A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late January, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Friday, January 19, 1973
It’s 5 PM and I’m really feeling good. It was a good thing I went to see Mrs. Ehrlich last night.
I left the house quite early, and it was an extraordinarily mild (60°) evening, so I window-shopped on Fulton Street for a while, then parked on Atlantic Avenue, near Mrs. Ehrlich’s office in her loft.
When I got there, I asked her if I could read my diary entries for the past week. She said to go ahead and I did. It was difficult to really spill my guts out like that, but it was easier to read it than to tell it.
And it was a good way to let my new shrink know where I’m at, psychologically speaking. Afterwards I felt naked, a bit uncomfortable, but also relieved. I told her about Shelli and Jerry, and Ronna and Ivan.
Mrs. Ehrlich offered what I think is a remarkable insight: that, like Shelli, Rochelle Wouk (even their first names are similar) left me for another man: Dr. Bob Wouk. So I’m going through kind of a breakup again.
We talked until past 10 PM, and while I don’t quite feel secure with her yet – she calls me Mr. Grayson and it’s hard to get used to that; she said we’re in collaboration and equal, hence “Mrs. Ehrlich” and “Mr. Grayson” – I feel that we may get there yet.
When I got home, I received a call from Ronna. I had been upset that she hadn’t called all day yesterday and even had the fantasy that she was out doing something with Ivan. Which is pretty ridiculous: she was working for the lawyer, Mr. Fishbein, all day.
How could I have ever doubted Ronna? It’s so plain that she cares for me – and even if she didn’t, she would never lie to me.
We had a long, affectionate conversation. Almost immediately afterwards I fell into a sound sleep and woke up today feeling much better.
When I called Dr. Wouk this morning, she suggested that my anxiety about tomorrow’s Advanced GRE in Lit may have been in part responsible for my being sick.
She knows me better than I know myself. I had completely repressed the whole thing until today. Tonight I’m going over to Ronna’s. She said, “Because of the GRE’s, I’m gonna put you to bed early.”
I said that sounded good but I probably should get some sleep, too.
Saturday, January 20, 1973
6 PM. My GRE’s are over, and I must confess to a great feeling of relief. I felt nervous all this morning and I went over to the college this afternoon feeling pretty scared.
The test started late, but it really wasn’t that difficult. I had to leave out a lot, as I don’t know from Milton or Chaucer or Dryden. Anyway, I sat there for 3½ hours and I did my best, and it’s over.
Now I can finally start on my graduate school applications; I know I will get them out soon now.
Last night was rather pleasant. Ronna and I came back to my house; she’s happy to just sit around and so am I. We went into my bedroom and sat on my floor and talked.
She told me about a dream she had, about Ivan, and I told her about my dream about him and said if it was on both our minds, we should talk about it.
Ronna said that after a year, Ivan wants to be her friend, and she’s happy about it and intends to keep in touch with him. He didn’t ask her out when they saw each other; he’s still seeing Vicky, and others, too.
Ronna said even if he weren’t, they couldn’t get back together again. I said I was glad she was happy about renewing her friendship with Ivan and I speculated about my being friends with Shelli again.
But then Ronna told me that Ivan already knew that she and I have been seeing each other. How did he find out? From a phone call from Shelli.
It’s obvious to me that the call was just to relay that information, for I know from Avis – and from Ivan himself, now that I’ve seen him, too – that Shelli hadn’t called him for many months, not since before her marriage.
It’s tricks like that that make me wary of Shelli.
Ronna said she wished we had met as strangers, but I said it didn’t matter to me, for it is her I love. “The past is past,” I said, “and the future is with us.”
We laughed and hugged and kissed and touch and we were both very happy. I told Ronna, “Please don’t be afraid of me. I’ll never hurt you,” and I cried, and so did she.
I’ll probably see her tonight, although I’m exhausted.
Nixon was inaugurated for his second term today – and the demonstration did not amount to much.
Sunday, January 21, 1973
Last night was really great. I went over to Ronna’s at 8 PM, but as usual she wasn’t ready, so I sat in the living room with her mother and played with Billy. When she came out, we drove over to Sheepshead Bay to see Such Good Friends.
The movie was pretty awful, especially in comparison with Lois Gould’s excellent novel, but we were both in a good mood and didn’t really mind.
Afterwards we drove out on Long Island; the roads were nearly deserted and the drive helped me unwind after yesterday’s test. Back at my house, we watched the Inaugural Balls, which were unintentionally hilarious.
Up in my room, we held each other and tickled and touched and kissed. Ronna is passionate, but she still doesn’t want to have sex. When I was about to unhook her bra, she said, “Richie, please don’t,” and I stopped.
We just lay on the floor, a pillow at our heads, holding each other, and it was so nice, so peaceful, so secure. Just looking at Ronna makes me want to smile all over and hug her tightly. When we’re together like that, it’s like Shelli and Ivan and everyone else in the world doesn’t exist.
It was after 4 AM when I took her home, which shows how much I like her, as I’ve never stayed out that late for anyone else. I woke up at 1:30 PM, and after my afternoon “breakfast,” I drove to Rockaway.
It was a mild, sunny day, and walking on the boardwalk, I found Grandpa Nat. We stood and talked for a while, then we both went over to Grandpa Herb’s, where Grandma Ethel made lunch for all of us.
The water was very calm and blue today and we remarked that the days seem to be getting longer. I left for home, where I read the newspapers and called Scott.
He said the Washington trip was really a bummer. He couldn’t stand being with Elspeth and Pablo for so many hours; there was almost no press coverage of their demonstration; and the bus broke down on the way home, so they didn’t get in until 3 AM today.
Scott said he’s going for an interview at the Postgraduate Center. I’m glad he’s going back into therapy.
Tuesday, January 23, 1973
It’s early evening now. At 10 PM President Nixon is scheduled to appear on TV, and most people believe that he’s going to announce a ceasefire or some agreement finally ending the Vietnam war.
I spoke to Elspeth, and like Scott, she was disappointed over the demonstrations on Inauguration Day. Yet if peace comes and the war is over at last, I’ll be very happy.
It’s ironic that Lyndon Johnson died suddenly last night; he’ll never see the war end. I can’t say I liked LBJ. I suppose I felt sorry for him; he did a lot of horrible things and he was misunderstood, but he did some very good things like civil rights and Medicare and the Great Society, too.
Now, with Truman and Johnson dead, there are no living ex-Presidents, only Nixon.
I never got around to calling Stacy today, and I said I’d call her last night when she phoned me yesterday to ask if I wanted to do anything during the day. By then I was already committed to seeing The Emigrants at the 8th Street Playhouse with Vito and Mara.
I really should sit Stacy down and explain about Ronna; instead of calling Stacy last evening, I ended up going to Ronna’s house after Vito and Mara and I had dinner at Kings Plaza.
It’s not that I feel I can’t see Stacy, but at this point the complications of seeing her would outweigh any enjoyment I might get out of it.
Anyway, early this afternoon Ronna called me. We’d both woken up late and agreed to meet at school later in the day, after she finished work for Mr. Fishbein.
At the college, I went to the English Department to speak to Jim Merritt, who’s so nice. He said I could give him some letters of recommendation to write. I’ve finally gotten around to the graduate school applications.
My first choice is now Richmond College, on Staten Island, a branch of CUNY. It has a small program in English, and while it’s not very prestigious, it’s away from Brooklyn but not very far. And it seems like a homey place to me.
I’m going to try to get my applications out by the end of the week. I’m also applying to BC (as a last resort), the Graduate Center, Stony Brook, New Paltz and maybe Fordham. If only I can get accepted somewhere other than Brooklyn.
While I was waiting for Ronna to come to the campus, I tried to figure out a program for the spring and talked with Vito, Eddie and Rose, Wendy and others.
Vito asked me to drive him and his sister to Leonia, New Jersey, tonight so she can press assault charges against her husband, but I said I couldn’t. When Ronna and I met, we said we’d get together tonight, but as of now (7 PM), I haven’t heard from her.
This week I register for my final term at Brooklyn College. No more $53 general fees, pulled cards, or other beautiful nonsense at registration. I’ll miss it, but still, I’ve got to look to the future, and there’s no reason to think the future won’t be just as good as the present.
Saturday, January 27, 1973
Peace has finally come to Vietnam, at least officially, and I feel pretty peaceful myself tonight.
The ceasefire went into effect less than an hour ago, but one finds it so hard to believe because it seems as though we’ve always been at war. In any case, time will tell whether the peace will last.
I don’t know why I had been worried about last night; it was a wonderful evening. Ronna and I got to Manhattan at 7 PM and went to the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater on Lafayette Street.
We had tickets for Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, and it was superb. An all-black cast headed by the magnificent James Earl Jones was fantastic.
We sat in the second row, and it was theater-in-the-round, so we were so close to the actors that we caught every nuance. Live theater is so exciting, and both Ronna and I thoroughly enjoyed the play.
Back at her house in Brooklyn, we had some bialys and orange juice, and then drove out to Rockaway, walking along the boardwalk in Belle Harbor. It was a mild night and the tide was coming in.
At 1 AM, we went back to my house and made out in the basement. At one point I jokingly said to her, “I really appreciate your doing this, especially since I know it’s not any fun for you.”
She said, “What kind of stories have been told about me?”
We laughed and I hugged her tightly. When I first met Ronna, I was told that she was kind of a prude who didn’t believe in premarital sex, but that’s far from the truth, as I know how much she enjoys making love.
Well, what we do isn’t intercourse, but we manage to have orgasms, sometimes multiple ones. When she’s ready for intercourse, we’ll do it and not before. I love her so much I can be patient and wait for things to happen naturally.
Today Ronna went to Red Hook to see Anna, the Puerto Rican girl she’s tutoring, and tonight she went over to Susan’s.
I awoke late. It was raining hard all day, so it seemed like a good day to see a movie. I drove into the city and caught Cries and Whispers, the new Bergman film that everyone says is so good. While I enjoyed it, I really have to see it again.
Tonight I took a long herbal bath and am getting to bed early.
Wednesday, January 31, 1973
These past 24 hours have been like heaven; I feel like I’m floating somewhere above the borough of Brooklyn. And it’s all due to one person: Ronna.
Last evening before we went out, I was thinking about our relationship. I don’t want to lose Ronna, but I don’t want our relationship to turn clingy and neurotic.
It’s so hard to keep relationships from getting like that, though; Libby and I were discussing that yesterday. There’s this guy, David, in Connecticut who really likes her, and she likes him.
Though Libby says she could be with Mason 24 hours a day, she thinks he’s getting tired of her and wants him to see other people, too. But does that ever work out?
Ronna confessed yesterday that she’d had a dream in which I left her to sleep with Shelli, and she was left alone to talk with Renee. I guess that’s similar to the dreams I have about Ivan. Can’t we rise above possessiveness and jealousy?
Yesterday in the copy office, I found a photo that must have been three years old: Jerry had his arm around Elspeth, and Greg was hugging Rosie. How things change.
All that was running through my mind last night when I talked on the phone with Ronna. She said she’d been depressed for days but couldn’t pinpoint it to anything concrete although she thought it had to do with me.
I asked her if it would make things easier if I didn’t see her for a while, and she said no; in fact, her constantly wanting to be with me was one of the problems.
So I came over to pick her up and we returned to my room to talk things out. We decided that the “problems” are really nothing serious yet. And we hugged and kissed and petted all night; it was so beautiful.
She smelled of Noxzema, which was nice, and she let me caress her bare breasts, and we tickled each other. Slowly we’re exploring each other, our minds as well as our bodies.
“This is the most honest relationship I ever had in my life,” Ronna said.
And I said, “It’s like being naked all the time – but it’s so good.”
Mom had bought a coconut, and we went downstairs to join the family for a while, but then we stayed in my room until after 1 AM, when I took her home.
About twelve hours later, after a night’s sleep, I returned to her house. We went to Kings Plaza to buy a birthday present for Eddie. It was hard to choose because neither of us knows him very well, but we finally settled on a Studio One-type landscape photograph.
After Ronna and I had lunch at Cooky’s, we came to my house to watch soap operas, then went out to buy her a guitar – she’s learning to play – and to buy me a digital clock.
Back home again, Marc joined us upstairs to talk; he’s really so funny. My brother is into inhaling “whippets” (nitrous oxide “laughing gas” capsules) and is “selling them to cool people.” He’s making a fortune, he said, because he has the Mill Basin territory to himself.
Ronna and I went back to her house for dinner, and afterwards we hung around as her sister had a party. Thank God I’m not in high school anymore: how awkward things were. But I feel very “at home” at Ronna’s house.