Hand to Mouth

August 1, 2017 § Leave a comment

I work in Hingham, stocking shelves at Marshalls, seven to three five days a week, for $2.50 an hour. I come home to eat, sleep, bathe, stone out, and buckle down to writing a screenplay for Alice Peterson, the mysterious poster of “Scriptwriter Wanted” on the notice board at Harvard. Chill. No worries.

Two weeks later Bus #3 conks out. No bus, no job. It takes a week to stumble on a replacement (Number #4, same year, same paint) for $700—I’m scrambling to pay the rent. I reach out to brother Bill, who generously (if judgmentally) asks what it will take to see us though and sends $2,000 (of which to this day I still owe $1500). Thanks, Bill.

Otherwise, life’s not so bad. Autumn in New England is glorious. We buy used bikes and a baby seat from Building 19 and pedal up the penninsula to the lighthouse, Fort Revere, looking out to Boston across the cobalt bay; we cross the street from our house to splash and wade (too cold to swim), walk down the beach to Paragon Park. We meet our neighbors, conservative Jerry and Lynn Schwartz, and a hippie single mom whose son was named for Elton John’s “Daniel.”

One weekend we drive to Pittsfield to reconnect with Lenny and Judy Rosenfeldt. He’s in private practice, doing root canals for big bucks, entrenched for life. She’s had a breast reduction, but is still as cute as ever, with two kids. They drive us out into the hills for a picnic at a roadside table by a lake; we walk along abandoned railroad tracks. The trees are all brilliant yellow and red, the sky October blue; we linger ’til the sun sets, reminiscing, catching up. Except for their reciprocal visit in October, this is the last I know of them.

Meanwhile, it’s mid-October and I need a job. Bill’s loan won’t last forever; I’ll be broke by Christmas, so I scour the want ads and apply, to no avail. I’m always “overqualified” (too smart to earn a living). What’s this: “Entry level jogger/stacker to work day shift. South Shore Printing, North Scituate.” I drive eight miles down the coast for an interview with Stephen Morris, a young Yale grad, white collar, personnel, who aspires to be an author and wants encouragement.  I start next week, full time till Christmas.

Sandra, on the other hand, is homesick, tired of living hand to mouth, nothing to do, nowhere to go; tired of me (I’m tired of her), and Michael keeps imploring her to fly down for a visit (on his dime). He and Lynn have separated; he’s had other women but she’s special; he needs her. We fight about it, but I wonder why; it may be for the best. If open marriage leads to separation, let it be. Love is not a prison.  The day I get my first pay check, she flies off with my baby. Will she come back? (Is that what I want? My journal entry for the day she leaves begins: “What if you get to the point where you no longer believe it matters?” I think; therefore I am. What if I don’t think?

I write a four-word song and sing its infinite tonal and rhythmic variations as I walk the abandoned beach with Didi: “Thinkin’ nothin’, bein’ nobody.”

Two days with Mike and he breaks it off. It’s not like he remembers; that old feeling isn’t there. He drives her to Pleasant Garden, where she remains, in limbo. Each of us waits for the other to call, and when one of us does, we don’t have much to say. Weeks pass.



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