. And then again (struggling to get through the front door): "other people think it's a nice day, but I think it’s a muggy day and I hate it.”



Still on the porch on the same uncomfortable day in May (the 16th?) David hands Monica a heavy-bottomed bar glass filled with tomato juice and ice, the full weight and thickness of its tomatoeyness cut in half by the juice of a lemon squeezed straight into it.

A question Monica asks herself: can the ripe red depth of tomato and chilled yellow of lemon cut through the dead weight of the atmosphere on this colorless “muggy day” the way lemon cuts through tomato?



Monica’s mid-May notes talk about “indexing” the December ’74 raw Chronicle (without spelling out what “indexing” amounts to) at the same time that she’s recording new events and typing (editing) her handwritten notes for December ’75.

In this way (among how many ways?) time enters the Chronicle without Monica having to think or write about it. Time doesn’t have to be the Chronicle’s subject (is it the Chronicle’s subject?) for the Chronicle to be about time as its potential infinity of writing trickles its horizontal way across a paper landscape easily rotated backward or forward as if the seamlessness of this time can actually cancel the relentless direction of that time.

*




Let’s see: “getting light” at 5 a.m. on May 16, 17 or 18 (not clearly noted) while typing December ’75 handwritten notes (exact time while typing also not noted); while indexing December ’74 (“at exactly 5 a.m.”) and March 3, ’75 (“at 6:40 a.m.") and then March 6, ’75 (“fiery red sun at 6:56 a.m.”).

March notes add that the red heat "of the sun or of the day” at 6:56 a.m. signals the end of another winter. And that prompts Monica to note (while typing and indexing earlier Marches and Decembers “now”, in May of ’76) that “now another spring is fading”: not only lilac, but all spring colors have faded — out of daily reality, out of space, out of “memory”, out of the senses that are memory in a different way.

So deep into spring that there’s the danger (while sleeping) of diving too far into summer. Summer heat or heat superheated into light could wake up even Monica, whose sleep is never affected by light.

Another note calls it “an unusually ugly dawn” and says that unexpected summer heat —> light will wake David up easily (can’t sleep when even a little of the water of daylight begins to dilute his bedroom's pitchblackness) at 5 a.m. or earlier. Can't sleep, so forces himself to work on a fiction called Winter/      /Winter (cuts a narrative section through several winters).



How many false summers are necessary to prepare the way for real summer? And at what moment exactly does the light and space of spring give way to the darkness and weight of summer?



"At 6:30 a.m.”, while David is having his first anxious moments trying to lay out a structure of mini-narratives that will build up into Winter/      /Winter, Monica is lost in dreams, but not in a dreamy way: a dream she can’t remember and did not wake up from, forcing herself to remain awake scribbling it down while still in its aura (last night); a dream-she-can-remember-but-doesn’t-want-to (over 24 hours ago); and another unpleasant one from the early '70's she’s re-reading (while “indexing” her Chronicle) and which in some way relates to the dream of 24-or-more hours ago, compelling her to remember what she’s been trying to avoid.

Let’s see: Monica feels it’s important to say from the beginning that she’s conscious of her own resistance to recounting (“now”) the dream-from-at-least-twenty-four-hours-ago that she’s been remembering not as “memories” but in involuntary flashes of mini-(image) –narratives unified by an emotional aura very much like an aroma sniffed by the brain only.

Monica is aware that each dream narrative within the over-all plasma of the dream is a long see-through column of image-events transecting other such see-through columns of image-events and every image and word in every column collapsible and expandable into other long columns depending on what direction the mind looks or walks in. There are crossing points of apparently unrelated narratives that have to do with an alternate logic of relatedness and that are almost always forgotten on waking, leaving a mistaken sense of exaggerated surrealism and/or incoherence.

For example: for weeks or months (not in the dream, but in reality) Lowell has been talking to Monica about the “first outpatient” assigned to him. Lowell says: “this is how crazy I am!”: when the resident first assigned the patient to him he heard him say: “the woman I’m assigning to you is named ‘Kitty’” and he had a panic attack! How could he possibly deal with that? How could chance and fate and destiny be so cruel and ridiculous? How could his first patient possibly be named “Kitty”?! All his deepest nightmares and terrors and most screwed-up, humiliating sexual fantasies and fears are all tied up with images and messy half-memories of incidents with Kitty that he isn’t prepared to look at under a microscope or even at a distance through a telescope — and all that is bound to cloud any possible therapeutic relationship with this woman and make him act like an idiot, like an infantile bumbler or like someone too disturbed to even pretend to offer help. . . .

It’s his first patient and his innermost life will be exposed.

Then he met the patient: no resemblance to their sister Kitty at all: a forty-three-year-old Latin American woman worn out by life and looking more than fifty. And when he glanced at her chart he was shocked to see that her name was actually “Kikki”!

She’d been “Kikki”, not “Kitty”, from the beginning!

It shook him that his problems were that deep and that so many of them revolved around Kitty — that even hearing the name “Kitty” or a name that only resembled “Kitty” could make him too crazy to hear or think. He saw that a horrible mess lay ahead of him. Does Monica believe that it’s possible — ever really possible? — to get to the bottom of a mess as horrible as that, as murky as the deepest lake you've ever been afraid to swim across, as silty and tangled as the most muddled and boggy swamp. . . .

Let’s see: Lowell’s notes, or Monica’s notes scribbled down as Lowell recited what seemed to her to be his notes, about the patient named “Kikki” not “Kitty” go like this:

          born in Honduras

          family moved to Cuba (reason not noted) when she was fifteen

          fell deeply in love in Cuba (at what age not noted by Lowell or by Monica, but Monica calculates it had to be between the ages of fifteen and seventeen)

          separated from her beloved by her father because the beloved belonged to a different religion (name of neither his religion nor her religion noted)

          heartbroken and in despair, but she obeyed

          moved to New York City (not noted if “Kikki”’s despair was the reason the father decided to leave Cuba) when she was seventeen and for reasons not explained or not noted settled in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

          “Kikki” hated Greenpoint, Brooklyn and New York from the first second, never stopped hating them and was in a perpetual state of longing for “the tropical paradise” of Cuba (and/or for the lost beloved)

          started plotting ways to escape from Brooklyn to Florida, which she pictured as a lesser, but more possible Cuba.

Anything else to Kikki’s story as related by Lowell? Monica searches her notes and can’t come up with anything, but all the conversations with Lowell about Kikki over a span of weeks or months are distilled into Monica’s dreams on the night of May 16, 17 or 18 as a long see-through column of mini-(image) narratives about a beautiful Latin American woman in an elegant, but large and “tropical” hat living near “the only park in Brooklyn”.

The word “park” allows Monica (as the Latin American woman in her large, beautiful hat) to gaze out into space that’s nothing but green.

Because she's gazing into green she's sitting on a bench just outside a low wall bounding the boundless green space of a park, gazing into green but not so much seeing green as being in green and on green as if green were the entire underfoot and visual space of the dream, the green space of the dream exactly = to the space of her mind and the space of her mind the entire outer world she finds herself walking across and looking into from under her wide-brimmed tropical hat. (The feeling resembles, but isn't exactly the same as, Monica's sensation sitting on an eternally cold stone bench on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with all of Central Park behind her.)

Later in the dream Cuban/Honduran Monica is no longer wearing a hat and is living in an apartment (large or small, ugly or beautiful not remembered or noted) whose windows (from what height?) look down into nothing but the infinitely varied green of a park.

Here she is at a window, looking down into the park, where snow is now falling, as if to remind her that all it takes is a look in the wrong direction to pass out of the tropics entirely.

Is this (can this be?) the endless green space that can never be entered (let alone crossed) (destined always to sit on a bench beside it and facing away from it, to look down from windows from what height into it) and that we call our longings, our dreams, aspirations, even our plans for a different life that's better just because it isn't the one we're living. . . ?

Monica’s dream that flows from Lowell’s account of his Cuban/Honduran patient seems to end, but her notes documenting Lowell’s notes about the patient continue a little longer and Monica makes the decision (at the time of typing/or later/or later still) to go on until she runs out of Lowell's notes before peering into the neighboring see-through column of unrelated dream-narrative that nevertheless does find ways to intersect and pass through the see-through column of image-stories about the Latin American woman, the limitless green space of the park, etc., etc.

Lowell says that the husband forced on Kikki by her father because he belonged to the right religion ends up a depressed shoe salesman in Brooklyn. He’s content to remain a shoe salesman in Brooklyn, may even be content with his depression, and this depressed lack of ambition that translates into lack of ability to earn the kind of money it takes to even think of a better life makes her feel hopeless. To make matters worse: she knows for a fact that her beloved also left Cuba and moved to the States: he was ambitious, went to college, became well-educated, went on to have an interesting profession, earned money and is leading a pleasant, upscale life in New York and Miami — exactly opposite to the miserable, lowgrade and loveless life her father arranged for her.

Notes don’t say whether she says plainly to Lowell: “Life is hopeless. I’m in despair because there's no way out. Or am I wrong? Is there something I can't imagine that you can do to help me?" Or if Lowell wonders what, exactly what, psychiatry has to offer in the face of real, external (not psychological) reality. He doesn’t want to fool himself and he doesn’t want to fool his patient, but he needs Monica to tell him honestly if he isn't fooling the patient and himself already. If all he has to offer is a tiny little strategy that helps her take a step so small it doesn't feel like a step (and may actually just be a way of getting her to lift her foot a little without ever bringing it down into a step that goes someplace) then what does all his training have to offer this woman? Is the goal to help her change her life or is he supposed to somehow get her to have a more positive view of her misery? Is he supposed to actually do anything for this patient or is she really only a dummy for him to practice on?

Let’s see: Monica is simultaneously aware of how many more than two things while continuing to sketch in her dreams of at-least-twenty-four-hours-ago:

                                                 a) images that travel up other see-through columns of mini-image-narratives she doesn't know why she's reluctant to look at

                                                 b) the troubling fact that anything she's able to get down on paper can't be true because she is able to get it down on paper, while she knows very well that in the original plasma of the dream all narratives and their chains of images can unspool themselves simultaneously along filaments as fine and densely coded with information as any strand of DNA, their narratives often seeming to unfold in conventional time-sequences and across a plane of ordinary space and matter.

For example: another column of image-narratives takes place on a beach. How does Monica know (even later (now)) that it is a beach? Hot sun on bare head, hot sand on bare feet: therefore (in May) it doesn’t seem to be the beach at the end of ABC Street, it seems like a “tropical” beach, possibly in Florida (or Cuba?).

There’s a sense in the dream (or it's only added later, as one of memory’s chemical additives) that the difficulty of walking through hot sand means that the beach is endless: an endless (an impossible) walk from this tropical beach, up through all the sand of all the beaches on the Eastern coast, toward her cooler ABC Street beach, which in some way equals home.

The language that comes to Monica as she’s trying to put her dream into words is very precise on one point: the girl coming toward her in the glaring brightness of water and sand is “twelve years old” and has a “radiant, animated face”. Monica knows her and this recognition can easily be turned inside out the way we turn a sock inside out by forcing a hand into it and its inside/out state is a sense of being overjoyed, but not surprised, to come across this familiar, beautiful girl, just as the happiness of the girl with the radiant face is so intense when she sees Monica that it resembles relief. It's surprising, Monica thinks, that neither of them is surprised to come across the other "here".

Doubtful “for a second” and about to question the girl about her identity, Monica’s overcome with a dizzying wave of certainty that this is her cousin! and not only her cousin, but the very same twelve-year-old cousin who just visited Alyosha not more than one week ago!

Knows her cousin well enough to be overjoyed to find her here, but can’t remember her name.

Just saw each other yet here, in the bright, overheated landscape of this beach, it feels as if they haven’t seen each other for a lifetime and are overjoyed (but not surprised) to rediscover one another.

The nameless twelve-year-old cousin rushes to Monica’s side and links arms with her so they can continue walking together toward "the cooler beach" whose coolness has something to do with being impossibly far away. (Her cousin-whose-name-has-been-erased questions whether it's the relative coolness of one beach in relation to the other or if it's the density of sand that suggests distance.)

The word “radiant” is used in a sentence that radiates out into the dream: reflection off the beautiful, radiant face of the young girl (her “cousin”) by her side may pass blindingly across the dazzling plane of sand where others (how many others not noted) are now walking with difficulty. One of the walkers struggling through the sand is identified as her cousin’s “father”, but Monica doesn’t recognize him — and there are others she has the nagging feeling she should be able to name, but can’t.

“Struggling in sunlight.”

In different ways and to different degrees all of them are laboring to get through the heat and weight of sand to go forward for what reason? The struggling of her dead aunt is particularly horrible, trying to keep up with the others, who may be trying to get away from her. Her torn nightgown could be a shroud and the bandage-like strips of the shroud are binding her legs and making it hard for her to move.

Monica isn’t sure on waking (or twenty-four hours later) if her aunt (who she knows extremely well, but whose name has been erased) said nothing or kept complaining like this: “they're all sick of hearing my voice! don't want to know I exist! want to keep walking! don’t care how I walk! walk'n'walk'n'walk'n'look the other way! look at anything but me! don’t wanna see, don't wanna know how ugly it gets! Force yourself forward — push through the sand like anyone else, but it gets harder and it gets uglier and nobody wants to hear your voice saying the same ugly thing over and over again. . . . " And on and on in that vein, a bitter, side-to-side sing-song with the imbalanced rhythm of a corpse walking with crutches.

Two of the familiar-but-un-named relatives trying to escape from Monica’s aunt are talking to each other as they make their way forward across the super-heated beach.

Now I know what death adds to Time,” one of them says.

“Obviously”, the other one answers, “death adds an end to what's endless. And once we know there’s an end we can never really forget there’s an end and we’re always making adjustments based on that inevitability, even though we keep telling ourselves that it's endless."

“Death adds fear to Time,” the first one argues. “Sometimes we see it horribly in front of us, other times we feel it behind us, slower than we are yet gaining ground and drooling like an animal. . . .”

“Always on our minds?”

“Some people have a lucky kind of dullness and don’t even know it exists. They’ve heard of it and they know it’s something you’re supposed to dread, but it’s just another monster living in the swamp that no one’s ever seen. They wake up every day as if they’re turning on the tv and will always be able to turn on the tv. But I learned the secret too young and I don’t think I’ve ever had a completely relaxed and happy day. . . . "

"I think we're leaving out the simplest truth: that death adds a bad smell to Time. . . ."

Monica’s aunt, who was always kind to Monica in life, has aged into a horrible, frightening figure (much older and more frightening than when she died “last January” or “a year-and-a-half ago”) even in bright sunlight. Pain and bitterness make her thin white hair fall loose in an oddly horrible way and, when Monica asks her why she’s not in a wheelchair, her bitter answer (while spitting out that Monica’s question is a stupid and insulting question) is to show Monica that she doesn't need a wheelchair by taking five huge, lopsided strides forward above the sand using both crutches for leverage, lopsided strides turning into one or two powerful and springing animal bounds that land her white hair and shroud on the sand, crouching on her shaggy white haunches, spitting and snarling on front of those fleeing from her.

What else?

It can’t be in the dream, can it? or “later” or “now”, after the dream and trying to remember the dream despite wanting to forget it, that the bitter and struggling figure of her dead aunt (whose familiar name has been erased) reminds Monica of Kitty-Monica-and-David’s friend Agnes, who killed herself “five years ago” at the age of thirty, “for no good reason” and who is now exactly the same age as Monica’s aunt.

*




Of all the events that Monica records with certainty on May 16 the one event that Monica notes but doesn’t date is the fact that she wakes up "at 4:30 a.m.”, hears the cries of seagulls circling the roofs just before gliding toward the ocean and forces herself to record a dream she had “over twenty-four hours ago”.

Definitely on May 16 or from the perspective of May 16:

1. On a day when a drizzling coolness weighs heavily on the air Monica does her best to get “yesterday"’s events down on paper and notes a brief encounter with Nicole Renard. Nicole says that her car is parked down the block at Babette’s and she walked over as soon as she could get free. There are a few things going on in her life she’s been dying to talk to Monica about, but — the way the day’s been going — she won’t get ten words out before they come to pick her up. She hasn’t heard Greg and Andy play for a long time so she said yes when Grete invited her to come along for the band’s new gig at the “Monte Carlo”, out by Kennedy Airport. Had no idea there were clubs near the airport (did Monica know?) and thinks it could be fun. Particularly now, when she could use some distraction, . . .

Car horn sounds and Nicole Renard never gets to tell Monica any of her urgent stories. . . .

2. Not noted when Monica’s old friend, the artist Nancy Jaye (as nervous, talented, thin and sharp-witted as she was when Monica knew her in college, her self and all its selves positioned at an acute angle toward reality) took up temporary residence on ABC Street — hiding from what? recuperating from how many injuries and defeats at the hands of who (who exactly)? Monica only found out that Nancy Jaye was living on ABC Street after Nancy'd moved into a tiny studio in the same hideous mustard stucco dump, an overground cave-system of mousehole studios and tunnel-like apartments known as the "Xanadu”, where Fat Agnes and her perpetually out-of-work, invalid husband have their basement cubbyhole near the boiler.

Let’s see: Nancy Jaye (not noted when she stops by to talk to Monica) says that her landlady — a pouchy-faced old bitch named “Mrs. Z.” — won’t let her use the washing machine. There’s no language in the lease one way or the other about the washing machine, but, Mrs. Z. says, since it’s not explicitly in the lease, it’s not allowed. The tenants’ only rights (according to Mrs. Z.) are the ones explicitly stated. Whatever's not in the lease is forbidden. Of course that logic is insane, but no one living in the "Xanadu” (including herself) has the energy to fight her. It might be fair to say that 99% of the energy in that huge building — as big and dark and endless as an ocean liner that sunk to the bottom of an ocean a century ago and is still crawling with life that's learned to breathe in its atmosphere — belongs to Mrs. Z. and that the rest of them share a few leftover molecules.

Nancy wonders if some of the tenants are allowed to use the washing machine and some are not, because Mrs. Z.’s argument is that if she allowed all the tenants to use the washing machine “there wouldn’t be enough water left to flush the toilets”. . . .

So, Nancy says, she’s been doing all her laundry by hand in the studio’s shallow and rust-stained old washbasin. . . .



Fog horns "all day yesterday, through the night and into the morning of May 17”.

Days (exactly how many?) of fog and drizzling coolness condensing into oddly dripping rain, as if the entire expanse of grey sky were the slowly leaking gutter of one rundown multiple-dwelling roof.

Monica notes that x number of dated and un-dated days without “real sun” or “real sky” keep her indoors and in her green room, at her tremendous oak breakfast table/desk, getting a lot of work done, while she waits for sun to burn off grey sky as it drifts horizontally across the surface of ABC Street as fog.

At around 10:30 a.m. on May 17 a little hopeful wash of distant sun appears as a weakly burning spot, no stronger than a 60 watt bulb through a discolored paper lampshade, but immediately goes away.

Not noted on what day Monica is able to work on the front porch through the fog, settled in the streets for days and so tightly woven and seamless that all the visible world from AAF Street (east) to ADI Street (west) and from the beach to the railing along the bay is blotted into it without a knob or an edge and something like rain is forced out of it, so light and weak it may not be able to reach the ground.

Days of fog and dampness have made the grass on all the lawns on ABC Street and every other street grow tall and “today’s” odd rain has darkened it.

Monica’s handwritten (scribbled and close-to-unreadable?) notes say that she borrows Alyosha’s car and (driving around the neighborhood) is struck deeply by the vibrant purple and green shafts of the irises (sharp and light-filled as the edges of broken glass) embedded in the dark green blades of tall lawn grass not yet shaved by local gardening crews mowing their way through the south side of Bay Drive (looking left out her window while driving west). Monica would love to ask David if he'd mind doing a little research into the plant chemistry and pigment history of those illuminated strokes of purple in the grass for which she can find no adequate analogy to summon up what she's seeing for someone who hasn't seen the exact purple of irises scattered and sunlit in green. Later David is able to come up with a little information about "Tyrian" purple (mentioned in both the Iliad and in the Aeneid), a dye extracted drop by drop from the gland — called the "flower" or the "bloom" — of a mollusk. He starts to recount a Greek legend about Hercules finding his dog's mouth stained purple after playing on the beach and chewing on shellfish, but Monica finds nothing in any of it to bring the purple of irises to life.

Monica wonders about this too (while she’s driving or later, when she’s hastily scribbling her unreadable notes): is it the endless rain and fog (which may or may not be the same as the sheer absence of sun) that’s been making little dome-headed Rosamond so miserable? Even late at night Monica can hear the depth of her inconsolable sobbing through the slightly open third floor attic windows next door.



Is this May 18? Monica wonders while typing her quickly–sketched notes that enjoy hop-skipping around days as much as children enjoy hopping through gameboards chalked on the sidewalk.

For example: notes say “bright yellow tulips” (that is, yellow as a yellow dress with light in it) and then “blood red tulips”, but don’t say when (or where) Monica saw them (yesterday, while driving around the neighborhood, seems likely, but notes don’t say so). Skip back to “days of white mist” — air white with a ghost-snow that's white, but isn’t cold, leaving the visible world wet from end to end.

Notes shift to a brief natural event that would have absolutely no life in memory — would happen and then not be happening without leaving any trace, no matter how riveting (the object of how many gazes?) for twenty-eight seconds, nine minutes, half-an-hour, etc. — if no one felt compelled to chronicle it one way or another, from the dullest, most literal and undifferentiated (with no ear for the patterns, rhythms and laws that make experience of the outer world viewed in a panoramic way interesting and that need to be edited back into the horizontal sentence that keeps rotating by) to the most abstract and coded.

Let’s see: “at about 7:30 last evening” and lasting exactly one half hour, from 7:30 to 8 on the clock, the day’s heavy rain and rainclouds part, allowing sun (or some distant mirrorglass reflection of sun) to make a blinding rift that follows the entire curve of the horizon above the ocean: not sitting on the horizon, but inches that = yards or miles above it and precisely measuring the head’s ability to swivel 180 degrees or more on its neck. Curving rift of this “clearing” has the effect of making clouds above it circle the arc of the sky’s lower dome along with it, while below the charcoal-and-violet mountain range of evening rears up swiftly into an inky tidal wave headed not for land, but upward toward the rift of light that helped create it. It takes exactly one half hour for the bright rift circling the ocean to get swallowed up and for the seamless blackness that begins right in front of you to become frightening.

For how long during or afterward: wet gutters gleam where the setting sun burned them.

“Out of order”?

Not at all clear in Monica’s handwritten notes whether “before” or “after”, in daylight or after dark: Pat Corcoran’s niece (who lives with the Corcorans like an adopted daughter), blonde and pretty Allison Meehan, can be seen clearly sitting in her green-and-yellow Datsun with an unfamiliar sixty-something man, very slight in black turtleneck and glasses. Allison, behind the wheel, is wearing a crisp, sky-blue windbreaker and long white earrings, as if she spent time deciding what to wear for this meeting.

Monica would love to hear what they’re saying, but can’t (both Allison’s and the slight, sixtyish man’s voices are soft and easily ground up by ordinary street noises). All Monica can do is observe that there’s some conversation, that the slight man has a big, black portfolio in his lap, that Allison Meehan leans over to sign something in what may be a ledger resting inside the portfolio and then seems to sign and tear a check out of her checkbook and hand it to the man while he’s writing vigorously in his ledger.

Monica notes to herself that it’s often the case that you have no idea what you're observing, but feel compelled to observe it and to note it down. It interests Monica that Fat Agnes isn’t able to pass without stopping and staring into the car. No attempt to conceal herself: flattened face, iron red curls, hips wide as an automobile bumper, dressed how? (not noted whether in her usual royal blue polyester), she stands on the sidewalk staring for long minutes (hearing some of what’s inaudible to Monica through her green room windows 1, 2, 3 stories up, just behind the tip of the Rhinebeck pine). As far as Monica knows Fat Agnes doesn’t know Allison Meehan and she wonders what catches Fat Agnes’s attention and why it matters to her what Allison Meehan and the slender, sixtyish man in the black turtleneck might be saying to each other (and what narrative she might be weaving out of the transaction in the car).

May be nothing more than the eye’s eternal need to stare at whatever’s there to be stared at. May, for example, just be another kind of television for Fat Agnes, with its afternoon stories that never come to an end.

“Twelve hours later” Monica looks down from her green room (west-facing) windows in “the early morning” and can tell that it had rained during the night: sunlight in puddles.

Later ("mist at 3:30”) Monica is on the front porch, writing. Pale blue of sky is such a weak blue it has no grip on its white clouds: they skim across it easily and easily go out of view. "Around four" there's sudden thunder and a sudden, hard rain (in which order not noted).


*




Same day or another?

Passing the door to Al Szarka/Yvonne Wilding’s front (west-facing through a handsome row of tall windows with turn-of-the-century stained glass panels across their tops and, below, the original solid oak window-seat running the windows’ width) parlor/kitchen/dining room, Monica stops to read a small note taped there and addressed to someone named “Kenny”.

“Kenny! We’re at the lunchonette at the corner of the Boulevard and AAF Street.”

a) Doesn’t say the northwest corner of the Boulevard and AAF Street, but Monica thinks she knows which small, wedge-shaped luncheonette Yvonne means (not the deeper, darker one on the northeast side across the way, two or three stores in from the corner, not exactly at the corner).

b) Monica wonders how “Kenny” managed to get in the house to read the note with no one home to let him in.

c) Also: no time given, therefore “Kenny” could (if he found a way to get in the house and read the note) easily arrive at the wedge-shaped luncheonette long after Yvonne and the others had gone elsewhere.

The more Monica thinks about the little note the more it empties out and becomes pointless.



38o “at 8 a.m. on May 19”.

According to a television weather report (odd, shallow and unstable historian of transient conditions, such as “today is the coldest May 19” since sometime in the 19th century [no exact date given]).

The Chronicle notes that “rain began yesterday afternoon” and continued into the night, wind picking up as the temperature dropped. And later “cold wind and rain strike the house in sheets angling sharply 22 1/2o downward from the west and rattling all the loose or crumbling three-quarter-century-old windows and window frames in Monica’s attic apartment and all uncounted windows three stories up x the great unmeasured breadth of the old house.

Pat Corcoran waylays Monica the first chance she gets to tell her that she had a horrible night: “chilled to the bone”: kept waiting for the heat to come on, but it never did: tried to be patient, did everything she could think of to keep warm, but finally couldn’t stand it and her anger boiled over. So mad she didn’t pay attention to what it was like outside — threw a raincoat over her nightgown and marched herself out into the wind and rain and cold, just to have the satisfaction of pounding on the landlord’s door, jamming her thumb as far into his bell-socket as it would go and keeping it there till one of the little fat-asses had to roll out of bed and answer the door.

She’s proud of herself for holding her temper: lisping little pale-face/fat-ass sonny-boy was the one they sent to answer the door and she could have said a lot, but all she said was: “We have no heat. I’ve been up all night waiting for it to come on, but it never did. I’m not feeling well — I haven’t been feeling well — and I think it’s because I’m not used to living in a house where they give no heat, where they have no consideration for anyone but themselves. I grew up in an ugly building in the Bronx and I lived in a few other apartment houses and they weren’t the garden spots of the world, but even in those shitty places they knew that they had to give heat and sometimes they’d even suffocate you, it was so hot. So I’m not used to this kind of stinginess and selfishness and it’s making me sick! So could you please tell your parents that I was here and they should remember that it’s a two-way street and we can make their lives miserable too.”

Seems to her that he started to say ok, he’d try to take care of it (actually looked to her like he was ready to cry), but the mother – the ugly little fat-ass toad mother — yelled in from somewhere, “tell her we have the thermostat set exactly where it’s supposed to be! the night-time thermostat setting is allowed to be lower than the daytime thermostat setting so the thermostat setting is completely legal and she has no right to be ringing our bell at this hour! So tell her to go home and shut the door.”

So of course he obeyed mommy and closed the door in her face and she came home and turned on the stove and got under extra blankets — and while she was lying in bed and thinking about her life and how she ended up in a position where a mama’s boy doughball like that can slam a door in her face, she realized that even if they gave a decent amount of heat she’d still be miserable. As Monica knows, she hates winter: she’s always hated it — always hated the sensation of cold on her skin — but it’s reached the point where she doesn’t just hate it, she can’t tolerate it. Can’t tolerate it, but there’s no solution. Can Monica think of a solution? What do you do when you’ve reached your breaking point but don’t break or can’t allow yourself to break and everyone thinks you’re wonderful for putting one foot in front of the other and tolerating what they know you absolutely can no longer tolerate. Said yesterday you couldn’t take it for one more second, yet here you are today. Can’t take it, but you do take it. The ability to adapt is supposed to be human nature’s greatest virtue, but it’s not a good one — it’s the one they sell you as a virtue, but that kills you eleven times out of ten.



Monica can’t remember the last time she spoke to (or even saw) childish, overweight, slow-talking-but-not-so-slow-as-she-seems, pampered-yet-kind Margo Burger (one daughter in a family that breaks down like this: grossly overweight, affluent local meatpacker father/attractive, always-struggling-with-her-weight blonde mother/one overweight but contented daughter (Margo)/one dangerously thin and starving daughter), but here she is in front of Monica in the supermarket, shopping for dogfood for the tiny black poodle in her arms (dog could be named “Barbara”, but name not noted so uncertain). The only fragment-of-a-story Margo Burger has to tell is the story of what happened to her beloved cocker spaniel, Walter (the reason she has her little poodle). A year-and-a-half ago and for no reason anyone’s been able to give her, when Walter was only six years old, he suddenly went blind in both eyes. She wanted to keep him and take care of him, but her parents convinced her that she was being selfish — that she was thinking only of herself, not Walter, and that a blind dog would be a miserable and suffering dog — so she let them take him away and have him put to sleep. They bought her the poodle and of course the poodle is nice and she loves the poodle, but it isn’t the same and she knows she’ll always be heartbroken. She knows that she’ll never forget Walter the way she knows she’ll never forget Monica and David, because without their help she never would have graduated from high school and for the rest of her life everyone would have thought of her as even stupider than she is and she never would have had the confidence she has now.



At 9:30 a.m. of the same or the next May day it’s too hot (“hot as a morning in July”) for Monica and David to get the early start they wanted, but by 10:30 a mild wind pushes summer back where it belongs (that is, pushes time’s arrow back in a conventional direction) and by a little after 10:30 Monica and David are on the boardwalk (as they planned) reading (editing?) a new story called Winter/      /Winter out loud.

Bill Kropotkin, profoundly unshaven (so profoundly the shadows in his face seem to have nothing to do with shaving) yet oddly spruced-up in (what colored?) suit and (what colored?) tie comes running (not “jogging”) toward Monica and David somewhat awkwardly but quickly, as if trying to close the distance between East and West as fast as possible. Stops to talk, but does that necessarily mean that he has a story to tell? Let’s see: says that he knows what they’re thinking! he would be thinking it too — can see how nuts he looks a) just because he’s always looked weird in a suit and tie and b) because he’s running on the boardwalk in a suit and tie! Ridiculous! Ridiculous that life has made him look like such an ass. And what’s more ridiculous is the reason he’s running on the boardwalk in stupid suit and stupid tie: someone told Nelly that three people were suddenly fired over at Bay View High School and that they needed to fill those three spots immediately. Of course nothing’s ever too perfectly clear when someone’s told Nelly something and then Nelly’s repeated it (as they know) so she thought they said “desperate for a History teacher”, but she wasn’t certain they said “History” or even if they said “desperate”. Still (because he’s the one who’s desperate) he got himself all dolled up and galloped over there early — so they’d see what a responsible eager-beaver they’d be getting — but they didn’t seem all that desperate to him — hardly seemed interested — and certainly not eager for an overqualified History teacher!

So he’s not at all optimistic. That is, it’s back to the truth. He’s known the truth since childhood. For example: he’s known that happiness and success are so fragile that they’re false. They’re what’s false in life. Disappointment and failure are the truth of life and to live in them is to live a life of truth — the life that the great mass of humanity has always lived — while culture holds up a mirror of illusion for us to look at: don’t see ourselves in the mirror of culture, don’t want to see ourselves in the mirror of culture, we stare at the successful handful of others living the false life of happiness as if they were ourselves. Live the truth of failure and disappointment while always staring into a second, illusory world of ease and pleasure. Our miserable lives drain into their happy ones. And as soon as we become successful we become, without exception, self-deluding and revolting. That’s history in a nutshell.

What’s most likely is that he’ll wake up tomorrow and start looking for another cab-driving job. And if Monica and David hear him singing a different song next week — the song of the temporarily happy and deluded — it’s because a miracle happened and the ridiculous Mellon Foundation grant came through!

What else?

They know the story of Jimmy’s leg, don’t they? Nelly must have told them about Jimmy’s leg. Not that Jimmy’s leg is all that interesting, but it surprises him that Nelly didn’t look for them to tell them all the details.

Last summer Jimmy picked up a splinter running barefoot (like an idiot) on the boardwalk. The splinter was so big and went so deep they had to take him to the local pediatrician everyone raves about, Dr. Dumbo. And Dr. Dumbo removed the splinter, reassured them and sent them home. But a few weeks ago Jimmy started complaining that the same leg that had been treated by Dr. Dumbo felt “heavy”. And not too long after that the “heaviness” became pain and then the pain became so severe that Jimmy was afraid to let his foot touch the ground and he stopped walking. Couldn’t take him back to the sainted Dr. Dumbo of course and the only thing they could come up with was to go back to a doctor they liked when they lived out in Douglaston. That doctor is no more a foot or leg doctor than the beloved Dr. Dumbo is, but at least he was honest enough to send Jimmy to a pediatric surgeon and the surgeon saw right away that what was wrong was that Dr. Dumbo had left the deepest part of the boardwalk splinter buried in Jimmy’s foot! Took him ten minutes to solve the problem created by the revered Dr. Dumbo a year earlier. So they fixed Jimmy up and now he’s getting better, but he (Bill) can’t recover what he paid Dr. Dumbo for messing Jimmy up and of course he had to pay his old doctor and then the pediatric surgeon. The surgeon only charged $75 and he was grateful for what he did, but it still adds up to too much money — so he lied and said that all he had on him was twenty dollars and the surgeon was nice enough to say he could send the rest later, but he’s not going to do it. They’re all a brotherhood, it’s all a cabal, so if you finally manage to screw one of them in some sense you screw them all. It’s tortured logic, but that doesn’t stop screwing a doctor, any doctor, from being satisfying.

Daisy and Margaret Brennan pass and Monica would like to find out how Daisy’s tests turned out, but Bill Kropotkin lingers just long enough (as if he has more stories to tell, though he doesn’t) for Margaret and Daisy to go by, then turn north on ABC Street toward home.

*




Most likely on May 20 Monica steps out the front door onto the porch of wide, grey boards and is confronted immediately by a sky exactly the soft blue of an old blue blanket pinned to a clothesline. Blue-blanket-blue of sky trying to blow across space, but pinned there out of view (to a second horizon below the horizon?). Smooth sheet or furling and flapping?

All of deep space between herself and windblown blue (receding away from the gaze, as always) is uncommonly bright: wounds the eye as if the sun were hidden everywhere in it. No-longer-new, no-longer-small leaves are happy to wake up to first sunlight in days: even if diffused in deep brightness of space, sunlight on leaves starts to warm them up: smell of green leaves (or of green in leaves) warmed by sunlight fills the moment, but also takes Monica out of the moment as if it were the aroma-memory of something cooking that’s been tasted before. This too?: almost-but-not-quite as strange as the wild smell of a green and clammy living mineral that’s swum up from the bottom and crawled right up into your hand so that you can’t help remembering its smell for the rest of your time on Earth.



Before the green aroma of the world, the moment is purely visual. Eyes burn from staring into bright blue space that always pretends to be near so you won’t know that it’s receding and even a tiny moment of dizziness helps you fall into blue’s internal distance so that you need to steady yourself on your steps, watching the sky blow across the wide screen of the Rosenwassers’ north-facing picture window.

Blue there so soft you dream of rolling yourself in it, but every ray of sun striking off windowglass (no particle gets through to fall on board or carpet) burns Monica’s eyes even more than first sun diffused in first reality of sky.



Notes talk about a “frosty green” on May 19 and also talk about a “blue sky of clouds”, but it isn’t clear if both occur on the 19th or on the 20th or if one (which one?) occurs on the 19th, the other on the 20th.

Hedges bow under wind?

And then (looking ahead just a little through handwritten pages) hedges bow under light? under weight of light?

Notes talk about the “heaviness” of the hedges and the fact that it’s this heaviness that the wind is moving in masses (exactly unlike what happens in winter, notes say, when there’s little more than a nervous agitation of hollow branches as wind passes through hedges as easily as a look from any direction toward them).

Therefore (true or false): warmth has something to do with density or the other way around? And this too: warmth creates the place it needs to gather and store itself: accumulated warmth forces new growth and this thicker atmosphere = summer and makes us forget how sharply isolated things were not long ago when every object was thin and space was empty.

Can no longer see through it (through them?).



Handwritten notes say that the “heaviness” of the atmosphere is (surprisingly) not unpleasant and (scribbled, almost legible) seem to suggest a relationship between atmospheric heaviness and the weight of warmth in green leaves growing fuller every minute (not just present, but future weight of warmth making its presence felt).



Reading (editing) her handwritten notes in order to translate them Monica has trouble figuring out whether it’s sister Kitty or mother (Betty) who tells her that Kitty sent out wedding announcements for her soon-to-take-place marriage (date not noted) to Hap “Happy” Huntington Blank — hoping of course for generous gifts. There’ve already been a few gifts given, but not generous ones. The worst (the one that got Kitty so mad she called Betty) was from their wealthiest cousin who sent a check for one hundred dollars! Betty told Kitty to send it back, but Kitty said that, even though she’s furious and she’d like to, she needs it.



Two solid days of winter in May have an effect on the molecular structure of the Rosenwassers’ picture window and shift it toward blue. (Only the window and not the day?) Image in the window (image that is the window) is muddled: not a soft blue blanket, not a blanket at all and, soft or not soft, maybe not even blue: might be white drapes drawn across the whole length of the inner (or outer?) surface. Drapes are thick and have an opaque creaminess (no light gets through them), yet the window isn’t white, it’s blue. Blue of white? Blowing across white and the other way around? Glaring whitened blue that resembles the sky without reflecting it.



On May 20 or May 21 (handwritten notes are unclear) violent wind continues to blow and absence of sun (swept off the table along with napkins and forks) darkens all green, but wind’s persistence spins the wheel of the local universe quickly through its revolutions and May revolves back into place: mild air all along ABC Street at 9:30 a.m. (when Monica gets downstairs to work) and atmosphere is warm, almost summery on the boardwalk at 10:30: cools down by the time Monica and David get tired of editing Winter/       /Winter and head north from the boardwalk along ABC Street toward home.



On the same unclearly dated day or another Monica (while working on the front porch) sees Vicky Liman pass, deep in conversation with tall (that is, even taller than Vicky), stoop-shouldered, flat-faced and square-jawed Norma Maloney. Norma Maloney seems to be doing most of the talking (as usual) and, just as Monica starts to ask herself if there is or isn’t an odd similarity between Norma Maloney’s agitated and slippery way of talking and Pat Corcoran’s frictionless racing around the banked edges of sentences (with the difference that Norma’s physical droopiness seems to slow her down a little), Pat Corcoran (who must have spotted Monica writing on the porch by peeping through the wooden slats of her ancient blinds) pops out her front porch door to show Monica her new elkhound/shepherd puppy, Rommel. Looks more like a shepherd than an elkhound to her, but — does Monica know? — is it possible that the elkhound will emerge later and take over? Either way it’s going to be an enormous dog.

What else? Pat says that she’s feeling a little better because a drop of sunlight touched her face. Feeling a little better because of the sunlight, but not enough sunlight, so she isn’t feeling as good as she could. This too: we all rave about spring, but if we’re honest about it how often is spring really spring? As soon as spring starts to act like spring (and that generally means you can feel a breath of summer in it) cold rain and wind spring up to blow spring and summer-in-spring away, as if February’s still out there in the bushes waiting for a door to be left unlocked. Doesn’t Monica agree? In New York spring is just an idea. It’s the name we give to a few minutes here and there. It’s like a heavenly breeze you think you feel for a few seconds blowing down an alley between two apartment houses in the Bronx.

While Monica is playing with Pat Corcoran’s beautiful shepherd/elkhound puppy and listening to Pat Corcoran complain about spring she’s also keeping an eye on a small yellow, black and buff-grey bird she feels confident sketching in quickly (without David spending hours doing research in the small local library on Coast Boulevard near AAF Street) as a female or possibly even a juvenile “Yellow-Throated Warbler”, because, as far as she can see, the small, darting bird is lacking the male’s characteristic black eye-mask. Makes short, dashing flights from level to level and from pad to pad of dark and drying old needles within the interior shade of the tall Rhinebeck pine and then out onto the more frond-like outer sun-pads where new needle-leaves are glowing, as transparent and green as sucking candy.

Later David can’t keep himself from going to the local library and, he tells Monica, the pictures he saw there in various bird identification guides make him think the bird she saw hopping through the interior of the Rhinebeck pine was not the fairly common “Yellow-Throated Warbler”, but a female Blackburnian Warbler as it appears only at this exact moment in spring, when the female’s black eye-mask is a barely perceptible pale cocoa.


*




At 10 a.m. on May 22, on her way upstairs to her attic apartment, Monica catches sight of Yvonne Wilding through the wide-open door to Yvonne Wilding and Al Szarka’s spacious, west-facing parlor-diningroom-kitchen with beamed ceiling, oak window-seat and stained glass window panels. She’s sitting on the edge of a hard wooden kitchen chair in a crisp white pants suit, putting on white high heels.

Minutes later David (looking down from the left-hand set of green room windows) says that he sees Al Szarka on the sidewalk in front of the house, all dressed up in suit-and-tie, looking good but fidgety, waiting impatiently for Yvonne to get ready and says to himself “so this must finally be the day.”

Sighting of Yvonne and Al getting ready to be married reminds Monica of two events she didn’t think of chronicling when they happened, but feels magnetically compelled to chronicle now that she’s seen Yvonne in white pants suit and white high heels.

1. Earlier the same day (before 10 a.m., but at what hour exactly not noted) Monica heard the horn of a car speeding west <— east on Coast Boulevard honking out the notes of “Here Comes the Bride” as it passed ABC Street.

2. Monica had no idea that Artie Tilden (lazy and/or permanently stoned, not-quite-hippieish, motorcycle-riding postal worker whose long red hair hangs straight down, sometimes in a ponytail, sometimes not, making his already-small head appear shrunken) had ever spoken to, let alone had any sort of relationship with, Yvonne and Al, but last night (starting when and for how many hours not noted) Yvonne and Al entertained Artie Tilden and his girlfriend, Anne Marie (newly engaged, therefore his “fiancé”) in their apartment. Unmistakable sounds of an uncomfortable social evening. (About to get married and feeling the need to spend the night-before getting drunk and/or high with an engaged couple they assume are more “normal” than they are, know nothing about and have nothing in common with? to find out what? what exactly?) Goes on for a while and gradually loosens up and gets louder.



On May 22 Al Regan (still haunted by short and wiry neighbor Enos Greengrass, who spent a good part of his life outdoors, in front and to the right (north) of his house, hosing, mowing, raking, brooming, etc.) is mowing his lawn with little grandson, Matthew, who’s dressed in cardinal red playsuit from neck to ankles: red comes to life as photons ripped loose from cotton fibers by aggressive sun-rays digging into every surface through the easily-penetrated atmosphere.



Is it also on May 22 that Monica (whether on porch or porch steps or at the vast green-room oak desk/breakfast table not noted) is editing handwritten notes for January 9?: notes say that “a major snow storm” is predicted to begin blowing in “around midnight”, while snow and ice are still on the ground from the last heavy snow storm and that that snow covered snow and ice that had no chance to melt away from the heavy snowfall before that. Fresh snow on top of old snow, how many snow layers on top of how many ice layers, the bottom-most layers bonded in a dark and gritty glue to sidewalk and thorny hedge-tangle equally. A winter it would take a blowtorch to get to the bottom of and fresh sheets of snow perpetually swirling around the anchored masses of turn-of-the-century three-story shingle houses and even more massive multiple dwellings that were once mansions.



“On May 24” Monica sees (glancing sideways while walking south on ABC Street toward boardwalk and ocean) white drapes that seem to be inside the Limans’ front (west-facing from the east side of the street), ground floor picture window, though Monica knows, from chronicling the Rosenwassers’ picture window, that the white drapes may be the lifelike reflection of drapes (at an odd angle) inside someone else’s house or apartment. Further confusing the image: masses of fully ripened green leaves appear embedded and impressed in the softness and density of the white drapes.

Two or three pages later Monica’s notes for May 24 say that “an empty clothesline” is reflected along with white and green of drapes and leaves in the Limans’ picture window, but no way to tell where in the continuous level space of ABC Street’s backyards the clothesline is. Notes say that all that can be said for sure is that the clothesline, even though it’s reflected in the same picture window as white drapes and embedded green leaves, seems to exist on a different plane or in a competing reality where qualities like weight and softness have an entirely different meaning.

It’s not only the images inside/outside the Limans’ picture window that are hard to untangle. Time is hard to untangle in this long sequence of handwritten notes on folded lavender scrap paper.

A number of events certainly occur and are certainly chronicled on May 24; other events occur that logically should occur on May 24 but aren’t dated; several pages after the certainly chronicled events of May 24 the scribbled words “the morning of May 25” introduce a number of events immediately chronicled after that notation; intercut in events that definitely occur on the 24 and undated events that probably-but-not-definitely occur on the 24 there’s a detailed (yet random and disorderly) recounting of a trip to Manhattan to see Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon.



Transcribing her handwritten notes from the 24 and 25 “later” (in November or December of ‘76) and then again “now” Monica can’t figure out when or how a trip to Manhattan could slip into either day when so many events on ABC Street seem to be chronicled — as if the trip to Manhattan and viewing of An Autumn Afternoon occur on an entirely separate strip of time, no day at all, a dayless day, dated or undated, something but not exactly like the empty clothesline that doesn’t exactly co-exist with heavy green leaf masses that leave a deep impression in a white bedspread in or reflected in an ABC Street picture window.



On what day does Margaret Brennan call out excitedly to Monica (in what location, from what distance, while walking in what direction?) that Daisy’s tests have all come back negative!

Not noted whether on the same late May day or another that Nadja and Grete (both beautiful, but, it seems to Monica, in entirely different ways despite some similarities: both have long, athletic bodies, both are addicted to the outdoors, particularly the beach, both have year-round glowing tans, both are bicyclers and swimmers, both are with men named “Andy”, yet they don’t resemble one another at all: Nadja and her Andy are lifeguards who travel the world trying to turn the whole year into summer; Nadja has no children, doesn’t seem to care about having children or even about marrying Andy; Nadja is athletic but lazy and sensual with a happy pliancy to both her skin and nature; Grete Forest, on the other hand, is married to her Andy and has two children (little Hank Forest with Andy and Martina (Tina) Lima with first husband Tony “Lima Bean” Lima) and has the conflicted girlishness of a grown woman and married mother-of-two still living with her mother) say “hi” and “hello” to Monica as they bicycle by in candy-colored nylon shorts and sleeveless tops on the boardwalk heading <— west or —> east not five minutes after Monica (walking south toward the boardwalk) spotted a cardinal sending out its little knotted string of notes on a tv antenna atop one of ABC Street’s massive multiple-dwellings-that-used-to-be-mansions. Cardinal’s red exactly the same shade of supersaturated red as the playsuit Matthew Regan was wearing yesterday or the day before, out on sidewalk with grandfather Al.

*




Not noted how many films by Yasujiro Ozu Monica has seen before she sees An Autumn Afternoon on May 25 or, for that matter, whether or not she’s already seen An Autumn Afternoon, but she does note that she’s sure that knowing one or two works by a great artist is not enough to have any knowledge of what the artist does or what she/he is after. What’s needed as a minimum requirement for knowledge begins with the desire to re-experience the pleasure of the first experience, possibly the need to dig a little deeper into the pleasure of the first experience, desire and need for re-experience gradually becoming obsessive, obsession becoming addiction and then immersion and all of it resembling one of the extreme forms of love. And nothing else will do for the kind of knowledge that matters.

For example: as soon as An Autumn Afternoon begins, before there are any images, only wistful and nostalgic music that reminds Monica of other long-ago-heard-and-forgotten music together with Japanese characters in black ink against coarsely woven straw or hemp that resembles the texture of the tatami mat where, it’s often been said of Ozu, he positions his camera at a low angle to view the quiet, horizontal flow of his un-dramatic family dramas, Monica is already experiencing the profound pleasure of re-immersion in Ozu’s coherent world with its rigorous aesthetic rooted in an idiosyncratic biological rhythm that demands the repetition of visual and thematic elements to the point of equaling a private code.

Let’s see: An Autumn Afternoon begins with a wide view of industrial smokestacks: red and grey dominate and the wide view may take in the façades of a factory complex. This wide, exterior and distant view serves to frame the narrower, closer and less abstract human action within: Chishu Ryu (elderly industrialist or executive, whose quietly expressive anti-dramatic presence, thin, monk-like face and wiry body, air of forbearance, patience and amusement are the core of the film’s tone) has his office here and whenever we see the exterior shot of red-and-grey smokestacks a conversation in the office between Ryu and one of his three old friends (also industrialists or executives and also carried over from film to film) is bound to follow. These conversations have some bearing on the plot, which can easily be found summarized elsewhere: as in the earlier Late Spring social convention brings extraordinary pressure to bear on a widowed father to marry off his only daughter, no matter how doing the right thing is bound to destroy their happiness.

Monica tries to list the fixed shots that (in addition to the repeated shot of the smokestacks) repetitively frame (and trigger our anticipation of) the scenes and conversations that make up the minimal plot.

Exterior of a large, modern office building.

Exterior of a large, modern apartment house.

Night view along a narrow passage lined on either side with bars, coffee and/or noodle shops, clubs, restaurants, all with colorful neon signs.

Interior of “Tony’s Bar”.

Hallway or corridor inside the married son’s apartment.

Row of colored towels hanging over the railing of the large, modern apartment house where the married son has his apartment.

View of the son’s young and pretty wife inside the apartment, beating a large, colorful bath towel.

Driving range on the roof of the large, modern office building: Ryu’s son and fellow office workers driving balls at white canvas practice targets that may or may not be slowly and stiffly sailing in clouds and in breezes, as if on a clothesline.

Sounds of passing train whistles heard from the roof of the office building and at other times in other places signaling the same or different emotions for different characters and for the viewer.

Shift of viewpoint from office to bar to interior of home to interior or exterior of apartment house to factory to bar etc. etc.. Or from wide to narrow, exterior to interior, day to night and, of course, the same shifts in reverse.



What else?

Monica would love to have counted the exact number of repetitions of each repeated framing shot or location.

Exactly how many scenes take place in the interior of “Tony’s Bar”, for example?

These are some of the Tony’s Bar scenes that come to mind:

a. Genteel, widowed, peculiarly philosophical and contemplative industrialist or executive Chishu Ryu, sitting on a bar stool and drinking at the bar in “Tony’s Bar” with one, two or three of his old comrades, observes that the proprietor, an attractive younger woman, reminds him of his wife, but Monica doesn’t remember if anything is made of the probability that it’s the emotion attached to this resemblance that draws Ryu to “Tony’s Bar” rather than any of hundreds of other, similar bars with their neon signs lining the alleys, passages and side streets of this district.

b. One of Chishu Ryu’s friends (the tall and dapper professor married to a woman no more than three years older than his own daughter?) has rediscovered (by chance or because he set out to find him?) one of the little group of old friends’ former teachers, a thickset man with a wide head and brushy crewcut, nicknamed “The Gourd”.

A long, boisterous evening of dining and drinking.

The old man — the former teacher, The Gourd — gets drunk. Storytelling and reminiscing. The Gourd’s life has changed for the worse: he now lives alone with his miserable, unmarried daughter. His life is impoverished and bitter, while his students have become prosperous businessmen and professionals. A great deal of warm sake and cold beer are consumed: little sake cups and tall glasses of beer are lifted with groans of satisfaction. The old man’s gratitude mixed with unhappiness and drunken confessions. An extraordinary moment of satisfied lip-smacking: The Gourd has never tasted eel — “eel from the sea” — before. He marvels at it and keeps bringing morsels of the dark, barbecued flesh to his mouth with much lip-smacking and many groans of pleasure. The alternate title of the film is said to be “The Taste of Mackerel Pike”, so Monica assumes the little dishes of food The Gourd and the group of middle-aged comrades and former schoolmates keep dipping their chopsticks into between drinks offer more than sea eel.

c. Is it in “Tony’s Bar” while drinking with one of his friends or when one of his friends drops in to chat with him in his office that Ryu gets this advice: though it will be painful to be left alone when he forces himself to find a husband for his daughter, it will be far worse if he asks her (or simply allows her) not to marry and to continue living out her life with him as a caretaker and companion. She’ll become bitter, he’s warned. “You’ll be exactly like our old teacher: worse than alone because you’re reminded every day of your selfishness by your daughter’s misery.”



This too: only later (“now”?) Monica thinks of another set of fixed and repeated shots that signal repeated actions: when a Western-style door is closed or a screen slides shut a conversation between father and daughter, occasionally between father and son, always follows.

And this: Ryu’s house is at the top of a hill and there are repeated shots of Ryu slowly ascending the hill toward home; views of the city from the hill; and views of Ryu arriving home and entering, followed by the repeated, fixed, low-angle shot of a door frame opening onto a passageway within the house framing the movement of figures this way or that.



What troubles Monica most, as always with art of this subtlety and magnitude: the impossibility of finding ways to isolate and suggest to others the essence of Ozu’s art, what again and again gives her as much pleasure as the taste of sea eel or “mackerel pike” gives to The Gourd.

Monica knows that it isn’t exactly this, or is this but so much more than this that to say it all would be the same as making Ozu’s films again, but for the moment she can get no further under the skin of her thinking than this: at the heart of Ozu’s aesthetic and her pleasure is a tranquil, harmonious tension: between the coolness and formal rigor of the scene-by-scene framing, repetition and composition and the warmth, humor and occasional, profound melancholy of the domestic narratives that are never melodramatic or quotidian, but intimate and eternal.

Another way: she loves Ozu’s abstraction made human and daily life made abstract. Coolness or warmth added or reduced exactly opposite to the way they’d be reduced or added in ordinary, unimaginative story-telling.


*




While walking in the neighborhood Monica runs into Pam Leary (on what avenue and near what cross-street not noted) and Pam makes it her business to stop for as long as it takes to tell Monica the tiniest particle of a story that may not have any more complete and coherent story that contains it. Leads into her tiny partial story by saying meaningfully that it looks as if she won’t be visiting Nora Salerno any time soon. Most people never see it — even Monica may not see it — because Nora is so nice that all you can see is her niceness and so sweet that all you can feel is her sweetness — but Nora is very vain. Her vanity’s well hidden by the sweetness and niceness, but it’s the reason no one’s going to see her. The fact is that she’s been in terrible pain for a long time, but endured it because she dreaded having major dental work done. Now she has no choice and she’s about to do it. All her bottom front teeth have fallen out from neglect and there’s no getting around the fact that she’s going to be a hideous mess for a long time. She doesn’t want anyone to know (swore her (Pam) to secrecy in fact!) and intends to hibernate and not show her face until the ugliness wears off somehow.

What else? Nothing else. Or Monica loses interest and doesn’t record anything else.



Same day or another: Nelly X passes the porch where Monica’s working with little Jimmy X and Jojo Coffin and makes a hole in whatever mini-narrative Monica is in the middle of by stopping to explain that she and Jimmy are walking Jojo home. But, as soon as Jojo skips off up the short flight of stairs next door, Nelly X comes closer, looking every which way, so she can whisper a secret Monica absolutely can’t repeat to anyone. She and Bill are moving to Australia! Of course Chloris will go with them (if anything, it should be easier for Chloris to get a job in a nursing home than for Bill to get a job in a university). The most important thing is that no one can know their plans! Why is that? She wants Monica to take a second to think about it! Think about the economy! Think about how many people are unemployed right now. If all those unemployed people ever got wind of their plan there’d be a mass emigration, a stampede — a real Exodus — and the competition for jobs over there would make it pointless to go.

Nelly X pauses for breath, but she’s not done. She’s sure the move will be good for all the X’s: not just Chloris, but for Leila too! Think about the vast population, therefore the incredible number of available men down there! Doesn’t Monica agree? Doesn’t she think that having an endless choice of men would solve Leila’s perpetual man problem? Wouldn’t it be great to finally get her away from Jose and Kim and whatever other dead-end relationships she’s been stuck in for half her life? So can’t Monica picture exactly the same way she’s picturing the whole X family already settled and happy there?

Nelly X pauses for a long time, as if taking a long journey over her own horizon and several other horizons, all the while standing there smiling with a vague happiness that resembles a vague unhappiness, as if unaware she isn’t speaking. And when she’s finished circling her own and all other possible horizons she returns armed with a fresh argument.

Does Monica know that the common cold (an incurable epidemic here!) never reached Australia?! No one in Australia has ever gotten a cold! So they won’t just be happy and employed — they’ll all be healthy too!

The hard part is waiting. Too much time on your hands. Life is boring when all you can do is wait for something to happen and you have nothing important to do. So right now she’s thinking of going back to teaching, even though she knows for a fact that there are no teaching jobs available.

There’s this too: everything really depends on Bill. All her plans would change if Bill actually got his grant.

Nelly X speaks vaguely, as always: pauses, swallowed words, sentences broken or trailing off because another zone of her brain’s spotted the thing it was searching for six weeks ago and drifted toward it, dragging along the zone of the brain that’s talking, all within a ground mist always hanging in its hollows.

For example: Monica has no idea what Nelly’s trying to express when she says that her life will change because she’ll “have more to do” if Bill does get the grant or if Bill doesn’t get the grant. At different times or possibly even in the same sentence she seems to be longing for contradictory outcomes. “If he doesn’t get the grant he’ll have to go back to driving a cab, so. . . .” And/or “If he finally gets his stupid grant he’ll get lost in his stupid research, so. . . .”

No way to know, as usual, what Nelly X means: has nothing to do and mind is melting with boredom and that condition will get worse if Bill does or doesn’t finally get his grant.

What else?

Nelly X says that she’s not the only one with too much time on her hands. Jimmy needs to move to Australia more than anyone. So bored that he’s always in trouble and knowing how much worse it can get keeps her from sleeping.

Makes Jimmy turn around so Monica can look at the stripe shaved into the long blond hair at the back of his head. All she knows for sure, Nelly says, is that Jimmy was playing on the beach and ended up with the back of his skull split open and needing stitches. She says that Jimmy says that he was playing some sort of war game with his friends and digging trenches, but she’s not so sure he has any friends so in her mind it’s possible that he was alone and playing some sort of fantasy combat game on his own and somehow gave himself the injury as his own enemy. Monica can ask him right now if she wants to and let’s see if she thinks he’s telling the truth!

Nelly can tell that Monica has no interest in questioning Jimmy so she gives an alternate version of her story. Maybe Jimmy didn’t injure himself. When he came home with blood dripping down his neck she sent Bill to see if he could figure out what happened. He found the “trench” (a deep hole about the length and depth of a grave) and a beer can packed with sand at the bottom of it. There was some blood on the can so Bill thinks someone put it together as a weapon and hurled it at Jimmy’s head. May have been some sort of combat, but not a game and not with “friends”. . . .



All on the same late May day? (no other date noted): after Nelly and Jimmy X retreat toward Coast Boulevard Pat Corcoran pops out her front porch door (southernmost corner, facing west) just to tell Monica (after hiding behind the wide slats of the old wooden venetians in her dark front parlor and straining to piece together Nelly X’s whispered, rambling secrets) that their little summer bungalow down on IB street was vandalized! It’s John’s own fault! Warned him that he couldn’t let the winter go by without showing his face down there. So, no surprise, god-alone-knows-how-many kids have been squatting and partying there — drinking all their booze, blasting loud music, dancing, probably screwing on their mattresses, using up all their canned goods, busting stuff, writing on the walls. . . . Makes her skin crawl. So now John’s got what he deserves. Gotta get off his ass and scrub that mess or he knows that he’ll be spending the summer there alone. . . !

Pregnant Lily Romero and another pregnant woman (Monica thinks she recognizes an old friend or old highschool classmate of Wanda Baer’s who may or may not be named Melora, Melinda or Nerissa) pulling shopping carts fully-loaded and heavy with supermarket bags and wondering aloud together how hard — how impossible — it’s going to be walking home all the way from the market on AAD Street or is it AAE Street? with their piled-up shopping carts and their baby carriages. . . . How do they do it? one of them says. All those young mothers. . . . . They don’t seem to have any problem, the other one laughs: pushing or pulling two or three things — plus a heavy pocketbook or tote bag over their shoulder. . . !

Pregnant at the same time, starkly white-blonde and oddly beautiful Lily Romero and Nerissa, Melinda or Melora (no description noted) can often be seen taking walks together while having fun planning, speculating, laughing and grumbling about how their lives are going to change before they know it.



There’s Matthew Regan again, this time riding his little bicycle while drinking from a plastic bottle almost exactly the same shade of yellow as his hair. How many seconds or minutes later not noted Fionnuala Regan follows on her bicycle (headed south, toward the boardwalk?), her blonde hair looking orange, almost red, because Monica’s been looking at and thinking about the yellow of little Matthew Regan’s hair without finding any exact analogy for it in nature — far milder and softer than lemon, banana, pineapple, a little like the palest yellow skin of one or another variety of “golden” apple, but not exactly that either.



“Themis” (sometimes (where and why?) called “Spylianos”), together with an unfamiliar thirtysomething Cornucopia Diner waitress in uniform and with dry masses of carbon-black hair, is crossing the porch — first with his tv, then his stereo. Pauses to tell Monica (cryptically) that even though it’s summer or near-summer and he hates to leave this beach-front neighborhood he has no choice: he has to move to Canarsie. Doesn’t Monica agree that it’s a cliché but it’s true (a cliché because it’s true or it’s just that everything possible to say’s already been said whether true or not so everything’s a cliché and there’s no point to saying anything?) that sometimes “we have to do what we have to do”? Doesn’t wait for an answer and leaves his story-fragment unfinished and his actions unexplained.

*




At 2 a.m. Monica’s bedroom (her “red studio” where there’s a mattress on the floor) feels airless: she opens the two south-facing casement windows looking straight out at the baked and layered red clay half-pipe shapes of the tiles of Greg and Lena Coffin’s roof, down at the cracked and stained white stucco of their side wall and all the way down into the weedy, half-paved driveway between the two massive multiple dwellings.

Deep darkness at 2 a.m. (darkness inside darkness so that, as the eyes adjust to waking up in darkness and darkness dissolves, eyes still see nothing but darkness) seems related in some way to the heat and stillness that make Monica open the windows.

At 5:30 a.m. the birds that get up early as if they have a job to do that really does help the sun come up are so close and noisy they seem to be in the room with Monica. Bird songs and songs broken into chatter inside the room’s thinning darkness (darkness that no longer has a dark core to it, so that the eyes begin to have the illusion of seeing through to something else).

Night ends with birds settling down into their ordinary, daily job: to scatter, singing and chattering across the entire dome of space, as if distributing bits of something that every now and then clusters into a string as coherent as a sentence, but mainly stays unstuck and flung apart: the busted, undesigned design that ends up feeling inevitable.

Darkness, charcoal grey and watery, can almost be called light when Monica jumps up chilled (at 8 a.m.) and closes the windows.



At 9:15 a.m. on May 25 Monica looks out one of her front (west-facing) green room dormer windows and, under grey skies, sees an ambulance lettered “TUFARO’S NORTH SHORE AMBULANCE AND OXYGEN SERVICE” parked in front of Enos and Sylvia Greengrass’s dark little brick fortress.

The ambulance driver and attendants (two or more than two not noted) in dark and lusterless, unsaturated blue uniforms are one by one permitted to pass through the always-locked black wrought iron gate and up the short flight of stairs, across the small porch and into the tight little fortress (ambulance driver pulling a dolly).

After that all movement flows out of the house and down the stairs:

A peculiarly long, iridescent green oxygen tank on wheels.

Second oxygen tank (no color noted, but not green or iridescent, length not noted or whether or not on wheels).

Ordinary aluminum walker.

White metal headboard of a hospital bed.

Box spring.

Mattress.

Hospital bed on wheels being cranked closed with difficulty by one of the attendants in dark, lusterless blue as he’s wrestling it out onto the porch.

Various clamps and metal bed-parts tossed carelessly, with noise, onto the porch.

Wheelchair.

Extra clamps and metal parts for the wheelchair (also tossed carelessly etc.).

One object at a time carried or tossed out through the front door — not carried downstairs, but set down in a row on the porch. Only when bed, spring, mattress, wheelchair, headboard, etc. are lined up against the wall so Sylvia Greengrass can check that everything’s in order are the driver and attendants allowed to carry each piece of equipment one by one in single file down to the ambulance.

Equipment carried out, equipment carried down: one at a time with long intervals between each action.

The attendants and driver spend time trying to dis-assemble the bed etc. and something about the determined way they’re wrestling with stubborn clamps and screws makes Monica think that Enos Greengrass is dead and not just back in the hospital again.

Monica can hear the driver and attendants grumbling: hadn’t calculated on so much stuff and now they’re struggling to push and twist it into the ambulance.

As soon as they’re done and about to pull away Sylvia Greengrass pops out of her dark little brick and iron fortress, showered, changed and refreshed. Showering’s awakened something in her brain that would have stayed dozing and now she’s standing on the porch — small, puckered and aggressive, in vivid youthful turquoise jumper and fresh white blouse (Monica can see now how thin she’s become) — waving and shouting at the ambulance. Driver has to hit the brakes and back up in front of the house. Then driver and attendants stand paralyzed and cursing on the sidewalk trying to figure out how they can possibly take the load of stuff Sylvia’d forgotten to give them.



Monica’s notes say at different points in the same sentence “the other night” and “Saturday” and Monica isn’t sure if either of them refers to May 24.

Yvonne Wilding, back to the everyday, wearing ordinary street clothing (tight, faded jeans and loose t-shirt, not like the last quick glimpse Monica had of her through a half-open door, sitting at the edge of a hard wood chair in a handsome but slightly too-large white suit, pulling on new boots before her wedding to Al Szarka), turns right (east) at the intersection of ABB Street and Coast Boulevard, in no hurry, ambling in a tired, slouching way in the direction of AAF Street (one of the neighborhood’s two shopping streets), carrying a red cake box tied with white ribbon, as if on the way to a child’s birthday party and already bored and miserable.



Not noted whether on May 25 or (less likely) May 24 Monica is looking at what or for what, at first through her badly-made roll-up bamboo blinds, then still looking at or for the same thing by lifting the blinds (cheap drawstring and pulley already busted?). Unintended effect of lifting the bamboo blinds is to let harsh daylight fall on the green walls whose green is something like the bright and living interior green of an avocado, but which, in the acid of this daylight, look worn-out and ugly. Even the beautifully looping, tangled lines of the green plants on her desk/breakfast table look ugly against the shabbiness of the half-rolled blinds and the exposed, peeling frames of the ancient casement windows. (Monica notes reluctantly how fragile the charm and beauty in life are and how little it takes to scrape through to what’s ugly and immortal.)

*




May ’76 notes being typed in January ’77 chronicle events in May and events in January.

In May (from what location, what angle, etc.?) Monica notes a puddle of water colored olive green from end to end with the reflection of an old green bedsheet on someone's clothesline. Green puddle itself is clearly visible to Monica in the driveway between two houses (between Sloths’ and Greengrasses’? Regans’ and Arlington sisters’?), but it’s impossible to say what exactly the puddle is looking at. Olive green sheet that completely fills the puddle’s curious gaze could be on a clothesline to the south, to the north or even further west. (Monica discovers “later” (exactly when?), and from what different location and/or angle, that while the puddle has eyes only for the olive green bedsheet the rest of the clothesline is filled with deep-dyed indigo (jeans, work shirts and so on).)

In January Monica’s notes can’t find much to talk about other than snow and ice. Snow on the ground too long and indistinguishable from ice — only a dash of color here and there from discarded Christmas decorations.

New snow on old snow, old snow on ice, and sun can’t melt new or old ice or snow in the icy air.

Let’s see: On January 13 Monica copies out her horoscope exactly as it appears in the January ’77 issue of Harper’s Bazaar: “You begin 1977 with outstanding good luck. On New Year’s Day money comes into your hands or you find an exceptional bargain. Weekend of the 1st-3rd will bring pleasant limelight: you’ll be in great demand. Most people are easily managed this month, but someone very dear to you could be extremely difficult on the 14th. Say and do nothing that could breed resentment. Otherwise you have good prospects end of month, particularly on the 28th. You could consider a new and better job. Important dates: 4th, 14th , 23rd.”



Same May date or another: Wally (Lenehans’ inquisitive and intelligent calico mutt (cinnamon patches on pure, flossy white fur of medium length)) is taking a break on Monica’s porch from his daily rounds. Monica has only a general idea what his daily rounds are: knows that he’s streetwise and has stopping-off points all over the neighborhood, but no way to know exactly how many porches he’s welcome to nap on, how many houses he has a bite to eat in along his zigzag, sniffing path through the neighborhood on his way to one or another bar on AAF Street or on Coast Boulevard just below (east of) AAF Street (between AAF Street, let’s say, and AAD or C Street) where the bartender expects Wally to jump up on a stool and get served a rare burger and a bowl of beer.

Monica always has a box of medium-size “Milkbone” dog biscuits waiting for Bah-Wah, but also for Wally, and he settles in to keep her company, stretched out or curled up and in no hurry to gnaw off corners and edges of the crunchy biscuit while Monica writes half-hidden behind the Rhinebeck pine. When he does get around to eating it seems to Wally that the pleasure he’s getting with his side-of-the-mouth, unhurried chewing has got to be the same as the pleasure Monica seems to be getting scratching horizontal lines of letters into flat or folded paper.



Monica’s notes say that, returning from AAF Street to ABC Street (apparently by way of Coast Boulevard), she sees and hears a nighthawk (the one she’s likely to come across here in New York is listed in field guides (David says) as a “Common Nighthawk”). Notes don’t say whether perched, in flight or circling, don’t describe feather patterns and complain about her inability to reproduce the complex sound, taking place quickly and only in the living instant: a nasal call underscored by odd, hollow drumming of wing-beats.

Somewhere along Coast Boulevard (within the green umbrella-shade of a long double row of full-leafed trees, therefore near the “Memorial” Circle between ABA and AT Streets?) Monica spots an exceptionally large grackle, feathers (it seems to her) even more iridescent, more profoundly plum-purple in their gleaming violet than usual, hopping crow-like through the green depths of a beautifully unmowed lawn.

A long green tunnel of leaves and green shadows of leaves filled with bird chatter starting let’s say on AAH or AAI Street empties out on ABC Street where (settling into a chair on the porch) Monica sees: