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RECOGNIZABLE AT A DISTANCE / Stephanie Bobo WHEN IT BECAME CLEAR that I didn't know how to do anything to make a living, in other words when it became clear that the promise of my sensibility was not a lucrative promise, Daddy kindly sent me off to Tulane to get my M.S.W, it being agreed on all hands but my own really that social work was an appropriate field for a young woman who had insisted for many years that she was interested only in the nature of experience and what it meant to be human. I was twenty-two. My father had stopped repeating his observation that I was a "hellcat," but nobody had ever paid me for a poem. I was, after all, grown up, they said, and so for the fifth time I left my home in Hunter County, Mississippi, a home that I had treated as a sort of halfway house for some years by then, and went out into the world. NEW ORLEANS Although, indeed, some unfortunate romances and some unsuitable jobs had sobered me somewhat, I was nowhere near Mama's prime idea that the Plan is all right and we are just wrong. In fact, I was still thoroughly convinced that J was just fine and the Plan was all wrong until I got to New Orleans and began to think that there wasn't any Plan at all and everything was wrong. No one had ever prepared me for the vengeance with which a constantly thwarted idealism can career off into a bitter cynicism. I had been wounded and depressed before, but my spirit had always knit itself back up again. I was totally unprepared for a stretch of time, and I trembled to think that it might be the stretch of my life, in which everything that I did or felt or read or saw or thought, in which, I say, everything struck at the root of me, robbed me of strong feeling, left me with dreamless nights. I tried to be good, and I did actually have a knack for working with the unfortunate and the poor, the confused and the insane, and everybody thought that I was finally doing what I was expected to do, but I was not good inside. All of my motions were the result of a sort of intellectual dry heat; a strong wind would have done me in, and even my writing stopped coming to me. I don't know what it was. I had friends, I touched The Missouri Review ยท 9 people, but I was overwhelmed with this sense that I was just passing time. Three years passed. MINE ED I met Ned at a party. Roy, an insipid medical student with whom I was spooning at the time, had gone to get me another bourbon and I was standing around, wearing what I then considered my inscrutable look, in a great mill of people. I saw Ned and I knew that he was the gentlest person I'd ever seen, and I knew too that he was not all there on the surface, and I knew too that this was the first thing that had aroused my interest in a long time, and I beat back the old pre-New Orleans knowledge that everything wonderful means everything horrible, and if you have some of it you have to have all of it. We watched one another awhile and I moved away from a dull med student conversation and walked toward him as though I had to walk past him for some reason, but we both knew. We stood in front of one another for a minute, amused. Ned said, Tm going to the Keys tomorrow; do you want to come? Yes, I said, yes. Roy was rather scandalized, but people get used to whatever it is you're doing if you keep on doing it so that it's clear to them that nothing they can do can stop you from doing it. Roy broke up with me when I got back and told him I was in love with Ned. Edward was not one to commit himself to anything...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 9-24
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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