Thursday, July 28, 2011

Memoirs: Chapter 41: Meeting the genius students and teachers at the University

Somewhere along the way I met Sharon, a hardy poet from Ogden with a genius I.Q. who was so world weary even though only a year older than I was, she seemed considerably older than her years. She suggested she had been sexually active since childhood, although I did not know if I should believe her.
She also turned out to be practically a professional roller skater. I could hardly believe this either until I saw her expensive roller skates on a visit to her apartment to see some of her art work.  She said that she and another genius student, Dick Layman, had been going together for two years or more.  She said that Dick smoked heavily and got no exercise, but he and still another genius student named Laurence had taken over the University student newspaper and were practically putting it out themselves.  Plus, Lawrence, a very good poet, was the favorite student of Ghiselin, a modern poet and professor, who she said they all regarded as the most brilliant teacher in the English department. He was also adviser to the student literary magazine staff.
I resolved to take a class from Ghiselin right away although the fact that he was a modern poet with a couple of published books of poetry was somewhat daunting, since I regarded writing as well as reading modern poetry as my weakness.  My forte was really dialogue. But at first I loved Ghiselin.  He seemed extremely intelligent.
Sharon said that she would introduce me to Laurence as soon as possible who had simply read everything because she thought he and I would get along famously because I was such a book reader.
But she said Laurence was still trying to recover from a traumatic divorce from a freshman girl who had gotten pregnant almost at once, which she indicated might have been entrapment.  When she mentioned her name and the fact that she had lived at the freshman dorm I recalled the girl who had been simply crazy about this guy, a tall veteran.  I heard she left college to live with her folks when their quick marriage in order to legitimize the coming child did not work out.  Sympathetic freshman girlfriends said this savage older guy had simply ripped her heart out with no qualms at all.
So I did not know if I was too eager to meet this ruthless individual, even though Sharon seemed to think that the whole problem was the girl not reading enough books.

I had not known Sharon very long when she called me up and told me that she had fallen in love with someone else, and was now in the process of halfway killing her boyfriend, Dick, who was taking it very hard.  She said that he was positively suicidal and she had given him my number at the Phi Mu house, so if he got desperate enough to do away with himself, could he call and talk to me first? 
Wouldn't you know it, Dick did call me and asked me if I please would not come out and talk to him.  When I told the Phi Mu housemother I needed to respond to this call she told me I would have to call up the Dean of Women to get permission to leave after hours.
So I called the Dean of Women who tried to talk me out of this mission of mercy.  I told her if she did not give me permission I was going to go anyway, even if I had to move, so she reluctantly agreed that I could go.  I was not sure that I was any comfort to Dick who said that he was dropping out of college and going to the northwest where he hoped to get a job working on a newspaper, that he had layout expertise and just as well be making money instead of doing it for free. He felt he had to get away from Sharon before he could stop wanting to commit suicide.  I hastily agreed that leaving might be better. 
Dick looked so unhealthy I just knew that Sharon had probably been enticed away by a more vigorous genius who would probably go roller skating with her.  After Dick left I met her new boyfriend, who was Jewish and even more wild acting and bold talking than I envisioned.  I was immediately envious because I had always wanted to meet some young Jewish intellectuals who happened to be very scarce in Utah.  She admitted he was so different from Dick, that she had to try to keep up with him, rather than the other way around.
I was very impressed because later on her Jewish boyfriend even started bringing her down to visit me in southern Utah. He would leave her and return to Salt Lake while we went camping.
In the meantime, she said she had another former genius student pal for me to meet who she revealed had been part of a quartet of geniuses in their circle their freshman year.  His name was Phil and reluctantly she told me that he had been so upset at Laurence's sudden marriage, he had left the University, even though he was only a freshman.  I gathered from what Sharon did not say that he might have been in love with Laurence.
If Laurence was a bisexual and had broken the heart of the beautiful freshman girl as well as that of a brilliant freshman male student, wasn't he rather dangerous? After she told me that, I had doubts about Sharon's match making proclivities. Was she setting me up with Laurence just because I might make a more knowledgeable wife for a veteran ten years older?  It was hard to tell, but Sharon, more than any other girl I met at college, put me in touch with interesting intellectual geniuses, and for that I would be forever grateful.  These were the kind of guys I hoped to meet in college. 

As for Phil, he was just in town for a short visit, but he wanted to write to me, so I agreed to correspond with him, since Sharon had declared he had read almost as much as Laurence, even though he was considerably younger.  I know he used so many big words and such turgid language I had a very hard time making out the meaning of what he was saying.  I thought he was probably just talking around and around the subject of being attracted to males.  He did wonder if I might be the lost chord which I thought might mean I could be the one girl who could possibly restore him to normalcy.  Did Sharon think I was Laurence's lost chord, too? 
I hadn't really told anyone anything about my past experiences with bisexuals, but apparently I conveyed a greater understanding and tolerance of this breed than most girls my age.
But words could be used to obscure as well as to reveal, and reading Phil's letters caused me to start developing a theory that these genius poets I met in college wrote modern poetry to hide the true meaning of what they were saying from almost everyone except those who had the experience to know what they were talking about.  I had looked through some of Ghiselin's books of poetry and found that each poem required such a depth of study I did not have time to figure out hardly any of them.  Either that, or I was singularly untalented at interpretation.
I was not sure my new theory was going to help me write modern poems that would impress Ghiselin either.  I would probably be considered suspicious and even intolerant. He would not like that at all.  
But I was really enjoying getting acquainted with Ghiselin, as he was clearly the genius mentor of the genius student writers. He had very penetrating powers of analysis.  At first he made a great deal of sense to me.  Sharon said Ghiselin seemed far less impressed with her poetry than with Laurence's, and so far had not accepted any of her submissions to the student literary magazine. She was, in fact, getting so annoyed with not getting her poetry published, she started talking about starting an underground publication of her own so she could get read on campus some way.
Toward the middle of my sophomore year, she said that Laurence, she called him Larry, was finally ready to meet a new girl. When we met, Sharon introduced him to me and left for a class while Laurence and I proceeded to talk fast and furious about books for close to two hours.
It was true, Laurence had read simply everything. And he talked about literature extremely well I thought, making his meanings perfectly clear which I appreciated.  He found out I had not read Proust's "Swann's Way" which he said I simply must read.  I was able to tell him I had already found the journals of Andre Gide in the university library in which I said Gide was far more explicit than most American writers about his taste for young males, as was Genet, some of whose novels and plays I had also found and read. I told him I could not get over what Genet had the nerve to write.  It was hard to believe in suppressed Utah, that a writer could be so frank and disturbing as this French novelist and playwright. 
We did not talk a lot about the subject in these books, but Laurence must have observed that I had a marked interest in reading writers who wrote very frankly about homosexuality. As a matter of fact.  I learned from these writers, so I was always trying to find the ones who dared to write about it.
He must have wondered what that indicated, but I figured that since I was still so young, 18 at the time, he decided not to scare me off by interrogating me too deeply.  I told him I knew the girl he had married, which he said was still a painful subject, but I decided there was no point in hiding the fact that I had talked to her when she was still so in love with him, she could think of nothing else.
Sharon indicated that he found her to be too intellectually shallow for him to tolerate!  So why had he pursued the girl so ruthlessly that an unwanted pregnancy resulted? Oh well, I was still a virgin, and I knew I better stay that way if I expected Father to keep paying for my expenses.  Besides I would not have wanted to be in Laurence's poor young wife's shoes.  I had even talked to the girl about the divorce, and she could hardly keep from crying.  I didn't tell him that, though.
He was ten years older than both of us were.  It was obvious these returning veterans going to college needed to be regarded with some sense of caution.  This guy had been to war.  What did he care about the broken hearts of silly college girls who unwisely got pregnant prematurely, after all he had been through.
One of Laurence's eyes had been pierced.  I pictured some horrible war wound, but Laurence, said no, when I dared to ask him about being shot, that he had been hit in the eye with an arrow when he was a kid.  He said he had managed to get through his years in the military without a scratch.
But gosh, how was I going to compete as a writer with this guy?  Oh well, this could be my sacrifice to the war effort, having to take a back seat when a seasoned veteran returned to compete with me for publication in the student literary magazine.  What a great opportunity for editors to publish such guys! 
No wonder he was Ghiselin's favorite student writer.  He would have been mine, too, I was sure, had I been a faculty adviser.  In fact, I began to wonder if anything I wrote for Ghiselin could ever attract his attention, it might seem so callow to him.
I didn't tell Laurence about my dismay at having to compete with him as a student writer.  I thought that would have been very unpatriotic, and could have contributed even more to his air of disillusionment with life.  He did not seem to have much hope for mankind.  Nor did I feel a single spark emanating from him to me.  I could not imagine how he had gotten the other freshman girl pregnant if he had shown no more interest in her physical charms than he did in mine.  
I compared Dean's healthy interest in any opportunity to neck with me.  I thought that Laurence's experience with the other freshman girl had probably dampened his ardor, but his sexual feelings seemed strangely dead.  Maybe this was the real Laurence damaged by war and possibly by the restricted life he indicated he had been forced to lead in rural Utah where he was from.  I figured we were destined just to be friends, and agreed to meet him now and then just 'to talk.'

No comments:

Post a Comment