Time has a Way
Love has no need for fiction. –Julia Kristeva
She was right to ask if I remembered being that young after stumbling on a photo from forty-six years ago. Vividly, I suppose. But recollection of the geography embedded in & circumscribing the shot taken on a Belgian street is the true test. Some traveling routes may prove vague, others etched. After a week in London, two days after disembarking the ferry out of Dover, in Calais, the three of us pooled $200 to buy the grey 1955 Citroën Deux Cheveaux, (spending the first day there at a sidewalk café drinking Stella Artois, & sleeping it off in a boxcar, when well past midnight gendarmes rousted us before train left railyard for who knows where?) Headed to Arras to fill out required paperwork to insure the thing. On to Brussels. Rotterdam, where at the bar along the waterfront (newly reconstructed after major WWII bombing), Dutch patrons listened to an admission of my desire to write; Amsterdam, where instead of visiting Red Light District, stuck with jukebox & Oranjeboom; in Bremen, Axel befriended me & talked about writing; Hamburg, reminding me of Boston; København; Helsingør, lightness of two Swedish towheads striking deeper than whiteness in Hamlet’s ghosts; Berlin, divided, & beyond modern; the awful shock of Dachau; past Checkpoint Charlie, where one had to purchase six East German marks before entering East Berlin, found Brandenburg Gate, broken. Onto Köln, its majestic cathedral, & path to sleep by the Rhine, where Morgan* announced he was splitting for Paris. Told Ward we’d have a feast, if we drove to Stuttgart. (Mrs. Tauber now lived there, former cook at the nursing home my grandmother worked at in Roxbury, which we’d always get to past the Hi Hat Lounge Miles played & recorded at on Columbus Ave., the old man pointing it out saying, Those were the days, then under the El to Montabello Road.) She & ninety-year-old sister fed us one sunny-side egg, half tomato, & black coffee = banquet for the eye in memory.
Left Tim there with the car in order to hitchhike along the Autobahn to Munich. Met Charlotte Appleton in the back of a crosstown bus. Talked her away from her two traveling companions in order to accompany me by train to Salzburg, down to Rijeka, then slept on deck the $5.00 overnight mailboat to Split, where I dreamt of writing, & swam in the clear Adriatic. Bus to Belgrade. Gunmetal-grey Belgrade. Eight days seemed wasted trying to hitch out of Belgrade. Afternoons back to the $1.25 barracks room, wondering if others would take up any of nine extra beds. Fled by plane to Venice. Beograd to Venice, contrast etched in memory. Titian in Venice. Hostel separated genders in Venice, & we became estranged, Charlotte Appleton & I, but stayed together long enough to hitch to Pisa & Rome. Who shows up in Rome, but Tim still with the car. He’s headed to Capri, so I tag along down to Naples, & find that bamboo fishing pole, line, & lone hook. I must have been mad. I was mad. Delirious, & free. Tim & his girl & I slept on the beach, or in a gazebo. All of Monte Solaro burned down one night. Tim returned to Naples to fetch the Citroën. I met the sexy sixteen-year-old, who’s younger sister found the letter to someone else in the pages of my book, Escape from Freedom, left on the blanket, while she & I found love in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Lovesick by a purloined letter, I made it back to Rome, hitched with an older woman artist to Nice via Genoa & Monaco, where on the first day on the beach in Nice gendarmes took my passport, tossed me in back of a paddy wagon & placed me behind bars. At last, making a name for myself, when the lieutenant called it out beyond the jail cell. Nice, where I stayed for three weeks, & might have met Matisse, if grandmother had taken me there in 1954, instead of New York City. Back in London, after three months on the road, Ward, Morgan, & I traced our separate ways. Morgan’s Costa Brava may well have outshone my Yugoslavia at the Time, but Time has a way of bringing out a certain shine, even on gunmetal grey.
*Not entirely invisible in the 1967 photograph, what with his suitcase, sleeping bag, & gear on the sidewalk, + hand, eye, & head behind the camera.