The Book of J (Part III of V)

It was under the influence of that powder that Joel confided his secrets. There’s no telling if any of them were true. It was another mild evening, we were again in the Old City, and we’d been separated from our friends. I think they all just kept walking when Joel stopped and bounced off a wall. Being gymnastical and energetic he would do things like that – take a run at a wall and jump off it from two or three feet up – landing lightly, grinning, and then telling some story. I remember he went into a perfect squat and started describing the rigors he’d undergone in order to be adopted by the Apache tribe. I honestly can’t recall if it’s the details I’m supposed to guard or the scalplock, for that’s when he gave me this loop of brown suede thong, from which depend, on common cotton thread of gold and taupe, two nondescript feathers, a wooden ball, several short strands of colored glass beads, and another length of the brown suede thong (I’ve had the thing 30 years, and for the last decade it has hung exposed to air and sun in my study, and the only age it shows is the stiffening of the brown suede). According to Joel, he’ll lose his soul if I divulge his stories, or maybe it’s if I discard the scalplock. Luckily I can’t remember the stories so I can’t tell them, and I’m keeping the scalplock just in case. I don’t believe in that kind of soul-deal, but the subject’s so important that I won’t play around. I remember one time a woman walked into the Med on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, around 1968, and announced she’d just made some Faustian deal with the devil. I did not find that funny. That was affectation beyond the pale.

Anyway, the scalplock is kind of cute.

Joel also gave me a pendant, of pot metal or maybe pewter, in the shape of a tomahawk suspended over an open oval. It’s not unattractive, actually. I think he gave it to me as a symbol of his Apacheness, in which I didn’t believe, and of his love, in which I did.

(Isn’t it remarkable, how we baby boomers seem driven to preserve the stories of our own extremes? How many times have you heard of this golden age, between the invention of the Pill and the advent of AIDS, this era when civil and even rude disobedience worked? We’re like Vikings on Iceland, writing sagas to get it all down. We’re like Austen etching elegancies of estates and esquires while the fences encroach and the merchants usurp. We’re like any dying civilization, grasping at art to self-record…)

I can’t remember ever agreeing with Joel, and I didn’t agree to love him. I liked his energy, I loved his agility, but his jitteriness made me nervous, and I couldn’t disregard the feeling that his hyperactivity brought attention to us and bad luck upon us, and that the relief we achieved when we talked our way out of whatever hassle our conspicuousness brought us, didn’t compensate for the overall feeling of wasted time.

I thought we would come to a natural end when Laura, Mary and I left Jerusalem for the kibbutz. I thought the kitten episode would be the last story. But Joel surprised me with a visit a week later. He even brought Emmet, in the basket of his scooter.

(continued tomorrow)

This entry was posted in Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s