New York City THIS JULY, WHEN some New Yorkers toppled over in sweaty fatigue, newscasters obligingly proclaimed a heat wave. I, in my long sleeves, couldn’t help being amused. Back in New York after seven summers in Texas, I knew this was no heat wave this was a mild day with an autumn chill by Texas standards. Irony’s a real dog. It seems I’d been fortified by Houston summers, after all, though I’d persistently denounced the heat at the time. It exasperated everyone there I know except a certain writer who kept his blinds closed and his air conditioning on for six months. I had always spent the season wearing sunglasses in bed or driving madly through lunch hours to cool off in the Shamrock like a fry pan under tap water. Of course I had to leave the year they closed the pool. In more ways than I care to admit, Houston spoiled me and made returning to New York harder than originally living here. I found myself unprepared for life in a place where you can get anything you want, except perhaps skirt steak. I first arrived in 1979 when oil was gold and left in 1986, when it was more like black, gooey stuff, so I had your basic feast-and-famine in one biblical stretch. Within that bell curve taken by Houston, I lived the life span of a non-native; it began like a dot on the map and inflated to a small globe with people and landmarks. I arrived a stranger. The murphy bed occasionally fell on me and the murphy stove represented my miniaturized social standing, my isolated molecular weight in a city of pride-heavy, well-connected Texans. I got a stray cat, called her Jane Eyre, and hoped that having another living thing would keep my insubstantial apartment from being vaporized by cicada screams. When I left \(long after Jane Eyre, who obviously preferred to size apartment where the fridge barely made it to my neck. But by then there was a Houstonian manner of living with Jessica Greenbaum is a writer and poet living in New York City. 20 SEPTEMBER 25, 1987 my friends that could never be repeated. I had accumulated the true weight of having lived there, and I couldn’t truck it to New York. A few weeks ago, my Houston friend, A., called. Out of the blue, her husband of four years was leaving her for a younger, more athletic woman. I’m inclined to generalize that some marriages have a half-life in inverse relation to the wife’s thighs, but I know this demeans the more complicated problems that eroded A.’s seemingly consuming marriage. I spent until 2 a.m. on the phone with A. and our mutual friends B. and C., each of us phoning the other until all possible combinations had been achieved and the painful shock had been somewhat distributed. The four of us met in my first month in town, through the University of Houston’s “University Feminists.” \(Don’t look for it. An SMU chapter of When I met this mix of Oklahoman and Texas feminists who had surfaced through the UH ranks of Shasta-theCougar freaks and the mile-long-hotdog-bake enthusiasts, my definition of the word “radical” was altered forever. Oblivious to the enforced dress code of politically hip New York women, half the crew wore heels, shorts and lip stick. Their vice-president doubled for Susan Anton, professionally, I think. To add to the surreal nature of my initiation, the first party they invited me to took place in C.’s brand new condo hardly of my northern comrades. But something about us \(A., B. and C. were current seemed to flow between us. \(Later, much later, we wondered if that We soon became a four-sided entity, a human trapezoid that careened around the streets in A.’s green bomber with a bumper sticker reading something like: “Beware the Women’s Soft-Pitch Team!” I was the youngest, but we were all single students. A. , a 32-year old Houston divorcee without custody of her teenage son, was getting her “bachelor’s” in marketing. B., who dyed her hair, was an anthropology grad student from Norman, Oklahoma, where they didn’t know that a total of five anthropology jobs exist on the earth. C. was also from Oklahoma, studying economics. Just a few months older than me, C. seemed terribly worldly. She shared her condo with a friend who was man in the world, her boss, and C. often took to wearing a tank top emblazoned with Porky the Pig. When we were together we felt at the top of ourselves, able to bring out the pent-up essence of our displaced personalities. We also felt like smoking, drinking and doing cheap speed. A typical evening might start by tanking up at headquarters \(A. and B. lived side by side in a duplex on Clay Street in aptly refined establishment like the old Houlihans in Montrose. Some sailortypes, barely versed in the expected protocol, would drop in, but we were determined to dance by our own, more civilized rules. \(If you woke up on the After sampling other such genteel entertainment, we’d eventually return to Clay Street, stocked with enough beer and cigs to see out the Harold Farb era. At this point the storytelling began true stories, ghost stories and whatever embarrassing tale could be told about the person to your right. Anyone who could still drive by 2 a.m. was severely chastised \(“where’s she as I often was, when I’d leave to see my boyfriend on the other end of the barrio. It was my common misfortune at the time to be headlong in love with a rather ambivalent man. Eventually I told the self-dubbed “Harpies” about him, and in a judicious amount of time, they’d heard more than they could stand about his maddening self-importance and about our painful affair. I will always be indebted to A. for her brilliant comment upon finally meeting my beloved when he chanced into us in the U of H cafeteria. After my introductions she politely inquired, “I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?” We soon left the doomed University Feminists in the hands of a ROTC atheist whose raison d ‘etre was to see women go to war, and continued with our friendship. A. went to the hospital for a tubal ligation, and we followed in tow, bearing candles and wearing shawls with which we performed some rather ad-hoc infertility rights, much to the confusion of her hospital roommate. Time started being defined by how in sync we four were, and the second year of this alliance found an odd symmetry in our romantic lives: a few nights a week A. visited her beau on A Memoir Harpy Days By Jessica Greenbaum
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.