“A man of letters is the enemy of the world.”
— Charles Baudelaire
Wendt stared at the ember of his cigarette and then up and across the thicket of masts and antennas at the fog bank blocking his view of the Rock. It was big and gray, a lot like what was resting between his ears at the moment, a big mass of humid air that obscured all. In decades of living in the city he had never been in a motel room on Fisherman’s Wharf, let alone one with a balcony. The rough cold breeze off the bay pressed his shirt against his chest. The chill made his eyes water. His nose suffered the numb isolation of an extremity.
He could never be a teacher. At his age? Deny something and its potential truth emerges. It was the power of negativity. The seed planted.
He replayed a memory of part of Kathleen’s. . .Mac’s monologue that at times had sounded too well rehearsed and part of her personal myth, something she trotted out to draw herself for a new acquaintance, probably with a variation for guys, and one for women. At other times it was as if she had just uncovered something about herself that she never knew or had just found the words to express, a confession of hesitant innocence. She’d offered to buy him a pack of smokes as well, but he’d declined, claiming that he was trying to quit which was the truth, he just hadn’t been very successful.
In the cab over she explained that she had been taking a creative writing class at the community college in the hills. He had not understood where that was and she had to explain that it was in the hills overlooking San Leandro and Hayward and Fremont, in the East Bay. Chabot. That was the name of the college. Wendt had heard of it but didn’t really know where it was. Ditto for the other places she had mentioned. She was proud of the fact that she had taken the same class for over five years, and not just for credit any more. Borden Colm had been her creative writing teacher for all that time. She was fond of him, disappointed when he didn’t return from his camping trip in the Sierras last fall. He’d been despondent over the break-up with his long time partner. Everyone said.
Wendt knew Borden, or of him. He’d been in the same room with him at a party in a Berkeley of so many years ago. They’d never been introduced. What Wendt knew of him and his group was that they worshiped Charles Olson. Who was someone that Colm insisted that his students read, Mac explained. She admitted that she didn’t get Olson right away. Or all the time. And now the woman who replaced Colm, Saundra Pruitt, preferred a little known Argentinean woman poet whose name she couldn’t remember, and had said as much, that Olson was not worth their time.
Wendt knew Sandy Pruitt and said nothing. But Pruitt, according to Mac, was only there temporarily because she was applying to some doctoral program in Boston. Maybe Wendt should apply for the job, he was a well-known poet after all, and Mac was positive that he’d be a great teacher.
She had pressed her body up against his in the back seat of the cab and if Wendt hadn’t had the idea before, he got it quickly. As did little Carl. She’d laughed, a chortle actually, as she sensed or felt the effect of her closeness, the satin of her dress making a sound, an almost metallic sound, and shifted again into a position that put her more or less in his lap. By then they were at the motel.
She was married. No kids. Her husband was an assistant service manager for a big dealership in Fremont. She had her own business, hosting intimate apparel parties and selling a line of boutique lingerie and accessories, all very high-end and not in the least bit slutty, in her opinion, like the Fredericks line. She found poetry, the company of poets, stimulating, so intellectual. Their ideas left her head spinning for days. She went to all the big readings though she had missed his, when was that, three years ago, at State? She’d ticked off the names of the poets she was acquainted with, including some newly familiar to him, Ian Blake and Morgan Tilson, both deceased, and names he knew, Leon Rebut, Oscar Cleve, also recently passed, and of course, Larry, still very much alive and kicking. She had introduced herself to St Charles after the reading but a pushy Doris Day bitch she at first thought was a transvestite had cut in just as she had started up a conversation with him.
She’d found the keycard in her voluminous purse and slid it in the slot, pausing to look over her shoulder at him, teasingly, as she pushed open the door.
Wendt knew the type. Early forties maybe, the second awakening, this time to the vast potential of sensuality. Fearless in their headlong determination not to appear weak or indecisive. He was respectful, but wary.
He flicked his cigarette away and watched it bounce on the cement sidewalk below, a feeble ember separating itself from the butt and extinguishing. The room went dark and what little light that had escaped onto the balcony was no longer there. He would have been completely in the dark had it not been for the bath of orange light from the parking lot standards illuminating and reflected on the rooftops of the neatly angled row of dark cars. He couldn’t immediately find the handle to slide the door open into the room.
Inside was pitch black. He peered over to where he knew there was a bed and tried to discern a shape, a shape languorously awaiting him. He began to unbutton his shirt. The noise was behind him. Before he could react he was propelled by a fairly powerful shove onto the bed. She straddled and pinned him to the mattress. Briefly he panicked, a taste of adrenaline biting his tongue. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the vague light coming in through the sheer drapes and the seam of florescent white from the partially closed bathroom door, he caught the merriment and mischief in her expression, a smile that could almost be called ferocious. She reached behind her back and then leaned forward to release the twins.
Ah, Wendt mused, the mountains have come to the Poet.
End of DAY
Next Time (3/6/15): Part 1 of an interview with the author, and the beginning of WEEK, in which Wendt checks his email and heads over to the Mission district for lunch with his editor at the weekly. A pdf of the complete DAY will also be available from the Contents page.