Copyright © 2017 by Molly Gould
Greer’s journal entry #1:
How awfully drab to fall in love in a Sunday school class at church! Ah,
there was nothing drab—not the day nor the Easter finery; not my heart
nor his eyes. Drab? Perhaps the lesson, for I remember it not. Perhaps
the other people—were there others? In my mind’s eye I can still see
him as he walked into the room—a tall, sandy-haired, freckled-faced
boy with a big grin. I was overwhelmed by him. It was our first sight of
each other. I, who with great wisdom, spoofed love at first sight, found
myself gasping at the short time till the end of May (when I left Utah to
live with my sister in California).
I later learned that he had vaguely noticed me before—had noticed
my ‘luscious legs’—but had never thought of me until he walked into
Sunday school, boldly sitting next to me, intently watching me construct
a paper airplane, whispering in my ear that he’d bet me a nickel it wouldn’t
fly. Little do I recall of the lesson, but I felt something growing that was
much more than the usual flirtations.
I made it a point to attend the activity at church that Tuesday because
I had found out that Dennis might be there. Sure enough he was; we
went home together, and I remember reading poetry in my living room,
and how I loved the way he read.
There was not much time left till school let out in May. I was eager
to commit my heart and life to him, but Dennis—not quite so eager. We
dated, but he continued to date other girls too. One night he told me he
was sure he was falling in love with me, but that he definitely was not
ready for it. He was only 19 and planning to leave on a two-year proselyting
mission that fall in France. My heart sank to the depths. I tried to
convince Dennis that I would wait for him, but he was sure I wouldn’t.
Though we went on a few more dates before school ended, he kept his
June 16, 1965
I like to think you just lost my address but I doubt that highly. I really
didn’t expect you to write and guess it’s foolish of me to be doing it,
but somehow I just want to know how you are, what you’re doing and
any etceteras you might care to impart. In case you’re curious, I got this
address from the college directory. Hope it reaches you.
I haven’t done too much that’s exciting since I got here. I have been
up to the big city several times. I got to see the San Francisco ballet,
which I loved. I had never seen a ballet so I didn’t know if I’d like it, but
it was very exciting. They did part of Nutcracker Suite. There are so many
good things to see and do here if one only had the time and the money.
But I swear I’m going to do something worthwhile this summer.
I’ve read one book and one play so far.
I guess you are making loads of money. It makes me sick that I can’t
really rake it in during the summer. I’m making a measly $1.90 an hour!
My writing is so poor I am almost ashamed to be writing to such a
hypercritical college man and well-read, big vocabularied English major.
Dennis, I suppose I should take your silence as an indication that
you want to just drop things as they were. In fact, I guess there were
several indicators of the same wish while we were still in Provo, but I
was too dumb or too obstinate to pay any heed. I know things were said
that first Saturday night at your place that you wish had never been. I
think that perhaps there are better ways you could have gotten out of
it, but I’m not blaming you for anything. I still have no regrets because
I really feel our relationship was special in many ways that are achieved
with few people, at least in my case. I guess I shall never see my little
poetry book without thinking of what good fun it was to read with you
and to know you really were enjoying it and not just making an effort to
please me. In fact, I almost gave you that book knowing how you like it
but was too selfish to make myself part with it!
Also, it was so fun to go with someone who loves jazz as I do—even
if you don’t know Oscar Peterson! Remember how fine it was up on
the mountain with the music and the river and that crazy moon on the
Anyway, what I’m saying is thanks for being you and for letting me
see the kind of boy I wish there were more of, and thanks for feeling as
I did about so many things and for expressing yourself so openly and
honestly, and thanks for answering this letter (?)
June 17, 1965
Dear Greer (poetic, huh?)
This letter is written upon wrinkled paper, which (as you are an English
major), you will realize is symbolic of suffering and hardship. From having
gotten to know me you will recall that I am never a whiner so I will let the
paper rather than the ink bear what ill tidings are to be borne. You may well
ask why I have devoted the introduction of this epistle to such trivia. As in
conversation, I find it necessary to fill the air with something while I think of
something worthwhile to say. While you write “redundant” over the second
“something” in typical gung-ho English major fashion, I will try to find something
worthy enough in content and syntax to place before your well-read,
though brown, eyes.
Not having succeeded in that undertaking, I will, being forced, continue
amid trivialities and redundancies. How are you? I am fine. (The latter is a
comment rather than an answer.) My present residence is in Carlin, Nevada
(as a glance at the envelope, also wrinkled, will verify—redundancies are
tricky) and I receive my mail at P.O. Box 835. May I say that I had a very
pointed reason for mentioning the fact?
Out of fear that you will say within someone’s hearing that this letter is
much bubble bath, as indeed its first two paragraphs are, I will turn to serious
considerations. I long to have the outpourings of your keen mind and
kind heart splashed upon my untidy mind (see above) like cool water in the
sweating face of a Nevada summer laborer. In other, less revealing words,
my first order of business is to insist that you write me a letter. I will even,
in consideration of your talent, pay you by the word in typical professional
I dedicated this summer to ridding myself of fecund thoughts and to the
corralling of vagrant impulses, to secluded study and spiritual growth. I’ve
had my preliminary interview and I will be leaving on my mission in September.
I have departed into the desert to prepare for my calling, to live with the
wild beasts and eat locusts and honey. Please realize that your letters will
be a tremendous help to me. I think of you often.
Memory, hither come,
And tune your merry notes;
And, while upon the wind
Your music floats,
I’ll pour upon the stream
Where sighing lovers dream,
And fish for fancies as they pass
Within the watery glass.
June 20, 1965
Pursuant to your letter of June 17, 1965 with regard to page two, line
two, in which particular emphasis was given to the fact that you would
pay by the word in a “typical professional fashion” for a letter from me,
I therefore would like to comment upon said section of letter. Things
surely can’t be as bad as that on the Nevada desert for a sweaty-faced
summer laborer. However, being naturally concerned for your welfare
and your many problems, i.e., “wrinkled paper,” “suffering hardship,”
“fecund thoughts,” and “vagrant impulses,” and in view of the present
economic depression that is taking place for me in California, this
immediately became the most interesting part of your letter. Further
consideration will be given your request when you can specifically
state how much the going rate is in Carlin, Nevada for such services.
Inasmuch as no one has ever offered me monetary remuneration for
services of this nature and magnitude (since with me it is a gesture of
the “kind heart” rather than of the “keen mind”), I am somewhat at a
loss to know whether or not the price goes up or down once the letter
goes beyond 200 words. Perhaps from your experience you will be able
to clear up these questions and work out a satisfactory situation that will
be beneficial to both of us.
If my previous letter has been forwarded to you, you will see that
I was in one of my weaker moments at the time of its penning. I hope
certain things in said letter, or better still, all of said letter, will be forgotten.
The aforementioned letter was a little more direct and to the point,
though perhaps not so literary, as was yours. I couldn’t tell if there was
any between-the-line reading to do or not so I’ll not even try—though
of course I have been.
True to form, you remain a mystery and therefore I will not say
more, or rather any, of the feelings and thoughts that I now have and
should like to express, but rather I will, or have, answered you in like
form, and I will henceforth continue to do likewise should you feel so
inclined to proceed with this exchange, and my welcome is there (yes,
and even the desire to hear more of your redundancies). Just be open
with me, Dennis, as you were once or twice.
i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;
only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is
deeper than all roses
e. e. cummings
Greer (Don’t ask me why I typed my name. I guess I thought it was
“love” or “sincerely yours” or some other such rot).
P.S. Are you living with your mother? What is your job? And where
is Carlin? And how big is it? And what are you reading? Are you reading?
And California is lovely should you get bored.
June 25, 1965
I have, true to form, remained a mystery; I have only been open with
you once or twice; I have been silent; I have always wanted to drop things
with you but was too insincere or dumb or chicken to do it; I say things I
don’t want to say. Damn you! How can you think such things of me? If I was
not the gentle-hearted Christian that I have at times been known to be, the
infuriation caused by your cruel accusations would force me to California on
winged hoof to give you a good hard slap across your irreverent face! You
want to take back the sweet things you said in your first letter and besides
these awful things, you misspelled renumeration. It’s too grievous to be
borne by such a failing mortal as I. Please be advised of the following facts:
1. Both of your letters were received after I had sent my first letter.
2. I don’t know whether you trust me enough to believe me, but I have
never said anything to you which I ever subsequently regretted
saying, or which was untrue or insincere.
3. I explained my conflict to you once, but I shall do so again. I have
reason to believe that I love you. But then, I have never been in
love before, so I’m not sure. If it isn’t love, it’s the closest thing to it
I have ever experienced. As I look into my past I’m reminded of a
line from Eliot,
“I look upon the peopled desert past
As on a place of agony and strife
Where for some sin to sorrow I was cast,
To act and suffer”
(The Waste Land)
As I look into my past, I feel that I was not loved. I believe that. As I look
into myself today, I see only one need that perhaps rivals my need for a
warm and loving woman who has your qualities. That is my desire to serve
a mission. And one is in direct conflict with the other. When I think about how
wonderful it is just to be with you, I cannot imagine myself doing anything to
separate us for two years. So I was afraid of my feelings for you. It was you
or my mission, for dreamer that I am, I know that you will not be available
in two years, or else your feelings (is it really possible that you have them?)
will not survive. I know I need you. I think I love you. But I will put it to you
as it was put to Lucasta by Lovelace, “I could not love thee dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.”
The half bitter tone of your letter hurts me. As my first letter spoke lightly,
so was I hurt lightly by your reply. And now I write the things of my soul. If
you are not loving, at least be kind.
It is easy to see how you would think that my first letter ignores the kind
remarks made in your first letter. I mailed my letter on a Friday and received
yours on Saturday. “How chance perverts the minds of men.” If you reply to
this letter, tell me that your doubts are abated. I will be most happy.
I am living with my dear mother. My job is to operate a shovel in dusty
surroundings. Carlin is near Elko, and it is very small and pleasant. I have
read so far Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson and Huckleberry Finn, Ayn
Rand’s We the Living (I recommend it strongly), and John Steinbeck’s Travels
with Charley (which you recommended to me strongly).
I just got off work. I‘ve been on this letter for three days. That may indicate
to you its importance or its non-importance, depending on your mood.
I hope your mood favors me, and the former interpretation. I look forward to
your next letter and I ask that you be open with me and express such feelings
and thoughts as you care to. As for my feelings, I would give anything to
be with you, to listen to you recite poetry (such a joy it was!), to look at you,
to squeeze you, etc. Perhaps I shall soon. Thank you for almost giving me
your poetry book. It would have been a priceless gift. Where do you work?
In sooth, I wish that you were a little sick,
That I might sit all night and watch with you.
July 1, 1965
It is remuneration and horror of all horrors you misspelled “Shakespeare”
Unforgiveable! Prepare yourself for a very disjointed letter. I
promise nothing in the way of coherency, clarity, or conciseness (only
alliteration!)….. (End of Dennis and Greer sample)
RELEASE DAY: October 3, 2017
Copyright © 2017 by Molly Gould