فصل 10

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فصل 10

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Chapter ten

Driving South

The New Year weekend went on for three days and three nights. Great gangs got into the Hudson and we slid through the snowy New York streets from party to party.

Lucille saw me with Dean and Marylou and she was not happy. “I don’t like you when you’re with them,” she said.

Then Marylou began making love to me; she said Dean was going to stay with Camille and she wanted me to go with her. “Come back to San Francisco with us,” she said. “We’ll live together. I’ll be a good girl for you.” But I knew Dean loved Marylou, and I also knew Marylou was doing this to make Lucille jealous. And when Lucille saw Marylou pushing me into corners and kissing me, she accepted Dean’s invitation to go out in the car; but they just talked and drank some whisky. Everything was mixed up.

“Lucille will never understand me,” I thought, “because I like too many things and get all confused running from one falling star to another. I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confused thoughts.”

The parties were enormous; there were at least a hundred people at one apartment. Something was happening in every corner, on every bed, and on every couch - not sex, just a New Year’s party with wild screaming and wild radio music. Outside there was a wonderful snowstorm.

Ed Dunkel met Lucille’s sister, and disappeared with her. And at five o’clock in the morning we were all climbing through the window of another apartment and another party. At dawn we were back in the first apartment, and I slept on a couch with a girl called Mona in my arms.

In the middle of the long, mad weekend, Dean and I went to see the jazz piano player, George Shearing, at Birdland. These were his great 1949 days. When he finished playing the sweetest jazz I ever heard, Dean pointed at the empty piano seat and said, “God’s empty chair.” We were smoking marijuana, and it made me think that everything was about to arrive - the moment when you know everything, and everything is decided for ever.

I left everybody and went home to rest. My aunt said that I was wasting my time going around with Dean and his gang. But I knew that I wanted to go on one more wonderful trip to the West Coast and get back in time for the spring term at college.

We got ready to cross the country again. I gave Dean eighteen dollars to send to his wife; she was waiting for him to come home, and she was broke. What was Marylou thinking? I don’t know. Ed Dunkel, as usual, just followed.

We phoned Old Bull Lee in New Orleans.

“What do you boys expect me to do with this Galatea Dunkel?” he complained. “She’s been here two weeks now, hiding in her room and refusing to talk.”

Ed spoke to him and promised to come.

I said goodbye to my aunt and promised to be back in two weeks.

He was excited. “Whooee!” shouted Dean. “Here we go!”

From the dirty snows of New York to the green and river smells of New Orleans at the bottom of America; then west. Ed was in the back seat. Marylou, Dean, and I sat in the front, with Dean driving - fast.

“Now listen, Marylou, honey,” he said. “In San Francisco we must go on living together. I know just the place for you, and I’ll be home just a little less than every two days, for twelve hours. And you know what we can do in twelve hours, darling. I’ll go on living at Camille’s, and she won’t know about us. We can do it, we did it before.”

It was all right with Marylou, but I had understood that she would come to me in San Francisco. Now I began to see that they were going to stay together and I was going to be alone in California. But why think about that when all the golden land’s in front of you, and all kinds of nice surprises wait for you?

We arrived in Washington at dawn, then Dean went to sleep in the back seat and Dunkel drove. We told him not to go too fast, but as soon as we were asleep he pushed the speed up to eighty, and a cop came after us and stopped us. He told us to follow him to the police station.

The cop at the police station didn’t like Dean.

“The fine is twenty-five dollars,” he said.

“But we only have forty dollars to go all the way to the Coast,” said Dean.

“The fine is still twenty-five,” said the cop. “And if you get another fine in Virginia you’ll lose your car.”

We paid the twenty-five dollars and drove away silently. But when we got through Richmond we began to forget about it, and everything was OK again.

I drove through South Carolina and beyond Macon, Georgia, while Dean, Marylou, and Ed slept. All alone in the night I had my own thoughts. “What am I doing? Where am I going?” I got very tired after Macon, and I woke Dean. We got out of the car for air, and suddenly we could smell grass and feel warm air on our faces. “We’re in the South!” said Dean, laughing. “We left the winter behind!”

Ten miles down the road Dean drove into a gas station with the engine off. The man at the desk was asleep, and Dean jumped out quietly and put gas in the car before we drove off again.

I slept and woke up to hear music, and Dean and Marylou talking. We stopped at another gas station later, where Dunkel stole three packets of cigarettes. Then, suddenly, we could see New Orleans in the night in front of us.

The air in New Orleans was sweet, and you could smell the river. Dean was pointing at the women.

“Oh, I love, love, love women!” he shouted. “I think women are wonderful!”

We took the car on to the Algiers ferry to cross the Mississippi River, and jumped out to look at the brown water rolling by. We were leaving New Orleans behind on one side, and we could see sleepy Algiers on the other.

We came off the ferry and went to Old Bull Lee’s house outside town. It was on a road that went across a muddy field. The house was old and the grass outside was knee-high. We stopped the car and I got out and went to the door. Jane Lee was standing there.

“Jane,” I said. “It’s me. It’s us.”

She knew that. “Yes,” she said. “Bull isn’t here.”

“Is Galatea Dunkel here?”

Jane used to live with my wife and me in New York. Her face was thin and red, and she looked tired. Dean and the gang came out of the car, and then Galatea came from the back of the house to meet Ed. She was a serious girl, and her face was pale. Ed pushed a hand through his hair and said hello. She looked at him.

“Why did you do this to me?” she said.

She looked nastily at Dean, but he paid no attention to her. He asked Jane, “Is there anything to eat?”

It began to get confused then. Poor Bull came home and found his house full of crazy people, but he greeted me with a nice smile. He and his wife had two wonderful children. Dodie, eight years old; and little Ray, one year old. Ray ran around the yard without his clothes.

“Sal, you finally got here!” said Bull. “Let’s go into the house and have a drink.”

Bull was a teacher; a gray, quiet fellow that you didn’t notice on the street unless you looked closer and saw his mad, bony head and strangely young face. He once studied medicine in Vienna; now he was studying things in the streets of life and the night.

He sat in his chair and Jane brought drinks.

“Sal, what kind of a person is this Ed Dunkel?” Bull asked. At that moment Ed was making Galatea forgive him, in the bedroom; it didn’t take him long. We didn’t know what to tell Bull about Ed.

Jane was never more than ten feet away from Bull, and she never missed a word that he said. Dean and I wanted Bull to take us to New Orleans.

“It’s a very dull town,” he said. But he agreed to take us. We left Jane with the children, and Dean drove us into New Orleans. He drove very fast, as usual, and Bull said, “You’ll never get to California alive with this madman, Sal.”

There was fog when we got to the ferry, and the lights of New Orleans were orange-bright across the brown water of the Mississippi. And a strange thing happened on the ferry that night. A girl threw herself over the side and drowned - either just before or just after our trip. We read about it in the newspaper the next day.

Old Bull took us to all the dull bars in the French Quarter, and we went back home at midnight. That night, Marylou took all the drugs that Bull would give her, and Ed went to lie with Galatea in the big bed that Old Bull and Jane never used. Dean was smoking marijuana.

I went for a walk by the Mississippi River.

Next day I got up early, and found Old Bull and Dean in the back yard. It was a lovely warm morning. Great beautiful clouds floated across the sky, and the softest wind blew in from the river.

We spent a mad day in downtown New Orleans, walking around with the Dunkels. Dean was crazy that day. He and I and Ed Dunkel ran across the railroad line and jumped on a moving train while Marylou and Galatea waited in the car. We rode for half a mile, and Dean and Ed showed me the proper way to get off a moving train. We got back to the girls an hour late and of course they were angry.

Ed and Galatea decided to get a room in New Orleans and stay there and work. This was OK with Bull, who was tired of the whole gang now. We were waiting for some money to come from my aunt. When it came, the three of us - Dean, Marylou, and I - said goodbye.

We were off to California.

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