fell steadily on him, locked with his own bold glance, and it became a ritual, so arousing that sometimes he was afraid his excitement would become evident in the snaking crowd. Then he had an incredible piece of luck when Dr. Jarzman spoke at the supper at Half-Way House. A lot of outsiders were invited in as usual, and when Alfred stepped into the night and walked down the lamp-lit sidewalk, there was her familiar figure swinging along in solitude. It was like a play when she held the fresh cigarette uptilting in her hand and said, self-deprecatingly, with half-turned head, “I’m sorry. Would you have a match?” Her voice was big, and accented. It was what he would have called a cultured voice in her race. Her smile, more in her eyes than in her working mouth, was like the recognizing of a joke they wouldn’t talk about. It would not be putting it too strongly to say that as Alfred spoke, he said something like, This is living. “I’m Alfred Jacoby. I think I’ve seen you around the campus,” he said trippingly. She inclined her head, drawing on the cigarette. “Mr. Jacoby,” she said, then blowing out smoke and cutting her eyes at him, she said, “I’m Wanda Tippett.” “I’ve seen you at some of the InterCouncil Seminars,” she said, skipping the other. “Oh? This semester?” “Both semesters,” she said, smiling. It was like a game she was playing with him. “Well, we must have met then,” he said, his face clouding. “Inter-Council. Were you with the group from Gregg Center?” “That’s where I live.” He filed this and went on. He spoke very quickly always. “How’d you like Jarzman tonight?” “I liked him fine,” she said. “But,” she said, cocking her head, holding the cigarette aloft. “I don’t see how he can reconcile literal Christian interpretation with Frommian humanism.” WANDA seemed to be writhing on her bed. She was in her slip, and she turned around and looked out the window, propped on one elbow. The branches were just outside the window, and there was a mockingbird in the tree. “Burl called.” Merlene was at the mirror. Wanda said, “When’d he call?” “At noon, just before you come in. Didn’t you get the number?” “I got a number yesterday.” “He called you today.” There was a wait. “He said to call him before two. He has a lab all afternoon.” ‘He knows where I am.” Wanda turned, wall-eyed, from looking out the window. She saw skinny Merlene in tight immaculate clean pink shorts and a neat shirt. Marlene had a small face, very clean, very shiny, as if it were made of 4 The Texas Observer wood. Her eyes flashed, brilliant, saucy, liquid. “Where you goin’?” “Tommy’s comin’ by,” Merlene said. “What are you all goin’ to do?” Merlene was rubbing her lips with a piece of Kleenex. “Just drive around.” “Have fun, lovers.” Wanda turned over toward the window. “Shut up, mocking bird!” Burl found Wanda at home when he came by at 7:30. “Wanda!” said a girl downstairs. She called up the dark stairs. A single bulb shone on the landing where the stairs turned. It was quiet in the house after supper. Wanda came down without any make-up on, and with her hair pulled back slick. She was wearing a kind of canvas dress that was tight on her bust, and low sandals without any socks: She looked delicious, and sleepy. “Chemistry,” she mouthed to Burl. Burl was a tall boy. He wore a tan knit shirt that was tight on his chest and arms, and dark glasses. He moved very fast when he moved, but he didn’t move much. He wore a watch with a gold band. He took Wanda’s hand. “You gonna flunk your little twat,” he said softly. They walked out in the rich evening. They went down to the creek and Wanda sat on the grass and broke twigs and threw them in the water. Burl sat with his hands clasped together in front of his propped up knees, still wearing the dark glasses, and sang “I’ve Grpwn Accustomed to Your Splat,” and “Don’t Worry About Me.” “Your old man sell that Mercury?” he asked. “He gave it to Mama.” In a while Wanda sat up. “You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna call the campus police and tell ’em they’s a MAN lookin’ in all the windows on San Martin street.” “Do that.” “A NE-GRO man.” Wanda laughed. I MUST HAVE HER!” Alfred told Slough. He walked the floor and jammed his fist in his hand. “But I’m coming out of the bushes with her.” Slough sang: “Out of the bush “And into my arms . . .” Alfred looked at Slough and after a while Alfred spoke: “I’m going to take her to a hotel. Anything else would be a compromise with the integrity of the situation.” “Has she asked you to?” “That has nothing to do with it! She would settle for a furtive ignominious crawl in the bushes.” “Lots of girls do.” “They shouldn’t! Why should anyone!” “It’s not bad.” “Well, I’m civilized. And this is a civilized situation. If two white people can check in as man and wife why can’t Wanda and I? She and I owe it to ourselves to meet physically under the same conditions that some middle-aged man with a tiny diamond sabre in his lapel has his sex.” “Have you ever had a woman?” “I told you about Mildred.” ‘I know you told me about Mildred. Did you ever screw a woman ?” “Technically, not.” With a determined jaw Alfred put on his linen suit and brushed his shoes. Friday had come. He felt in his billfold and saw that everything was there, and as an afterthought put a second handkerchief in his hip pocket, in addition to the one in his lapel. He was moving fast and his tie was flapping and his big, loose-jointed frame was moving lithely in the loose, pressed suit. There was sweat on his brow and on his upper lip, and when he heard the cab honk he shut out the light, seeing from the second story window the tops of the green trees below in the dusk. Over in the next block there was the old, windowed tower of the Episcopal chapel. He could not look, but had to go. They drove down the broad thoroughfare where the students lived, past the great white-shuttered pillared place where the girls sat out front on the lawn talking or reading on their stomachs or combing their hair, and past the fraternity house of the Pi K A’s. He had been at a party there Saturday night. The boys were tossing a football now. A boy in bluejeans, barefoot and wearing no shirt, ran into the street, jumped, caught the ball just short of the cab. He looked in as he turned. He was breathing hard and had been laughing and his hair was crew-cut. Sweating, he turned, broad-shouldered, slouched, independentlooking. “Tiernan’.” he yelled, drawing the ball back with a practiced hand, getting ready for the long one. “Fake him out!” The driver turned the corner, and they were on Wanda’s street. Alfred saw Negro girls, tall and short, going in and out of the houses. The girls looked black. They lived in three double-storied frame houses with colonial porch columns and some gingerbread. The houses were right on the street, with very little yard, low picket fences separating them from the sidewalk. The houses had been owned at one time by prosperous families. Now they were owned by the University. They were painted solid colorsall white, or all yellowin a way that reminded you of a contract crew in a hurry. The houses were clean-looking, though. Alfred thought of what lay ahead. Can this be, he thought. The driver was driving slowly, looking out the window. “That’s 21-oh-5,” he said tentatively. “It’s the next one,” Alfred said. “Right here?” the driver asked. A Negro boy and girl were sitting in the swing on the front porch. They looked at the cab, the driver, and Alfred. It was nearly dark. Through the front door of the house you could see down the hallway to the back yard where the clothes hung on a line held up by a slanting pole. A big loose-limbed, knock-kneed girl in red shorts pounded down the stairs and
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