Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 1 | Spring 1985

with ourselves. Anyway, I knew they'd cash Max’s check. No questions asked. Ted had the amount in his suit jacket— even in Mendocino he always wore a suit jacket. “Such a great guy to send you money,” he teased, counting it out into my hand. I hadn’t yet dealt with the pain they represented for me of that old life. I hated it that they seemed to side with him. They wanted me to go to the Grey Whale with them for a drink. I haven’t voted yet, I said. Just a fast one, they said. A drink will do you good. I saw then the towns I love that were intended, historically, to be County Seats, State Capitols, the main cities, but because their self-assured citizens had started celebrating before they voted, that is, they had gotten drunk on election day, were now, for all practical purposes, ghost towns. San Diego instead of Julian. Seattle instead of Port Townsend. In those days I rarely went into bars. I had been in the Grey Whale twice, both times with Max and Galen and the woman they were both fucking. I can’t remember her name now. This was 1976, before the Great Grey Whale Fire. The Grey Whale Bar then was in the cellar, had been there since the Twenties, or earlier. Now, the new one, built by volunteer community labor, is in the attic, but it is still called the Grey Whale Cellar Bar. The cellar, now an art gallery, is called The Attic. The old Whale had all the atmosphere of an ancient, moldy cellar, crammed with irreplaceable artifacts of the strange and terrible century. It was a long, narrow, dark room with its only entrance at the west end. From the walls hung broken musical instruments, tools no one now could identify, pieces of the old stagecoach, photos of the old presidents, barons of the redwoods and seaports and first wineries, the loggers who chopped the virgin redwoods after the San Francisco fire, the sailors who sailed the trees down to make the new city. The fancy looking women were said to be the madams of the whorehouses. Ted and Judy’s house was said to be an old bordello—thirteen in the tiny village at the turn of the century. Caravans out to the logging camps. (These stories, I always thought, were an attempt to break through the walls of time, to make the past flesh and blood.) And funky old overstuffed chairs (when I hear Dylan's “Down In The Easy Chair” I always think of the easy chairs in the old Whale); it was a cigarette left burning down in the springs of one that started the fire one night after closing. A fireplace almost too romantic. People so legendary looking, one could only stare and mumble and yearn for them. There goes my story. But you don't even recognize me. And alcohol. Something I hardly knew of in those days. I didn’t even know then about Happy Hour, that people get off work and go to bars. I was that much of a homebody. But that must have been why it was so 1 ed and Judy had been our last great couple. Just before the breakup, webad ei'enfoundallfour o fourselves, one night in a San Francisco hotel room, in bed together. crowded that evening when we walked in. That, and also, the elections. Everyone was out to vote. They were waiting now for the results. You could feel the tension in the room, in even this room, in this collection of outlaws who some time ago had taken Bob Dylan’s words to heart. To live outside the law you gotta be honest. I rarely drank in those days so it was probably the tequila sunrise that Ted ordered me when I said “anything" to his “What are you drinking?," that did it to me. We had made our way through all the people, to the east end of the bar to the only hole in the crowd. It was shocking, so much humanity, after my weeks of exile, the lights. And flesh of so many men. Ted and Judy put me on the stool and stood behind me. Judy said, “Oh I bet you’d love tequila sunrises.” Techordered two tequila sunrises and a scotch on the rocks. Down the long bar were sitting a half dozen men who had hit on me since Max left, all of whom I had turned down — I couldn’t imagine “dating” in my condition—but whose eyes now met mine in the mirror. And the bartender, Danny, who had called to take me out this very night and I had lied and said I would be out of town, was staring at me now the way he did whenever we met, in the laundromat, passing on Highway 1; a boy too pretty to take seriously, though he seemed to take me seriously. Sometimes I felt I could fall into him so easily if I let myself, but then I'd think how foolish. Such a boy would not be able to hold me. Three of the guys were poets so they had that “in” with me. Running Deer, for one, a Navaho poet, and Brent, who was always debating in his news column the worth of my poetry, and Stan, who had gone to Vietnam in the spirit of Wilfred Owens in order to write the great Twentieth Century war poetry and came back with a bullet permanently lodged in his head. In fact most of the men in this room were Vietnam Vets. Judy was talking to me, slightly behind me, something about Max or maybe it was the elections, hardly any of which I was hearing. Because I was beginning to cry. Tears were coming, I could see them in the mirror, that’s how I knew for sure. I couldn’t move from my barstool, much less listen to what Judy was saying, for trying to fight them, huge teardrops, great glassy balls of water shooting out of my eyes, spraying everything, I couldn’t believe it, pouring out like rain, like my country and my parents from the sky, I could see them in the mirror, the water was coming out of me, me! reflecting the bottles and walls and all those men, so shocked and embarrassed, every man who put me here, that song was playing, / swear I see my reflection somewhere so high above this wall, that song, any day now, any day now I shall be released and the water was gushing out of me as from a giant fire hose, but silently, I wasn’t sobbing, I wasn’t making a sound, or a move, the tears were coming out against my will, just pouring out of my eyes. I never cry in front of anyone. Never. Never. Not at sad movies, not at funerals. Maybe this is because of my father who if I cried won the fight we were always having, and my husbands who always left me if there was any hint of this cheap female trick. But now I was crying, really bawling, here in the Whale, this public place. All Icould think of was getting out of there. But it was so crowded and I was so far from the door. I didn’t know what would happen to me if I moved. And what could be more embar- ■ rassing or silly than a female running out the door crying? Better to stay right here, unmoving. I was so humiliated for all these guys who had shown interest in me. I kept thinking, oh are they thanking their lucky stars they didn’t get mixed up with her! And so because I felt so trapped, so unable to move, too impotent to help myself, I cried even more. What the fuck was happening to me? Joan Baez singing Bob Dylan, that song, “Soon I Shall Be Released.” You know that beautiful song—I see my life come shining, from the west down to the east? That song has always gotten to me, always wasted me— but secretly, I never let anyone know. I always thought that song called up so much sorrow in me because of the years Max spent in prison. When we first fell in love, at least I with him, he was behind bars—he loved my body, no question about that, he’d ask me so sweetly every visit to back up, away, against the wall so he could see all of me—bars? that fuckin’ tiny green mesh shit of the L.A. Hall of Justice you couldn’t even feel flesh through—so that song always makes me think of all the guys still in prison and the terrible anguish to be released. Yonder stands a man in this lonely crowd. A man who swears he’s not to blame. Yet all day I hear him shouting so loud. He's crying out that he was framed. I think that song is the saddest song I know, except maybe “Until It’s Time For You To Go Again,” which was my song to Max when we first loved each other when he got out of prison. Something about the oak bending and he’s sleeping be.side me, his semen spilling out of me fust like the tears now. 22 Clinton St. Quarterly For hamburgers & homemade desserts 33 NW 23rd Pl 223-0287 Mon-Fri 8:00-7:00 Sat 8:00-4:00 FOOTHILL Mur/ In the Uptown Pharmacy 8 AM to 4 PM MONDAYSATURDAY PHARMACY FOUNTAIN 2334 W BURNSIDE