A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1974
by Richard Grayson
Friday, February 1, 1974
It’s 6:30 PM and the sun is setting. Today brought a return to winter after a week of what seemed like spring. Yesterday’s temperature of 60° was replaced by a chilly 30°.
I dreamed that I was in a car at night, with Marc driving, and that Joy was lying on a couch with me. She began fondling me and I enjoyed it very much. But suddenly on the TV screen came a parade of children in Manhattan, Billy among them. I proudly pointed him out to Joy as we watched the set. Then we began to make love just before I woke up.
It’s curious that I was glad to see Billy, when I would have thought that my surface resentment of him would go deeper subconsciously. Yet I suppose the dream contained a few of the things I read about in Open Marriage.
While I want to be free to explore relationships, sexual or otherwise, with other girls, it doesn’t take away anything from my basic, enduring attachment to Ronna; after all, if I can feel so fondly toward her baby brother to interrupt lovemaking with another girl, it must mean that even if I do sleep with others, my relationship with Ronna will be central in my mind.
I did something today which I was scared to do, mostly to help myself, but partially because I knew Ronna would be proud of me.
I drove to Richmond to see what was doing there. Answer: nothing, although I did run into Ed Merritt, Mike Fogarty and Andrea. But then, I decided to, as Mrs. Ehrlich describes it, “put another feather in my cap” and put the car on the ferry to Manhattan despite my phobia about boats.
I thought of backing out but it was too late once I drove the car onto the ferry. Upstairs, I found a bench to myself and braced myself for the journey. I can’t say I wasn’t scared, but I was in control of myself all the time and the anxiety didn’t overwhelm me.
I feel that my fear of being out in the water on the ship is related to both my anxiety about being adrift, without my parents and home, and also to sexual excitement, the fear of loosening up and giving into my feelings: the drift of the water.
Once on dry land, I drove uptown to visit Dad at “the place” (Joel looked very well; Grandpa Nat had a cold) and then I ate lunch at Brownie’s.
Back home, I received a call from Scott, who sounded downcast; he said that the sheer boredom of his job exhausted him. The invalid who was going to sublet his apartment to Scott took ill and won’t be moving out right away, so Scott, to his disappointment, is still living at home.
He had an offer to go up to this female coworker’s apartment tonight, but he said he wasn’t looking forward to it: “I’ve given up fucking for fucking’s sake.”
Elspeth called him on Monday, all but asking him outright if he’d sleep with her; he declined, but as he likes Elspeth as a friend, went over to see her for a while.
Elspeth reported that Teresa asked Costas if they couldn’t go out anymore, could they just still fuck? Costas refused. If that’s true, I’m seeing Teresa as someone who asks for the trouble she gets.
Scott said that Teresa embarrassed him so much in LaGuardia last month by shouting out, in front of everyone, “Costas is better in bed than you are!” Perhaps I’m outgrowing the whole LaGuardia crowd.
Scott said he’d see if Avis was doing anything and maybe they could join me and Ronna tonight, but he called back later to say that Avis was going out with Jacob, and Scott said he’d feel funny in a threesome.
Tuesday, February 5, 1974
I have just finished Jude the Obscure, the first book I had to read for this term. It’s always been one of my favorite novels, and I find its message – “The letter killeth” – applicable to my life.
The tragedy comes from doing what people or what you think you should do instead of acting on your own feelings.
Yesterday I was pretty nervous before class, but I went to see Prof. Fuchs in his office. He said he hadn’t gotten around to my paper yet, apologized for the delay, assuring me he’d get to it within a few weeks. Fuchs said he was very busy writing an article on Jewish writers and we discussed literary topics for a while.
I also went to see Prof. Cooley, a queer-looking ageless sort of man, who is the director of the M.A. program as well as my teacher. He cleared up a lot of my doubts about what I have to do – and I was glad things seemed a lot clearer.
I must see Prof. Ebel about writing a thesis, and Prof. Affron to prepare for my language exam, and I will give Prof. Cooley my list of fifty works for my comprehensive exam.
He seemed very cordial in class as well; I think I’m going to enjoy his Modern British Novel course.
When I spoke with Josh last night and he told me how great Florida was, it made me feel angrier that I didn’t go there to spend intersession with Grandma Sylvia. Well, I’ll learn from this mistake. Josh and I arranged to see each other later in the week.
This afternoon I went to Mrs. Ehrlich and said how I really wanted to kvetch – about my weight, sore throat, pimples, the gas shortage, the 18° weather, school starting – but I realized that would not be very productive.
I told her how lately I’ve preferred my dream world – which I control – to the world of reality. The other night I dreamed I helped a legless man onto the bus, glad that I could do something for a helpless person (the cripple I often picture myself as?).
And I mentioned going on the ferry and how in a strange way, I welcomed the anxiety: the resumption of an old feeling, how matter how uncomfortable, which was controlled by me.
Last week when Ronna and I saw a play, I gave no thought at all to the kind of anxiety which would have devastated me in a theater three years ago.
Mrs. Ehrlich suggested that once I just tried to wait out things – plays, weddings, classes – and now I’ve discovered that there is enjoyment in getting involved.
She said maybe I don’t have to wait for the weather to get warm or school to end or my skin to clear up before I can enjoy things. Those difficulties are just inconveniences. Even the gas crisis has a silver lining, after all: I can find parking spaces by closed service stations.
I have been terrified of owning my feelings, ignoring them until they built up to such an extent that they seem incongruous, like my getting an erection while doing schoolwork.
I was afraid of seeing The Exorcist with Scott on Sunday because I was scared the film would stir up feelings: it’s such a scary movie that many people get physically sick at it. (But the lines at the theaters are still incredibly long.) Maybe someday I can own up to my feelings, but it’s hard.
Tonight I liked Nancy Bogen, my instructor in The Old Testament and Modern Literature; she’s young and hip and reminds me a little of Laurie.
This morning I went to the Admissions office at Brooklyn College, where Matt gave me the application form for graduate study. I then went to the English Department to get all the information for applying to the new MFA program in Creative Writing. I’ve got to talk to Jon Baumbach about it soon.
On the first floor of Boylan, I ran into Josh’s mother, who said he didn’t call me back last night because he stayed over at his brother’s. Mara came by and said she’s no longer seeing Eric – neither is his other girlfriend – but she met a really nice guy and they went to Boston together for the weekend.
Ari came over and gave me two old papers I’d lent him; they were from Prof. Gluck’s Poli Sci course in the summer of ’71, and it was so strange to see them, yellowing with age. Ari has graduated and is going to school to become a cantor.
I got a handwritten note from Jay Hershenson, thanking me for my support and advice, saying, “I will always remember the confidence you placed in me. Let’s stay in close touch.”
A thoughtful gesture – but was it motivated by genuine feeling or political priorities? Mike got pretty much the same note.
The other letter I got in today’s mail was from Elihu, who’s into his schoolwork at Brown and hopes to publish an article he wrote on the French and Indian War.
He’s fed up with the dorm and is looking for an apartment to live in, starting this summer. (He’s decided not to return to the city this summer and instead study in Providence.)
Elihu seems more secure, career-wise, that I ever will be. He’ll have an easy time getting a job at university teaching history, and then he’s set for life.
Thursday, February 7, 1974
The good feelings of last night have gotten even stronger this evening. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved in my life. I don’t know what it is, but I feel that there are so many people who care about me and who I could really depend on if I was desperate.
I guess it started last night: when Mara confided in me and I could see that she really was glad I was there; Dean Smith’s interest in my career plans; the friendship of Richie, whom I hardly knew years ago; and finally, the feeling of camaraderie I felt when I shared a hazardous drive in the storm with Dean Gold following the Alumni Board of Directors meeting.
When I spoke to Ronna when I got home, we had a fight, or I should say a genuine misunderstanding. I got my anger out, although I didn’t have much, but I knew there was still a knot in Ronna’s stomach and I encouraged her to get it out.
She hissed, “Bastard!” full of real anger, and she said she immediately felt so much better and back in love with me. And I felt in love with her; I knew what she was saying is, “I’m very angry with you, Richie,” and I didn’t mind because it was honest emotion.
Ronna told me that Ivan had called to thank her for the birthday card and he specifically asked how I was and told Ronna told send his regards. That made me very happy, as I was afraid Ivan hated me just because I was going out with his old girlfriend.
And I think that Ronna and Ivan have started to get it together and can have a genuine, constructive friendship, which is okay with me. (This time it really is, deep down.)
Ronna ended the call by mentioning that Renee is Felicia’s Statistics teacher this term, and we hung up feeling good about one another.
After doing a few errands for Mom, who’s ill with a cold, and waiting for half an hour to fill up the tank, I went to BC today. Debbie said she enjoyed her Florida vacation; she’s gotten so skinny but is as sweet as she ever was. Skip was in today, telling us he got into Berkeley but can’t afford to go.
I went with Ronna to get her a sandwich during her break between classes. She looked so good today, her face rosy-pink and her hair clean and silky.
Today there was just so much good fellowship in LaGuardia, I felt as if I were part of a huge family. Mandy introduced me to this girl as “a dear old friend.” Costas honked his horn and waved as I crossed the Junction.
In the library, Stefanie came over, nervous about a speech she had to give, and when I left her, we squeezed each other’s hand, and it was so nice. Jon K said the banana cake I made was very good, and I said, “As long as you and Laurie are still alive after eating it,” but I could see that he was truly grateful.
Mason and I hugged each other after a few weeks apart. He told me how Atlanta was so relaxing and how Paul is settled in there. Mason is going to Boston to visit Jerry and Shelli this weekend, and I felt so generous emotionally that I told him to give them a big hello from me.
As we had arranged, I had lunch with Gary after his job interview in the city; he’s going to be a research assistant for a Random House sociology book project.
People today were generally so friendly: Vito, his usual funny self; Grace; Ron; Carl; Mrs. DeSouza.
Before I left campus, I met Josh and drove him home; he needs to make a film for his Cinema course. Josh is still tanned from Florida. He said it was great to see Allan again; Allan is always in love and it’s always unrequited or otherwise hopeless.
Josh is a good friend and I want to keep him, even if he goes through with his plans to move to down to Florida after graduation and start a business with his brother.
Saturday, February 9, 1974
I’ve just been in the bathroom, on the scales: I weigh 140, which is about ten pounds too much, but I haven’t gained any weight in months. Still, I balanced myself on one foot, shifting my weight onto the other side, just to see what it feels like to see the scale recording 125.
Today I felt nothing so much as hung over – from last night’s snowstorm, I guess. I walked out into the storm to catch the Flatbush Avenue bus. Walking down the block to Avenue N, I saw Kjell and Sharon with their baby leaving the house of his parents, but I didn’t have time to say hello.
I waited and waited in the furious snow as bus after bus passed by with the “No Passengers” sign lit. Finally, after 45 minutes, I spotted a cab and took it to the Junction.
At the door of Whitman, I bought my tickets from Cindy, who told me that Ronna was already there and that I’d find her sitting with Melvin and Stefanie. Before the film started, I went downstairs to the bathroom and saw Mike and Bruce, who told me about the many accidents in the storm.
I called home and found out from Jonny that Dad had gotten his car started but it stalled again on Kings Highway, and Mom and Marc went there to give him a boost.
Upstairs, I ran into Jason, who said he was there with several of his friends from Midwood and was looking for Vito, who came later.
Grace and Helen were there, and Ira and his girlfriend, and Libby with some guy; Sid was sitting with Corinne nearby.
I had never seen Gone With the Wind before, and it was not so much a movie as an experience, getting caught up in the lives of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in the Old South.
It was a long movie, and during the intermission, Melvin and I scurried over to McDonald’s to get something to eat. We had to hide it under our coats and wouldn’t have made it back into the theater had not Mike intervened with the ushers.
For the second part of the film, Leroy sat with us and made loud, supposedly humorous comments. He’s cool to Ronna and me lately because he knows we are wary of his relationship with her sister; I don’t know what’s going to become of that.
When the film ended, it was after midnight. Melvin walked Stefanie to the Rockaway bus, and Ronna and I walked around the Junction, debating what to do. The worldseemed curiously like a desert, the lights from the street and the glistening snow and the black sky somehow incongruous.
We finally decided on a taxi to take Ronna home, then me, and we hailed a cab. Ronna was restive, but I figured she was annoyed at my extravagance in taking a taxi, just as she had been when I wanted to this summer when we saw Godspell.
She left her blue woolen mittens in the cab and that gave me an excuse to call and find out what was bothering her and why she seemed totally disgusted with me. But it turned out that she was cranky because she was feeling hornier than usual and wanted to be alone with me. The day before I had felt the same way, so I completely understood and was overjoyed it was that rather than something bad.
Today the snow melted a bit in the sun. Dad stupidly parked his car in the garage last night and it died. When Marc attempted to boost him, Marc’s car slid down the icy driveway and smashed into the back of the Cadillac. The resulting tension and aggravation were so apparent all day, it was unpleasant to be in the house.