A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1973

by Richard Grayson

Tuesday, May 1, 1973

6 PM on the first of May. One of the more distressing things about being ill is missing the beautiful spring weather. But my scabs are just beginning to form – with their lovely itching – and I should definitely be out by the weekend.

I’m in discomfort, but I really can’t complain. I’m a bit lonely, for no one has called except for Gary and Ronna – but those two make up for everyone else.

After I spent a glorious, itch-free twelve hours sleeping, Gary and Wendy called me this morning from their office. Gary takes every opportunity to cheer me up, and when it comes the time, I’m going to repay his kindness.

Gary is so loyal and good to me. Others – okay, almost everyone I know – may be more amusing, but no one at school has helped me through the chicken pox the way Gary has.

He mentioned that he’d spoken to Sharon, who’s having a very difficult pregnancy, it seems. Kjell is away on Reserve duty, and she’s bedridden down the block at her in-laws’.

When she called from school at 3 PM, Ronna said she’s coming over this evening. She mentioned that she’d had a “heart-to-heart” talk with Shelli today, interrupted by Shelli’s going off somewhere with Mandy; anyway, Ronna said she wanted to discuss it with me.

I had thought that Shelli might take advantage of my absence to become chummy with everyone in LaGuardia again – and I don’t like it. Because no matter what sweetness she exudes, Shelli is still an untrustworthy schemer, looking for trouble.

I know that sounds paranoid, but I sense that she’s up to something, and I don’t know what it is. I can’t forgive her.

The Kingsman elections were today, and Rose had to leave beforehand, but Costas spoke for her, saying how great she’d be as Ronna’s replacement as managing editor next year.

Despite the hurt Rose caused him, Costas still likes her a lot. Ronna’s convinced that he’s still very much in love with her, but maybe he’s just a better person than I am regarding my own ex-girlfriend.

I called Skip and said I was sorry I missed Boys in the Band but heard he was very good in it; I spoke to Mason; and also to Consuelo – but she seemed very cool to me. She said Mark is fine and that they found out the baby is allergic to cow’s milk.

Friday, May 4, 1973

I feel uneasy this afternoon, and I’m not sure I can trace the cause. I do feel a lot better physically although I’m not back at my full strength yet. But maybe the boredom of the past week is making me a bit nudzhedik.

Last night I spoke to Alice, who’s always a pleasure to talk to. We mostly discussed our writing; she wants very much to make it big. Alice is not too thrilled that her mother will be coming home next week because they were not getting along too well before Mrs. K left for Tel Aviv.

Also last night, Ronna called from the printers. Her period is ten days late and she had a headache. It was so good to hear her voice. For a while, I thought she wasn’t going to call and I felt relieved when she finally did.

Ronna reported that Eddie and Rose broke up, by mutual consent, two weeks ago. Funny, they seemed like they were “made for each other,” as the cliché goes – but then, one never really sees beyond the surface. And with Eddie and Rose, it seemed nothing but surface.

Vito also called, very late. It seems that two months ago crazy John Sheehy promised Vito a juicy piece of gossip in exchange for Skip’s phone number, which I had given to Vito.

“I never thought he’d use it,” Vito said. Well, he did. A few nights ago John called Skip and invited himself over at 1 AM. Skip was very angry, especially when John told him that he’d gotten the number from Vito and me.

I felt a lot better this morning. I went for a ride and a short walk. In the mail I got a get-well card. Debbie was the addressee, but it was signed by her, Nancy, Mikey, Mike, Elspeth, Phyllis, Mandy, Peter, Carole, Mason, Libby, Vito, Avis, Teresa, Sid, Eddie, Rose, Mara, Leroy, Stuie, Costas, Stacy, Melvin, Skip and finally Shelli. A very nice gesture.

I called the phone booth in LaGuardia Hall, and as luck would have it, Debbie answered. I thanked her and told her to tell everyone “thank you,” too.

Ronna called me this afternoon after she’d had a checkup at the doctor’s; he said her blood pressure’s a bit low. She’s coming over tonight. I still don’t feel up to going out, and I hope we don’t get on each other’s nerves.

I’m a little worried about our relationship. I think we’re both being pulled on by various forces, and I wonder if it can stand the strain. Damn this chicken pox! I wish this nuisance were over with.

Today marks three years since Kent State. It seems both like yesterday and a long, long time ago. In just a month, it will be all over: my entire undergraduate career. No more LaGuardia Hall or Student Government or Kingsman. Still, I’m sure I’ll survive.

All week, sick at home, I keep getting these hang-up calls, where sometimes I can hear the person breathing.

They’re like the ones that started last spring or summer. I once told Ronna that I suspected it was Shelli. Though I’m sure it’s not her, it’s still a mystery.

Monday, May 7, 1973

Midnight. The day is ending, but it was great to get back into the swing of things. I was feeling a bit funny about being away from school for so long, but once in LaGuardia, I felt at home, seeing familiar faces, all inquiring after my health.

The lobby was a mess because of the student government campaign buttons and leaflets and candidates. The Honest Ballot Association ladies asked how I was doing; by now, they’re like old friends.

I went to Russian, then walked Josh to the subway; it sounds like he’s found an apartment. Back on campus, Stanley couldn’t tell me what was going on in Murphy’s English class because he’s been cutting.

Teresa gave me a big kiss. I’d sent her birthday gift in the mail after I looked up her address on Conselyea Street in Williamsburg in the phone book. The gift was just a book I had in the house, but I’m glad she liked it.

Debbie strolled by, hand-in-hand with her new boyfriend, to whom she introduced me. Clay is good-looking, maybe a bit of a hitter, and I’m glad for Debbie because she seems happy.

Renee came by and said last week was her sister’s engagement party at her place, and I told her to give Toby and Tevye my congratulations. Renee has the look of a girl looking for another husband.

Avis and Alan seem to be getting on famously once more; they appeared affectionate and playful with each other.

Vito kissed me hello, then asked, “Do you ever feel embarrassed by me?” No, I told him, pretty much honestly.

LaGuardia, in other words, is still the same as I left it.

After Ronna completed her Kingsman chores, we had lunch together. I only wish I could have more times like that with her, that it wouldn’t have to end in a month when I graduate. But maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder. (Out of sight, out of mind?)

Prof. Mayers didn’t show up for Afro-American Studies, so I voted in the Student Government election and then headed to LaGuardia to help the Mugwumps campaign. Ruth came by after she finished teaching, and Casey came in, having finished his second year at Penn law school.

Casey got on the bullhorn as Ruth and I handed out leaflets, just like old times. It’s funny: I used to feel “younger” than Marty, Ruth, Casey and the others who were a few years ahead of me, but now I feel myself their contemporary.

I really think Mike and Phyllis will win this election big. They’ve got the endorsements of Kingsman, WBCR, and the House Plan Association, and I don’t see anyone working very hard for the other slates. Even Scott was wearing a Mugwump T-shirt.

Mikey hasn’t gotten accepted at any of the law schools where he applied, so I think he’s going to try to go to grad school in Poli Sci.

At home, I found a letter from Prof. Hartmann of the English Department, telling me that I was a “finalist” in the Grebanier playwriting contest. The winner will be announced at the English majors’ tea on the last day of classes.

I read and did exercises and generally accomplished a lot at home. I returned to school tonight, got some more work done in the library, and I waited for Ronna, who was writing a paper, so I could drive her home.

Without chicken pox, it’s a good life.

Wednesday, May 9, 1973

I’m feeling really nostalgic. Tonight was the last copy night of the year, and this afternoon was President Kneller’s reception for graduating seniors, so I guess that’s why.

At the party in SUBO, I saw many of the faces that I’ve practically lived with these past four years. When I looked at Mikey, I thought of what Dorothy said to the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz: I think I’ll miss him most of all.

Mikey and Richard P and I reminisced about freshman English with Miss Stein in the fall of 1969. It’s hard to believe, all the things that have happened since then.

Maddy was also there. She’ll be staying on at BC, doing graduate work. Linda will, too. Craig – it’s so strange seeing him wearing a Mugwump button! – and Ira and Scott and all the others: what do we face out in the world?

I talked with Professors Murphy and Kitch, and they said it’s “impossible” to find teaching positions in English. Prof. Gorvine said the same thing about Poli Sci.

Prof. Murphy said that the first day he was at grad school, it struck him suddenly that he didn’t know why he was there: “I was in the wrong school in the wrong city in the wrong country.” He thought about leaving before he started classes and actually went so far as to pack up and go to the train station.  But while he was waiting by the tracks, he changed his mind, and he stuck it out and got his Ph.D.

Perhaps next September, I won’t know why I’m in grad school, either. In any case, I’m determined to savor these final days as an undergraduate. “It’s a good life, being a college student,” I said to Ira, who agreed.

So you put up with boring lectures, like Prof. Roberts having an off-day this morning: it’s really easy. And there’s plenty of time for bullshitting, like I did after class.

Skip, Mandy, Avis, Alan, Teresa and I went to Campus Corner and talked about orgies, engagements, and just life in general. Skip said that Consuelo has changed drastically in the past year, and Avis said Consuelo told Shelli it’s awful to have a kid right away.

Back in LaGuardia, I hung around while Ronna did the ads for the paper and then I futzed around upstairs with the gang. I think Vito is getting involved with George, who’s a friend of Skip’s from the play.

In Afro-American Studies, we discussed W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk and I got back my midterm (90%) and my paper (A-).

After class, I had my first real talk with Debbie since I came back. I think she’s quite happy with Clay. She’s intent on transferring to Downstate for nursing school like Ivy did, and she says she’ll miss me next year.

Debbie said she didn’t think anything about Shelli signing my get-well card: “She seemed so concerned about you.” Earlier, talking to Avis, I found out something else about Shelli.

It was indeed Shelli who made those calls a week ago. She confessed that to Avis. And it was probably her making those calls all along. They’d be on the nights Jerry would be in Albany.

I can’t really take any satisfaction from the attention. She’s been married nearly a year, as Avis mentioned today, and Shelli still hasn’t grown up.

Tonight Ronna was really busy at the paper. Karen came down, as did Manny, and Elspeth brought a banana cake she’d baked. I tried to help Dennis write a headline and I wrote an insert for Ronna.

We did take a short walk, just the two of us, in the humid, drizzly night. It’s almost surprising to me how much I’ve become attached to Ronna and the Kingsman people. I’ll miss those crazy copy nights.

Friday, May 11, 1973

Last night was very eventful, and the events were both very good and very bad.

The good first: I arrived in LaGuardia about 7 PM and found the usual election night crowd that I’ve seen several times, but for once, I was neither a candidate nor an elections commissioner.

Just about everyone was there, and the results were announced early: a clean sweep for Mike, Phyllis and the whole Mugwump slate. I shouted and hugged Mike, Mikey, Mason, Vito and Timmy and I kissed Stefanie and Libby. I just felt so excited and close to everyone I’ve practically lived with for the past four years.

The others went to Mike’s house for a victory party, but I had to go to see Mrs. Ehrlich. We had a good session, catching up on topics like graduate school, my leaving Brooklyn College, Shelli’s attentions (Mrs. Ehrlich said to face her about it), and other junk.

Mrs. Ehrlich said most of what I talked about was, in a sense, asking the question, “How can I be sure?” She said there are no guarantees in anyone’s life, but being mature means learning from one’s mistakes and bouncing back.

I made a big mistake after leaving her office. I drove to the printers in Williamsburg and found Ronna, Maddy, Sid and Sean outside on Broadway under the el. They hopped in my car and told us to follow Costas’s friend Saralee to a takeout restaurant in Long Island City.

It was a wild ride, as she drove crazily and I had to scramble to keep up with her car – which had the Vermont license plate BOGIE – and in the parking lot of a Jack-in-the-Box, in the midst of confusion, I didn’t clear a pole and we went flying, smashing the car up badly.

Luckily, no one was hurt, but I was shaken up. Costas, Sean and Sid worked on the car, bending the metal where it was rubbing against the tire. The windshield was a bit shattered and the side door won’t open, but I was able to ride, first back to the printers, and then home.

I tossed and turned all night, feeling foolish about the accident and weak for not helping the other guys out and scared for what might have happened. If Ronna had gotten hurt, I don’t think I could have forgiven myself.

But after lunch today with Ronna, we thrashed everything out, I cried, and we talked, and I felt a lot better. Mom and Dad said they were planning on buying me a car for graduation, so it’s not really that bad – but it’s aggravating, and I didn’t feel like participating in today’s victory celebrations for Mike or anything else at school.

I know that eventually it will only be a rotten memory, but for now it still hurts.