Friday, November 16, 2007

The Epistle of Adam, v. 1

I'm quite sure I've told you about him, the lank boy from Santa Cruz who wore a fly-fisherman's hat and oversized oxford cloth shirts, as he slothed about campus. Wooden, implacable, sensual, withholding, and impossibly bright, he would positively hate that I am reprinting any of his words here. If I didn't trespass against him, this would never see the light of day. Maybe that would be better.

Here's a letter, written when Adam was maybe less than twenty:


I'm sure I never told you about my one attempt to speak to Robert Kim. Perhaps you remember Robert -- Korean, moon-faced, obscure--but you may not know that he was my near neighbor for several years. I never saw him at home, and never spoke to him at school, but we both knew of our proximity. During my sophomore year, before you and I met, I suffered periods of despair and panic; I lost my reason and my calm. During these attacks I would cast round wildly for relief, believing at times that remedy lay in drugs, sleep, exercise, meditation, study, art, or philosophy. Once, while afflicted, I was sure that Robert Kim was a sage of sorts, wise in the Oriental tradition, and that he could ease my turmoil and teach me the way to peace. I do not exaggerate. I remember imagining his vast greasy face with an expression of composed bliss, one finger raised as he spoke: "The key to happiness is organization." That maxim was all I could hear in my reveries, but he delivered it as an earnest of more to come, if I would only hearken. I have said that my reason, and my shame, deserted me at those times, so I saw no absurdity in the idea: I was to find Robert Kim and beg his tutelage. That organization was the key to happiness made sense, and I knew that his room would be organized. I walked down the street to his door and knocked, without preparing myself for an introduction or rehearsing any explanation for my sudden visit. His mother answered the door, and I asked for Robert. He was not at home, so I left, and gave up the whole business immediately as rank folly and idiocy. What if he had been there? What if I had gone to his room--I imagined it as upstairs--and tried to tell him why I had come? What if a classmate whom you did not know came to your door, told you he was abject and hopeless, and asked for your teachings? I was quite addled in those days, and many knew it. For example, I had two acquaitances (sic), John and Bobby, whose surnames I can't remember. You would recognize them: John used to stride across the front lawns at lunchtime wearing headphones, and Bobby rode a large motorcycle to school. They didn't look much alike, except for their short hair, but one day I confused them and called John Bobby, and thereafter I could never get it right. If one approached I would get giddy, and loudly hail him with the wrong name, and laugh foolishly. There was no malice behind it, and I was red-faced each time, but I couldn't help myself. For a while they corrected me glumly, then they stopped acknowledging me. And I was friendly with a girl named Cayenne, who had a small yurt dome in her back yard where she held parties. One night, after a party, I was walking home up the Laurent hill when the sky turned white and I watched a fiery meteor fall into the bay. I may have mentioned that before now.
I have never told the Robert Kim story, and I can't decide whether my condition today owes more to the meteor or to Robert. I have told almost everybody I know about the meteor, though no one really believes it. I have never told anyone about Robert, and Robert himself probably doesn't know.
Thank you for sending the list of lines from songs. The first eight were easy, but then I began to falter, and ended having named only forty percent of the songs. The Cyndi Lauper quote reminded me of of one more event, perhaps significant. You might have shared a class in our freshman year with a girl named Beth Z. She was small and blonde, very pretty, and remote, well outside our orbit. On hot days she wore bathing suits to her classes. One Saturday morning my stepfather and I drove to the Long's Drugstore at the corner of, what, River and Soquel. Does Soquel Avenue keep its name as it approaches Pacific? You know the place, next to what is now a Zanotto's market. Is it still a Zanotto's market? I will never be an historian. We parked far from the drugstore, near Erik's Cafe, and the car stops, the radio is playing the Lauper song, "Girls Just Wanna, etc." I looked across the wide parking lot to the opposite side, where the river runs and the park begins. A dyke, or a raised bank, follows the roadway there, and I saw a figure walking atop it. You might say, because of the great distance, that I "barely descried" a figure: a blur, a flash, a mote--that sort of sight. In an instant, however, the facts flooded me, and the scene resolved itself as if seen through powerful magnification lenses. The figure was Beth Z., she was returning home from a night spent at a guy's house where she had been ravaged, and her stride was in the song's time, and all of it stung me like a just reproof. Whoa, was I indolent and slothful and halt. Girls just wanna, even Beth Z., especially Beth Z., and the years ahead would be full of dark hours and rent garments and bloodied noses, and shouting and glaring lights and beer. Quite an epiphany, in a moment.

1 comment:

steve said...

Someone told me a long time ago that "All girls wanna...some jus' don't know it yet"...
this Adam, I still say he stepped right out of "Northern Exposure"...