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Marie


Marie

The last time I saw her was at the women’s college she was attending. In the four years we knew each other it was the first time I ever tried to seek her out. A fact that is not all that noteworthy, but just the way our friendship had been. We had had different friends in high school. We had also gravitated towards different necessities. And maybe I had been an exotic Indian for her, someone to whom she was attracted in spite of both her better judgment and the interests of her parents’ station. Even now I don’t know, as I’ve never figured out what compelled her to meet with me in the hallway, or to come look for me in the classroom. Or, and on the day of our graduation, to come to my home and ask me to drive to a park that was a favorite student haunt. And maybe instead of being an exotic creature for her, for all I know, I could have been some kind of priestly character, some kind of quiet brother in whose company she was not afraid of being taken from herself and stowed away. I do know, however, what she was for me.

She was a popular cheerleader who had made friends with a new boy on his first day in an unfriendly school. Her name was Marie. And she was as pretty a girl as had ever stopped to say hello. There was just no reason for it I could see, and even if I already knew enough to know that I shouldn’t scare her away with some question as dangerous as: why? And so we were soon walking with each other some distance in the hallway, sharing the one or two classes we had together, and talking about the subjects that had no bearing on the place-names of high school interests. Which was a good thing, given that the friends into whose circle I eventually entered had nothing to do with contests of popularity or with learning by rote. LSD was the queen in that year’s circle and learning was mostly experiential. Come to think of it, in a way it was Marie who led me into that camp by giving me the most peculiar present an unkissed boy of sixteen would ever receive. On the blue belled morning of a high autumn day she came into our first day’s classroom carrying a shoebox. Inside the box were sixteen rounds of bubblegum and a book I had never heard of. It was a thin paperback book, perfectly fitted for the back pocket of a pair of jeans, written by an Algerian and called, The Stranger.

I’ve only half-wondered since then why Marie gave me that book. She must have been touched in a way she couldn’t account for by the portrait of a man who, in spite of his most reasonable behavior, was still stepping out of rhyme. She must have needed to share the adventure with someone who didn’t know her; someone who, not knowing her, would not try to keep her to any of the ill-fitting pictures of how she was supposed to see herself. And I can still remember how she carried herself with the boyfriends she walked with in those years. Not once did she seem to be at her ease with them, nor did she ever look very interested in keeping in their company. But what I never could figure out was why a girl who had it all, who had the coddling beliefs of parents, relations, and friends that can so nicely place us inside the tapestry of our surroundings, why that girl should feel herself a stranger.

I still remember the last time I saw her. Just as clearly I can see the second-to-the-last time we met. That was when she came to my door on the day of our high school graduation, and we left for a drive to the park. We found ourselves a secluded spot. We drank our contraband wine, we talked. But even then we didn’t talk about remembered things, as we had no fleshed out memories to share. Nor did we talk about our future plans, since, the only plan I had was to hitch-hike across the country three days from then. While, for Marie, the plan was mostly an abstract idea for attending a college of her choice. Now that I think about it, I can’t really remember what we did talk about. Even if I can still clearly see how seriously set was her face, all the more poignant for the girlish freckles dusting her cheeks, and for her sandy brown hair she wore so buoyantly. I wanted to lift all that frowning from off her face, just as I knew, or thought I knew, that a kiss would fall short of easing her out from under the weight she was carrying. Even that a joking mien would be out of place. I just wanted to somehow smooth out her brows. But I didn’t know how to go about relieving her of her burden when the whole arrangement of family and friends had apparently failed her. And so wherever it was she was keeping to that day, and whatever it was she was feeling, she had to go it alone with a friend lying no closer than the green eyed grass touching her hips where we lay, facing each other. She had to start rooting out the stranger and at so young an age.

The last of what I remember about graduation day is holding onto a fire hydrant and calling her name. For my own perfectly legitimate reasons I had followed the farce of graduation with a bottle of wine and a nickel bag of ganja near to where Marie and her friends were marking the dawning colon of their lives. I called out the name of someone I had never actually known. Early morning saw me curled up in an unknown yard, mostly just a stranger.

Two years went by before I saw Marie for the next and last time. I had returned to the town of our schooling. She happened to be in town too. She invited me to spend a weekend visiting her at her college. It was our chance, I figured, for crossing over the barricades separating our respective lines of progression.

On a cold and rainy mid-winter’s day I hitch hiked into her new town. I found the dormitory where she was staying. I waited for her to return from one of her classes. I was sitting there reading a book by a man who looked as if he had found the right lyrical key for unlocking the stranger’s barred and unbreakable door. The story was about a sculptor who kept trying to sculpt the face of a woman he could see, and to get it right one small time; who would keep on trying, sometimes close and sometimes further away, since she was always coming back just to stand in front of him. And when Marie finally stepped through the more concrete doorway of her dormitory she almost didn’t see me. It was how I realized my mistake.

It was the first and only mistake I ever made with Marie. I think I even knew on the last school day that I was never to come calling on her. Or that, if I did, she would not be able to stay in my company. So I quickly started in on the business of alleviating her discomfort. I told her I was just passing through her town and that I had thought of visiting with her for an hour or two. It was just to see how she was doing. I even told her I had waited too long, that I would soon have to leave. The ruse worked, she was relieved, and then she suggested we have dinner together. And in my one attempt to draw between us a fabric of shared time, while we walked to the restaurant that was her college’s favorite place, I reminded her of the birthday present she had given me four years before. I thanked her for that book and for the bubblegum. I tried to tell her it was one of those small moments that set my life into something of a meaningful motion. But she didn’t hear me, my Marie. Not really. She stopped in her steps, instead, and she looked up with that sad-again face she could make. She then put her hand in mine and she asked me to forgive her for that book. She hoped I would forget its story and throw the thing away. I was taken aback by her contrition. I didn’t know what to say. And how could I have even started in on telling her that you never can ignore the stranger, or that all he ever wants is for her to dive back down into her nature.

There’s no way of knowing what has happened to Marie since then. Having watched so many friends follow the time hallowed path of youthful rebellion that comes after the comma of childhood, and before the period signifying parental values, I suppose it is reasonable to think she is safely tucked away somewhere inside diminishments. I don’t like thinking that for her, my Marie. And it is still possible she kept the faith with her first true love until she found a way to walk back down behind him, until she was no longer afraid of him. There is no way of knowing, short of looking her up. A mistake I am not likely to make again.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Apr/16/2014, 9:59 pm
Aug/14/2010, 8:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Marie


Jimminy Jesus! I buried this piece in the morgue file nearly twenty years ago, thinking it a failure, not literature. This weekend typed to a word doc., tweaked a little, restored it to the collection to which it once belonged.

Tere
Aug/15/2010, 2:07 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Marie


Hi Tere,

So glad you rescued this piece from the morgue file. What were you thinking?!?

You literally were the stranger when you came to school in a new town, which meant that you were an unknown quantity and, perhaps as importantly, that Marie was an unknown quantity to you, someone who could see her with fresh eyes. Couldn't help thinking in Jungian terms as I read this and wondering if you didn't potentially represent her unknown inner male in some way her boyfriends did not. Also thought about these lines from Cohen:

"You try the handle of the road
It opens do not be afraid
It's you my love, you who are the stranger"


There’s no way of knowing what has happened to Marie since then. Having watched so many friends follow the time hallowed path of youthful rebellion that comes after the comma of childhood, and before the period signifying parental values, I suppose it is reasonable to think she is safely tucked away somewhere inside diminishments.

Excellent.

This is perceptive and well-written throughout. Much enjoyed. Thanks for posting.

Last edited by Katlin, Aug/15/2010, 7:09 am
Aug/15/2010, 6:55 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Marie


Thanks, Kat, and welcome back to the board. You just gave me a different slant on the piece, so thanks for that too. It rathers ties it off nicely. I put the story away how ever many years ago thinking it too self-conscious. Or maybe too self-indulgent. But I've always wanted it to work. Mostly because it is one of those true stories so symmetrical you're left shaking your head. The only originality here, if any, would be in the word smithing. But I've also wanted it to work because of the universal it touches on or at least attempts to. The alienation felt by adolescents in practically every developed nation. For example, I think it is true that Japanese teen-agers show an alarming inclination to commit suicide. Meaning it isn't just an American problem.

The collection that contains the story goes back to '84. I would have been in mmy thirties In the same collection there are two more stories devoted to teen-age angst, but more the product of invention: two adolescent girls observed by an older friend. I think when we become adults we forget too quickly and too completely how tough that cusp of time is for the soon-to-be-adults. That is what I was after.

Tere
Aug/15/2010, 1:50 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Marie


Damn. Reading the piece again just to make sure of it. Reading it again as if for the first time. And again wondering who the hell wrote it? This is the sort of thing I wish I could do all the time. A found story for sure.

I have a friend who could be Marie come of middle age. So pretty in her soul. So sad in her countenance. She's kind of made a separate peace with things, mostly with herself. From what she tells me she has opted for accepting the very diminishment Marie figures she has to accept. If I wanted to, with friend as model, I guess I could write a sequel to the story. To paraphrase something Colette said about death, diminishment doesn't really interest me. Not even my own.

Something else strikes me. It is the second book alluded to, the one in which the N finds the right lyrical key for unlocking the stranger's barred and unbreakable door. This comes through as true too, as the solution to the problem Marie could not solve. I remember well that book. I particularly remember that it immediately crossed over as alternative to the stranger in all of us. I might have been 18.

Funny how working in the lyrical I/Thou voice one can sometimes get to the big things. Damn near lost this vignette. Time and time again it almost got lifted out of the morgue file and sent to the trash heap. Every time what stopped me was the memory of that girl.

Tere
Nov/27/2010, 5:26 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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