I was living in a little rathole on the backside of Boston’s Beacon Hill. Its principal amenity was a solitary window looking out onto the street. It was cheap, and after a few beers, you stopped paying attention to the upstairs neighbors alternately screwing or fighting.
If the above description sounds a bit over the top, I assure you that I leave out details you’d prefer not to know. Besides, I spent as little time in the “studio apartment” as I could, most of the rest of it on the street, in local coffeehouses, bars, donut shops, and friends’ homes.
In my mind, I still see the view down the street that afternoon, the long view towards the base of the hill and the river beyond; my friend Chuck was overflowing describing to me the variety, type, and quality of the compositions he’d be able to write after he married his young lady; a minor Rothschild heir. I’d met Carla once. Briefly. Chuck tried to keep her away from his scrubby friends on the “Hill.” It was a goal I was sympathetic towards, knowing exactly how forlorn a bunch we were. But Carla was fussing over Chuck’s rumpled appearance and unbrushed hair. She was taking him to a haberdashery for a nice suit. Something Carla could present him to Mommy and Daddy in. She was sure that he’d clean up nicely.
Trust me; I felt happy for Chuck. All his friends assumed that Carla would “make something” of Chuck. And we all knew that you couldn’t sit in the coffeehouse all afternoon for the rest of your life scribbling our sonatas that you never finished. He’d wind up as a mid-level executive in Daddy’s company, drive home to an upper-tier suburb, play with the kids, sit in the study, and try to compose for an hour every night. Carla would eventually grow bored with the routine; he’d no longer be the exciting rebel she married.
What happened then was the subject of our group’s conversations when Chuck was not around. Depending on who was painting the canvas of Chuck’s future, Carla would leave him, take the kids and return to mummsie and dadums, or Chuck would, in a herculean effort, produce a grand opus and become an acclaimed composer of elevator music—the variations on themes repeated over and over. Depending on how silly, how drunk, or how despairing we felt, this could roll on for hours.
We were jealous, Chuck had found a way out, and we exercised this petty spite like sticking pins in a fetish doll to create pain.
The wedding came, and we were, of course, not invited. So Chuck disappeared, never to be seen again, and we moved on to other activities, and some of us even left the well-worn ruts we had worn into the streets of Beacon Hill.
One Reply to “Ruts”
No riff-raff at his wedding? How boring. 😉
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