A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early January, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Monday, January 1, 1973
I don’t know what will happen in 1973 – but at the moment I’m not terribly concerned with the future, even the near future, because I am happy in the present. Last night I had the most wonderful New Year’s Eve ever.
When we went over to Susan’s house, Ronna and I first said hello to Susan’s mother, a gray-haired widow around our grandmothers’ age, and then Susan took us into her bedroom, where we listened to records and talked quietly for hours.
It was a perfect way to see in the new year; we talked about school and poetry and diets and just little things. I never appreciated before what a good person Susan is, despite her loquaciousness. I didn’t realize that she went out with Evan for a year; they were horribly mismatched, she said, and they broke up.
Ronna and I left Susan’s at 1 AM, and since we didn’t feel like going to Skip’s at that hour, we drove to my house, where we stayed in my basement and talked, going to very heavy things.
She surprised me by saying that maybe it was better for people to live together and not get married. And we discussed sleeping with other people, if that can work out. We didn’t come up with an answer.
Finally we got around to ourselves. She’s afraid that our relationship will end with her getting hurt – though curiously enough, she told me that when I first asked her out, Susan said, “You’re going to hurt him, Ronna.”
She said, “I think I’m in love with you . . . and it’s crazy. For three years I couldn’t admit whether I loved Ivan or not, and now, with you, it’s so fast.”
I told her the thing about her that always impressed me was her vulnerability and that I am afraid of hurting her. (She said the first thing she noticed about me was my “sensitivity.”) We decided the only way we knew to try to work things out in a relationship was to be honest.
I took her home after 3 AM, kissed her tightly, and told her I’d never lie to her.
When I woke up at noon and saw that it was a beautiful, mild day, I drove out to Rockaway, where I met Mikey and Mason on their bikes. We went to Riis Park, where we talked and played with Mason’s baby brother.
Later, I went over to Ronna’s to borrow her typewriter – but I’ve decided I can’t finish my paper by tomorrow. She was in jeans and barefoot and kind of sloppy, but she looked so beautiful to me. I do love her.
Wednesday, January 3, 1973
Tonight I went over to Mark and Consuelo’s house to see the baby. Little David is very cute, so very tiny with such little features. When I looked at him, and then at Consuelo, I thought, Wow, life really is a miracle: it’s a new human being, created by Mark and Consuelo.
Their apartment is still infested with roaches, as are all those places above the stores at the Junction, but they’re happy – a happy family – and that’s all that matters.
I went through my last classes of Bio, Fiction Writing and Social Psych this morning. In English, Baumbach read my story and said I write vibrantly, that I’m finding my “voice,” and that all my stuff is very novelistic.
After Psych, Felicia and I walked back to LaGuardia, where we met Ronna. I was talking with Stanley when I noticed Felicia handing Ronna an empty package of Benson & Hedges cigarettes, but I didn’t think anything of it.
I listened to Mason tell me about the movie Leon made yesterday in Coney Island, and when Ronna was finally ready to go, we went to Campus Corner for lunch, which she paid for, as Joe Wolf, the printer in Williamsburg, gave her and some other editors $50 for Christmas.
After lunch, we stopped off in LaGuardia, where Debbie was studying for a final. “We have to get together soon,” Debbie told me, and I said I’d call her.
Ronna and I were trudging up to the fifth floor of Boylan to the Art Department when she said, “I wonder what Ivan wants from my life.” She explained that yesterday afternoon Ivan came to LaGuardia and he was the one who gave Felicia the cigarette pack to give to Ronna. She threw it out.
I wonder, though, if she doesn’t want to see Ivan again, as a friend or something more. I always liked seeing Ivan, but now I don’t want him to enter my life again.
Ronna and I came upon Vito, who was very upset. He said he was humiliated at the Student Orientation Committee meeting when a freshman beat him out for some office.
Since Ronna had to go home to finish her paper, I told Vito I’d hang out with him for a while.
Vito and I walked Ronna to the B6 bus stop on Glenwood and Flatbush and waited with her. After she got on the bus, Vito said, “Finally you’ve got a girl I approve of.” I hung around LaGuardia with Vito for a while, then came home.
I spoke to Alice briefly tonight. She thought Hair was terrible and that Shelli couldn’t sing at all.
Sunday, January 7, 1973
On New Year’s Eve, Rochelle Wouk told me not to begrudge myself any happiness. But tonight I feel that things are so perfect, I expect to get a cold or a stomachache tonight to “even things out.” I know that sounds ridiculous, but somehow I feel that I don’t deserve all this happiness.
Today was an idyllic Sunday spent with Ronna. I’ve had many idyllic Sundays before, but they lacked one thing: what Bob Wouk used to call “a warm body next to you.”
I called Ronna at 10 AM and woke her (she had said she wanted me to); we agreed that I should pick her up in ninety minutes. When I got there, she was – of course—not ready, because she had gone back to sleep.
Ronna is a bit of a slugabed and is never ready on time, yet I don’t really mind. I watched her eat breakfast and talked with her sister, who was very funny, telling me about this Sweet Sixteen she was going to today.
Finally I got Ronna into my car and we drove through East Flatbush, talking about our childhoods in the neighborhood, and then I drove up to the Upper East Side.
Although we tried to find a parking space near the Met, the nearest one we could find was on Third Avenue. It was 20° out and very windy and we jumped up and down holding hands as we waited for traffic to stop so we could cross streets.
Inside, we got a look at the Museum’s controversial new Greek Sarpedon vase, which some people say is a forgery; it certainly looks terrific if it actually is from 5000 B.C.
We went to look at all the paintings. Ronna especially likes Monet, so we saved him for last. After that, we drove downtown and had lunch at the Smokehouse Delicatessen on West 8th Street, then went over to the Elgin to see Jules and Jim.
I really enjoyed the film; it’s so beautiful. By the time we came out, it was dark and very cold as we drove back into Brooklyn, where I parked in front of her aunt’s house; her grandfather’s birthday party was tonight.
But one goodbye kiss led to an embrace and more kisses and embraces and she didn’t want to go. So for an hour we sat in my freezing car, steaming up the windows, searching out each other’s bodies. Love, I guess.
I find her amazingly passionate. We were in the middle of something, and I said, “Wow, quiet little Ronna, who would have thought?” and she stopped and looked at me and smiled and kissed me again.
This was the first time in over a year that I’ve really been with a girl.
Wednesday, January 10, 1973
My finals have ended and I’m free of schoolwork for a while. I intend to use this intersession to finally get out my grad school applications and maybe start looking for an apartment or a job. I also want to relax, spend time with Ronna and my friends, read, and explore the city.
In LaGuardia this morning, I saw Avis for the first time in a week. She’s having incredible hassles at home: she wants to go to Atlanta with Alan next week, and her parents are throwing shit-fits and have threatened to stop supporting her.
I went to the Bio final with Ira, Larry and Henry, who’s still quite friendly to me; I’m so glad I hadn’t known he was dating Ronna because I never would have asked her out had I known.
The final was tricky, but it helped that I studied a lot with Scott and Mandy last night; I finished early and went for lunch at the Pub with Josh.
Josh is going to Florida next week to visit Allan, who’s coming up to New York soon; he and Josh will take an apartment together. Josh says his parents think he’s leaving and getting his own place because he hates them. Everyone’s got their problems. Why are parents – like Josh’s or Avis’s or anybody’s – so good at inspiring guilt?
Back in LaGuardia, Avis was sitting with Scott, who asked her to accompany him to the hair stylists this weekend. Why doesn’t he leave her alone now? But maybe she likes his company and attention.
I took a walk with Nancy, and we discovered the lily pond had frozen over, so we got up and went sliding on the ice. Walking back, we ran into Ronna, who had some work to do in the library. I wanted to be with her, but she had work to do.
Perhaps she’s having second thoughts about our relationship. Oh well. I guess if the relationship can’t survive short separations, it wasn’t any good to begin with.
So I went with Mike (who’s actually taking some finals this term for a change) and Mason for coffee, and then I drove Mason home to Rockaway. He says he’s planning on visiting Leon in Madison soon.
While at the beach, I dropped in to say hello to Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel, then came home to have dinner and spend the evening reading.
Would you believe vacation just started and I’m bored already?
Friday, January 12, 1973
It’s 3 AM and I’ve just spent a wonderful night with Ronna.
It’s like a dream. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up one day and everything will be back as it was before: I’ll be upstairs in LaGuardia and she’ll be rushing down to the basement to work on the paper. We’ll nod and exchange hellos and that’s all.
Tonight I picked her up and we went to Brookdale Hospital to see her aunt, who had a hysterectomy yesterday. I felt uncomfortable, as her aunt was groggy and in pain, but her uncle was very friendly and so was her cousin Betty.
We didn’t stay very long, as we’d decided to go to the movies, but as we got to the theater, Ronna asked me if I really wanted to go. I said no and she said she didn’t, either, so we came home to my bedroom.
We sat around watching TV, talking, and then I kissed her and we kissed again and again. I held her in my arms tightly and she caressed my hair; I fondled her breasts and it was all so fantastic.
Although I wanted to sleep with her, she’s not ready yet, so of course I didn’t push it. But we talked seriously about sex and jokingly about lover things – like using funny voices with each other or my showing her the solitary hair on my chest – while Jack Paar droned on in the background.
I took her home at 2 AM, and believe me, it was hard to part.
The rest of the day today seems like an eternity ago. This morning I drove Melvin downtown to get some camera supplies; he was developing photos of Marty Markowitz, who’s running for City Council.
I had lunch with Elspeth, who’s been going with this guy Danny for two months already. She said that last week, I’d not only missed seeing Ivan in LaGuardia, but also Kieran and Sindy.
No great loss. The other day Mara, Vito and I ran into Shelli and I smiled as we passed her and she smiled back, but I have nothing to say to Shelli or her family anymore.
After dropping Elspeth off at work, I drove into the city and parked on Fifth Avenue to go up to “the place” to say hi to Grandpa Nat, who looks well and was busy working hard. From there I went to Kiehl Pharmacy to buy wintergreen flowers and quassia chips and then came home to get ready to see Ronna.
Saturday, January 13, 1973
I’m feeling worn out and sickish tonight. I may be coming down with something, or maybe it’s just lack of sleep. Or perhaps it’s just that things have been going too well; too much happiness can stuff people and make them ill.
I didn’t sleep much at all last night. I tossed and turned and had this vague nauseated feeling. I started thinking about Ronna and how maybe I’ve rushed too fast into a relationship with her and how I’m not being fair to her.
I don’t know; stupid thoughts raced through my mind at 5 AM. Last night we were watching TV and laughing at Truman Capote and the way he talked.
Later I reminded myself of how Ivan once told Melissa that I sounded like Capote and how much that hurt me when I heard about it from Shelli.
The old specter of homosexuality reared its head. I wondered if I really am gay, if my attraction to Ronna is because she went with Ivan. But even if that were true, I do love Ronna: her smell (I can smell it now and it is at once comforting and stimulating); her tiny, almond-shaped eyes; her beautiful hair; her sense of humor; all of her.
So what if I’m bisexual? It’s really a dead issue now. Rochelle Wouk said I just used it as something I could torture myself with. But I’ve got to recognize and acknowledge all my feelings and deal with them; otherwise, I’ll crack up.
At noon today, I was awakened by a call from Scott, who wanted to know if I’d go with him to Florida. I said there were so many things I had to clear up in the city, I couldn’t leave now.
In today’s mail, I got my Biology and Psych grades (B in Bio, A in Psych) and the ticket for next week’s GRE Advanced Literature test, which I’d completely forgotten about.
I’ve got to get out those grad school applications. But I’m not sure I want to go to grad school anymore. Tonight I don’t feel very sure of anything.
I did virtually nothing all day. Ronna took Anna, this girl in Red Hook she’s been tutoring on Saturdays, to a museum and out to lunch in the city, and tonight she’s working on her paper.
Either I’m getting the flu again or I’m really depressed.
Tuesday, January 16, 1973
Wow. I’m still feeling pretty shitty after four days of being sick. I don’t know what it is, but I still have a bad cold, and since this afternoon I’ve had these bad gripping pains in the stomach.
Every night before bed, I think: “This is going to be the night that I’ll really sleep well and wake up feeling fine.” But last night was pretty bad: I tossed and turned and my sinuses dripped and ached.
Consequently I woke up feeling really tired. I cheered up a bit when I received in the mail a postcard from Prof. Kitch. He gave me an A in Current American Writers and wrote that I got an A on the final: “Nice going!”
Ronna was busy today, doing her American Studies paper, and anyway, I didn’t really feel like being with anyone today, feeling as sick I was. But I have been getting a lot of phone calls.
Last night Kurt called. He’s busy painting his apartment. He told me he recognizes that there are a lot of things in himself that are psychotic. At times Kurt scares me a lot.
Avis also called last night. She and Alan are leaving for Atlanta tomorrow after her final. The price she’s paying for the trip is that her parents are no longer supporting her. That’s really rough. She asked me for Allan Cooper’s address, saying that she and Alan Karpoff may drive down to Tampa to visit him.
Scott phoned this afternoon and berated me for not calling him. I said I’ve been sick, but I really should call Scott more because he seems like such a lonely person these days.
Scott wanted me to come with him to Washington this weekend to demonstrate at Nixon’s inauguration. But it seems pointless now. The U.S. has unilaterally stopped all military action in North Vietnam and there are rumors there’ll be a ceasefire by the weekend.
Alice called, from work at Vandeveer, saying she hasn’t been up to very much lately. She said after her mother leaves for Israel to visit her brother, she’s planning to have a party, to which she specifically “ordered” me to bring Ronna so she can finally meet her.