PETER IS hosting his first dinner party in his new apartment. It is really just a one-room box stacked with hundreds of others overlooking the roads that thread their way past Rosslyn into Washington, but Peter's pride in his first independent residence is understood by the five of us who gather for crockpot chicken.
Discuss taxes with another friend, an accountant, who recommends that I not report the money I made typing the first draft of Hugh's novel. The old Puritan ethic strikes. I tell him I wouldn't feel right not reporting the money, but the whole moral question becomes totally irrelevant as we figure that my total income last year was under $3,000 and that I will pay no taxes anyway.
The party ends early and I head for Mr. Smith's piano bar. I feel very comfortable singinig show tunes from the '40s and '50s with the mostly middle-aged crowd. Some of them seem surprised that I know the words at my age. I smile back, fake the few lines that I don't know and we sing loudly, oblivious to the flat notes and warmed by the enthusiasm of our fellow singers. o monday
Mailed 130 letters this morning, and the aftertaste of stamp glue lingers on my tongue. The letter is a progress report on my project to the women who have agreed to participate. I think it is important for them to feel personally involved with the research, especially as I will be meeting each of them within th next two years for an interview.
Reactions have ranged from shock to nervous laughter when people find that I am researching women to write poetry and have contemplated suicide. Most suicide research to date deals with a retrospective look at the subjects' lives after they have killed themselves. I want to know the thoughts that lead to either an acceptable or a rejection of suicide.
Although each of the women involved has already filled out a 10-page questionnaire, I realized from the beginning that the interviews are also necessary. I visit them in their homes and ususally meet their families, ensuring a comprehensive picture.
At present, I am funding the project entirely on my own. Taking temporary jobs when I need cash and exchanging housework and child care for room and board has been an exciting way to live inexpensively while I travel around the country. Tuesday
My father, who works from our home as a marketing consultant, has piled a five-page memo and several invoices on my typewriter. Since a room is kept available for me during the two months of the year I am not on the road, and my possessions are stored there year round, the typing helps repay some of the debt.
Last month I sold advertising on a commission basis for a company that publishes a telephone directory, and I absolutely must write letters today to the five companies I sold on the idea. Delivery of the directories is now a month behind schedule.
I deliver the letters to the company. They will mail them when the directories finally come out. I hope I'll be somewhere far down the East Coast by then.
On the way home, I stop at the grocery store to return the bottles I have collected from under beds and behind couches. Knowing that I paid a 5-cent deposit on them and am not getting something for nothing does not diminish the joy of putting $1.65 in my jeans. Wednesday
I spent the morning transcribing the last interview of this fall onto 5-by-8 note cards. The interviews have lasted from two to five hours and I have transcribed eight of them this month. Although I try very carefully to condense the interviews, I am still afraid of missing that one piece of information or quote that could make a difference. Linda Sexton told me she took twice as many notes as she needed to write her book, "Between Two Worlds." Looking over the note cards, I guess I have 10 times as much as I will eventually use.
Hugh wants me to come to his house in Leesburg to discuss the air ambulance service he wants to start. He had wanted to airlift wounded Afghan rebels into Pakistan hospitals but realized, after talking to the State Department and the Pakistan embassy, that political ramifications made that impossible. Shamshad Ahmad at the embassy told us that the real problem was not the wounded Afghan rebels but the thousands of refugees that pour into Pakistan daily. I feel an overwhelming inability to comprehend the situation. The feeling that anything we might do to help them would not even make a dent in the problem overcomes me, but I fight it back.
I am to meet Su at the Red Horse Inn in Leesburbg. Hugh asks if I want him to call a male friend to go with me. I laugh, feeling an odd mixture of gratitude and resentment. I remind him that I will be driving across the country alone for the next two years to do the interviews and that traveling alone has been the rule for me.
The inn is noisy, filled with men sporting long hair, beards, construction boots and ragged jeans. There are very few women. No empty tables are in sight, so I ask at three tables if I can sit in an empty chair. The answer is the same at each: "No." No excuses or faked politeness here, just "No." i
I see one empty table at the back and sit there feeling out of place for an hour. But the music is good and the people are enjoying themselves, clapping hands to the country songs and letting go in a way that rarely happens in discos. Su still has not come. I begin to doubt that she will.
Deciding that I will have to break the ice, I move to a table that has emptied in front of the guitar players and begin talking to some of the men at the surrounding tables. One tells me hthat he lived in Purcellville all his life and that the majority of the people in the bar are in similar circumstances. I feel jealous for a minute of the security that living in small town America must bring: Sunday afternoon picnics, Wednesday night bingo games, living and dying surrounded by people and places you've always known. It is not the life for me, but it is comforting occasionally to feel a part of that web. Thursday
I made a list yesterday of the things I have to do before I leave. Seeing white space beside each item will usually motivate me to replace it with a blue check, but it is 11 a.m. and I have not begun. Working independentlty at home is not always easy. There are times I long for the enforced discipline of an 8-to-5 job and the camaraderie of fellow office workers.
I play two songs on the piano and feel distracted enough by that to start condensing the questionnaire again. Although I took them with me last fall, the possibility of them getting lost or stolen has made me take the pertinent information from them on note cards and leave them safely at home.
Take a break by going to the library and checking out Germaine Greer's book "The Female Eunuch." I smile at the title, feeling that I am at a distinct advantage being female at my age during these times. Friday
Lida called at 8 and says "no emergency" immediately after "hello." We talk daily now. She was expecting her first baby three weeks ago. I had planned to be back on the road several weeks ago, but since my life affords so much flexibility, I decided to stay until the baby is born. We joke about the baby's stubbornness and make plans to meet for lunch.
Typing a chapter for Hugh's novel takes up all afternoon, and I work on the questionnaire till almost midnight. It seems the harder I work, the more energy I have. Saturday
David comes over to tune our piano. He plays a Grieg nocturne after he is done tuning, and I listen with my eyes closed. The notes flow and dance in a way that seems magical. I vow to practice more, realizing that i probably won't.
David insists that he wants to see the pictures from the last five rolls film I have had developed, and I pull them out, only half believing him. My friends have learned to accept my fanaticism for capturing moments on film, but they get tired at times of my enthusiasm for the results.