life of buddy don, chaptur 85:
the secunt questchun
ye mite could have noticed by now how a plot aint hardly worth readin whenever thangs is goin grate fer yer care ackter n thats kindly how thangs wuz fer me n emily durin the skool year startin in the fall of 78 n runnin thru the sprang of 79. twernt as if the times wuz easy, but they wuz reglar. i rote near all of my novel durin this time, gittin up over 500 pages by april. n i applied fer a skolarship to study in germuny, witch i applied fer a fullbrite n ended up gittin a deutsche akademischer austauschdient or d-a-a-d, in sted. n i tuck classes, germun n flossofy n relijun. twuz a struggle to git everthang dun, but twuz also a peaceful time, lease on the outside.
on the inside twuz a nuther matter on a counta emily n whut i wonted to do or not do. i wuz of two minds, witch in one i wonted to go to germuny alone so i could make shore i lernt all the germun possbull. i magined i wood be able to quit usin english fer innythang, even keepin my diary. but my other mind wuz my hart n i dint know how to say to emily i woodnt wont her to go long with me. ye mite could thank thangs wood be easy to figger. ifn i wuz in luv with her, i wood marr her n be dun with it. but twernt so simple. i had dun larnt ye could be in luv with moren one persun, even at the same time. or so thangs seemed at the time.
innywho, i wuz lookin into sum the thangs i saved frum that time n run up on a lil piece i wrote back in february of 1979. in the verr nex diary entry i claimed twuz only of passin innerest n dint really tell the hole story. my sayin that tells moren i knew i wuz a'tellin:
I am disgusted with myself and my life and the very fact that I am disgusted. I can't seem to find any satisfaction with anything. I hate the eternal wondering about such unanswerable questions as: why are we here? what are we supposed to be doing? what is love? what do I really want? why can't I be satisfied with anything?
My disgust with life shows itself most in my relationship with Emily. She drives me nuts with her cigarette smoking, messy habits, refusal to face reality, her spoiled brattish dependency and despondency -- sometimes I absolutely hate her, I mean it, I could literally beat her, she makes me so mad -- she won't eat half of the vegetables known to man, won't pick up after herself and expects me to love her all the more because of her childishness and her only-child-spoiled-rottenness. She sulks, cries or strikes out in anger if I criticize anything about her -- anything at all -- and if I finally put my foot down about anything -- particularly about her clothes, books, papers, empty cigarette packages, newspapers, empty match books, or you-name-it, all of which covers better than eighty percent of all total surface area -- including furniture surfaces -- in the apartment -- she reacts as if I'd beaten her or pulled her hair or gone out with another woman.
She expects me to understand her friendship with Ronnie Peck and to extend my own friendship to him as well, but she flies into a rage if I even mention Susannah's existence or if Suze calls, which she has done a grand total of five or six times since I moved in with Emily, or, heaven forbid, if Susannah should visit -- the gall of that girl, she's visited us twice already! -- and it all makes me so mad I can barely contain myself.
Another game we play revolves around the fact -- firmly established and finally proven, in her mind at least -- that I will eventually leave her, go out on her, no longer love her. This morning, for instance, she raised the question of whether or not it is, in my opinion, a sin for us to have sex together. I said I didn't think that sex per se is a sin but that my living with her when I am unsure of whether or not I'd like to live with her my entire life was a sin -- is, damn it all, I know it is -- a sin. Lest you mistakenly assume that new data was disclosed by my admission, let me assure you that I've told her as much many times in the past and that I'd done so before I moved in with her. In spite of this, her lip swole up and she looked as if I'd just slapped her. I told her that she knew already how I felt and that I'd hoped to avoid upsetting her. Had I upset her? "It's all right," she moaned, ever bit as convincing as a martyr.
Ach and ach and ach ach!
It makes me so mad. And what's most maddening of all is my awareness that I am the one who is wrong. I shouldn't remain with her knowing how she feels if I don't love her and if I don't intend to marry her. If I want to be with her, I ought to marry her. If I don't want to marry her, I ought to say good bye. But I can't seem to leave her any more than I can love her the way she wants to be loved: That is, as her mother loves her.
Don't get me wrong. If I can love -- a highly questionable "if" in the case of someone as vain, self-centered and selfish as I am -- I love Emily. In fact, I often feel that the only reason she can anger me so is that I do love her. Susannah and I never fought this way. Darlene and I never fought this way. But Emily and I fight at least half of the time -- bitterly, childishly, spitefully, unforgivingly -- and we teeter on the edge of a fight the rest of the time, even though we are "lovey-dovey" during this same teetering rest.
Ach -- the whole thing makes me feel so small and worthless. I am the problem and I seem helpless to do anything about it. I should get serious about the situation and do whatever is right, either get out or give in. But I don't know what is right. I can't imagine living my life in rooms filled with tobacco smoke and clutter for the rest of my days. I can't imagine spending my life fighting this way. But I can't imagine leaving her either because I seem to believe in my never ending conceit -- that she couldn't get along without me. She likes to play games, and though I despise doing so, I can't seem to lift myself above the games. When it's my move, I play with gusto!!
Yesterday morning she insisted on explaining the general outline of a paper she's writing on the relationship between Cluny and the Gregorian reforms of Pope Gregory VII. She explained that there are three schools of thought on the subject, neither of which even remotely entertains the possibility that Gregory could have been directed by God, as it is my understanding that it should have been if the Pope is what he -- or the church -- says he is. Even church authorities seem to find the three schools of thought more likely explanations than that assumed by and implied in the nature of such an office as the Pope. I interrupted to ask about this alternative and to find out what she, as a Catholic and as a budding historian, thought on the subject. She thought the possibility of God being involved was rather naive, adding with a laugh that the Pope wasn't declared infallible by the Holy Roman Empire, or anyone else for that matter, until the eighteenth century. I pointed out that she was a Catholic. She accused my point as irrelevant. "But aren't you, as a Catholic, supposed to give at least lip service to the doctrines of the church and the workings of its hierarchy?" Don't be silly, Buddy. All that junk is just doctrine. How can she take her religious beliefs so lightly, I wondered. I kept asking questions, finally angering her by trying, in her opinion, to make her feel guilty. She's had enough guilt to last a life time, she promised. She became a Catholic because it seemed that their view of God was positive. But, I wondered, acknowledging that their view is positive is only part of the battle, is it not? Shouldn't you partake in communion and receive the fruits of this positive view of God? Oh, but of course: to partake in Communion one must confess and to confess one must promise to avoid the sin in the future and she couldn't 'very well be expected to do that, could she, since doing so would mean moving me out?
She started humming and trying to ignore me. I am an ass hole, I realize it, I don't mean to be, but I am. After all, I'm living with her as well, am I not? She got up and began walking away. I became so irate, as I followed behind her, that I finally grabbed her by the shoulders, about the time we reached the Tower, and screamed that she made me so angry I didn't know what to do. She started crying (tears bother me a lot less now that I've been exposed to so many of them), I apologized, told her I loved her, told her I didn't mean to attack her religious beliefs but added that the issues to which I'd referred are real and do matter. She turned away and continued crying. I went to class. Afterwards, she didn't meet me, breaking with tradition. Finally, following my next class, we met and talked. I explained to her that the depressions I suffer occasionally and about which I tell her nothing concerns these very issues. We are dying. Life seems meaningless. We feel so guilty. She said she'd already had enough guilt to last her a lifetime during her Church of Christ upbringing and she didn't want anymore of it. She believes that you've got to live life the best way you can, even if it means joining a Church, the doctrines of which you don't believe, so that you won't have to waste your time thinking about questions that can't be answered. But I can't seem to stop thinking about them and she hates me for it, or so it seems to me. What does she want with me? A life of bickering over cigarettes and messy rooms? A life of ever mounting responsibilities and stress thanks to our career pursuits, goals, aspirations, whatever? I told her I felt I had to deal with the questions that bothered me most of all first and spend my life living with her second. She can't take that answer or position or whatever the hell it is. She said that my position makes it look pretty bad for us, and I tacitly agreed, though she may not have realized that my silent answer was one of agreement. At this point, I had to go to class.
After class we walked to Revco to get cigarettes and asthma medicine, a perfect combination, the former for her, the latter for me. By this time I felt so depressed that I resisted crying only until we got home. Why, why, why must it -- life, we, I -- be this way? We cried during the whole of yesterday's eclipse. She for herself -- I mistreat her so -- I for myself. Finally, we made up. She said it would never be the same again, because I'd told her that due to the anxiety I feel over the fact of death, etc., that I couldn't seem to "let myself go" so I could love her as she wants to be loved. Something in me holds back, tenses up. Sometimes I hate her for telling me she loves me 50 times a day -- she requires an echo, you see . . .
I know this all sounds crazy. It is. I wish I were even more honest with you and with myself than I am. I usually prefer to look on the bright side of things rather than facing the truth. In actual fact, I am a horrible person. Contemptible in the eyes of God for my so called dedication to a search I never undertake but which prevents me from making the serious kind of commitment someone like Emily (or Susannah) wants and deserves. I want to be freed from women. I don't believe they are the answer. But I go from one to the next, unable to do more than act as if I were making the choices and guiding my fate. I know better.
Right now, I feel that I want nothing more than to pack my things and go, leave Emily, the university, my land, my friends, my family. I want to put first things first, but what is actually, in specific terms, first, I can't say. I keep feeling that, deep down inside, I know what should be done -- confront the question directly, sever all attachments, challenge God to answer, to prove life meaningful. Leave everything, go down the road begging with nothing, not even a plan or direction or hope of success. Put myself in God's hands, trust in God to prove it worthwhile. And if God doesn't answer and death awaits, then I take it, since life without God seems not worth living. Emily and MJ and Susannah and Darlene and Betty Lou and Mama and Maisie and Roena May and Barbie and Trudy and Gail all think that I and others like me are crazy to think such thoughts, to believe such foolishness or to care bout the vital question. Life is to be lived, not questioned, after all! Then they assert that there is no basic difference between men and women -- but ask Eli or Fox or Virgil or Sam Coen or Steve Sorrel or Ronnie Peck or Shahram or me or most other young men, and the answer is different. We all seem to wish we had the courage to do what we know is right. It's not Emily that I hate, but the weakness in me. I don't have the courage to love her either, it seems. I want to be alone. Selfishly, I suppose.
but whut i dun wuz differnt. i stayed with emily n we wuz fine by the weekend. the hole relayshunsip wuz kindly in tents, n thats gut its good side n its bad. the sex wuz grate. life wuz easy in a way since twuz the furst time i wuz the clean one in a relayshunship, furst time i wuz the cook. emily dint lack to be yelled at, but she dint yell neethur. durin all that peaceful time, all i could thank of wuz whuther i should marr or not.
then i gut word that i wuz a'gonna git that d-a-a-d. i cum home n found emily balled up in a fetal posishun a'crine her eyes out. whuts wrong, i wunderd, n she give me the envelop. twernt even open, but she wuz shore twuz good news. twuz n i wuz kindly happy n kindly cuncerned at the same time. whut did emily say? she sed i wuz a'gone leave her n go to germuny for sartin jes lack laura bishop had dun.
but twuznt to be. on april 24, one year to the day frum whenever i furst met emily dickinsen smith, i ast her wood she marr me. virgil had cum over early on that fine sprang day n found me at home jes as i wuz gittin back frum brakefuss. we split us a quart of beer n talked everthang out. i wuz purty shore i wood ast her, n our talk dint put me off it.
so when she cum home, i ast her wood she take a walk. we walked over tords ramseys diner n on the way, i tole her i had two quetchuns to ast her, or only one if the anser to the furst questchun was 'no.' she wuz all smiles on a counta folks generly knows whuts cumin at a time lack that. so she ast fer the furst questchun, n i ast her did she wonta have sum children sumday. she sed she did. so i ast her the secunt questchun.