but I was intensely grateful. And I was more playful with her than I had
been with anyone. We had games, we had jokes, we had forms of glee.
I stayed with Lizzie for two years. I grew up with her. The thing was
over when she found out that her roommate, Dale, had beckoned me
into her room more than once, on certain afternoons. I had not taken
Dale that seriously, but I certainly hadn’t turned her away. Nor did I really think there was anything wrong with it (people did everything), but
I knew how Lizzie would think.
I had never paid rent, and I had enough money to buy a rattletrap car, a
once-white Volkswagen Beetle. I took off, and by not letting it overheat
on steep hills, I got myself to Vermont without stalling out once. I was
lonely for Lizzie and I sent her postcards—“Miss you, Babe” and “Wish
you were with me”—that she had no way to answer. I had never lived in
the country, but I somehow thought it would do me good—starry skies,
endless horizons—and I read a listing on a bulletin board in a supermarket for a cheap room to rent. The room was in a group house, so at least
I had people.
Everybody in the house had to work in the local food co-op—that
was how we got food for cheap—and I was okay about throwing potatoes
into bags or sweeping floors, but I was always late. The guy who was the
director said, “Assholes like you think you don’t have to do anything,”
and a woman named Eileen took pity on me. “He’s such a show-off,” she
said, “and you’re not.” Flirting with her got me the job of driving the
delivery truck—she was on a committee—and this turned into a semi-paying job when they needed more hours.
Did I like living in the country? I did in the summer and fall—Eileen
took me to the prettiest lake for swimming and to the mountain with
the reddest maples. She tended to be more needy and pesty than Lizzie
had ever been, but I didn’t care at first. Oh, I hated the winter. The house
was underheated for economy, and I walked around like a zombie in
long underwear and thick sweaters. And then we got robbed.
The whole house had gone off to a Christmas shindig for the co-op.
When we got home the door was swinging open, and behind it sofa
cushions were thrown on the floor. In our rooms, drawers were yanked
out of dressers. We weren’t a very affluent group, but they’d ripped a
stereo out of the wall, and Eileen lost a pearl necklace from her mother.
Something violent had stormed through the house—they had moved
with speed and roughness, spilling and wrenching and dumping.