Still Missed

In one of my filing cabinets is a file marked "Unpublished/Unpublishable". It contains material I've written over the years that, for one reason or another (too personal, too angry, too et cetera), I've chosen not to put in print.

What follows is something I wrote in November of 1980. At the time, I decided it was too personal, and that it probably said more about me than about the person I was writing about.

After twenty-five years, though... perhaps it's time:
Hilde, my wife, spoke the words to me when she came back from a shopping trip with Paul Schauble, who had spoken the words to her. These are the words that I heard:

"It's not Wednesday."

In 1975, July, I was attending the Westercon in San Francisco. It was the first major convention I had been to since being discharged from the Army and returning home to the West from the East Coast. I was at a room party, sitting off on one corner of a bed, alone and feeling uncomfortable in a group of people most of whom I did not know or knew only through fanzines and did not know how to start a face-to-face conversation with.

A young lady entered the room, and spoke with some of the other people in the room. She sat down on the bed, read my nametag, and began talking to me about my fanzine.

She began talking to me. It was as if I was an interesting person, which I did not believe myself. I talked clumsily back, in my low, semi-audible voice, and she did not seem to be bored. She did not seem to be bored, and I found that hard to believe. It was not a long conversation by some people's standards, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, but by my own standards it was an immense stretch. We talked about my fanzine, how I felt about it, about what I had been doing since leaving the Army, about me. And she seemed to care, and she seemed to like me, and not once during that conversation did she glance around to look at anyone else's nametag, to find someone more interesting to talk with. (I broke the conversation off; as I said, by my standards, it was immensely long and I was suffering from... shock?... and I did not know how to cope with it at all.)

We never really saw each other very much. A few minutes talking at the Westercon two years later in Vancouver, some scatteed "Hi's" at another convention or two. We traded fanzines, though, and I felt I knew her from those. And I looked forward to each ccasional issue of her life, and I remembered the kindness she had shown to me at that Westercon in 1975, and I think I can say that I loved her.

It was not a mad, passionate type of love, although I suppose that if I had lived closer and seen her more often, I might have been goofy and foolish enough to succumb to that goofy and foolish madness. But it was more than what I felt towards most people in fandom, where the term "friend" is mistakenly applied to so many acquaintances. But she already had so many friends, who felt towards her as I did, and I never mentioned my feelings to her in the occasional letter I sent. And had I known that she would at last need a friend, any friend, I would have moved heaven and earth to have been there.

"It's not Wednesday."

Those are the words I heard Hilde speak. They were not the words she had said. Something, between my ear and my brain, had altered them, rejected the true words as unacceptable. Hilde repeated the words:

"Susan Wood is dead."

I wish it was Wednesday.


Roxanne said...

wow. I think that was pretty good. And now it's published.

Gary Farber said...

I still think of Susan from time to time. Partially with sadness, but also with good feelings about the good parts.

I don't know which Roxanne commented, but I do also wonder at times if Roxanne Smith-Graham will ever surface again.

Gary Farber said...

Graham-Smith, actually.

Gary Farber said...

No, Smith-Graham. Don't mind me, Arthurs Bruce.

Anonymous said...

It's a small world. Susan Wood touched my life through John Berry. A long and sad story but don't we all have them.