A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early June, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Friday, June 1, 1973
Since last night, I have seriously been considering writing the novel I’ve long talked about, the one about school and the people in LaGuardia Hall. I know I will write it someday, but if it’s too honest, won’t that hurt people and make them angry?
Elayne once said, “You should sacrifice everything to your Muse,” but can I? Still, it would be good therapy for me.
For, last night, as I confessed my hassles with Ronna and my homosexual fantasies to Mrs. Ehrlich, she suspected – rightly, I think – that what concerns me more than sexual feelings or activities is the end of my relationship with Brooklyn College and LaGuardia Hall.
She asked me to consider dating other girls, and possibly boys if I really want to, and maybe I will. I’ve got to end the feeling that closely examining my romance would be sacrilegious: there are things wrong, but there are a lot of things right.
Ronna is not perfect, nor is Shelli perfectly evil. My novel – if there is ever to be one – will be a celebration of man’s humanness in all its forms.
Sure, there are interesting secrets I know about people. Like Scott saying Shelli told him that she’d received a letter from her sister saying that after two years of marriage, Sindy is still a virgin.
Or Ivan’s friend Olivia: we saw her strolling along the beach with a guy Wednesday night. I wonder if he knows, as Ronna and I do, about her rape and abortion. Or another of Ivan’s friends, the guy we met at Country Fair: Mandy told me he’s gay.
I guess that sexual secrets – do I even know all my own sexual secrets? – are the most interesting, because it seems they can do the most psychic damage. But there are other kinds of secrets, too.
This morning I had a long chat with Kjell by his mother’s house. He’s doing well at St. John’s, though he’s not entirely satisfied with the program. But still, he’ll be a clinical psychologist one day.
Sharon is due in a month. She may have to have a Caesarean because her water broke the day Kjell left for Reserve camp, and she had to stay with Kjell’s parents while he was gone. Right now, Kjell is job-hunting for the summer.
At school, I had lunch with Debbie and Mandy. They’re both going to a dinner party at Shelli and Jerry’s tonight. Mandy said they’re planning on watching the repeat of my TV show there. Now that’s something I’d like to see: their reactions, not the TV show.
Debbie was very happy because she got a summer job near her house. We clowned around for a while with Sid, Costas and Melvin. Skip came over and told us that his wallet was stolen the other night at the trucks on West Street after buying dope with Scott.
Evan told me he’s going to pharmacy school because he couldn’t get into dental school. On our first day at Brooklyn College, when I met him on the bus, he intended to go to medical school. I wished him good luck.
We probably all have to scale down our expectations. Like me with writing a novel?
Sunday, June 3, 1973
Last evening turned out to be quite pleasant, although it didn’t start off that way. When I arrived at Ronna’s, she was asleep – and I became annoyed at her irresponsibility.
But when she told me she had lain down suffering with menstrual cramps and she looked so pretty, my anger dissipated quickly. We picked up Avis and went over to Scott’s graduation party.
The party started in the backyard, filled with unfamiliar faces. When Elspeth arrived, I thanked her for the graduation card and assured her I would not lecture her about dropping out, as everyone else is doing.
Elspeth says that after Carole and Irv’s wedding, she’ll go out to Berkeley to meet Sid, who’s going to summer school there.
Mason came, he said, “in the middle of writing a term paper,” and Skip arrived with George and another guy, and of course, Mandy – who seemed distracted for some reason.
Shelli and Jerry came with Leon, and I noticed how tight the three of them and Skip are now. They are leaving to move to Madison on Tuesday.
Ronna and I chatted cordially with Shelli, although Jerry and I didn’t speak. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore; almost all of the pain of two years ago is gone.
Scott had records, and people danced and drank and got stoned. I smoked and Ronna got a little contact high.
Leon told me his goal for the evening was “to get soused,” and he did; I found him later in the evening in the hall, “having a dialogue with myself.”
Cheering me up enormously – as he always does – Vito made a grand entrance. He and I and George fooled around, and everyone was acting really silly. Jerry and Shelli threw drinks at one another.
Avis came over to me, quite stoned, to say that she had developed the ability to just look at people and tell if they were in love or not, and that it appeared to her that Ronna was one of the few people at the party in love with someone.
Timmy arrived with Phyllis, who’s become his shadow these days; Phyllis reported that Mike has broken up with Cindy and is sleeping with Cara, but I didn’t believe that any more than I did the other gossip she fed me.
Everyone broke up when Bruce Weitz arrived – Leon and Jerry especially – and Bruce gave Ronna an incredibly big hug.
Sitting outside on the wrought iron steps from the second floor of Scott’s house to the backyard, Ronna and I started having a for-fun pretend argument.
A young guy about 18 said, “You two sound married.”
Just then Jerry was walking down the steps next to us and he said to the kid, “Can’t you see they look too happy together to be married?”
Jerry and I don’t speak to one another, but our eyes did meet and I smiled before he turned away.
Ronna and I left earlier than most people did. As we said goodnight at her house, we hugged each other and said how much we loved each other. It was a nice moment.
Today I immersed myself in Afro-American literature for tomorrow’s final, my last test in college. During a break, I took a drive out to Rockaway and ran into Ivan’s sister at the beach.
My birthday is tomorrow – in a couple of hours, actually. Last year I came of age; this year I’m just aging, I guess. Twenty-two: wow.
I can by no stretch of the imagination be lumped in with the adolescents anymore – although last night when I bought Scott a bottle of wine, I did have to show my draft card to prove I was over 18.
Combined with Tuesday’s graduation, I’m going through, as they say, a lot of changes. I’m a man now – chronologically, at least – but I am still very much afraid of this world I’m going into.
Until now, I’ve had pretty much of a sheltered life: family, school, friends. But what now? When Mrs. Ehrlich said last week I was beginning “a brand new life,” I hastily corrected her: “Only some things will change,” I said.
Well, we’ll see how I make out in the shooting gallery. I’ll take odds I survive. Mason inscribed the book he gave me: “So, Mr. Grayson, now vee may perhaps to begin, yes?”
I still have some reading in Afro-American literature to do.
Tuesday, June 5, 1973
Four long, but too short, years, and here I am a college graduate. It hasn’t sunk in yet.
Last night I went to see Ronna. My working-woman friend was so pretty in her skirt and stockings. She said that the job at New York Life was all right, but very tedious and boring.
Ronna told me about her first day job adventures, and her sister told me about her first registration at Brooklyn College.
Ronna gave me a card for graduation and one for my birthday, telling me the e.e. cummings poem she gave me six months ago still means the same thing.
Her birthday gifts included a basil plant, kits, a Van Gogh puzzle, and a beautiful shirt.
I hugged her but had to leave early. At home, I watched the mayoral primary results before I went to bed; there’ll be a runoff between Beame and Badillo.
This morning was bright and hot. I got to school early, waiting outside the campus gate, talking to my fellow graduates: Craig, Maddy, Linda, Charlie.
Finally, we got on campus, and under Archie’s supervision, we marched in double file: me next to Scott, just in back of Mikey and Gary. After the national anthem and the invocation, we took our seats on the quad.
Avraham Harman’s speech was typical of most commencement addresses and I didn’t listen; more compelling was the sweet smell of marijuana wafting over from the row behind us and the blazing sun.
The only interesting part of graduation, really, was when they gave an honorary degree to Eubie Blake, who’s 90, and we all got to sing “I’m Just Wild About Harry” in his honor.
Finally, President Kneller told us to stand, and that “by the power and authority vested in me,” we’d received our degrees and could move the tassels on our mortarboard to the left. So I’m Richard Grayson, B.A., magna cum laude – if you please.
The whole thing was anticlimactic and meaningless compared to other things that have happened at the college since 1969. Still, we do need ceremonies to formalize things.
I met Mom and Dad in front of LaGuardia – my home away from home – and they met Deans Smith and Wiepert, and Susan and Felicia, and Mikey’s mother and Gary’s parents.
For what seemed hours, I shook a lot of hands and said “Congratulations” and “Thank you” to many people.
Afterwards, we had lunch at the Floridian; then I spent the afternoon in the backyard. This evening I went to visit Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb, who gave me their gift, a monetary one.
Perhaps it’s now time to start laying the groundwork for the rest of my life.
Thursday, June 7, 1973
5 PM. I feel a bit like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate: for the past few days I’ve been loafing by the pool, getting a sunburn, indulging myself – but I’m not really happy doing that.
I have to keep moving, get started on some new goal. Perhaps that’s the curse of being achievement-oriented; once I’ve completed something, I feel aimless.
I have everything, I guess: a nice house, all the possessions I want, a not unsympathetic family, a girl who loves me, a college degree and the prospect of a comfortable future – but I’m still dissatisfied.
Ronna was saying last night how she could see how people can waste their lives on stupid jobs like the one she’s got for the summer. You wake up early in the morning, go do your mind-rotting tasks all day, fight the rush hour traffic home, and by then you’re too exhausted to do anything but sleep in preparation for the same thing the next day.
But Ronna’s job is only a temporary thing, and my . . . my drifting is also only a temporary summer thing.
Elihu called last night. He’s got a terribly boring temporary job at Nabisco for the summer. He said that he was at Rhoda’s on primary night, and they were all pretty gloomy. Rhoda finished third in the City Council race, and I feel guilty about not helping out more.
And Elihu told me he found out that Leon got his master’s in comp lit with honors and will spend the summer in Wisconsin – he, Shelli, Jerry and Skip left for Madison yesterday – and then go on to Nepal.
I got a birthday card from Alice today, postmarked London. She writes that she’ll be home this week after seeing Madrid. I miss her, perhaps because she’s my oldest friend and provides a sense of stability and continuity that no one else can.
I went to bed early last night and was nearly comatose for twelve hours. This morning, I stopped by the college for a minute – yes, it’s hard to break away – and found it was deserted.
So I drove uptown to see a movie with my student discount pass: Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon, a lovely, old-fashioned kind of picture about the 1930s. I can see how easy it is for people like Stanley to escape into celluloid.
(Stanley, by the way, got a D from Prof. Murphy in our English class and was happy not to have failed.)
Crossing Third Avenue, I looked around in Bloomingdale’s, then drove to downtown Brooklyn to have lunch at Junior’s.
It was a pleasant enough day, but I feel so restless and a bit under the weather. I’ve got to see Mrs. Ehrlich tonight.
Saturday, June 9, 1973
6 PM, and I’m feeling very decadent. I slept away the day, which was searingly hot and humid.
Mike called this morning, asking me to join the others in playing softball in Rockaway. But somehow I couldn’t manage the energy after a long, exquisite night, and the heat and the prospects of heavy beach traffic made up my mind.
At 2 PM, I lay down, and when I awoke, it was already 5 PM.
In the mail, I found that I’d gotten an A in Afro-American Studies, so I went 4.0 my last semester of college.
Last night I picked up Ronna at her house; her mother and brother had gone upstate to a family wedding. Her sister said I really looked sexy in my shorts, white socks and sneakers, then mentioned that a pair of Ivan’s shorts were still in their house and said, “He looked good in them, too.”
Ronna was embarrassed but I didn’t mind. I’m finally able to believe that I’m just as good for Ronna as Ivan was. Besides, I know I’ve never looked better; I feel handsomer than I’ve ever felt.
Ronna mentioned that she has consciously compared herself to other girls in my past, too, so I guess it’s natural. But the funny thing is I almost can’t remember any other girl besides Ronna.
And she looks better to me than ever, too. It was so wonderful the other night when I was driving up Ralph Avenue towards Flatlands when a pretty brunette in shorts with green knee socks caught my eye, and I realized I was attracted to her before I realized it was Ronna.
Last night we drove out to Manhattan Beach and sat on the breakers in twilight: it was a scene out of one of those “soft-touch” photo greeting cards.
She looked prettier than ever. Wearing a black danskin top and a scarf, she looked like a beautiful woman. When I first met Ronna, she seemed very little-girl-ish, but she’s changed.
Ronna said I’ve changed, too. “Two and a half years ago you were a little weird, like you were out to prove something to the world,” she told me, “but now you’re more sure of yourself.”
At home, we looked over my yearbook and Ronna put Solarcaine on my still-painful sunburn. We lay in my bed, holding each other, making out (which ended up very satisfying for both of us), talking about this and that.
It was really a fine night, almost too good to be true.