It’s not that my life has ever been boring, just that after I graduated from high school in 1961 the pace of events picked up considerably. In rapid succession men slept with me and I followed them from place to place, moving across the country at the drop of a hat and with hardly a thought in my head.
But when I was younger and still living at home I had lots of constraints. Home was an apartment on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, four floors above the road and five floors above the underground rumble of the subway, four rooms of wall-to-wall carpet and discreet furniture, silent books and upholstered chairs. Home was my mother and father, torn between worry and lack of interest, talking about their golf game. Home was me, stilted and rebellious, looking for love.
I took the subway to school every day. I read Colette and Norman Mailer and Camus and scribbled pen and ink sketches of strangers willy nilly. I didn’t have a boyfriend. It was not for lack of trying.
I was rapt with freedom and justice and political excess. I was a member of CORE, Congress of Racial Equality and joined a picket line one Saturday morning at the Trailways bus terminal on 42nd Street. We were trying to persuade the company to desegregate water fountains in the South, me and a group of students and old Jewish communists with raddled necks and longish gray hair. We all marched in a loop on the sidewalk in front of the main door of the building holding a sign and singing freedom songs.
This boy was in front of me and held a sign too. He knew all the words to the songs and was not looking over his shoulder every minute which I was doing because I didn’t want to be arrested and have my parents find out that I was dabbling in activist politics, not studying at my friend Vicky’s house which is where I told them I was going.
When it got dark and my feet hurt from walking miles in circles and my throat was hoarse from shouting out, the boy and I walked hand in hand to the subway to go home. He lived in Washington Heights but we got on the same train even though he should have been taking the A train and I had to take the D train to get to the Bronx. We hadn’t talked much during the day because we were so busy picketing and singing, but I felt close to him, comrades in the movement after all.
We sat pressed together. The subway car was mostly empty and when I shut my eyes a dome of privacy enveloped us, his arm around my shoulders. I got on his lap and turned my body against him. We kissed long and exquisitely as the noisy noisome train hurtled down the tunnel throwing up a wall of cacophony as it raced, and if out of the corner of my eye I saw someone, an interested nobody, looking our way I just ignored him because I was fifteen, a woman, and I had no other place to be in love.