Excerpts from Rebellion, 1967: A Memoir 

PAINTING WITH BILL

Bill’s radio, arched like a cathedral, ached with mournful sounds of Handel. “My soul vibrates as if I am the cello,” Bill said, choked up. “Now that’s soul music.” Bill, like most singers of Sixties soul music, was Black. I wondered if I, a White girl, could feel such soul? As we painted an Old English Town, I pictured myself safe inside the storybook mansion at dinner with the English family. Voices of my own family intruded, shooting cutting words at each other. My chest ached. Bill handed me a new sable hair paintbrush and asked me to mix up some greens.” I smelled the oozing oil paint: Naples yellow, cobalt blue, titanium white. I filled my cup with oil. Grasping the palette, I claimed my place on the scaffolding. We painted late into dusk, listening to soul music from centuries before, the only other sound the brush of sable on whitewashed wall.

DANCING WITH DON

We descended steps to a new universe—a dimly lit dance floor where colored lights twinkled in the high ceiling; piped-in music bounced off glossy black walls in a large industrial space transformed by artists. Two of the few White faces in the crowd, Don and I moved among faces hard-set on having a good time. Words had no place here. Neither did our minds. Only our bodies belonged, all of us planted on the same thundering dance floor booming to the beat, rocking our bones. Vibrations pulsed up from the floor through the soles of my feet to my legs and energized my hips…

A girl with silky hair like Maureen rolled her head, and under the startling strobes the flickering light made it look like she had three heads. As one disk ran into the other, our Whiteness seemed to be forgotten, or coolly accepted. All of us—freely moving individuals forming one throbbing crowd—moved to the same beat, nothing separating us from the music, its overriding rhythm binding us all.

JAZZ WITH CARMEN

Lover, you were a splash of exuberance on a dark street, a kiss on the eyelid, an orgasm of the Indian shennai, and the violent frenzy of the saxophone’s eager rapid tongue and biting teeth. Now, thoughts of you crawl in my intestines, gnawing at my gut like sandpaper. Your last stab pricked a wound. The raw pulp of my heart passed out of me like a menstrual clot, like something unborn, bleeding sharply.

UNSPOKEN LOVE WITH STAN

After a break-in, I turned to Stan for help and he insisted on coming to my apartment in the East Village. I asked, “Why are you here, Stan?” Usually so easy with words, he had trouble answering. That’s when I knew. He’s here because he loves me. And I love him. Since the charge I felt when we first met. Everyone around us knew though we never did act, and never could touch, kiss or even speak of love. To act would complicate our lives beyond repair, possibly push me over the edge, and destroy what I most admired in him, his standing tall with integrity.

“I think you know why I’m here, Duffy,” he finally said, our eyes still locked.

“I do.” My heart beating, I felt the desire for flight. I imagined wings emerging from my shoulder blades, thrashing, but still too mashed to fly.

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