After I got back from my field work in Africa I guess Kathleen and I must have met up again. Probably we went out for a few beers at The Stabilizer, a grad student hangout, because that's where everybody went. But again I don't recall much about that, and my diaries from the time are pretty vague.
Kathleen owned her own home, a small place in Lafayette, across the river from West Lafayette, probably about five miles from the campus. Her home-ownership marked her as a real grownup. Unlike Kathleen, all of my other friends were grad students who roomed together in cramped quarters, typically doing things like renting a house for 3 people and cramming six people into it. I myself had a room in a house that I rented with Ed and Chris, but MaryBeth and Murray also lived there. Other grad student friends had similar arrangements.
Kathleen was removed from all that. I don't remember whether she had been to college, but she was not of the grad student mindset. She travelled a lot, and had just come back from her third trip to Russia. Traveling to Russia in 1978, long before the Berlin Wall came down, was a pretty exotic thing to do, especially for a girl from small-town Indiana. Things really were different back in those days.
She owned a car. I didn't have a car and didn't want one. (This fact played into another Kathleen story, already here related.) Anyway, having only recently gotten back from years in Africa, I was pretty used to walking, and I didn't like many accoutrements of the modern world. For a long time I didn't have a telephone. I liked being by myself and I liked walking. These things are still true about me, actually.
So anyway I ended up at Kathleen's house. We talked until two in the morning or so, and then I walked home. And then another time a few days later, presumably after going out for drinks, we ended up at her house again, and again we talked until late, and then again I walked home.
Now, I did more or less have a girlfriend at the time. Her name was Mary, and she lived in Brooklyn, New York. While I was in Africa, Mary was in Brooklyn. While I was in Indiana, she was in Brooklyn. And so on. So we were not physically connected very often, but still she was my main girlfriend, and we saw each other whenever we could. When I spoke to her on the phone and told her I missed her, she would say things like, "Well, are you getting laid, at least?" And I would say, "Well, sometimes, you know. Not so much," or whatever, and Mary would say, "Well go get laid for Christ's sake, you're making yourself crazy."
On the third night that I ended up at Kathleen's house, we were talking about music. She was telling me about Martin Mull, whom I did not know, and I was telling her about Tom Waits, whom she had never heard. So I kind of sang/recited a Tom Waits piece, maybe the one about "The Piano has been Drinking" or similar. Martin Mull is kind of a novelty/comedian style songwriter. So, Kathleen put on one of his albums, and as we were listening to it, she kind of dozed off. Then Mull sang a song about reincarnation called "We made love in a former life, we can't we make love now?" As I was looking at Kathleen, asleep in a reclining chair, like a Lazy Boy or something, her eyes opened. I said to her, "We made love in a former life. Shall we make love now?" She literally shook her head, as if she couldn't trust her ears. "What?" She said. I said, "Shall we make love?" and she said, "Why yes, of course." You see, I think she had come to the conclusion that I was gay.
So I went over and lifted her out of her chair and carried her into her bedroom. It was autumn. Let's say, early November. The heat was on, and her room was toasty warm. I placed her on the bed and presumably we began with the preliminaries. Then she stood up, and removed her clothes, and I remember being awestruck when she removed her bra, because although her breasts were largish, removing the underwear did not change their disposition. They did not move; the bra was there for decoration only. This is a guy thing, of course, this breast fixation. I won't dwell on it because it's so boring, and probably especially so to our female readers, but I am a guy, and I do have it, so I'll mention it, because it was such a memorable thing for me. I was amazed at Kathleen's nonchanlantness in the presence of her perfect breasts. I was literally surprised that she was not surprised at how perfectly shaped she was. At this point in my life I was not, according to my criteria, especially experienced with women, but neither was I inexperienced with women. Kathleen was probably about the tenth woman I had been with. Certainly she was pretty, but not the prettiest woman with whom I had ever been naked (that would have been Mary). But the breasts were some kind of mistake: I didn't think I was supposed to be there. I thought only James Bond got to be with women shaped like that.
So anyway we fucked, and that was great fun, in the warm room, almost too warm, like a womb or something. And then the next extraordinary thing happened. Kathleen got up and walked over to a little spinet piano at the wall at the foot of her bed, and still naked as naked can be, she sat on her bench and played for me a Chopin Polonaise.
She turned at me and smiled and asked what I thought of that, and I have no idea what I may have responded. Perhaps I complimented her playing, but more probably I drooled.
Now, you guys in the audience, just think on that scenario, if you will. (You chicks can think on whatever you want. I'm talking to the fellas.) You guys just imagine yourself laying naked on the bed of a pretty woman with whom you have just had sex for the first time, a woman, moreover, who has the breasts of a James Bond girl, and now this naked woman, whose back and backside you are now contemplating, is playing for you, in a tiny house in an unremarkable neighborhood of an industrial town in Indiana, on a spinet piano in a toasty warm bedroom on a fall night, about two AM, a Chopin Polonaise. You see what I'm saying? You are not even dead, and yet you have tasted paradise.
Kathleen came back to bed and looked at me and said, "what, again?" and I said something like, "Are you kidding? I have not yet begun to fuck!" And so of course again, and after each of our goes, she played the piano. I shall never be able to explain that bodily sensation. I expect that heroin or morphine produces an effect something like this. But not so dreamy, certainly. So we fucked (with musical intermissions) until the sun came up. And then she made a pot of coffee, and I drank a few cups, and then I walked home, and thence to school.
I went to my classes. And after my classes I went over to the Memorial Union, where they have a coffee shop, to get another cup of coffee, for I was pretty groggy. And as I was getting my coffee, there was a kid there filling one of those racks where they put out free newspapers, those nationally syndicated rags that they clutter up campuses with. And so I picked up one of these free papers. And who was on the cover?
Tom Waits and Martin Mull, with their arms around each others' shoulders, smiling at the camera, smiling at me, that's who. And it was immediately clear that the universe was signalling its approval of that night of exquisite fucking, the likes of which I've seldom known.
During my time at Purdue (and in prior years too) I experienced many similar cosmic winks from the universe. In my experience, such winks seem to come in bunches that last for months or years, kind of like cosmic sunspots. For me and Kathleen, that hi-sign from the cosmic whatever was the first of several.
I believe in that kind of stuff. I believe that coincidence waves, kosmic karma waves, pass through us and our environs all the time, like TV or radio waves, but that most of the time we don't have our equipment turned to the right frequency to pick up the signals and so we're mostly picking up static, which we interpret as the chance noise and meaninglessness of the universe. Some of us, perhaps most of us, don't even have out equipment turned on at all. But I've been through periods -- October 73 to August 74; June/July 76, November 78, some random spots in 80's and 90's, and lately, 2006, where cosmic vibes have been or are doing something extraordinary. Every day was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. What they mean, or meant, I don't know. How they work, what the cosmic theory that explains it all is, I have no freekin clue. But do I believe in these kosmic waves? Yes, I do. Absolutely.
The sensation I got from that Martin Mull/Tom Waits winking cover reminds me of nothing so much as the fortune card that the Tom Hanks character gets from the fortune-telling machine in the movie "Big." You don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing that's about to go down next. Getting the fortune card is kind of fun but it's kind of scary. And all you know is that something much bigger than you is looking down and having a good laugh. And that you just had the most incredibly sensual experience of your life.
|< adventures in concert-going in berkeley | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >|