POSTSCRIPT or Life is a Hand Grenade
My story has a postscript, for an
itinerant’s tale is never completely told.
A couple of weeks before Christmas
1993, when the semester ended and she had turned in her last paper, Catherine
suddenly told me that she’d been having an affair with a fellow student for the
past several months. She wanted to end
our relationship. I’ve always been
fond of saying that life is like walking around with a live grenade in your
hand, waiting for it to blow up in your face at any moment. How many times I’ve said that so glibly!
The news was a complete shock to me
and my life broke into tiny pieces.
I’ve found it hard to write about my feelings of pain and loss for all
my words come out as cliches. It felt
as if someone had smashed me in the face with a hammer or if I had fallen
without warning off a high mountain with no one waiting at the bottom to catch
me. It felt as if a part of me
suddenly and irrevocably died with the end of that relationship. I felt terribly betrayed by the person I
loved most in my life. Perhaps the
worst part of it all was the fact that Catherine was presenting me with a
complete fait accompli.
There was nothing I could say or do
to mend our broken relationship. Strangely I found that I couldn’t care less
about sexual infidelity, about Victor, her lover, or about the lies that she
must have told me. The only thing that
I cared about was losing Catherine.
She was an exceptional woman who would certainly go on to do exceptional
things. There would always be plenty
of work for her in a world, which seemed to be blowing apart and more in
conflict than ever before. I was
heartbroken to think that I would not be at her side when she did her
Catherine was tearfully sorry, upset
and guilty but totally adamant. She
wanted out of our partnership. She
loved me but was not in love with me, wanted me for a best friend but not for a
The first couple of weeks were a
nightmare that I Couldn’t wake up from.
I went around with my pain and horror clutched tightly to me. For several days, I Couldn’t speak about it
to anyone for fear of making it real.
I stayed in bed with a bad cold and cried for days. It was hard to talk to Catherine at all but
she did say that she had felt that she and I had been going down different
paths for a long time now. She thought
that we would be happier apart. To me
it sounded like a massive rationale to justify her passion for another man, for
we had always been walking down different paths. Catherine was an intellectual and a social activist while I am
an artist who serves his own muse. One
of our strengths had always seemed to be our differences, for between us, I
thought that we managed to cover all the bases. At the same time, we had each always been the other’s greatest
fan. Our twenty-two year age
difference had never seemed to be a problem before but all these issues were
raised by Catherine. In the end, I
kept coming back to the fact that she was involved with another man and wanted
out of her relationship with me.
Perhaps she was a woman on a mission and in the end, I would only get in
I think that this was the worst time
of my life. Nobody had ever really
hurt me like this before and I had never imagined that Catherine would do this
to me. I had always loved her for her
kindness and honesty and she had never made me feel insecure or jealous for an
instant. But then she had only been
twenty-two when we had met six years before and was obviously still
growing. And people do change. Perhaps I was too old for her. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I
had clearly aged five years in those first two weeks.
It was too painful to stay in
Alexandria and to have any close dealings with Catherine and I decided to leave
town for awhile. I finished off my
last Smithsonian class in a complete daze, afraid that I was going to break
down in front of my students. I
canceled all the upcoming Lightshow gigs, which was really a pity because I'd
just started to get work through my on-line computer "Rave"
connections. The latest Fraudulent
Production, "Kaspar", fell through for lack of funding and I was
suddenly completely free. I called
Jeffrey and Simma in California and told them what had happened. They invited me to come and stay with them
for as long as I wanted. My Bali
friends, Cliff and Jocelyn were in Berkeley too and I knew that I would not
lack places to stay.
So once again I was in transit. I packed everything that I could think of
for survival of the species into two bags.
It was if I was loading up a raft to leave a sinking ship, I
realized. I was embarking on a new life
and a new adventure and I wanted to be able to get by wherever I landed. I packed as if I wouldn’t be coming back to
Alexandria but could go with any option that presented itself to me. Just before Christmas, I flew to San
Francisco. I was fast asleep before my
take-off from National Airport and only woke up to land in Chicago, where I had
to change planes. Feeling very
unhappy and confused, I caught the Marin Airporter bus and was picked up by
Simma in Mill Valley.
Simma and Jeffrey have picked me up
off the floor on several occasions now, I realize and I hope that I never have
to do the same for them. As always,
they were absolutely fabulous and told me to make their living room my
own. I’ve never much liked the
suburban world of Marin County with its lack of focus, its endless motorway
commuting and its Malls. But that
suburban living room with its open-up sofa and nightly television sports was a
haven for six weeks. I was able to
use my Internet account and software to go back on line in Novato and to stay
in touch with all my computer friends which was great. In fact a computer seemed to be the only
constant in my life at that point.
My old friend Jeffrey had never seemed to be in a better or mellower
head and I think that we spent our very best time together ever. I even signed on to do volunteer work in a
nearby Sunday food kitchen, which I loved to do. There but for the grace... was always the message. Sometimes it has seemed that all that has
lain between complete disaster, the bread line and myself have been my good
I took long bus and train rides back and forth between Marin
County and Berkeley, changing living rooms whenever one became too
claustrophobic. Being around
Philippine Jocelyn, English Cliff and their very volatile relationship served
to distract me from my own problems. I
soon realized that far from being helped in my personal problems, I was helping
that pair stay together. They
obviously did better when someone else was around, perhaps to help
communication between them or to act as a buffer when they started to
argue. Jocelyn and I took a few days
off and drove down to Los Angeles on a jewelry-selling jaunt. It was good fun, we saw some old friends
and managed to leave town the day before an earthquake wrecked the area we’d
driven through. Maybe the Powers that
Be were still keeping an eye on me.
in Berkeley, we all went to the Cool World Rave where we set up a booth and
sold jewelry. It was a long night, the
lightshows were very Sixties retro and I wished that I'd been able to perform
with the Retinal Blowjob. Maybe I
should have it shipped to San Francisco?
But it was already getting to be time to move on. Bruce’s older sister Lynne and her family
invited me to come and stay with them in Colorado and I decided to pay them a
Lynne had been trying to get me to
come to Crested Butte for fifteen years and I knew that if I didn’t go there
this time, I probably never would. I
had other friends there too.
Coincidentally, Betsy, our friend from Bali, lived there with her new
husband Aron. I bought a round trip
ticket to Gunnison and soon found myself high in the Rocky Mountains at ten
thousand feet, just in time to celebrate my Fiftieth birthday at the end of
It's been a very pleasant visit to
Crested Butte and although I haven’t become a ski bum in my next incarnation, I
love the look of the high snow peaked mountains all around, the faithfully
preserved Victorian-styled houses and the land-that-time-forgot atmosphere of
this little town. I was immediately
conscripted to teach batik courses at the local school and even to give a
public batik slide show for the community.
I’ve been kept busy here for it would be hard to stay very idle around
such a dynamic and hardworking family as Lynne and Charlie’s. Between them, they seem to just about own
the town and are deeply involved in the local community. Their two sons have been a pleasure to be
around. It's very refreshing to meet teenagers
who like to spend time with adults.
I’ve been feeling better too. The passage of time seems to heal all or at
least numbs the pain. Catherine and I
have recently been in contact both by computer e-mail and by telephone. Although the situation hasn’t altered, our
relationship is very loving and friendly and we are talking again. She seems very confused when we talk and I
gather that things are not going very well with her lover. I’m not really surprised. I really believe that my omnipresent
instinct to pack up and take off when I’m under extreme stress is the best
thing that I could have done in these circumstances. I’m feeling much more solid and centered again and Catherine has
had time and space to check out her feelings.
I don’t really have any hopes of putting our relationship back together
again at this stage but I’m flying back to Virginia in a week and will no doubt
stay in Alexandria. I hope to be able
to have a satisfactory closure with Catherine and to be able to stay as a close
friend with her. You can never have
too many best friends.
This week I got a very early morning
collect call from my Indian friend Tara in Almora. Without telling him what had happened between Catherine and I, I
told him that I planned to go back to India in a month or so. I also wrote to Mukti asking her if I could
come to Binsar and work with her on her cottage industry project there. She is organizing carpet weaving amongst
the women in the villages of the India-Tibet Interzone region and plans on
selling the carpets throughout the world.
Perhaps I can be of use to her there and find new meaning in the world
of arts and crafts. I'm looking
forward to putting my creativity, energy and skills into some kind of service
or community-oriented work. Perhaps
this is what I’ve been wanting and waiting to do for so long. I guess I won't know until I try.
At the very least, traveling again
sounds like the best way to mend a broken heart and Asia can certainly be a
distraction. Ever since we first went
to Kasar Devi in Northern India, I’ve had a vision of those snow peaks in my
head. Its about time to go back there
to look for whatever it is that I’m looking for. I can hardly wait, truth be told.