We set out full of anticipation to look for a place to live, quite a crowd with all of us and our gear stuffed in the Travel-all, heading north but with no destination in mind, just browsing. We will know the right place when we see it. Someone tells us about a small commune in upstate New York, so we visit, maybe we will join up with them. The place is in the middle of nowhere, a handful of couples, a bunch of men with long hair and overalls, a few women with babies, all living in a tattered farmhouse up a dusty road. When we arrive at the house all fresh from San Francisco and Boston, the folks are scattered about the porch and steps like a gothic picture postcard.
They are friendly but guarded and only interested in new women, no men. We don’t stay long, just overnight.
After that we head to Vermont and spend a few weeks visiting friends. Stephen takes the station wagon on scouting expeditions, and we all wind up driving aimlessly on back roads in Belvidere, near the Canadian border. On one isolated dead end trail we happen upon an abandoned house, it is perfect and we move right in. It has no heat except for a wood cook stove in the kitchen, most of the windows are broken out, and it sits next to a quarry that looks like the surface of the moon. None of that bothers us.
It is summer and warm and we loll on our air mattresses in the golden sunshine. We break out the stolen gear and cook on the old stove, the two children pile up rocks and topple them down, and I drive to the county seat and apply for welfare. On Saturday nights cars filled with local kids sneak up our road and turn around quick, trying to catch a glimpse of naked orgies and in July two leathery selectmen from the Town come by, curious about us I guess, look through the house for tax purposes they say and take notes. But nobody chases us away.
A funny thing happens when we are in Belvidere. My San Francisco lover tracks me down. Remember that man who I left in bed waiting for me to come back with cigarettes? I hardly remember him, three months later on this dead end road. If ever there was someone I left behind for good, without hardly a backward glance, it was him, in a million years I cannot imagine him looking, let alone finding me. I cannot imagine I will see him again. And yet. And yet there he is, he found our Boston friends, hitched a ride to Belvidere with them, all to talk to me one last time.
Unfortunately, he didn’t bring my Indian bedspread.