Saturday, February 22, 2014

No. 103 – Scarborough Fair / Canticle

Performer: Simon & Garfunkel
Songwriter: Traditional, arr. Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
Original Release: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Year: 1966
Definitive Version: The studio version.

When I drove home to Columbus from Northwestern at the beginning of spring break in March 1987, that was the longest drive of my life. I felt like a condemned man heading to the gallows.

And why not? I was certain as I drove along the rainy, dark highway that it was over between me and Beth. After all, she just told me she was seeing someone else—all but told me she was sleeping with him fer crissakes.

Beth said she still wanted to see me. In fact, she said she still wanted to come back to Chicago with me—just not right away. However, I wasn’t even going to see her the day I drove in—a Monday because of finals. That marked the first time I came home from college where we didn’t see each other immediately. Instead we would see each other the next day, St. Patrick’s Day. I had no idea what would happen.

By now, everyone in my family was aware of my predicament. In the afternoon, Dad took me out for lunch and tried to put things into perspective. Down by the Scioto River, he said I shouldn’t worry about this other person but just concentrate on Beth. I now had to fight for her affection, yes, but I still could win. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t see I had much choice. OK, I’ll try to stay positive.

That night … was great. We met up with a group of my friends and their girlfriends at Polo’s Place on Bethel Road—where Mike, Steve, Tom and I hung out to play shufflepuck and where Mike met his current girlfriend. To others in the group, it appeared nothing was wrong between me and Beth. In fact, Mike said something about that: Hey, I thought you guys were breaking up. So did I. So did I.

Afterward, Beth and I went to The Condo—despite my decision to not stay with Mom after she left rehab the previous spring. We snuck to the Pink Room and once more enjoyed the pleasures of connubial bliss. All seemed right with the world.

It was an illusion. The clock struck midnight the next day. We were to head to Chicago in the morning, but Beth called to announce she changed her mind and that she was coming by around noon “to talk.” I knew I was in trouble.

I went to see her mom at the dry-cleaning service where she worked and asked her point-blank through quivering lips whether Beth was going to break up with me. Even though she said, “I can’t tell you, kiddo,” her face told me all I needed to know.

When Beth came over to Dad’s about an hour later, I was as ready as I guess I possibly could be. I decided to put on old clothes I’d left home—clothes that I never would want to wear again. Breakup clothes.

Beth came over, and we went down to the basement. She made her dispatch quick. Yes, she said, even though she said she still wanted to see me, she really didn’t. She was breaking up with me. I wasn’t surprised, but I was flabbergasted: What the Hell happened last night? Why did you lead me to think I still had a chance? Why did you sleep with me once more when you knew it was over?

The answer to the final question at least—and, thus, perhaps the others—became obvious to me later. Perhaps I even knew it at the time but let myself believe that it meant more than it did. The sex between us was pretty good, and Beth wanted to enjoy it one last time. Of course, Beth said she didn’t know at the time, and she was sorry that it happened. It didn’t matter that I knew—maybe she did, too—that she was lying.

I couldn’t wait for her to leave to begin blubbering like an infant as my heart ripped in two. Not wanting to share in my suffering—she had someone else to whom she could run for comfort, after all—Beth got out of there as quickly as she could.

The rest of the day remains a blur, but by evening, I was entrenched on the couch, with red eyes, in front of the TV, watching the Scarborough Fair sequence in The Graduate on seemingly an endless loop of videotape. When Dad got home, Matt asked what I was doing, and he said, “hard-core identifying.” That scene where Ben is going to write to Elaine, and he gets only as far as writing “Dear Elaine” and then just writes her name over and over … man, I know what THAT—that anguish—feels like.

The next day I had to get out of Columbus. I asked Scott to come with me back to Northwestern—I’d bring him home on Sunday. Thinking he might need to prevent me from jumping off the Sears Tower, he agreed.

What I didn’t know but found out much to my shock later was the impact of that St. Patty’s Day at Polo’s Place wasn’t limited to me. Six couples were there that night. By summer, five of the six—all of which consisted of couples who had been together for more than a year—had gone down the drain. Beth and I were just the first. Only Mike’s relationship survived. What in the Hell was in the air that night in that place? It was crazy.

So were those first days in the aftermath of the end of my relationship with Beth, which I already noted (good ol’ No. 311). I had no idea where my life was going anyway, and now I would have to find out alone.

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