William Cotter used to peer out of his bedroom windows all day between reading Burroughs, Huxley and the works of Yeats, and sometimes his trances were accompanied by the sounds of “Tales of Brave Ulysses” or “If 6 was 9” or the entire albums of Mother Earth and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Children rejoiced in a new definition of culture. It brimmed with energy and whimsy, and he succumbed to it by letting his arms and legs flail about in motions that did not belong to him. Instead, they belonged to a new reality based on the conviction that identity was not birthed from the status of parents, or the homes and belongings of peers, or a countenance of decorous upbringing. “Peace and love” was their expression of acceptance, and it was defined by the universality of humankind. The sounds of Rock and Roll became hymns, hallucinogens the sacraments, and the church extended to concert fields, clubs or anywhere their spirits gathered. Eventually the resistance of William’s mind ceased to the impulse of bodily chaos being provoked by the twanging sounds emanating from radios, stages and record players, and he finally admitted he liked the way it felt to dance. This confession led to others; in particular, his captivation with the way a young woman in Dallas moved about, and how soft and inviting her body looked to his eyes.
Then he followed her into Dallas because he wanted to experience what it was like to roam about with no expectations. History led sons to follow in the pursuits of their class. William was the son of a Roman Lawyer who traveled across the ancient world, and fulfilled his father’s legacy in both occupation and passion- the practice of law and excursions from Alexandria to Persia. His father once passed on techniques of a magical craft when William took up the apprenticeship of a medieval stonemason. With a fervor and wit they once identified in his father, William preached insurrection to his peers, when the Enlightenment led men of ideas to gather in secret orders. But history had evolved thousands of years for William to deny the legacy of his stewards, and the static nature of feudalism, racism, stratification and religiosity were dying to Democracy. Children imitated their peers, parents mimicked their children, and many of the Western consumer peoples were free to become anything they wanted. Within the turmoil of freedom and confusion, William followed that woman to the city.
She introduced him to a growing metropolis, where construction boomed and the world felt promising, and her energy was so powerful he had to follow. Her name was Jeanne, and she took him. She took him into her body because he wanted to go there, and he wanted to understand it, and he did for a little while because he kept letting her take him further away until she took him to live with her. Even though he could see in her every moment that she was not sincere, and that she was playing out a common game, William let Jeanne take him because he was convinced he must evade history.
At some point, currency became important, and the worries William shirked in his quest for freedom became inescapable. Luck had it that he met an old friend of his father’s on the street, and under the rods and sounds of construction, they talked about LBJ. A plane crash claimed the great president’s life two years before this chance encounter, but William remembered the stories his father used bring back from the lodge, and so did his father’s old friend. So William told his favorite story about LBJ’s penchant to carry on a conversation even when he was on the toilet, with the same finale his father used to perform: “I didn’t know if it was a sign of intimacy or if he was just disrespecting me!” Through this slight deference to nostalgia, William made the old friend feel comfortable, and the conversation became his. He revealed that he was unable to find a job, and looking for some money to get by, and the old friend wanted to help him out. He was unaware of the values William espoused upon leaving for Dallas, and he failed to detect the rebellion within William’s eyes and soul, but William was beginning to disguise the defiance that defined his aspirations quite well anyway. Both men left with the wrong impressions of each other; William convinced him of an attachment to his roots, while the old friend portrayed a genial civility. William walked back to his residence happy with the prospect of a decent wage in his future.
The apartment he shared with Jeanne belonged to her, even though he paid a good deal to share it. It was spacious for the price. The only drawback was that it sat on the basement floor, and light only entered through the kitchen. In the daytime, sunlight permeated every corner of the apartment as long as all the doors were open, but it was often pitch dark at night. There was no sun or moon in the sky when William walked in to see Jeanne’s eyes did not belong to her- the pupils were very large and she had just dropped. One time he tried to be intimate with her when she was tracing the patterns of Gods in the sky with her finger, and he swore he could see them too, but Jeanne was indignant. She yelled at him, and it was clear she did not want to share the experience. Although she blamed her attitude on the influence of psilocybin and amphetamine, William always felt hesitant to interrupt- what she declared as- her “sacred times,” and she did not object to his leaving her be. Thus, he did not intrude upon her experience to reveal his good fortune earlier in the day. The opportunity filled him with a promise he did not feel since he followed Jeanne to Dallas, and that night he felt anticipation again. He thought about the world he left behind. He thought about Jeanne’s body too, and suddenly it looked less like a manifestation of a primordial, archetypical sexual nature, and more like the representation of impetuous lust. His perceptions were beginning to fall back in line with the comprehensions of morality society had originally instilled. He tried to sleep there with her that night, but Jeanne was in no state to talk to him, and he finally realized Dallas was not growing for him.
He awoke in darkness. The doors were closed, and it was impossible to discern the profile of any object. While the darkness had always bothered him before, this time the removal of sensory input had an odd gratification. He did not want to see the moon or sky; or Jeanne’s body; or the desert between Dallas and his parents; or the books that promised him freedom through drugs and tribalism; or the Democracy that allowed him to be anything, but in the end nothing. He was even tired of the music, and the limbic passion it elicited.
The truth of his being must have become clear to him, and maybe he realized that history did not belong to him as he once thought. Instead, it owned every one of his decisions the same way it owned countries and people, and creating a different history out of his privileged life did not free him from history. On the steps of The Library of Alexandria, he stood fascinated; the architecture of medievalism once tickled his mind; and the fecundity of scientific intellect and the words of John Locke that he once espoused, once defined him as deeply it did his father and peers. William once lived as those sons, their fathers were once his fathers, and those purposes were once worthy.
Finally, William remembered that he was our son. At least, this is what I thought he told me after he walked back through our door, and when he hugged me, I felt him wiser than before he left, and I felt that as only a mother could; and I could write his odyssey through his perception, and he could understand it through mine.