and C. flew with her beau to Dallas for some state-of-the-art drug taking. Being the northern interloper, the Ringo Starr of the group, only I was left wondering if my beau would consent to occasionally seeing me. third autumn of my internment, all of us were living with our boyfriends. The Clay Street headquarters was gone and the practice of us four spending a picaresque evening in which all the demons were let loose and the boundaries erased, dissolved. That might sound for the best to most readers. Unfortunately, our cohabitations seemed to resemble four distinct versions of the movie Gaslight. So by the following summer, all of us but C. were single again. B. had been kicked out for philandering \(you would perched in the attic of a sagging house on Chenervert Street in the neighborhood called the Binz. This became our new headquarters. A recently divorced friend and her children rented the downstairs, and the attic was established as the official refuge for our sort. It was also the storeroom for the just-budding friend’s not-for-profit company which imports handmade goods from Central American refugees. So B. shared the unairconditioned attic with Dr. Suesslike mountains of politically correct straw hats. By this time, Mr. Ambivalent gone, I was ensconced in my three-quarter size Montrose place, blasting Aretha upstairs above my landlord. An enthused Mason, periodically inquired if I had any use for a phonograph. A., on the other hand, was back from a suburban stint with a man who had an unfortunate, woodpeckerish laugh and a stated desire to use a chainsaw on her when she wanted to move out. Out of the fry pan, she was now trapped downstairs from a supernatural landlady who claimed A. was folding her laundry too loudly. C. was in another one of her fancy houses, too worldly for apartments. I believe it was that year that we all almost died at the Juneteenth festival. The source of the trouble here was clearly my snowbird nature. Being behind the times in New York, we had not yet cultivated the art of traffic murder. We were still stuck in an age where you simply make pithy comments to Sunday drivers like, Why don’t you use your blinker, asshole? This was precisely my Budweiser-inspired suggestion to the Dodge which cut us off upon making an unannounced turn in mobbed Hermann Park after the show. The true mistake here was to suggest this while sitting with my dearest friends in the naked back of a pick-up that couldn’t move in traffic. It took a while, as the Dodge inhabitants with calm deliberation got out and removed guns and rocks from their trunk, to get our driver’s attention. Our driver was B.’s future husband, and it seems only right that the 180-degree turn he made at that moment should be recalled at all their anniversaries. But we were a ritualistic bunch, and Juneteenth stayed on our social calendar, as did other select holidays requiring us each to crawl out of our individualizing lives. As the years went on and we sunk deeper into our own lives, it became progressively harder to wrench everyone out at the same time. We almost lost each other to such nefarious forces as “est,” cocaine, insular marriages or despondent defensiveness \(in . that orAfter B. moved to Denver and all three of my friends were married, there were months I felt the onus was on me to keep the friendship going, to coerce A. and C. to a restaurant to make a tape for B. \(who heard many of our conversations with the din of plates or Oriental were times when I felt I’d had done with everyone, with their particular addictions or their seeming self-containment. A few years ago, all three of my friends realized they were from alcoholic families two had had a parent die of alcoholism. At that point I realized I was still new to A., B. and C. I was still awed by their different backgrounds and how radical they had to be to overcome them. Eventually they all \(including B. in Adult Children of Alcoholics, which insists its members be alcohol and drugfree. In small groups, members discuss family patterns of addiction and recall “episodes” of their past the high drama, broken promises and guilt incited by an alcoholic parent. In A.’s case, she had blanked out whole years and the episodes were hard to dredge from the well. C. eventually divorced; her marriage, which was fueled by drugs, got nowhere without them. In all their cases, painful psychological archeology was going on which required a severe overhaul of this crew’s heretofore collective party head. Still the snowbird of barely-drinking parents, I could merely sympathize; I couldn’t share this battle as I had our previous ones. All three had always claimed I couldn’t keep up with them anyhow, but I suppose I’d been trying to, to feel more like a stranger from the life I’d left. The Harpies’ first gatherings without alcohol began timidly, then pulled themselves to heights of a different, less hysterical tenor. In essence, we hoisted a flag for our friendship on the opposite pole of our beginnings. Our milieu had changed and maybe some more of our edges appeared our four-sided shape buckled in places. But grateful for not losing one another in the maze of intervening years \(stocked, as they were, with crises, celebrations and sobered personalities seemed oddly endearing, the way people feel when they know they’ll never turn away from each other. I left Houston partially to regain a sense of privacy, to emerge from the friendships I’d worked hard to be steeped in. But returning to New York half a stranger, I sometimes wished my three friends would storm into my apartment, as they had my first Houston efficiency. They could finish the story they started on my typewriter in 1979 that began “One morning, everyone in the town was dead.” They could drag up humiliating tales about Mr. Ambivalent, laughing scornfully as if they had never been involved with chain-saw threateners. They could make fun of my new friends and of how rarely people get to see each other here, how isolating even a sidewalked city can be. \(I imagine them slightly like the witches in MaeBeth, rubbing their hands tocompletely unprepared to be without them here. But New York felt less empty before I spent seven years with them. When A. called me with her terrible news, I knew that she would have to take life on alone again. I could only tell her that one tried and true way to dilute the pain was through each other, through the live current that still runs between these four women. Ell East Dallas Printing Company Full Service Union Printing 211 S. Peak Dallas, Tx 75226 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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