A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-August, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Monday, August 13, 1973
I stayed awake late into the morning, rereading the portion of my diary that concerned my breakup with Shelli. In retrospect, I can see I made two big mistakes: I opened my big mouth and told everyone how hurt I was, and I came every time Shelli whistled, even after she was going with Jerry.
I read over a portion that said how I wanted to date Ronna but that I could never hurt Ivan. The very weekend I wrote that, I realize now, Ivan was up in Rochester, sleeping with Vicky.
But it was a good thing Ronna and I waited a year before we started dating because that year matured us.
I got a letter from Avis in Oregon. She and Beverly – Libby has split for Arizona – are working their way north to Vancouver, and she said she “had a bit of a romantic involvement” with a West German she was traveling with.
I can’t wait to see Avis; I miss her more than I miss anybody. I also miss Vito a lot. On a postcard, he wrote, “I’m in love with Paris”: he’s staying there and doesn’t want to leave.
Vito also said he’s got “good juicy gossip” for me and that he thought of me when he saw a book called La Saga des Forsyte; I love that nut.
In the Registrar’s office today, I ended my sojourn at Brooklyn College with a typical clerical foul-up. They put “cum laude” on my diploma even though my final index was 3.534. So it will take a month for them to make up a new diploma that says “magna cum laude.”
I met Josh in LaGuardia and we were joined by Bobby, who’s now working in the Purchasing Office. Poor Bobby’s had a terrible summer: breaking up with Ellen, getting mono, losing his construction job, and to top it off, he slammed a car door on his finger and it required minor surgery to sew it back on.
Josh and I went to the beach, to Belle Harbor, on the spur of the moment. We set up blankets on Beach 137th Street and sat in the sun. Josh’s mono is still with him, but he’s feeling okay – if very horny because he can’t even kiss anyone.
We talked of everything under the sun. He heard from Allan again. I’ve come to think Allan is a shallow person; Josh just thinks “he’s a fag,” which isn’t exactly the same thing.
As we were about to leave at 3 PM, I was shaking out my beach towel when Josh pointed to Stacy, walking in the other direction. I called out her name and she asked me if I called her last week (“My sister screws up phone messages”). I hadn’t, of course.
After some perfunctory remarks, Stacy went in one direction and we left the beach. She didn’t even glance at Josh the whole time. Walking to the car, Josh told me he’s certain Stacy spotted me and changed her direction, hoping I wouldn’t see her.
I’m sure he’s right because she didn’t seem at all surprised to see me. Josh, who knows my history with Stacy, said her question about my calling her “was almost an accusation.”
Wednesday, August 15, 1973
Although Ronna probably hasn’t even arrived in Cape Cod yet, I feel a kind of emptiness with her away. I suppose I’ve taken her for granted, but I realized today how much I love her. I miss her soft hair and cute smile and ironical brown eyes.
Last evening, when I went to pick Ronna up, her sister answered the door and it was obvious something was wrong. Ronna was sobbing audibly in her bedroom, and for a minute I thought she was upset because I keep pressuring her about being punctual.
But her mother explained there had been a family fight and she’d left her favorite dinner (sausage) untouched – and I gathered it was about Hiram.
He was there, and for the first time, I liked Hiram enormously; he’s going to help me apply for a Fulbright (an idea that curiously came up earlier in the day’s “burst of creativity”) and he slyly mentioned that London is a lovely place for a honeymoon.
Ronna finally came out, apologized for being late, and coldly said goodbye to the others. She wore a yellow danskin top and a scarf, and although she’d cleaned off her eyes, I could tell her mascara had been running.
In the car, I told her if she didn’t want to go to the movies, we didn’t have to, but she said she would tell me about it before we got to Georgetown. It was a minor fracas, involving Hiram’s “immaturity” and how he told Ronna that she couldn’t break up him and her mother no matter what.
Ronna said she can’t live with them after they’re married, so she’ll apply to grad schools out of town.
We sat through Blume in Love, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards I held Ronna around the waist as we walked to my car as it was drizzling. She was hungry, so we went to the McDonald’s in Rockaway near the Cross Bay Bridge and had burgers and cokes.
Ronna decided she’d straighten things out with her mother during the trip, and at her house, I hugged her tightly and wished her a good time on her trip.
At home, I finished off a cute novel Ronna had recommended, My Hamburger, My Love by Paul Zindel. It all took place on Staten Island (like my screenplay, if it ever does materialize).
I awoke late this morning and I found that Prof. Cullen had sent me back my paper on Christina Rossetti. Shaking, I opened it and read on the last page: “What a lovely piece of work this is! Closely argued yet intelligently speculated; I found your account of C.R. an extraordinarily refreshing version of the nonsense usually written about her.”
He gave me an H and suggested I do my thesis on her. I was so gratified and uplifted by that. I feel that I’m doing the right thing after all, that I can become a literary scholar. I’m so looking forward to the fall term at Richmond.
Today I went to BC and found Mike and Leroy and Stanley in the student government office. Mike is so busy.
He’s putting out a mailing, had lined up a Beach Boys concert and is trying to get Albert Hammond too. Mike is also trying to find a job for Mikey (although Phyllis and Timmy will raise hell about that) and placating Dean Wolfe from Humanities, whom Dean Birkenhead apparently stabbed in the back when he cut School of Humanities funding in favor of Social Sciences.
Stanley was doing the film series and we gossiped a bit. The last person to have news of Skip was Elihu, who saw him at Sid and Elspeth’s in Berkeley.
I called Gary’s father and found out Gary will be arriving Friday evening at Kennedy.
Friday, August 17, 1973
This was the first Friday in a long time that I didn’t do something with Ronna. I still miss her, but I wasn’t as conscious of being without her today as I was yesterday.
After all, I guess I have to rehearse for our breakup, which will probably come this autumn. I don’t know why I think that; perhaps it’s a kinnahora that we won’t break up; perhaps it’s because my only previous experience with the phenomenon occurred in the fall.
Last night I didn’t want to mope around the house again, so I called Elihu, and when he suggested I join him and Jill at the movies, I quickly accepted the offer although I’d seen Paper Moontwice already.
I met the two of them in Georgetown. Elihu looked the same as ever, and Jill – whom I hadn’t seen in more than a year – looked like herself: the frosting is out of her hair and it’s all brown now, and she has these aviator glasses. But she’s still plump, with those clear facial features.
I enjoyed the film: I like seeing films again and again so that they become as familiar as old friends and you can recall how you felt the earlier times you saw them. After the movie, we stood in the parking lot and talked.
They couldn’t come to my house, as they’re both working people: Elihu at his temporary job at Nabisco and Jill at her ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, where last week she killed what she said was an oppressive ad for a new “feminine cup.”
I didn’t realize how much I missed Jill’s oddly-accented acerbic comments or Elihu’s gentle but needling gossip. It’s good not to lose touch with old friends.
Today I took a drive up to the Bronx; I suppose I’m a bit worried about doing all the driving to Washington and wanted to practice. To my pleasure, I was able to find Ronna’s father’s building by memory.
Seeing it, I thought about last Christmas Eve when we walked around that neighborhood. From the Bronx, I drove down to the Garment Center and I had a healthy salad for lunch at Brownie’s before visiting Dad and Grandpa Nat at “the place.” I like visiting there, but I could never work there.
After dinner at home, I encountered a traffic jam on the Belt Parkway, so by the time I got to the TWA terminal, Gary’s plane had already landed.
His parents and sister were by the doors where everyone comes out of customs, and as more people came out and Gary was not among them, his mother began getting a bit hysterical (“He must have missed his plane!” – which would be very unlike Gary).
But his sister and I spotted him when the doors opened as others left the customs area, and within a few minutes, he was out. After the customary hugs and handshakes, it was decided that Gary would ride back to Brooklyn with me.
On the way, he told me that going to England was “the best decision I ever made.” He loved the countryside, London, the people he met and the way of life there. As Gary recounted his adventures, it sounded very inviting.
Back at his house, he unpacked gifts for his family, and his mother served coffee and cake. Robert came over with his fiancée Sandy, who seems suited to him; she’s quiet and blonde and wears a bit too much eye shadow.
Feeling a part of the family, I enjoyed myself, but I left early, at 10:30 PM. (For Gary, it was 2:30 AM and I figured he could use a rest.) Very much awake, I read more of We by Yvegny Zamyatin, a great novel Prof. Roberts had recommended.
I feel vaguely nauseated but I’m going to try to get some sleep now.
Monday, August 20, 1973
It’s 5 PM and Ronna will be home this evening. I received a postcard from her today. Dated Thursday, she wrote me from Hyannis, where she and her sister are staying at a guest house.
I have mixed feelings about her coming home. I really don’t know if I love her or not. I suppose it’s all part of feelings I’ve been having lately: I’ve been having a lot of homosexual fantasies.
Last night, for instance, I had a dream that I had a brother, who was black and about 16, and we started wrestling and I got very aroused.
I also had a dream that I had a sister – her name was Laurie and she looked a bit like Avis; although I wanted to sleep with her, we just joked around.
I’m confused; being bisexual may be the hardest thing. If I was completely gay, I could move into that world – yes, with some difficulty, but I’ve seen other guys do it.
Certainly having friends like Vito, Skip, Leon, etc., I had chances to “come out,” either as a lover, or more likely, as a friend, but something held me back.
I’m attracted to girls, and I want to sleep with them, and how many girls are like Teresa or like Glenda Jackson in Sunday, Bloody Sunday? Ronna, for instance: I don’t think she could understand.
Which brings me back to the beginning. Maybe we should break up and avoid hurt to each other. I’m so fond of her, but as much as share with her, could I share this?
We’re going to Washington on Thursday, and I want the trip to be a good one, but I’m so mixed up right now, I’m not sure it’s going to work out.
Josh, bless him, called me today, and I went with him to Kings Highway. First we had a riotous lunch during which we discussed phony phone calls; I haven’t laughed so much in months.
He’s all over the mono finally. We went looking for a shirt and pants he needed for a wedding Sunday, and Josh was worse than a girl; we must have gone to at least twenty stores before he found clothes worthy of him.
But it was all a time-killer. Time-killer: as Prof. Galin once said, it’s a curious expression.