MARGARET by: H.
At a very early age it became apparent that Vincent had a problem with authority.
By that I mean his mother was very often seen surrendering to despair, throwing
both hands in the air, then bending over and, fixing his unresponsive eyes with
her own unwavering glare, screaming red-faced, "What am I going to do with
you?" It was a rhetorical question. Everyone pretty much knew, even at that age,
that she could do nothing with him, and most guessed that, in life, he would do
nothing with himself. Although, come to think of it, most of what he would do
throughout his life would be done with himself (we're not suggesting self-mutilation
however.) I think that's pretty much the beginning, and, laughable or sad, it's
pretty much the truth. For those who place much of the blame on the fact that the
poor kid was named Vincent I have to say I had an Uncle Vincent and he was quite
normal in every aspect (almost invisibly normal); he had no problems at all with
Years passed…as is their tendency. The passage was both agonizingly,
excruciatingly slow and, Hey, where the hell did those years go? So, after the
arguments for and against were carefully weighed Vincent was sent off to
boarding school, where he was as much like my Uncle Vincent as I am like the twin
brother that I never had, but might have. (There are rumors.) My meaning is this—
to his own astonishment—Vincent fit in. In his own withdrawn, self-alienating,
quietly critical, inward way Vincent fit in. And why? Because, nary a young lad
there in that place, had NOT experienced his own (dear) mother throwing both
hands up in the air in total despair. They'd all faced the fixed unwavering
accusatory glare of the somewhat critical motherly eye. The shrill scream—What
the heck is wrong with you?—was not foreign to their ears So, though they arrived
from different directions, they all arrived on the trailing impetus of a swift boot in
the young fundament. [Please note: There is no mention of fathers here because
at a certain level of society there is almost no need to mention mothers either.]
With this encouragement each of these fine young white American male-kids
decided for himself, in his own way, at his own pace, that he was unique and
perfect, and unwanted, and, is there a socially acceptable way to say, So, fuck it?
Still something about the new kid didn't seem quite right.
The first night there, in the dorm, surrounded with renegades from every
recognizable tribe, Vincent lay awake contemplating his situation. This was no
dream, he assured himself. It was no dream, but, Vincent felt not the urge to bolt.
He, like a hero, remained calm, remained still and pondered. He took the classic
pose, hands behind the head while staring at the ceiling. Looking around in the
dark, he could see by the light of a distant begrudging star, the huddled sleeping
forms of his fellow cast-offs, as he considered things. "Sure, they got it made; the
food, the arts, but I understand the taxes are killing them…" said a distinctly British
voice, and Vincent was jolted awake. Talk about dreams. "Weeks passed and
Vincent had become the most popular…" said a narrative voice, and Vincent was
jolted awake yet again. Talk about nightmares.
Let me say something here. I know that this all may feel a little too real-time at this
point, but the wolf is on its way and will appear at the door very soon. And, it's
hungry. Believe me, I've scrapped a thousand words for every one that remains.
The craft is in allowing you to think it's all just mindless goddamned drivel.
Weeks passed and Vincent was as abstract from the crowd as he had been at his
arrival. He watched as alliances formed and camaraderie lead to whispered
vulgarities and back-slapping friendships. There was some snorting, such was the
cleverness. He stood off alone though. He stood off alone, at a distance (over
there near the rusty forgotten basketball hoop mostly), forming no alliance, and
whispering no vulgarities, and, slapping no one's back and snorting not at all, and,
as the bible says, he understood them not. He had no craving for friendship. But,
(here's hope) deep within the gurgling mess of his loins…need I say more?
We find our ways. We all find our ways. So here he is now, sneaking out the
window at night. And we see him as he makes his way under the moonlight across
an open expanse, as if escaping from a movie-set-prison. And here he is at the
gate and, now, already he has slipped through. And now he takes to foot down a
winding dusty path. And here he is now already lying beside her in a small cot with
only an old army blanket over their skinny jutting frames…and, as they say, the
bony bodies bumped through the night. (This is how quickly thing happen in Life.
It's a wonder that upon returning from some disappointment or another we don't
bump into ourselves departing with the idiot grin of expectation still upon our ever-
Though initially intrigued, he had to admit, in the light and insight of morn, that her
idea of love frightened him a bit. The next step finds him back in the old corral and
he has his hands laced behind his head once again and he's thinking about her
as the ceiling fan wops by carelessly overhead. He's thinking that her idea of love
frightens him a bit. I'm not saying that he knew anything at all about such stuff at
this point, he didn't. But, later, when he did know something, he realized he was
absolutely right to be frightened by her ideas about love. This is an open-ended
thing where you fill in the blanks. I'll wait.
Do we have to go through the part where she yanks him around for months on
end until, one night stumbling back to school very very very goddamned 'runk, he
thinks, "How much can a man take?" These were his exact words. Do we have to
say, 'Vincent was about to find out'? Now you may begin to see what I was talking
about when I said the lion would soon be at the door. You just didn't know the
beast would be a lovely young red-haired girl.
By his third year Vincent was going nowhere, but he was going there steadily,
rapidly, and she was going there with him. These two were addicted to each other.
The bruises on his forehead were proof enough for anyone that they could not or
would not find healthier ways to express their urges. That doesn't mean he was
not content… although he wasn't. She wasn't either—though both were madly in
love--and so, inevitably, one day, she stomped out of the room, leaving the door
open behind her. When she returned, he stomped out. Then she stamped out and
slammed the door. Soon though, she was back again, and it was his turn. When
he returned several months later, looking somewhat shame-faced, it was only after
being with, you know, others, none of which were as weird or as clever as she…or
as frustrating…or as intriguing. One of them declared herself to be 'Eternally
listening for the kind of noise that rides on the wings of nothingness', a statement
which was, if anything, kinda creepy. But, that's wasn't enough for Vincent.
Another ate with her mouth open, which was too much. A third wore spandex
before it was popular to do so, and though not a conformist by any means,
Vincent found the way the stuff emphasized her knobby knees while at the same
time forming countless creases behind those knees, distasteful.
So, he returned yet again to his original torment. That is not to say he sipped
once again from the ever-flowing cup of reason. It's saying something else
entirely. Addiction is the word I've been looking for. They were together again.
That's all that matters. That's the point I'm struggling to make. The shoes and
clothing scattered about her room speaks volumes. Quickly though, very shortly
after a fragmentary languid peace in his arms, she wants out or he wants out or
she wants brunch and he wants travel by starlight, and what young relationship
can withstand the impact of an onslaught like that?
Do we have to go through the part where they begin the endless squabble? TOO
MUCH of that takes place in cafes and other public places, with people gawking or
purposefully ignoring them, which ever you think worse. Let me just say this about
her (not that Vincent is an angel): when push came to shove—she proved to be a
highly-skilled shover. So, considerable confusion reigned when she suddenly
discovered, to her great surprise, that she loved Vincent, and could not live a day
without him, even if it meant being nice. That made things (I like to think)
unbearable for both of them. In the movies this sort of thing happens all the time;
and there is a reason for that. (I find myself snorting each time I stumble through
that line…so feel free; it seems a natural response.)
But it had been a rocky beginning. Even as he hit on her that first night, he had
doubts about the percentage Destiny played in the affair. That she used the
phrase "my boyfriend" six times in the first two sentences she tossed his way, was
not the kind of encouragement Vincent had hoped for. But, the work boot of
alcohol was on his neck…who needs to say more about that?
Just an aside: Somewhere in here he became fascinated with ships—not boats,
ships. Square rigged, not fore and aft. Wooden hulled, not iron. And while he
devoured what he could in print on the matter his mind began to pull loose of the
moorings and find itself (thankfully) adrift. But, returning to port, he always found
her there; sometimes waving, sometimes fuming, sometimes impossible to fathom.
Meanwhile he was flunking out of boarding school (as one might guess)—as were,
proudly, defiantly, for all intents and purposes, all the others there at that halcyon
place. The Rolls Royces came empty and departed with someone smoldering,
cross-armed, sneering alternatively smirking, at any rate ever defiant in the back
seat, almost on a weekly basis. Vincent's mother drove a Ford, and Vincent
remained. But, it's really a shame about the others because some of us could see
our best and our brightest in those glistening arrogant eyes. By that I mean that,
despite their resistance, many of these 'juniors' and 'the thirds' could not only
quote Neitche, when pressed, they could actually spell Neitche. Where they got
this knowledge I don't know. But, GOD knows they had the wherewithal (money)
to launch whatever enterprise they felt might gain them the additional steadily
growing wealth that no young man deserves despite surety of entitlement. Oh, and
I meant to say something about the chicken incident but forgot. Only let me say
this much about that: I suppose in any real kind of writing Vincent would be held
responsible for the chicken incident, after all he seemed a likely suspect, always
keeping to himself and a long list of similar, misdemeanors. In the best American
writing he'd be wrongly accused and OH, the injustice of it all!
But, Vincent had his own problems—chickens aside—and it's about time we gave
her a name. Margaret. Her name was Margaret. I guess that comes as no surprise
to anyone who has ever known a Margaret. She was standing outside a bar,
smoking a cigarette, looking many more than her 18 years when he wobbled
drunkenly by and asked,
"Are you alone?"
"No, my boyfriend is inside."
"Wow," said Vincent, "He must be some kind of an idiot."
"My boyfriend is no idiot," she said blowing a smoke ring. "My boyfriend is 26
years old, and he could crush you with one hand, and he's definitely not an idiot."
There seemed to be nothing Vincent could say to that and so he took the
opportunity to say nothing. It was only about 2 AM and the night still lay ahead.
"But," said Margaret after a casual puff or two on her cigarette, "why did you say
"Why did I say your boyfriend must be an idiot?"
"Yeah, you know…" she whispered encouragingly.
"Because, if you were /my/ girlfriend, I wouldn't leave you standing around out
here by yourself where someone like me might come along, scoop you up, and
carry you off."
(There was no doubt about it, at 2 AM under the neon bar-light glow, Margaret
was a beauty.)
So, you already know the rest. Twenty minutes later they were at Margaret's dorm
room and she was nicely, barely-clothed, and had just finished reciting poetry to
him. I wish I could think of a more creative way to say that.
So, it looked like a good beginning. I mean, the clean film-noir pick-up, the
sneaking up the squeaky dormitory steps without being caught, the rolling
seduction of recitation, the candles, the suppressed giggles of delight under the
blanket, and, ultimately, the discovery by Vincent that he was skilled at something
he had never done before, which coincided perfectly with Margaret's discovery
that Vincent had more natural skill than her 26 year old abandoned and now
almost forgotten boyfriend… who was not an idiot.