My life again entered what I would call an idyllic phase over the next year. I would move two times in that period, but each was into a new and stimulating scene. The poker games and table followed me in each of these transitions, so that didn’t change, and that was a large part of my social life, my best friends, and the concomitant partying and bar visits that came with them, on a weekly basis. My affairs with women, (five of them) were one-night stands, except for two, a little more heart involving, (one lasting five days and the other three weeks) but easy to get over, being of such a short duration and ending with mutual agreement (almost like a polite handshake goodbye) that it was for the best, trials, flirtations, not infatuations, not entrapped in any web of commitments. I was still too young and free and happy with my drinking buddies. My hours were all pleasantly filled, with work, with reading and writing on my days off, and with bars and parties on weekend nights.
I sobered up quite a bit after Dale left. If not, I might have permanently damaged myself with a few more months of it, a car wreck or accident of some sort, in that love and drug induced swirl of events. She was near that stage of collapse when she left. Love is a heady thing. Love and coke and speed and alcohol all mixed together on a daily basis is an unsustainable, insane thing.
I spent many a happy, solitary hour that Fall sitting in my reading chair by the front window, thinking or dreaming about her and composing the poems. Those were peaceful and reflective months, rich in reading and filling my journals with thoughts or just sitting in idle, pleasant daydreams. That soft chair often seemed like my surrogate replacement to her, to her soft skin. I’d never spent much time in it the year before. But in those autumn months I would spend whole days in it, happy as a baby in a cradle.
One event that created this sea of tranquility and calm and time off, happened on the very day before her departure.
I mentioned that I was working hard on that Friday morning after one hour of sleep. It was a foggy and wet morning and I was working on a crew of about ten people for Robert Malone, building a large house. The roofing contractor needed help, his apprentice hadn’t shown up and the job was in a rush to be done. So Robert assigned me and John Fyzer (the two scrawniest people on his crew) to carry up the fifty pound bundles of shingles from a truck in the driveway, balancing them with one hand on our shoulders up a long, wet, slippery extension ladder to the roof where the fat, middle-aged roofing contractor sat waiting for us to unpack them so he could direct us in the next step of his work.
It was also one of Robert Malone’s practices to push his crews to work quickly (to make more money for himself), so we did this hard task without a break. After twenty bundles or so one slipped off my shoulder at the very top of the ladder. It fell and landed on the deck below me, right next to Lisa, walking by, missing her shoulder by inches, Robert’s very pretty wife, whom he used as an adjunct on all his worksites, doing all the paperwork and ordering materials, to make even more profits.
Nothing was said at the time, with nobody hurt. We finished off the day and half the roof with the nail guns. But on Monday morning as we showed up for work, both John and I were told that we were fired.
John was crestfallen. It was the only job he’d had in a very long time, and all due to Jim, our poker mate, who got all of us hired by Robert, on his good word. It was a strange scene, as people are generally fired at the end of the day, not the beginning. I was angry, and after a good sleep and my affair with Dale just ended and resolved, I was no one to tangle with on that morning. I yelled back at Robert in front of the whole crew, standing on the back deck, Jim standing there too, all waiting to receive their instructions. It was a big mistake on his part to do it so publicly and at such a wrong time. I laid into him with loud words about how pushy he was, an asshole, and besides that how stupid, picking the two weakest of us to help out this incompetent roofing contractor who couldn’t even get his own helpers to show up, making us carry the fifty pound parcels of tiles up a slippery, badly positioned, aluminum ladder on a rainy day, continuously.
He was a bit stunned by my reaction. I could see it in the way he took a few steps back when I began my tirade. His stature too dropped a few points in his entire crew’s eyes. He didn’t know it, but I was doubly mad because I’d received a call from my friend Rex Peterson, a house builder, just the night before, asking me to come and start work with him Monday morning, and I told him I had to decline the job out of loyalty, as I was working with Robert. At the end of my tirade I even threw that in his face, telling him I’d be at work on another site, a far nicer job, tomorrow morning, and it happened. Funny thing was, we remained friends. He liked Jim so much and Jim praised me so often that we spent a long evening together at their house soon after, doing drugs. Lisa liked me too.
This was about four months after he fired me but by now any hard feelings had evaporated. With my steady income I was buying speed one night each weekend, enough to stay up most of the night with a friend. One Saturday Jim and I scored and a little later at Jim’s house we got a call from Robert telling him that he’d bought some coke for himself and Lisa and wanted him to come over. Jim said he was with me and that we’d just bought some speed. So he asked us both to come over.
Now Lisa was beautiful, with black hair and a shapely body, medium sized, educated and intelligent. Robert was tall and handsome and a very fit and talented carpenter who could design and build fancy houses with interesting details and layouts for the upper middle class, homes in the half-million dollar range. Lisa was his loving partner in this business, doing the paperwork, the permits, the payroll and ordering materials, nearly a full time job. They made a ‘picture perfect’ couple and a good team. He always had three or four carpenters under him, Jim being the one constant. Though Jim was ten years younger, he took an almost paternal interest in him, ever since they’d met in Boston years before.
It was a strange evening because when we showed up at nine they didn’t usher us into the living room but into their dimly lit bedroom. Lisa was half sitting up on her side, the covers pulled over her lap and with a top on. After he let us in, he resumed his position in bed next to Lisa, sitting up against stacked pillows. Beside him was a night table with a mirror and straw and a dozen lines on it, ready to go. Jim pulled up a chair on his side of the bed and I moved another near Lisa, halfway down the bed so I’m facing her, about three feet away.
They seemed glad to see us and the conversation was pleasant. About every half hour Robert would do a line and pass the mirror to Lisa and at the same time I’d pull out my bag for a line and hand it to Jim. In a short while we were high and two conversations began on two very different tangents. Jim and Robert began talking excitedly about construction, while Lisa and I, ignoring them as if they weren’t there, began to converse just as excitedly on Europe, its art and culture, and some of the cities she’d visited there, their old churches, in a fine rapture of memories. When she mentioned Notre Dame de Paris, which she’d visited, I went off, (like a tour guide), telling her it’s dates of construction, the reason for the gargoyles, how it fell into neglect and how Victor Hugo’s novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ revived huge interest in it, urged her to watch the silent classic with Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, then, looking at her lovely face, I strayed off subject and told her of Victor Hugo’s famously beautiful wife and how Balzac fell madly in love with her. We kept doing lines on schedule, overheard a few words from the other side now and then but there wasn’t a single cross exchange the whole three hours we were there. We could tell Jim and Robert were having just as good a time as we were from their excited tones of voice. Our conversation continued to the end in deep, mutual pleasure. We’d been sipping a few beers just to keep or mouths from getting dry. But now Jim wanted to get to the Plough before it closed for some real drinking. So up we stood, thanked them (as they thanked us) for the wonderful evening and headed out, happy.
We hit the Plough and found Steve there. Then to his house till three or four.
Robert and Lisa probably went straight to cocaine enhanced sex after we left. But I’m positive that in the intervals she told Robert what a strange, interesting and extremely educated guy I was. That was the only time I partied with them, or rather, one of them. I knew that Robert and I both retained a high respect for one another, our falling-out forgotten.