My audio for this week is a song, “Draw Me Down,” that I made up one day in England while doing the dishes. It was early 1989. I was living with Carol (I’d been living with her for ten years). Kelley, whom I’d met in the summer of 1988, in the US, and I had been apart for months. My little sister, Helena, had recently died. Here’s a passage from my memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party, that explains how and why I wrote this.
Writers are not made to belong. We can’t. Writing, all art, is the job of shamans. We travel to dangerous places, and explain them with story, so that that others need not. But being a writer is a choice. Except, of course, it isn’t. For me it’s about as much a chosen thing as being a dyke. I just am. The choice part of the equation is in being comfortable and happy and committing to it. I’ve never had a problem with committment, but choice is all about privileging one way over another. It’s a closing of possible paths. This kind of choice was heading my way with regard to Kelley and Carol; I just wasn’t prepared to admit it yet.
I was still walking two worlds: one in which I lived in Hull with Carol and had a real-world job, and pondered on and off the possibility of having children, and went on having sex with anyone who took my fancy, and one in which I lived with Kelley, only Kelley–no old friends, no family, no extra lovers–without the safety net of job or welfare state. The fork in the road lay ahead; I didn’t want to see it.
Meanwhile everyone I knew in England began to pester me to “share” my grief; I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. Nor did I want to share my thoughts and feelings about Kelley. She was like a faint scent in an empty, stoppered bottle. The more the cork came out and the bottle got passed around, the less intense the sense memory would be. I hoarded her to myself, and guarded my conscious mind from the acknowledgement of the choice ahead. While talking to Carol about getting a better job and buying a bigger house, I also began a relentless drive to earn enough money to get back to the US.[…]
That winter, my two worlds drew further apart. I began to find it impossible to walk in both at once.
I wrote to Kelley one day about my most recent conversation with Carol about money and careers and moving to a bigger house in a part of town where people had gardens and birds sang; then posted the letter and, as usual, started the next one. I’d finished the next one, and mailed it, a couple of days before I got a raw, shocked letter back saying: “So I’m totally confused. You’ve decided–you’ve chosen Carol? If so, you have to tell me, right now. Tell me plainly. Because I’ve been hoping and hoping, believing you were coming back. I want you to come back.”
I immediately started a long explanatory letter, then thought, No, I can’t let her think for another ten days that I’m not coming back. So I picked up the phone for the second time and called and left a message on Kelley’s machine. “No,” I said, “listen. You got the wrong end of the stick. All is well. My feelings for you haven’t changed. I’m coming back soon, as soon as I have the money. There’s a letter on the way. I love you.”
Kelley told me later that she got home from work, heard the message, and burst into tears.
I wrote this song for her and sang it into the microphone grille of a boombox in the kitchen. I mailed the cassette with my next letter. The clearest truth I could give.