"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, December 15, 2003
Dancing with Invisible Partners
con-se-quence Function: noun
Date: 14th century
1 : something produced from a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions.
2 : something that people do not think exists in a resort town...
...And that was fine with me.
When people arrive in a resort area for a vacation, whether it is Las Vegas, the Bahamas, or Myrtle Beach, a lot of them throw their inhibitions to the wind and do things they would never do at home. We used to say that people thought they were invisible at the beach.
Usually, they were.
At Myrtle Beach in 1977, particularly in the campground where I lived for the summer, there was an endless string of young girls who wanted a summer romance they could go home and tell their friends about, and my best friend John and I were all too happy to oblige. Imagine an animal that wanted to throw itself in the lion's jaws. That is how it was, and like good little predators we just sat there with our mouths open.
Sometimes we would take out two or three girls in a single night. It was a joke between us that we could do that.
I do not even remember most of the girls.
I found a basket of letters in my attic a couple of years ago that I had carefully stowed away in a trunk. I looked through them, and there were letters in there from lots and lots of girls, sometimes with pictures. Sometimes the pictures had me in them, and I would not remember who the girl was at all.
There was one girl who had written over and over to me. Apparently I had written back, because she referred to my letters in her letters. I had only a vague recollection of her, but she always referred to me as the "Captain."
I think that's when the Captain was born. He is going to play a big ugly part in all of this shortly. Actually, it's been him holding the steering wheel quite a bit already.
I unwrapped packet after packet of letters. Some were scented. Some were on special stationary. Some were hastily scrawled on notebook paper. And so many that were now, through the mist of time, strangers to me.
I do remember a lot of the girls, though. I remember the girl model, the Vogue cover, georgeous but way too comfortable with her body in public. She kept losing her swimsuit top in the pool at the campground and not caring, which embarrassed me. I remember girls from the Carolinas and Virginia, with their wholesome good looks and wonderful accents. I remember a girl from a church group that I took advantage of very badly, and I am sure I broke her heart, and she did not deserve that at all.
I remember two girls from Canada who had never set off fireworks, so I went and bought them a huge box and watched them light them all off one by one on the beach for hours. They paid me back with an incredible home cooked spaghetti dinner that has yet to be matched in my life.
There were so many, and for each of them I was an intentional and willing playtoy, becoming whatever they wanted to have fun with on their vacation, dancing whatever dance they most liked, saying whatever they most wanted to hear.
That was, after all, how it worked. I was a human pitcher plant, capturing my prey with honey. I was an angler fish, dangling my flourescent light enticingly to bring prey into my reach.
My life became nothing but an elaborate lie, which I embraced and fed. I was far away from who I was and who I had been, and before long I lost me all together and all that was left was the stage show.
dance and bow and caper and prance,
dance till it hurts but don't miss a chance...
And so I danced.
Entralled by the song, captive of the very lie I had fashioned around myself, I danced for all I was worth and killed every last vestige of myself that I could remember. Like a crazed harliquin I danced and danced and danced and danced...
By the end of the summer of 1977, I had mastered it. I had learned the dance. I was now off to college.
And the Captain and the Harliquin had been born, and packed themselves in my suitcase.
Discourse on virtue and they pass by in droves. Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you've got an audience.