Vol. 1 No. 11, page 27–29
Originally published in the August 1966 issue of Tangents
“I am working this Summer picking peas! It is a big canning company. I’ll get good and tanned, and it’s hard work, but I’ll make enough to pay all my bills at the college next year.
“The environment here, however, is almost unbearable. That’s the reason I depend on letters of inspiration from a devoted friend like you…a combination of congeniality, intelligence, and willingness to help. My love will travel with you always.
“Here I hear nothing but profanity, and smell alcohol when I return at night. It’s close to the so-called Hell. I’m glad I’m strong enough to keep a few scruples. A person of weak caliber would certainly be taking chances if thrown into a world with nothing but winos. And so, I do not drink nor use profanity.
“There’s a man here from Arkansas who says he’s a schoolteacher, but we have our doubts. We have rooming with us a Negro, a college graduate who will be in a university this Fall. Everything the Arkansas man misplaces he blames on this Negro. I’m proud to know that I feel that all races of mankind are my brothers. This man calls Negroes names that normally would not be said of lower forms of animal life. Today was the first time I remember getting real MAD in my whole life. I let him have it! The man was fired at the report we (students working here) took to the right officials on this job.
“My love to you.
“Thanks for sending me the photo and letter from the artist boy. He’s. exceptionally handsome…. Seems to be like many other boys of his nature—without love and understanding. If you think he would enjoy corresponding with someone near his age, to discuss art and Life, do let him know about me. Perhaps he has realized that boys of his nature cannot live alone and are not abnormal…and just need someone to whom he might tell his experiences, and feelings, and emotions. Does he live with his mother? Maybe that’s his trouble! I’d be glad to take time to write him back…and at least he might find another friend who would understand his language.
“Thanks for your affectionate letter…. Today I had to break the stillness of early evening with the measured knock of my axe biting into wood for a fireplace. I do garden work and yard work, and I do enjoy hard labor at times. But it’s relaxing to get back to the dorm and watch the heat lightning in the Western sundown sky, and smell the frail sweetness of honeysuckle…. No matter how big or how small I may one day be I never want to lose the tender remembering of what has happened between you and me…. I’m trying to find a copy of David, the King. What is the new book on Greek “Friendship”? … I have not found the “One Friend” here. Maybe there are several here of a like nature, but I’ve kept my “reputation” high around this place, because if there were even a hint of such a rumor I’d never last it in this college. Good letters are all I ask.
“I love you.
“Thanks for the copy of David the King!…Thank you for the manuscripts. I always read your poems with delight. I treasure having them. They, and you, make life easier.
“I know three young men who have shown a great deal of unusual Interest in me, but they are not here…. I almost knew for sure that my roommate last year was gay, even though he had a girl friend. I did not trust him. Some people delight in telling all they have done.
“I have received a touching letter from a fellow I was with for a while last Summer. Here are the pertinent passages:
I had thought that perhaps you might want the kind of understanding I could have given you…as I tried to indicate, early in our acquaintance, by speaking of certain books […Mary Renault, and David The King… ] holding this kind of understanding. Yes, and I, being too much alone just before we met, found a joy in the touch of your hand in mine. This feeling was understood, and dealt with by Plato, Sophocles, Michelangelo, Walt Whitman…and involves a high honor…. Unless it creates qualities of excellence in each friend—inspiration, in short—then it is often likely to be not love but something quite other…and to be misunderstood in these matters can be a harrowing experience.
“How I wish, now, that I had ‘responded’ more definitely to his warm interest in me.
“Dear R :
“Do you remember, as clearly as I, those cold snowy evenings we spent together in the little house—our house—on the mountain? The greatest of all my memories and loves, now that I am nineteen, are those we shared together with warm hand’s clasped, and learning what a kiss means to a boy in a low state of mind. It’s like a warm mantle over me now…the staunch feeling going from impulse to tender climax…listening to Beethoven…what you have given me to grow on…. That day, so warm, and a wind rustling our hair, my lips on yours, my breast and loins against yours, is one of my treasures.
“My love to you,
©1966, 2018 by The Tangent Group. All rights reserved.