Fresh Air

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 19 Apr 2023



At the beach, Point Reyes, near Fairfax with Ross and Norma and Amaris, Sanita taking the picture.

I was now entering a much saner and happier period in my life, in a beautiful and peaceful place, in love with Sanita, half our time taking trips together, the other half working with a new partner, ‘A’ two hours north of Marin, once again in the countryside, not nearly as remote but definitely in the woods. Once again Louie had come through and introduced us. I don’t know how it was, for all his shyness, that he had such a wide circle of acquaintances. I rarely saw him. But most times he introduced me to someone new something life-changing seemed to happen.

On one occasion, and only once, he introduced me to his parents and his younger brother in the house he grew up in. It was a strange meeting. He must have done a lot of preparatory talk because when he took me there, I was greeted with: “Oh, this is the wonder boy you’ve been talking so much about”. I was expected to talk intellectually and I didn’t disappoint. We parted after an hour or so with warm handshakes.

The strange thing is that my old journals for this period (April to July 1986) don’t reflect the great improvement in my life and happiness, in my company, working conditions, settings, and most of all, in Sanita’s warm embrace every night.

I was still doing too much speed, trying to conclude work, living at a frenetic pace every other week up North, (this time at A’s) trying to wrap up work matters forever (which I did by early July), juggling many players at the same time, and my journal entries were always written in the wee hours of night when I was burnt out, so they contain repeated complaints and whining about my need to reform and escape.

I even saw this as I was writing these jumbled thoughts and stated several times in them that these notebooks should be burned. But they served a purpose. I was venting, much needed at the time, and best done in private and alone. I sometimes wonder whether all writing by intelligent beings (often too intelligent for their own good) is an exercise to get the ghosts out of their minds.

On the other hand, those pages might reflect a troubled soul trying desperately to come to grips with my fast-changing state, as I was now progressing down a path of monogamy and normalcy, leaving behind my bohemian past and all the invisible freedoms it included.

It was a crazy youth and could not be continued without an ugly end, as Larry Davis and Mike proved. But still, to subconsciously sense that I was leaving part of it forever was a spiritual shock and the cause of so much complaint. It was like the shedding of a skin on a snake. It was aging, which always involves the loss of something, a painful and permanent loss.

Sanita and I moved into Norma’s house on April 20th, 1986, after another six-day trip to Southern California, a pleasant affair for both of us, Rodeo drive for her (with just a few modest purchases), more book buying for me, and much time and talk with Bill and Muriel. I bought a sixteen-volume set of Sainte-Beuve’s ‘Causeries du lundi’ and spent over half a day at their kitchen table making a catalogue of its contents as it had no index. I did this on a large sheet of paper, listing all the articles by volume and page along with their date of publication, which I still have. I wonder what Bill and Muriel must have thought of my making such a long index at their table and even more how I could afford the beautifully bound set, (about 300 dollars), the gifts I bought Sanita, my Datsun Z, the many vacations I took with her and the long absences from work.

But they never did ask the obvious question. Perhaps they feared the answer. I would have been hard pressed to make one up, detesting a lie. Perhaps they asked others behind my back. My mother new everything as I even used her safety deposit box. But I doubt she told anyone. Their silence was always a wonder to me and never resolved. It seemed to defy the bounds of all normal human curiosity.

Our first months at Norma’s were very happy. Sanita and I had many late-night conversations, sometimes doing a few lines. We had frequent sex inside those soft, silk sheets and lounged in the sun by day, on the back deck or at the beach. I took a deep interest in Amaris once again, Sanita too, often talking to her. Her mother could never afford to give her pocket money and she went to a rich kid’s school where all her friends had plenty. I remedied that my way.

I would give her twenty dollars each Monday evening, but only after she memorized a poem and could come back and repeat it to me in my den. I picked out the best short gems (8 to12 line ones, mostly love poems) from my Palgrave’s ‘Golden Treasury’. I know she appreciated the task of having to earn her allowance, especially in such a delightful way. She’d run to her bedroom with the book and come back in fifteen minutes, with a big smile, hand me the closed book and recite, and I know she liked the money, as she thanked me warmly as I handed her the bill. She could show it off to all her rich girlfriends. They had an expression, (she told me), for wealth, calling it ‘boucou bucks’. She had no father figure in her life and took to me. She also took to Sanita as a surrogate mother figure as she had some issues and arguments with Norma, seeing her poverty, her pot smoking flakiness and the endless succession of boyfriends.

Sanita and I took her clothes shopping in San. Fran. one day, bought her the first nice dress she owned, then took her dressed up in it to a fine restaurant for dinner, a little, brief taste of luxury. This was déjà vu for me from eight years earlier when I was staying at Norma’s house for a month, spending all my time with Amaris and buying her a bicycle for ten dollars at a garage sale and teaching her to ride it. Although Norma was a kind and loving mother, she would never have thought of this, neither would Kim. But for a six year old girl this was the perfect gift and she loved me for it. My own fortunate upbringing taught me these things. Perhaps theirs didn’t.


Amaris in Niagara Falls, her brother Daniel in front of her

On our two-week trip that summer to N.Y.C. and Vermont and Niagara Falls and finally Tennessee she stayed very close to Sanita and me each day, often holding hands with Sanita, happy. When we left for Europe in late September she cried and cried at our parting, knowing what she was losing.

I often wondered her fate in later years, but never inquired. I know I did some good for her in our brief moments together, some sunny spots in a life mostly gray. She often had a sad look on her face, even as a small child, and was timid and quiet to a fault, but this for a reason. It wasn’t her nature but her circumstances. With me she was talkative and visibly happy. I hope she did well later on, finding happiness. I gave her a glimpse of it, that it exists. I hope she searched long and hard and was lucky enough to find it.

Every other week in May, June, up through the first week of July, when I ended work for good, I went north to Allen’s place in the woods, busy, getting things done. Then a week off at Norma’s, resting and recovering with Sanita at my side. On the last trip I took Sanita with me, a wise move, as finishing up with Allen and his partner was stressful, to say the least. Besides showing them my completely different methods and the higher caliber of my work, far above theirs, I could translate it within a day into hundred-dollar bills, not the tens and twenties and crumpled-up fives they’d received before through their sleazy, San Jose, connections which took weeks for any returns and always came up short, except in excuses and lies. But it was the only outlet they knew.

They wanted me to stay for more. But I’d reached my goal and was burnt and stressed to the point of feeling physically ill. There were some arguments in the final days but Sanita’s presence toned things down. Allen liked her a great deal and didn’t want to appear a jerk in front of her. And they’d both made far more than they thought possible in the last three months. They just wanted it to continue.

On the next to last day, after a two-hour trip on my part, leaving Sanita behind (almost like a hostage) I returned with one extra-large take (through K again) evenly split up on Allen’s coffee table, three ways, about thirty thousand each. They were overjoyed with that and we stayed up late and partied.

But the next afternoon we had a sort of conference, (or confrontation, I should say). They were upset with me, knowing it would be the last great deal without me, yet with all the means to continue on for years. We had a violent argument and nearly came to blows. In their eyes it was potential wasted. But I had trips planned all summer, and then Europe in the fall. I threw them the lie that after that break, all rested up, I’d come back and we’d make millions. They didn’t have my connection, ‘K’, and couldn’t move in a month a tenth of what I could in an hour. Not to upset this proposition, they reluctantly agreed. By nine that night, tired from the few hours of sleep the night before, Allen went to bed and the other went home.

So did we. We rose at dawn, jumped in the car and headed south. They didn’t know where I lived in Marin. Once away, that early July morning, without any goodbyes, we made our escape from that life to a far better one, with an overpowering sense of freedom and relief.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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