PART THREE (Escapes)
Jack is removed from the hospital compound and left for dead by the side of the road. He is rescued by a boy and his mother only to repeatedly flee through the dreamlike landscapes that make up the final chapters of the novel.
I was, I fleetingly thought, too old to run, but on the other hand, not played out enough to stay. For days after I was back on my feet, my old if older self again, I was doing improvisatory rehearsals of my escape. Each morning, at first light, I would take an extended walk in the woods, varying direction from day to day, and then, not always easily, find my way back to my latest ad hoc almost satisfying domestic arrangement.
It was to be expected, wasn’t it? They knew when they took me in, or should have known, that I had made a second career out of running away from semi-comfortable situations. I liked Mina and thought Bobby had possibilities he might grow into, and they had, I would admit with a gun to my head, been kind to me, but I saw no future in spending the rest of my life in their company. The future I saw for myself was elsewhere.
In fact, I had no future in mind for myself, but I was sure I didn’t want to recapitulate the present routine indefinitely, which included being Mina’s long lost missing husband and Bobby’s surrogate (possibly real) father.
One night while we were in bed together some itinerant preacher came by unannounced and made it official while we in the throes of an unexceptional sexual act.
At times, usually in bed, I would ask the uncommunicative Mina how she happened to live in such an isolated place in the woods. One time she said, “Oh this cabin has been in the family for at least a hundred years.” Another time, she said, “My mother gave me this place as a gift when Bobby was born.”
Another time, she said, “Why does it matter?”
It mattered because it mattered.
Another time she said, “Two guys from Denmark built it with logs imported from Denmark to have a homelike home away from home. Things didn’t work out as planned—one killed the other and fled no one seems to know where, leaving the house available for the first passerby, which was mother. The remains of the murdered man were apparently buried in the woods and never recovered.”
There were several other versions which contradicted in part some of the earlier stories. When she said, “Why do you think you have a right to know?” I decided to leave and not come back.
The problem was, I hadn’t yet discovered a way out of the woods. I assumed—why wouldn’t I?—that if I walked long enough in any direction—I would come to some outpost of civilization. That it hadn’t happened yet did not invalidate the theory.
I’ve neglected to mention that there was a car on the premises, an ancient VW Beetle, which Mina would disappear in periodically to bring in provisions. Whenever Mina left the cabin, it was my task to look after Bobby so I never got to go with her, never got to see where she ended up.
When I asked how far it was to town, she said, as if distracted from more serious thoughts by my question, “Far enough.”
“Uh huh,” I said. “And how far is far enough?”
“You don’t want to know,” she said.
But of course I did and she knew I did.
I considered taking her VW to make my escape, gave serious consideration to the idea before rejecting it as unthinkable. In any event, I hadn’t driven a stick shift in over 20 years.
I avoided sex with Mina the night before my planned escape so as not to deplete my limited energy.
I woke up in the dark, tired as usual and with a hard-on from sleeping pressed against Mina’s ass, dressed myself in whatever came to hand, assuming, as I started out on the northern path, that first light was no more than an hour away.
I found myself taking small methodical steps, not wanting to tire myself while it was still dark and difficult to keep to the path. Odd sounds emanated from the woods, but I had no idea, had not troubled to find out, what kind of creatures were out there.
I had Bobby’s broomstick with me to use as a walking stick and as an emergency protection against the otherwise unforeseen.
Impelled by low grade panic, I increased my pace, swung my stick out in front of me to ward off the unseen.
It seemed to be getting lighter, though it may only have been that my eyes had adjusted to the dark. Why was the morning so long in arriving? I wondered. I found myself enraged at the night’s protracted dominion.
I increased my pace, began to run, wanting to leave the night behind in my wake, aware at the same time that it was a foolish hope.
I noted the outline of a small bear on its hind legs eating some fruit, blackberries perhaps, from a bush in the near distance just off the narrow path I was following.
I wondered if I could run by the bear, preoccupied with his breakfast, without his noticing me. Though I was in a hurry—I was always in a hurry—it seemed wiser to wait him out.
When I broke stride abruptly, kicking up some leaves and stones, the bear turned in my direction, glanced at me or seemed to—I had pressed myself against a tree to avoid being seen—then after he had taken my measure for a few protracted seconds, he returned to his task.
I strove to make myself as inconspicuous as possible while considering what I might do to defend myself if the bear changed his mind and confronted me.
It took a while for him to disappear and even after he was gone, the fear I had been feeling hung on like an echo.
I counted to a hundred to myself before continuing. It was light now or almost light and I made my way with extreme caution beyond where the bear had been feeding when we exchanged glances.
It was a while after I passed his spot, perhaps a half mile further along the path, when I heard footsteps behind. I quickened my pace at first, but when the footsteps sounded behind me at the same or similar distance, I turned to see who was there.
It was the bear, the same or another, bounding along on his hind legs, mimicking my pace in his deceptively quick lumbering manner. I fought back the impulse to run—surely he could have caught me if that’s what he was up to—and continued as if I were unaware of being followed.
I knew very little about the habits of bears outside of folklore and movies, though I had never heard any stories of bears trailing after people and I assumed he would discontinue his aberrant behavior eventually.
But in fact what seemed like another hour passed and with it the distance I had traveled in that hour and the bear was still the same relative distance behind me.
What did he want? His idiot tenacity was getting on my nerves. I turned around and shook my fist at him, shouted at him to go away. I waved my arms to illustrate what I meant.
On his hind legs now, the bear gave the impression of waving back at me.
He seemed not to understand me or at least refused to acknowledge that he did, shaking his head and looking abashed. Whatever he was thinking, he made no move to shorten the distance between us.
I took a few more steps toward what I thought of as freedom and then turned around abruptly to catch him off guard.
He was still approximately the same distance away. When he noticed that I was facing him, he did an almost graceful 360 degree turn.
At that point—he had probably wandered away from a traveling circus—I decided not to be afraid of him and invited him to join me.
So we walked alongside one another for awhile and I told him of my predicament which he acknowledged with the occasional grunt.
Eventually we reached a clearing, which offered a view not so much of a town but of a compound made up of institutional brick buildings. He gave me what I interpreted as a troubled glance and after poking my shoulder made his way on all fours into the deep woods.
Though I had never seen the place from the outside before in the light, I had no doubts as to where I was.
Instead of retracing my tracks, I veered off in the direction the bear had gone, seeking other options.
The world teetered on the brink of light when I woke. The others were already going about their morning routines, Bobby chopping firewood in the yard, Mina boiling water, wrestling with encroaching nature in the kitchen. I felt imprisoned in their routines.
I dressed in a black t-shirt and faded jeans, the clothes alongside the bed, and put on my old New Balance running shoes, which were showing signs of wear.
I had a crust of bread with honey and a cup of herbal tea before announcing to Mina that I was going for a run. She said nothing, wore a ragged smile.
It was a partial lie for which I felt more guilt than I was willing to entertain. I was going for a run, but I had, of course, no intention of returning.
I took the southern path this time, the one Mina had warned me against, noting that it could be dangerous while making a point of offering no particulars.
“Dangerous in what way?” I had asked.
Her answer was to grimace and roll her eyes.
I took Bobby’s broomstick with me as protection against the unspeakable.
The sun came through the scrim of leaves, dappling the path, sometimes making it impossible to see directly in front of me. When blinded, I tended to slow my pace, until visibility returned.
Still, I felt strong, was enjoying the run while making particularly good time despite my belated start.
It had been my experience that unearned exhilaration carried with it promises of comeuppance.
Sometimes during these moments of glaring sunlight there seemed to be something there, something luminous standing in my way, though when the glare passed whatever I had seen or imagined I had seen was gone.
This time when the glare receded there was someone there, a smallish woman in a black dress standing in the center of the path perhaps fifty feet away. For some reason, the presence of this black-clad elderly woman in the woods didn’t surprise me. I waved as I came closer and asked where she had come from.
At first she said nothing, her finger across her narrow lips as if she had taken a vow of silence. Then she mouthed the word “food” or perhaps it was the word “fool.”
I had some food and water with me in a backpack, but hardly enough to share, hardly enough to satisfy my own burgeoning hunger. Though there was no indication that she understood me, I asked her if she lived somewhere nearby.
She smiled slyly, pointed again to her mouth, meaning whatever it meant, that she was hungry, had taken a vow of silence, was unable to speak.
I tore off a crust from one of the chunks of bread in my pack and offered it to the woman, who kept her hands at her side.
“It’s good bread,” I said. “It’s for you if you want it.”
When I least expected it, she grabbed the crust from my hand and shoved it in her mouth, chomping on it with large pointed teeth.
In seconds, the crust was a memory and she pointed to her mouth again, her hunger apparently unappeased.
So I broke off another piece of bread and handed it to her and then another when she obliterated the second piece with even greater dispatch than the first.
When the bread I was saving for my lunch was gone, I held out empty hands. “More,” she said without saying, mouthing the word, her hand, which she held in front of her, twitching with expectation.
Reluctantly, I produced the hardboiled egg which had been nesting at the bottom of the pack, pretending to be surprised at its presence. She disposed of the egg without removing the shell.
And still she was unsatisfied, her hand pointing to her mouth.
“That’s all I have,” I said, showing her that the pack was empty. I had hidden a carrot in the pocket of my pants.
“Too bad for you,” she mouthed and she studied me for a moment as if taking a photo of me inside her head before slowly moving off. In a blink of an eye, she was no longer in the picture.
I had the path to myself again, but I hesitated moving on.
I wanted to believe that I had denied myself out of kindness and selfless generosity, but I knew it wasn’t true and I knew the woman with the terrifying teeth had not trusted me any more than I trusted myself.
My first impulse after the woman had gone was to return to Bobby and Mina, who I suddenly missed or imagined I missed, abruptly aware of being alone in the world. And beyond that, I had no food to sustain me on my journey.
Although I continued in the direction I had been going, I shortened my stride so if I decided to turn back, which I swore to myself was not going to happen, my return would not seem so prohibitively difficult.
In a few moments, to my surprise, I arrived at the path’s end, came to a crossroads in the woods. Having no basis for choosing right over left or left over right, I stood in place for the longest time, glancing one way out of the side of my eye and then the other, paralyzed by indecision.
I was out of the woods, walking slowly along the collar of a wide two lane road with a snaky double yellow line at its center. As a car neared, I would hold up my thumb half-heartedly in time-honored gesture, made sullen by repeated rejection.
It was only after I decided not to raise my thumb that I got my first ride. It was from a couple—a married couple no doubt in the throes of what might have been a 20 year argument.
I didn’t know how tired I was until I drifted off the moment my rump met the back seat.
Their strident voices penetrated my faded consciousness and joined forces with whatever fragmentary dreams were playing on the same wave length.
“How far are you going?” the wife, who was in the driver’s seat, asked.
I might have answered, but if I did, it was with intention rather than speech. “As far as you’re willing to take me,” I might have said. I was in the business of creating distance between myself and the circumstantial domestic compromise I had taken pains to escape.
When the game is escape, distance is the measure of accomplishment.
While speeding toward freedom, I felt trapped in the car, painfully aware of having failed to resolve the raging dispute in front of me. They had chosen me as their audience and I had fallen asleep on the job. My sense of failure was near unbearable.
“When you can forgive yourselves,” I said to their stand-ins in my dream, “you will be able to forgive each other.” I was of course talking to myself.
“That’s just the problem,” the stand-in for the woman said. “He’ll never forgive himself because he knows at the bottom of his soul that he’s unforgivable.”
“And I suppose you’re forgivable,” the stand-in for the man said. “You know, sweetheart, sometimes you can be a sanctimonious bitch.”
There was an intake of breath followed by an icy laugh. “I won’t dignify that with a reply,” she said “Sanctimonious bitch yourself.”
There was a moment of silence and then he noted that the car was swerving over the center line. “She’s not always such a nervous driver,” he said, addressing his remark to me.
“He so predictable,” she said to me. “People with low self-esteem are hurtful to those closest to them. They can’t help themselves.”
“I won’t dignify that with a reply,” he said. “For God’s sake, don’t get us killed.”
“What won’t you dignify with a reply?” she asked. “I take that as a concession of someone who’s lost the argument and won’t acknowledge defeat. We have an objective observer with us.”
“We’ll see who’s lost the argument,” he said, nudging me with a rolled-up newspaper. “Are you awake?”
I blinked my eyes to discover that we were parked at the side of the road. “Why aren’t we moving?” I asked.
“We’d appreciate it, sir, if you would settle an argument for us,” the man said.
I didn’t want to get involved but I also wanted to get back on the road. “If I can help you, I will,” I said. “What’s the problem?”
“You must have overheard something of what’s going on,” the woman said. “We’ve agreed to accept your decision. Who in your opinion is in the right?”
“You need to be more specific,” I said. “Right about what?”
They talked over each other and what came through made little sense, made its own idiot sense. “Yes,” I said, meaning anything but yes. Their voices became louder and more strident and the woman slapped the man’s face, a ringing blow, which he answered with a closed fist.
When the debate became physical, they stopped being aware of my presence and I climbed out of the car and trotted off in the direction the car was pointed.
After awhile, breathing heavily, assuming I had gotten away, I found myself staggering along, aware that the landscape I was passing seemed strangely like the landscape I had already passed.
As it struck me with a kind of horror that I may have gotten turned around and was retracing steps I had already taken, their lumbering car appeared alongside me, the passenger window rolled down. “Please,” the woman, who had an ugly bruise under her left eye, said. “We need your help, Jack. We’ve agreed not to fight in your presence again. We need someone of your wisdom and objectivity to mediate our dispute.”
“I have no wisdom,” I said.
“Nonsense,” the woman said. “We promise to defer to your wisdom and modesty. Besides, my friend, I have to tell you, this is not the direction you were escaping in when we picked you up.” She reached behind her and opened the back door.
I groaned silently, and with an unacknowledged sense of defeat climbed into the familiar back seat, banging the door shut behind me. The man, who was driving now, turned the car around and we began our trip together once again.
It was several days now since I had kissed Mina and hugged Bobby goodbye before going off on my run through the woods from which I planned never to look back. I hadn’t thought about them or at least tried not to think about them—regret is the shortest passage to madness—as I worked my way, or so I hoped, back to civilization.
Civilization, as I once knew it, seemed to have disappeared while I was unavoidably elsewhere.
Four days had passed and the only signs of human habitation I had come across were two ratty gas station/ convenience stores idling alongside the road. Civilization seemed nowhere in evidence.
Despite my determination, my commitment, to getting away, dumb luck had impeded my progress. I knew that I should have been a lot farther along and that knowledge nagged at me with punishing regularity. I needed a car (if only there were a rental agency on this road) and I was wary of accessing another ride with strangers.
As I walked along the side of the road, I kept glancing over my shoulder, expecting to see Mina’s VW floating toward me in the distance. If I spotted her faded blue, splotched with white Beetle before she spotted me, I could step back into the brush until it passed. I rehearsed the move periodically so as not to be caught off guard.
About a mile back, I had inquired of a clerk at the Puritan Farms self-service gas station/ convenience store where the nearest town was. She seemed surprised at my question. “This is the nearest town,” she said.
“This?” I asked.
“We sell stamps in the back,” she said. “We share a zip code with the Puritan Farms station on the other side of the road down aways. We think of ourselves as a town.”
I asked her if she knew of a place in the area that rented cars. She thought about my question almost for more time than I wanted to hang out in her store. “There used to be one in the back of the middle school,” she said, “but it didn’t do much business. I don’t remember when it closed down—I think the owner died or something—but it was like ten years ago. Sorry.”
After awhile, I came to what looked like a bus stop and I sat down on a rickety bench to await the next bus. I was awakened by a man’s head sticking out the window of a police car that was idling a few feet from where I sat. “What are you doing here?” the voice asked.
“I’m waiting for a bus,” I said. “Isn’t this a bus stop?”
He ignored my question. “You got any money?” he asked.
His question seemed presumptuous, but I answered anyway so as not to give offense. “Some,” I said. I also had a credit card but I didn’t see the need to acknowledge all my assets on such short acquaintance.
“And I’d also like to see some ID if you don’t mind,” he said.
I did mind. “What’s this all about?” I asked. No doubt my appearance had given him the wrong impression. My hands were grimy, there was a cut on my face, my pants had an alarming stain below the crotch.
“We have a nice town here,” he said, “and we’d like to keep it that way. It’s not that we don’t like strangers, it’s just that we like them better when they’re somewhere else.”
I got up from the bench and walked off into what was beginning to seem like a sunset. I wondered if he would shoot me in the back and chose not to think about it.
When I looked up, the police car was crawling alongside me. The voice accosted me. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” it said.
“I’m leaving town,” I said.
“I’ll ride along to see that you get there,” he said. “I sure hope there’s no objection.”
It felt odd walking alongside the sheriff’s car, which was mimicking my pace, but it must have felt odd from his vantage also. At some point, he offered me a ride since, as he said, we were both going in the same direction.
I said I didn’t mind walking, but five minutes later he asked again.
I noted, though there hadn’t been much traffic, a string of cars was piling up behind him.
“Don’t be such a hard-head,” he said. “I know how lonely it can be being out on the road by yourself. And you must be tired. You’re not so young any more.”
With measured reluctance, I accepted his third offer of a ride. I didn’t trust him but I had the sense that the fourth or fifth car in the group crawling behind him was Mina’s ancient faded blue Beetle and this seemed the lesser of two unpleasant alternatives.
Sheriff Mike, as he called himself, didn’t seem so bad up close, though there was the musty odor about him of someone who hadn’t bathed in a while. It may have been me I was inhaling or the inside of the car, but it came to the same thing.
Anyway, the sheriff wanted to talk and it seemed not to matter a lot who was the one on the other end. “You ever been married?” he asked but went on as if my answer, if offered, would have made no difference. “I been married for 23 years before my wife left me for some salesman who was passing through. When she was gone, even though I missed her, it struck me that I never loved her. That’s a terrible thing to realize. And what was worse, and much worse, I couldn’t remember if there was anyone I ever loved. Which has to mean there wasn’t anyone. Not anyone ever. At the same time, I can remember the names of 7 people that I flat out hated. What does that say about my life? Then I began to wonder if anyone ever loved anyone. What about you?”
While I was thinking about his question, the sheriff went on to another subject. “You ever killed anybody?” he asked, glancing at me to see my reaction. “When I first took this job—believe it or not I wasn’t always a sheriff—I hadn’t had much experience with killing my own species. You could probably count the number on one three-fingered hand. But there isn’t much opportunity to kill in a small burg like this. In most cases, a good sound beating would serve the same purpose.” He paused for breath.
“What purpose is that?” I asked.
He stepped on the brake abruptly and we stopped with a jolt. The horn of the car behind made a mild, almost unintelligible protest. Momentarily, we were moving again, but this time in silence. We passed a diner that had been boarded up, what apparently had been a For Sale sign lying like a sacrifice to some heathen deity at the foot of the front door. Next to the diner was a furniture store long since deserted, a sale sign in the dark window with a spidery crack separating the a & the l.
“This is where my jurisdiction ends,” he said, pulling into the dirt lot behind the furniture store.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“This is where you get out,” he said, turning off the ignition. He waited for me to climb out my door before he got out of his.
“Thank you for the ride,” I said, taking a few backward steps, keeping an eye on his gun hand. “Wherever we are, I guess I’m a little closer to where I’m going than I would have been had I walked.”
The sheriff came around the car in my direction. He had his hand on his gun like a gunfighter waiting for his adversary to draw first. “I’m going to ask you to run,” he said.
When you suspect your life is on the line, your senses become increasingly acute. I noticed a rock the size of a baseball a few feet away and I contrived to stumble and fall a few inches from what I perceived to be a possible weapon.
When I was standing again still facing the sheriff, who hadn’t moved, I had the rock in my hand. “I’m going,” I said, taking another step backwards. There was no one around, though I heard an unseen car grinding along in the near distance. I showed him my back for a moment, but desperate curiosity got the better of me and I turned again to face him.
All I can say in my defense was that he was drawing his gun, that it had already cleared his holster when I hurled the rock with an abrupt side-arm motion, catching him above the left eye. I may have heard the gun fire, the indistinct sound echoing. It may even have fired twice as he made up his mind to fall.
The big man fell like timber, a hand in the air as if brushing something unseen away, and that’s when I began to run.
At that moment, a faded blue VW huffed its way up the dirt road in seeming slow motion, kicking up small stones. I recognized the woman driving and the boy, somewhat older than I remembered him, dozing in the back seat. I got in without hesitation and momentarily we were on the road.
I may have heard gun shots in the distance or I may have imagined them, but there was no car in the rearview mirror coming up behind us and wherever we were going it was, I had to believe, a kinder place than the one we had left.
When I woke this morning I was 14 years old (again?)—yesterday had been my birthday—and I was lying in bed next to a woman old enough to be my mother. Though she was lying on her side facing away, I could tell that she was not my actual mother. I couldn’t remember whether we had a sexual history together or not.
The odd thing was I knew what was awaiting me, remembered in veiled outline the essential details of the next 50 years of my life. At first it seemed like an advantage, thinking I might avoid this time around some of the misjudgments I was destined to make. But if you had nothing new to look forward to, it hardly seemed worth the effort to go through it again. One of the pleasures of life was the element of exhilarating surprise.
I got out of bed and looked around for my clothes, some of which were crumpled up on the floor. It struck me that the older woman still sleeping in my bed had been a birthday gift from my father, who had been announcing everywhere (I had always assumed it was a joke) that it was about time I lost my virginity.
Perhaps nothing had happened because I knew for a fact that it wasn’t until 6 months later that I lost my innocence to Lenny’s sexy older sister, Sybil. It struck me that maybe I had forgotten my brief entanglement with this older woman who was still asleep in my bed, hiding her face, and that sexy Sybil was actually my second between the legs.
After Sybil, until I met Hannah, I pursued several different women, whose names at the moment escape me, with limited success. What do I mean by limited success? I mean everything more or less but not the one thing that counted on your permanent reputation. What these unremembered women (really girls) had in common was that each in her own way had denied me what I assumed I needed.
And so I married Hannah, who denied me nothing. And once we were married—there are always reasons—our sexual life was reduced to talking about what we no longer allowed ourselves to do. And then one day, without advance word, Hannah went home to her mother to resume her interrupted childhood.
That shouldn’t have happened.
The detritus of that loss never went away not even after I married Anna and passed in the world as an adult. Not even after I behaved badly, renounced respectability and ran off with Molly. Not even after our first few years together when we were mostly (almost) happy. And when Molly left it was as if Hannah were leaving me all over again.
But here I was just one day past 14 and all of my failed relationships were still out there in the murky distance of future time.
It was odd that I could remember high and low points of what hadn’t happened yet but no telling details from the recent past.
“Did we?” I asked the woman, who showed some signs of stirring.
“What time is it?” she asked. “I must have fallen asleep. I never intended to stay the night.”
When she emerged from the bed—I had my back turned so as not to show undue interest in the only thing that interested me that year—she was fully dressed. “Do my parents know you’re here?” I asked.
“You told me they were away,” she said.
Odd. They almost never went anywhere—my father liked to sleep in his own bed—so it was hard to imagine where they might be if not somewhere else in the house. “Did I tell you when they’d be back?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter, sweetheart” she said, caressing my face. “I’ll be on my way.”
There was something unplaceably familiar about her as if all I needed to identify her was to come up with the right context. The name Mrs. Andsons came to mind. I spoke it under my breath so she could avoid responding if it wasn’t her own.
“Yes?” she said.
I had no question for her or none I felt comfortable asking, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass unventured without losing respect for myself. “You might think this is a weird thing to ask,” I said, “but my memory is a blank concerning last night. What did we… do?”
“You have nothing to reproach yourself with,” she said, “nothing.”
If she intended her comment to ease my mind, it served in fact to exacerbate my uneasiness. “Nothing?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “You’ll have to excuse me now, Jack. I really have to get home and make nice. When I’m not in the old tyrant’s bed overnight, he’s subject to morbid thoughts in the morning.”
I tried to think of something to say that would keep her a little longer but nothing I came up with sounded quite right. At the last, I made the worst of several possible choices. “Give me another chance,” I said. “Please.”
She took a step toward me which she instantly nullified by taking a step back. “Sweetheart, I can’t,” she said. “It’s so sweet of you to ask and I am tempted, but no, no I can’t. Maybe another time. You never know. The gift-wrapped package of trojans I brought over, darling, are in the sock drawer of your dresser.” She blew me a kiss and escaped through a series of doors into the street and I watched her ruefully from my window.
Even in my dreams, even with a willing partner, I couldn’t get it right.
I went back to bed and closed my eyes with renewed resolution. This time when Hannah and I made love for the first time, it would not be in the backseat of my father’s Dodge.
This time I would not disappoint my wives. Hannah. Anna. Molly. And Mina. I would continue to love them no matter how badly we treated each other. If you refuse to acknowledge disillusion, love can survive anything.
Nevertheless at 14 years and a day, setting hypocrisy aside, all I really wanted—the sum total of my ambition—was to get laid.