Crack the Spine - Issue 134

Page 22

Julie Wittes Schlack Power Lines

In the summer of 1969, men walked on the moon, Charles Manson and his band of followers went on a killing spree in Hollywood, Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in Ted Kennedy’s car, and, to my everlasting chagrin, Woodstock happened without me. It was also the summer that I met Ian, a fellow Counselor-in-Training at a camp in Michigan called Circle Pines. He was tall and rangy, barely kempt and badly shaven, masculine without a hint of machismo. He had blue-gray eyes that always seemed to look just beyond whomever he was talking to. I was smitten with his bow-legged gait, his tan cutoff corduroy shorts and purple paisley shirts, with his frizzy brown ponytail and his artistic aspirations. After a month of almost constant companionship, my tenacity paid off. Ian had become my boyfriend, my

first romance to last more than a few weeks. (“My boyfriend,” I’d casually and inappropriately drop into conversations, as in “Oh, you’re from Chicago? So is my boyfriend!” or “My boyfriend likes orange juice too.”) We revived our romance each summer and exchanged long, moony letters between them. Ian’s came in envelopes that he’d psychedelically illustrated with precise and goofy cartoons of himself squatting in a bubble, his guitar on his shoulder, floating through streets, classrooms, and the L train. The front of my envelopes were unadorned, the letters inside dense monologues comparing the My Lai massacre to the Holocaust, reveling in the size and solidarity of the anti-war moratorium in Washington, D.C. (“My first major protest,” I’d actually written, as though I had just lost my