I’m on my way, one of four NYC college girls, heading for Bar Harbor, Maine, to spend the summer as a chamber-maid, waitress, or piano player. Bar Harbor is on Mt. Desert Island, linked with the mainland by one bridge only and, we are warned, if there is a fire, we might all be caught on the island. Only two lanes out, they caution in dour Maine tones, and the only way out.
Bar Harbor is full of Higginses. There are three branches of the family, no one branch talking to the other two. We took rooms in Mrs. Higgins’ Guest House. Willy Higgins, a nephew to whom she didn’t speak, fell in love with me. He was the town beatnik, an artist with a beard and bare feet. He would beat at the door at night and wake all four of us. I’d leave the bedroom Hope and I shared to be embraced by this impassioned island painter who would moan, “I even love your dirty feet.”
I was in love with Johnny
I was in love with Johnny. Johnny was blond and weak, his mother an alcoholic since his father died some years back. Johnny drove a custom-built racing car which had a clear plastic roof. He was a society boy.
The days for me were filled with bed-making and toilet-cleaning. I watched the motel owner make passes at women twice my age who couldn’t read. We had doughnuts together at six a.m. I would fall asleep on the beds I tried to make.
At night Hope would play cocktail piano in bars and I’d wait for Johnny. Mrs. Higgins watched our comings and goings and spoke in an accent I’d now identify as cockney. She might have been on the front porch the night Johnny picked me up in his mother’s station wagon. We drove to the country club in the middle of the night and parked in the rough behind a tree. We made love on the front seat of the car. I actually thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He asked me to put my arms around him again. He whispered in my ear that, although he knew many people, he didn’t have many friends. He asked if I minded making love again. This would be my third time.
The rich boys who were sixteen and devoted to us NYC girls robbed a clothes store in Northeast Harbor. They brought the spoils to our apartment. Michael, a philosophy student and the boyfriend of one of us, insisted the stuff be returned within twenty-four hours or else he’d call the cops. The next night Bill returned the tartan kilts and Shetland sweaters that hadn’t been missed. But he dropped his wallet in the store while bringing it all back and somehow or other the cops were at our door the night after. They spotted me as the ringleader. We went to Bangor for our trial and got fined $25 each as accessories. They called it a misdemeanor. The newspaper headline read Campus Cuties Pull Kilt Caper. I didn’t really want to be a lawyer anyway I thought.
Johnny never called back again
Johnny never called back again. I dreamed that Mrs. Higgins and I were in her backyard. I pointed to a spot in the uncut lawn and said with alarm: There’s a snake in the grass.
A guy who hawked at carnivals wanted me to join the circus and run away with him. I was coming down from speed and learning to drink beer. Some nights we’d go up Cadillac Mountain and watch the sunrise. Bar Harbor is the easternmost point in America, the Lynne Tillman 10 place where the sun rises first. I pined away the summer for Johnny and just before heading back to NYC heard that his mother had engaged him to a proper society girl.
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