The last time Kevin, as was a year ago. Before that it was six months earlier, and before that it was a year since anyone had heard from him. He does that all the time, picks up the phone like he hasn't missed a beat.
I met Kevin 10 years ago in England. We went out on real dates (he paid) for six months and he never so much as shook my hand. He wasn't much of a talker then either. Mostly we got drunk together and he'd do stupid things like throw stones at the street light bulbs and try to knock them out and devise more ingenious ways of getting silently drunk without getting thrown out of school.
Of course he never got caught doing anything. Kevin had deceptively innocent Corn Belt looks: pink cheeks, perfect small shovel-shaped incisors, soft curly brown hair, and doe-like cobalt blue eyes. Nobody could believe that this hick would ever fall off the rails.
One day Kevin ran off to Ireland with all the money from the college student social committee. He was the treasurer. I didn't hear from him again for another two years.
During our next phone call he mostly talked about his oblique "scenes," which was really an embellishment on life in New York without visible means of support. He babbled about his clothes scene, a Saturday night scene, and an art scene that hadn't happened yet. He called it "intentional litter." He had the art all worked out in his head, he said, but he just needed "the right people to move it."
In between the creative laziness he had some good ideas. For instance his total renting theory. Kevin thinks people should be able to rent elitist things from the government, sort of like a federal Ridgewell's: swimming pools, polo ponies, jewels, Brancusi sculptures. No ownership, no estates, no wills, just rent everything, then you can afford whatever you want. Even poor people--they just get to keep it for a shorter period of time. Kevin didn't want to be reminded of any economic laws like the marginal utility or depreciation reserve theories, because practicality is not one of his strong points. It was the equity of the thing that he liked.
During the "scene" phase, Kevin made a big deal about turning up when anything spontaneous and streety happened. Except those of us who knew him well enough to understand, and there weren't many, realized he instigated or planned most of it. Like the time, he said, he went to his junior prom wearing a dinner jacket over washed-out blue jeans with a satin ribbon sewn on the side seams. And red Chuck Converse high tops. Kevin pretended it all just occurred, but we knew he had to ask somebody ahead of time to sew on those ribbons. That was 1967 and hardly anybody was irreverent yet.
The last time Kevin called he was living in New York with a spiritual awareness teacher from Philadelphia. They had a fancy apartment on the Lower East Side that belonged to a "friend." He spent a great deal of time stocking it with Sony color television sets that only stayed around for about a week. That's because he sold them, part of his import-export business, he said. But nobody ever saw him go to the office, and he didn't have a telephone. During the import-export phase he changed his last name a lot, always something Irish just to keep his identity semi-intact.
I took the train up to New York to visit him one weekend when the spiritualist was out of town. We spent a lot of his money, all cash, that he kept in the pages of a complete set of Britannica IIIs he got a good deal on.
On Sunday we ate breakfast and went to go pick his shirts up at the cleaners. We went to about four laundry places until we gave up. He forgot which one he sent them to. He didn't get mad or anything, just sold some more TVs and bought more shirts.
That's when he told me that two springs ago he went south to write a book on a well- known athlete. He spent three months with the team, living off his advance. Like the mysterious import-export business, he never said who his publisher was. A year later he still hadn't written the first chapter, but he had eight IBM Selectric II typewriters where the television sets used to be.
I haven't heard from Kevin now for about a year. I tried to get in touch with him, but since he never used his real name I couldn't find him in the Manhattan phone book.
Last week I called his father in the Midwest, a sort of nutty professor who writes books about the apocalypse. He was very upset. Neither parent had heard from Kevin in a few years. They had hired a detective to track him down, but came up with nothing. When I hung up the phone Kevin's father was crying. I promised I would call if I heard from his son.