It was a long walk home, down to 56th at York. At first I couldn’t think about it, the whole scenario resisted whatever angle I tried to penetrate it from. I was watching myself in all the windows and fingering the fluff inside my pockets. I was smiling, too. And oddly, I suppose, I was feeling a rush of euphoria. I felt aloof, even. I felt as though I had just fallen in love and I was thinking, isn’t this inappropriate? I was enjoying the walk and my reflection in all the storefront windows. And I was thinking I might go shopping, into Bloomingdale’s, and maybe check out their duffle coats. And then I felt a little anxious, and for a moment I thought it was morning and I panicked on how I might be late for class. And then I did something real unusual, I checked the street sign to learn where I was at. I usually have this sixth sense about my location, in fact whenever I’m asked to give directions I usually do so by the compass point, saying how to proceed in north or south or east or west and, really, this drives the tourists crazy.
The first thing I thought, feeling this way, was to somehow get back to Lydia, but I just as instantly knew how ridiculous that was. I tried, I tried by imitating him, I tried to decipher that murmur he’d made, but all I could come up with was wanderer, wandering, wondering. I thought of them going to make love, and this made me panicky again. Each time I thought of Lydia’s behind I had to stop to catch my breath and regain my balance. I rested awhile at a parking meter. At one point I rested on a stoop and took out a book and tried to read for my homework. Everything, however, and much to my dismay, was ripe for the association. I had accustomed myself to seeing her behind in every melon on the street. There were grocers everywhere. And I think I lost control of my facial muscles. I thought I was smiling, but when I looked at my reflection up close I in fact realized a terrible grimace. I also noticed there was gook in my eyes, and I wondered if I’d been crying.
When you’re a boy you hear all sorts of myths about the girls, like how the girls can’t just make love, that they require an emotional attachment. I had since learned that this was indeed true for the girls but that for women it’s another case entirely. I also knew that where Lydia was concerned making love was a real team sport.
When I got home I hid myself under the covers. I was instinctively curled up into a foetus. I tried to will myself to disappear, and when that didn’t work I said a prayer. Nothing flashy, please. No white smoke and applause. Just a soft and quiet disappearance. I was sobbing pretty deeply. I thought about the phone and thought, what miracle, what miracle if only she would call. I swore aloud, of how I would not be possessive. I swore to Christ I’d have it any way she needed. If only she would call to check up on me.
I think it’s so for everyone, at least when you’re a kid, that you have this pretty reasonable sense of immortality and immunity, a sort of psychological shield against the belief that anything catastrophically bad can happen to you or to your family. Things like cancer, and divorce, and alcoholism, or like losing a brother or a sister or a friend when they’re so young and supposed to last forever, or like watching your father lie helpless on the ground and then the ambulance taking him away. These things defeat that shield, and growing up is just so much realization that you’re not immune, you’re not immortal, anything can happen to anyone and at any time and there’s nothing can be done. Being an adult is knowing that at any moment Christ may strike you down, and still carrying on as though it didn’t matter.