Do you need to get back to Episode one? Here it is!
A Knight Rides forth in Armor
Lorraine always knew what to do. So did I on my better days. We had to attend the community bar-b-que, so I got to watch Lorraine put on her armor. All women wear armor. It comes in various styles and of course a whole rainbow of colors. There are types of layer with some layers serving more than one purpose. The first layer takes care of the skin and body, comforting it, caressing it (Remember women are often very uncomfortable in their skins, and many are cold blooded.), keeping it warm, protecting it from prying eyes. Think cotton panties and brasieres, undershirts, long underwear (Yes, they make this for women, in soft, thin, cotton knits of course.) etc... Next comes the layer that improves the fit of their clothes. This can be a brasiere that pushes up and supports, a girdle, but also stockings, tights, slips, camisoles, all of which help a skirt or dress "sit better." The same works for women wearing slacks. The last level of armament is adornment. It is clothing and face paint, skirts, blouses, slacks, make up, shoes. It must present the wearer's personality through interesting textures. It must be interesting with a new set of colors every day and the colors rotated, and the colors must go and play in interesting and subtle ways that flatter the wearer's skin or enhance her or do something for her. Think magic if you will. Girls begin learning "putting clothes together" before they are five years old. I know this now because Subi who had no brothers has sometimes discussed clothing with my oldest son.
If you are in the right mood, watching a woman prepare her armor and put it into place is fascinating. A woman in a panty girdle, brasiere, and camisole, sitting astride a vanity stool contemplating her hair is NOT wasting time. Get that out of your head! She's contemplating the next step, what will go outside the layer she has so carefully laid. In this case, Lorraine wanted a particular pair of white sandals (She has several of them, to coordinate with different outfits and send different, subtle signals) that had migrated to the back of the closet. She sprung into action to find them and put them on seeing if they were undamaged. Not everything survives a move, and these sandals traveled west in a moving crate.
Satisfied, I watched Lorraine slip into a white pair of shear, form fitting pants called clam diggers. The pants were white which meant all the under things beneath them were also white. "This is my first chance to wear white this summer," Lorraine burbled as she selected a blouse of soft, somewhat iridescent and somewhat smokey light blue with a pattern textured into the material to make the shine ripple in dots. A man would have found the pattern a distraction, but women prized such details. She put on the blouse, opening two buttons to show a sliver of tanned chest, not really cleavage. Lorraine is just not big enough for that, not that she doesn't have a decent, and rather pretty set of breasts. Styles that might be immodest on larger women, are tasteful on her. She has a good figure especially when well armored. "There," she modeled herself before the vanity mirror. "What do you think William?"
"You are dressed to kill," I smiled. "What are you wearing?" I sighed. I did not have to think of armor. My skivvies were reasonably clean. I glanced at my shirt. I guessed I needed a clean one. Did I have a clean one. I had brought my work shirts, or rather had them shipped on the van, and luckily one of them was pressed. I decided I did not need a tie, and a pair of chinos would work fine. As for shoes, my brown ones did not look too bad.
"Do you have any brown socks?" Lorraine's question floated at me. Lorraine was in my sock drawer like a flash. Of course, socks, coordinate with pants and shirt to show the world, and socks, clean ones protect the feet from blisters, level 1, and the shoes fit better, level 2. OK, I got it. Lorraine was in my sock drawer in a flash, pulling out a pair of medium brown socks. "These will look better, try them." She did not bother to explain that they would set off my shoes and pants, as if I wanted to do such a thing. I put them on anyway. We had a function to attend. It was time for the Bachmans to face the world!
The world was a patch of bare sand, baked to unattractive kahki colored ground between the DelGrasso and Wolfe trailers. A selection of alumnium loung furniture, from who knew where (We'd given ours away rather than ship it west), formed a circle around a round metal table set up like a bar with ice bucket, mixers, and all the rest. DelGrasso's wife, Claudia, offered us pretzels, Cheese Doodles, and cake. She had all three. Why wait dessert? I was not hungry. Food made me think of Noelle, an absolutely captivating Mexican American waitress in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Yes, we deviated from the route west. I found an empty lounge chair next to DelGrasso. The men would probably discuss passing the Nevada bar. Law is segregated by state. Civil serrvice jobs are by county, and Subira and I were both going to be Pershing County employees. Doty's wife Constance helped Claudia put out more food. The other two women hung on the periphery. Lorraine stood a few seconds too long sizing up her options.
The women on the periphery, Subira and Silverstein's wife, Sharon shared one chaise lounge between them. Sharon sat with her legs drawn up. She was the only woman wearing shorts, and at twenty-five, her knees were no longer those of a girl, but skinny, nobby, full grown woman knees. They were tan and rough. "She must run around in shorts a lot," I thought. Subi sat on the end of the lounge doubled over. "Was she unwell?" I asked myself. Subi wore dark blue clam diggers and a scarlet, navy, and white striped polo shirt. the kind mothers bought for their sons, and their sons hated instinctively. Those shirts were really the sort women imagined for themselves, and Subi was the right size to wear boys' shirts. She'd say they were made better and that the colors were "so pretty!"
The "so pretty" colors and the bent back and lowered head radiated waves of pain. Subi's husband was delayed. She was taking it hard. "Poor baby!" cooed Lorraine who almost sat on the grass beside the stricken sister before pulling up a beach chair from the far side of the circle so she could be low and at the wounded one's level. That Lorraine felt some schadenfruede agains tthe expedition leader was not beyond belief. I turned to delGrasso who was talking with Doty on how well the wives and hade this camp, how orderly and like home.
"Well leave it to Constance!" Doty boasted.
"I'll say a lot of the credit belongs with Subi for getting the ladies across the country in such good shape. Everything she said she would do, she delivered. She even got through an emergency without cussing. Now what man could do that? I tell you maybe that thing about being able to withstand childbirth is really true."
I wondered if I should point out to the fine legal mind, delGrasso, that Subi had signed an agreement not to become pregnant while she worked in Dr. Herschel's lab. amd that women received medication for childbirth. Abortion from my experience of seeing Lorraine go through it was much harder, than what happened at the end of nine months. Even a baby waking up in the middle of the night was easier. You kind of expect that kind of trouble.
"You can give Sharon the credit for the chairs and wading pool," Subi had walked across the grass. Her face was pale, not red. She looked tired. Maybe she did her crying in private. Maybe she would do it later.
"How did Sharon get the chairs?" asked delGrasso.
"On the shopping trip. There are stores near the supermarket. We bought a wading pool at Toys R' Us and there was a K-Mart that sold folding chairs. Sharon's got a good imagination."
"Not just an imagination," Doty reminded us. "She carries things through. Nice work... Silverstein will be proud of her."
"If and when he gets here," Subi sighed.
"Not if, when...." delGrasso corrected Subi.
"You left him," Subi flung the words before she could restrain them.
"We needed to make time," Doty explained.
Subi turned away. I caught a look at her face that was now red and blotchy. She broke into a run. Lorraine, Sharon, Claudia, and Constance all chased her into the delGrasso trailer's kitchen.
"There they all go," sighed Doty. "Off to gossip."
"I think Subi's going to have a good cry," I observed.
"They always cry," sighed delGrasso.
"Lorraine would scream!" I thought.
"So much for not making a scene," I remarked.
"I guess if I didn't arrive, Constance would also be hysterical like that, but Subi was such a rock the whole trip."
"There's only so much a person can take," sighed delGrasso. "And if we were girls, we would have all delayed by two days so we'd all stay together, or Silverstein would never have had the accident because we would have been very cautious."
I did not answer. I thought of Noelle. That was better than thinking about what was happening in the kitchen. I also reminded myself to watch the incoming mail.
Rural Route 6A
Rose Rock, Nevada USA
Little City at the End of the World
I did not dream about Subi or Noelle or any particular woman in my life past, present, or future that first night in the trailer with Lorraine. Instead I dreamed about coffee, with extra sugar and no milk, served in a chipped, speckeled, grey-white ceramic cup, not the blue and white, styrofoam Greek cups that make you think of impossibly far away temples in Athens or Mount Olympus. This coffee came without laughs in a, steamy, little, hole in the wall diner where I could have bought a newspaper, but I didn't have to make a pretense of looking in the sports section. That was a relief. They had the racing form for sale there, and that always made me think of Lorraine even before I learned about the sulkie drivers.
Lorraine was home. Lorraine was sleeping. This was a New York morning. I had a job as a lab assistant at Columbia. I was back in school, earning my PhD. I was not sure how this happened. I knew that once I finished my coffee, I'd be glad to head into the decripit, old lab, quite different from the modern industrial park down by Westchester Avenue in White Plains, and get to work at the bench. It would be all men there, with the female students afraid of their own shadows, well maybe. The female students did not bother me, because they were students too with work to do. If they wanted to catch a man, there were easier and better places to do it. I finsihed my coffee, feeling its residual burn in my guts. I lit up a cigarette and enjoyed the first lungfuls of smoke as I walked out into a grey and sticky summer morning, the kind that makes people make pointless, small talk about whether it will rain. Either it will or it won't. You can take bets on it if you would like. Lorraine would enjoy doing that.
The rain started to fall before I reached the lab, and then the whole scene melted away. I was in Nevada not New York. I had never gone on to earn an advanced degree. I had a wife and two LOVELY children. Lorraine had pulled the bed shets into a twisted sclupture and curled back up into the middle of it some time in thenight. One of the straps of her sleeveless night gown had fallen revealing a whole lot of wheat colored shoulder with smooth skin I wanted to stroke. Blond hair, gone a bit to straw, veiled part of my wife's face. "Groan," went Lorraine.
"Penny for your thoughts?" I asked.
She wasn't conscious enough to answer. Somehow, though, I bet she shared the same dream. Blame me for my night with Noelle. Blame me for telling her where I would be.Most women give up writing and feel better just knowing they can, but you never know. I'd intercept the letters, read them, and take it from there. I'd liked Noelle nad if I were not here in stinking Nevada, I would definitely plan on seeing her again. I glanced back at Lorraine on the bed. Sun and shadow turend her pink, grey, and golden. I wondered if a shower and a shave would wake her. If this was Westchester, I'd drive out for coffee and the paper and maybe bagels. I'd definitely get bagels of Douglas was awake or I'd take him for pancakes if I was feeling lonely or dangerous.
Here though, an empty day stood ahead of me. DelGrasso had deccreed that the men (and this included Subi) could not begin studying for their exams until all of them arrived. I faced an accidental and utterly useless holiday. I emptied an overflowing ash tray, lit a cigarette, and parted the dingy, coarsely woven things that some women called curtains. I stared past the dusty courtyard, and the Wash-a-ter-ia (Who came up with that stupid name!) , past DelGrasso's trailer Silverstein, and Subi and Richard's trailer, and out toward where the flat, kahki clored expanse of hard scrabble met the sky. Yes, we were 4,000 feet above sea level, but no, there were no blazing, painted mesas. The Grand Canyon is in Arizona after all.
Douglas emerged from the boys' bedroom with Bradley trying to keep up after him. "How did Bradley get out!" I asked my oldest son. "I let him out of his crib, Dad," Douglas answered. "Could you get the side back up?" I was not really mad. Douglas at least had his baby brother, and he was a sweet older sibling. I asked if the boys wanted breakfast. Bradley wanted Mommy, but Lorraine was not going to awaken until it pleaesed her royal self. "Just juice," answered Douglas rocking on his bare feet. He wasn't dressed. A lot I cared.
I found we had no orange juice. I even checked the freezer and found it was NOT caked with frost, but there was no juice there, not even grapefruit juice that Lorraine sometimes drank when she went on diets. "Sorry son," I told Douglas.
"It's in the cupboard," the boy told me. I saw no cans of juice. I tried another cupboard. "It's the one over the stove." I opened the top cupboard. There were still no cans of juice. Douglas pointed to several bright colored packages. All right pre-sweetened Kool-Aide. Well that was sort of Juice. "You want a glass of this stuff?" I asked, trying to figure how much to measure out of a package that made a pitcher. I guess I should make a pitcher of this stuff. Did we have a pitcher? Did we even have ice? We batted .500 and I made a pitcher of strawberry coolaide and poured Douglas a glass. I wondered if I should make coffee.
Douglas returned to the living room and did not stay long. "There's no good TV out here," he complained.
"There's TV here."
"Sure," my five year old son told me. "There's TV everywhere. We only have three channels here. One of them is for the schools. That's what Mommy says. There's no good cartoons. The cartoons in New York were better."
"Some day when you are big you can go back to New York and watch all the cartoons you want," I told my son. Some day though, was incredibly faraway.
Rural Route 6A
Rose Rock, Nevada USA