It was a brisk, bright-mooned evening in mid-Fall — the sidewalks and trees decorated in crackly orange leaves, which blew helter-skelter in the excitement of the wind.
Marie, pretty little Marie, danced along the sidewalk, pranced across the streets, dressed in deep velvet and sparkling finery on her way to a night of music and joy. Perhaps he would be there — the he of the moment in her heart — a still unconsummated romance, which, of course, added to the excitement in her eyes, the dancing of her feet. She was sweet twenty-two with long brown hair and big blue eyes and out on her own for under a year now, learning about life outside of school. By day a temporary secretary in various city offices, waiting for the big break to appear which would launch her career; by night an energetic blithe spirit of the local cultural scene, looking for Mr. Right who would make her feel warm and cozy and loved.
Warm . . . and cosy . . . and loved . . .
John H. O’Connor — Johnny O’ — less than dapper man about town, scheming and scamming and looking for his lucky break, also had gentler feelings. Just because he’d been knocked about a bit, he wasn’t bitter, just wise to the ins and outs; and he wasn’t one of the ins. So he looked for the wide chance, the long-shot with the heavy purse, and meanwhile dreamed big-time, often with chemical aid; and looked for that special someone who would believe in him the way he wanted to believe in himself.
And they thought they’d found each other that bright, crackling Fall.
She was shy but forward. He was brash but shy. So they engaged in bantering small talk, while burning into each other’s eyes — everytime they encountered each other at the bars and parties and concert halls, for something over a month now. And tonight once more. But tonight was special. Tonight was magical. Crackling energy erupted and there was so much more between them — like telepathy. They kissed. And walked each other home, hand in hand. And ended up in her apartment,
where her roommates were conveniently out. They told each other their souls and enjoyed bodily bliss and felt very, very special and blessed. And Marie, sweet little Marie, knew deep down for the very first time that somebody loved her all the way through, without reservation, without condensation, and with only one condition — that she love him too.
So let us leave these new lovers to do as lovers do and visit them later down the road of life. Not too much later, for things move fast in these days of high-technology and mass mediated culture. Let’s look in on them, say nine months hence, in the long, hot summer of their lives. And they’re sharing a small apartment on the wrong side of town. (What makes it wrong — well the glaring glass and excrement on the sidewalk, as well as the occasional passed-out drunk or junkie might hint at a less than luxurious lifestyle for the local hoi-polloi.)
Well, how could she believe in him, fastidious little Marie, who may have been emotionally starved, but at least was always fed and clothed among the middle-class. And he loved her, yes he loved her almost feverishly, but he couldn’t control her; couldn’t own her; and the fear of losing her was more than he could bear.
What had started out as a glorious adventure had turned too starkly real.
And the real world, in fact, has become much too stark and drear. What do we see on the tv and newstands but nuclear this and bacterial that and crazy folk erupting into murder on the streets and schoolyards and AIDS-infected rapists and child pornography rings and arson and bombings, and man’s most brutal retaliation unto man, woman and child. A long, hot, greenhouse-effectuated summer indeed.
So he hit her, once or twice, or maybe, yeah, he went, a bit, out of control. He beat her, pummeled her, showed her just who was boss-man, upper-hand, in control of the situation, able to rule her life. And did she leave?
Hell, no. Where could she go? There is no safe port home, you know. Not when Mom and Dad have split long since and communicate mostly by holiday phone calls and birthday greeting cards with a twenty-five dollar check enclosed because they’ve both known better days.
And friends, what friends? He’s alienated all those who are less worse off than they and she, so blindly attentive in the early days of bliss, had barely noticed. That brilliant career has yet to materialize. We must admit she’d not really been pursuing it lately. And he’s pissed away her weekly paychecks on deals made of daydreams and the occasional rent, utilities and food. But, hey, this is the latter part of the twentieth century. Aren’t there “Women’s Groups” and socially conscious organizations to come to the rescue? Well, maybe somewhere; but not here where it counts so far as she can see. She’s alone. Except when he loves her in the warm, soft night, singing poetry with his eyes and hands and mouth — giving and taking and being all she could imagine. Oh, for those warm, soft nights . . .. But she’s got to go. She must escape. The total desperation of the situation has come upon her. Nowhere to go . . . nowhere . . . nowhere . . .. But go she must!
So she waits ’til he’s out on the town, scheming and scamming and giving his all just to try to make it for her, to be somebody in her eyes. And she just starts running, in no particular direction, no thought in her mind but escape. She runs, then walks, then runs again, through the town, through the city streets, with no certain destination, desperate little Marie, living on the hope that something will occur to her as she runs. And, running out of breath, she stops at a newsstand where the headlines scream of horrors far beyond what she has ever endured. But she’s out of breath and out of options. She’s got about $5.00 in her pocket, so she goes into the nearest bar to use the facilities and buy a pack of cigarettes. And take some time to think.
Pretty little Marie, they come up to her and offer to buy her a drink. What the hell. She drinks. It makes her feel less. Notice less. And some sleezeball carries her away, arm around her staggering form. And when she tries to scream, he covers her mouth and nose and face with the pillow. So she screams and screams inside her mind. And in the bright, hot morning, they find her, what’s left of her, in a scuzzy alley. The headlines talk of her tomorrow, but it’s too late for her to care.

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