Busted by love

It was the craziest thing. I was just going home from rehearsal, and I was so caught up that I didn’t even notice that long after sunset the lights were out all over town. An ambulance drew up, and a young guy with a serious tan and curly blond hair ordered me to jump in. He asked if I had been visiting some other planet and didn’t I know about the snipers. The students at the University of Colorado had set up a roadblock on the main north-south highway in protest to Nixon’s mining of the Bay of Hi Phong in Vietnam.

The local ranchers and cowboys responded by toppling a hydro tower, and sniping at professors and students around the University of Colorado in Boulder. .Scottie (tan and blond curls), drove the ambulance over to the local dispatch center, where the generator in the bomb shelter kept a huge room as bright as day.  I descended into the smoke-filled sterile room, hung with huge floodlights, and crowded with nervous stoned neighbours, all drinking coffee and smoking weed. Then I saw him.

He was passing out a small brass hash pipe, refilling it, and passing it out again and again. I was standing about four metres away, but there was a powerful current emanating from him. He had broad, Mark Spitz Olympic swimmer kind of shoulders, stood tall, slim and relaxed, with a mischievous smile. His almond shaped eyes were dark and perfectly spaced, and his hair was a fine light brown, streaked blond at the tips with an indentation over the top from ear to ear where he had worn headphones for dispatching. Everything about him seemed graceful and well proportioned, and suddenly he looked up and saw me. I couldn’t look away, and I could feel the blood rushing to my face and far below, until I felt too swollen to even walk.

The next morning I found out that a faculty member had been wounded in the leg. He was a popular political science professor and his students were talking about going after the ranchers. I tried to tell some of the student organizers that this was never a good idea. Cowboys, even modern cowboys who worked in the foothills North and South of Boulder, knew how to hunt and shoot.

I bought the local newspaper featuring the shooting, in case I would need something to hide behind, and went to have breakfast at a cafe near the ambulance centre where he worked as a dispatcher. I was without any will of my own. It felt like some wicked spirit took possession of my rubbery muscles and literally pushed me to the greasy spoon.

Our tables were kitty-cornered, and once more a mysterious life force took hold of me, the ocean pulled by the moon, the geese flying south for the winter. Like the clouds of millions of Monarch butterflies headed to Mexico on instinct, in a secret part of me birthed the primeval knowledge that something was out of control, and that we would have to be together.

The students had cleared away from the highway, and were now considering a massive demonstration in a Greek amphitheatre in the foothills. I explained that I couldn’t join them. I was foreign student and I could get permanently deported. So, I skipped the final protest, and one week after that first sighting, I found out his phone number, and invited him to a party at my department.

The demonstration at the amphitheatre had run its course, but there were arrests, and the students were being held without bail. I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper and mailed it on the way to the party.

He danced with me, a slow motion two-step that felt like falling into a dark well. Sounds were muffled, and distorted. Nothing existed except for his smell, marzipan and tobacco, and the scratchy feel of his denim shirt against my face.

My thesis paper was due, and when we got back to my place I explained how I typed at night what I had written in long hand during the day. My roommate did her typing during the day and so we could both get along with one machine. He offered to type all night. This amazingly handsome, sweet smelling person offered to stay up as long as it took, and type what I had written that day, and the next day and however long it took me to finish.

All through the speeches and chanting and demonstrating that was taking place at the amphitheatre, we worked on my thesis paper. Even though we were in the same apartment on seventeenth and Canyon, we were on different shifts. He slept while I wrote, and I slept while he typed. Except for a few remorselessly passionate kissing bouts, which left me shuddering and twitching, we weren’t together during the process. It took five days and nights, and I had no idea how I managed to take my mind off the man who had aroused the most profound physical response in me, and who spent night after night turning my scratchy hand-writing into neatly typed pages. There were a few tattered posters lying on the street outside, the only remaining evidence of all the anger and frustration the demonstrations had engendered. We stepped over them when we went to celebrate the completion of our task by stopping briefly at a local greasy spoon for breakfast. We ran into a friend of mine, who gave us a newly published collection of a Greek poet. Cavafy he said was the perfect potion for a happy couple in love.

We got into (tan blond curled) Scottie’s two- seat convertible, and headed for the mountains. We had to keep pulling over because we couldn’t stop kissing and touching. For about twenty or thirty miles of switchbacks, the police followed us because his driving was so very erratic. The windows of the car kept steaming up. We had found each other and our hormones were tapping wild incoherent imperatives on our lips fingers and tongues.

When we finally arrived in Aspen everything was shut down except this small ski hostel. They had only one room with bunk beds. But it didn’t matter. I never wanted to leave his side, ever. The next day we checked into a real motel, and except for the occasional swim or meal we stayed in that room talking, reading Cavafy to each other, and making love.

One week later, we headed back down the mountains and I was completely infatuated. Everything about him; his voice, his Southern accent excited and aroused me. The way his skin was not really white, but had the colour of aged ivory. There was a ten-inch scar on his left butt cheek where he had been operated on as a child. I felt I had to be next to him every minute of every hour of every day. I was totally drowning in the idea of this man. For over a year, we were almost never out of each other’s sight and we suffered whenever we had to be out of touching distance. By the time the Watergate scandal broke, we had our own apartment. We never parted except to go to class. We sent off such a strong cloud of musk and pheromones, everyone in town wanted to rub up against us, and we were invited everywhere. We attended every opening, play, concert, and party. There was a crowd of students from my department who often made a point of coming over to our tiny flat and they had to be forcefully directed to get out when exhausted, we made it clear we needed a little privacy.

I had actually met someone who had been working in the white house for the Secretary General. In Boulder there had once been a C.I.A. language school at the university, and a number of their ranks came back there to live. The whole community watched the trials obsessively.

By the second year, I was completing my master degree, and getting prepared to go on to my doctorate, when he started to behave oddly. He almost burnt down our apartment, when he left a pot on to boil in the middle of the night. Most bizarre was that he denied it vehemently, although there had only been the two of us at home, and I did not sleep walk. Then he started to disappear for days, and when I looked through his pockets there were matches from bars in Denver and Vale. I felt as though I was going mad with denial; this was not happening, my stunning, intelligent and loving partner was not disappearing for days, and certainly NOT coming home stoned and violent.

I finally convinced him that if he didn’t get help I would leave. The doctors in Denver were concerned about me! They were actually worried about my safety. I was astonished to hear that he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia years before, and that he had simply omitted to mention that he had been in a long remission when we met. That year, while I held down five part time jobs to pay for doctors and medication, there was some hope that the country would one day emerge from the thrall cast by Kissinger and


That feeling of diving into someone’s body, into their eyes, into their particular scent and perfume, that irreversible descent into their lives; I never had that again. In the end it took away my breath and sucked my soul dry. It was like being addicted to a very strong drug and I always had to have more of it than was healthy or sane.

The last student demonstration in the U.S. A. was over the mining of the Bay of Hi Phong. Nixon resigned and the protests just seemed to peter out. Everyone got married, had babies and bought property in the mountains. When I finally admitted he was too sick to live with, that I had to get out or die, I felt as if my arm had been amputated, because I knew, I was sure that this can’t happen twice in a lifetime, this kind of thing doesn’t repeat itself. Along with the hope of the previous decade, and the certain destiny of an entire generation, a light went out inside me. I don’t think I really ever recovered fully, not enough to take that kind of crazy risk again, to fall so deeply into the pool of sex and passion, fear and love. Not ever.

Not in one lifetime of evers.

Anna Fuerstenberg is a playwright, director, performer and teacher who was born in a refugee camp in Germany after the war. She won a scholarship to The Montreal Repertory Theatre School when she was eight, and it changed her life.