Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Erwin Van Buren's Son (A Real Love Story)
Erwin Van Buren’s Son (A Real Love Story) Sherwood Van Buren the son of Erwin Van Buren a drunk and loafer whom everyone said Sherwood would someday end up being just like—meaning, ending up on skid road, that stigma was branded on young Sherwood like the “A” that was worn by Hester Prynne, in Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” as if imprinted in the flesh, surely in the mind. I say had been, it no longer was—he had become a man of means.
The more he thought of Mary Peters, the more persistently he built so confidently his dream of a life to be spent with her. There he stood by the river looking at the silent moving water. She was fair, that is to say, she was not beautiful, to look at, but one that definitely told him he wanted her for his wife. His dreams were not full of making love to her, having her arms around his body and them kissing each others lips; oh no, instead his nightly dream world, his daydreaming life, with a fulsome heart, simply wanted a life lived with her. He wanted her to walk beside him, down the streets of the city, to show up suddenly at his office door, to sit outside by the water fountain—as he gazed into her eyes—and have her inquiry on his day, his convictions, his hopes and goals and values. And in the evening after dinner he would like her to sit by a hearth, feel the warmth of the fire, waiting for him to join her. Knowing as he sat down by her, by the flickering lights in the fireplace and listening to the crackling sounds of the longs burning, all the charm that surrounded him; until now, until this very moment, was but a depraved way of life to be lived, until this very moment—whereupon began life more fully and completely. To get to this moment, he had stopped excessive drinking, walking the streets, and no longer seeking old company. He knew he loved her, from his hotel room looking out the window he’d look down upon the Mississippi River, watching he boats afar, with their lights, thinking of her. He imagined her in the room, behind him, her hands combing through his hair, all the quiet ways of a woman, yet she had strength, and was smart, perhaps from her good living, this he admired too. He forgot the illuminating moment during which he had decided he would ask her to marry him, but it was a silent moment between them, when he had this predetermined certainty that she belong to him—that she was by definition, a part of him. Oh yes, his mind was flooded with screeching thoughts at that moment, but something in her had taken hold of him, perhaps both being curious of each others curiosity about one another, they seemed to want to be led the way onto the road they both wanted to travel.
And now he had fallen to sleep at the St. Paul Hotel, and Mary Peters, came to visit him in his dreams. It was a nightmare, he saw her suffering face. How could this be, he asked himself, sitting up on his bedside, wiping sweat off his brow! He seemingly had built so self-assuredly, with poise a dream schema for him and her, each and every night, looming as if it was a soap opera. He had found out that very day, she had gone to Europe with her family, and so he kept his mind on his business, not allowing himself to be absorbed in thoughts of her. She did not know of the ardent desire he had for her, but his reasoning was, ‘How could she not know of his feeling for her,” although neither one said a word on the matter to one another. He wrote her several letters, tore them up, and she did likewise. In one letter he wrote, “In all this big whole world, someone once wrote there are only three persons who will match up perfectly for any one person, if indeed you can find that one out of three, to marry, before she gets caught up or entangled into the masses: thus, you are doing great, as for the rest, it’s potluck.” Well, maybe there was some truth to it, or half-truth he thought. In any case, he said “This must be the one.” He had had many an affair, and now he met one of those three, out of billions and billions of people. This miracle of miracles, he told himself would have reawakened anyone to old hidden desires, one he thought he had for another girl long ago while in High School.
He left his hotel office and walked down by the Robert Street Bridge, looking over and down upon the Mississippi River, how calm it looked, this afternoon. Then he walked over to Rice Park watching the children of the city play. “Mr. Van Buren, Sherwood Van Buren!” Yelled a voice across the street, he had been sitting on a bench. The spring breeze and the lightly wet grass, was comforting. He tried to look up to get a better look, and lo and behold, there was an old friend—figurative speaking—familiar face that is, “By gosh,” he said to the person inside of him “that’s Miss Sybil Ramsey,” a most shapely and beautiful girl he had known at High School, whom both attended the University of Minnesota at the same time, and had many a conversation over a sandwich between classes, during those long college days. She was dressed to kill, but then she was always dressed to kill. He tried to pay her no attention, but her insistent calling, made him stand up and wave. And she joined him. It had been five years since they had both graduated, although he had seen her from a distance on a few occasions at the Emporium and Golden Rule shopping with her parents. Her family was in politics, and he himself, now was of a high office position at Swift & Company, out in the stockyards in South St. Paul, the second largest stockyards in the nation next to Chicago. “We might have that talk we never had while at the University,” she said. He had liked her very much at one time; they had been engaged for one whole week, and when they broke up, they had set a date to talk about it, neither one had showed up at the appointed destination; her because she didn’t know where he’d end up in life, and him because he was fearful he could never support her standard, or style of living. She was more likened to a princess with high maintenance, but a kind and noble princess. Matter-of-fact, at times he felt she was far above him, too far above him to ever reach, this kind of thinking was no longer in his subconscious, he had come a long way in life, he had come from the dark side of the city also, she, from the more lit and glamorous side. She smiled at him, as they sat down, her cheeks rosy. “I have been thinking of you,” she commented “I’ve heard good things that you are going places, that you’re an executive with great ideas.” And as much as he wanted to get away from her, he wanted to stay by her: a serious look coming into her eyes. “After all this time, what have we got to say to each other?” said Sherwood, blunter than ever, no longer giving her that air of superiority over him. Sybil watched him steadily. “I have a lot of things to tell you, to say to you,” she announced.
He never did forget Mary Peters, for that few months they seemed to have followed one another like two quails chasing the wind. The certain light he had for her was now a tinge dimmer. But isn’t it so true, 97% of people are married to the wrong people. And men are so attractive to the physical. They married Sybil and Sherwood, and Mary lived a long and lonely life, with an intense waiting look on her face, for Sybil to die, so she could marry Sherwood. She stayed with that idea throughout her life, it had seemed to her she had arrived at some kind of zenith, some end for her, and perhaps a starting point for Sherwood, who’s to say. Had you asked Sherwood, he would have said, “I found two of the three women soul mates, the perfect companions for me on this earth, made for me, and married one, both rich, both smart, both having given me vague shadowy uncertainties at first, and I do have reflective moments of Mary, I cannot brush them away, but what assurance do you have with anybody?” Henceforward, he found some enormous realization out of all of this, and followed a moment of fear perhaps. How little he really knew of her, of Mary—sometimes we put horns on people to justify our next intended move, I can’t say he did that, but I’m pretty sure he felt he didn’t know her way of thought. And as for Sybil, he knew her inside and out, he knew her even in Junior High School, he knew her strong serious little face, her mild curiosity, her vast mind, he did not have to build an instant idea of her, and he knew her, and she knew him.
Years later, Sybil had said to Sherwood one evening sitting by the hearth, feeling the warmth of the heat, looking into the flickering flames, a glass of chilled wine in her hand, she said to Sherwood laying her head on his shoulder, “I had been thinking we might marry someday, I was hoping you’d prove to be a good businessman, you and I, after I read in the society section, that you were courting Miss Mary Peters, I figured you and I, could get things done. And when I read Mary went to Europe for an extended period, I figured she went to think things out, and this would be my last opportunity. I knew you liked making money, and I knew you like me.” Said Sherwood, in response to this statement: “Why should you have been thinking anything of the sort?” “Because I knew you were one of the few men on earth I could marry,” and they both began to laugh, one not knowing why the other one was laughing, perhaps for the same reason. Sherwood faced her. “That’s absurd!” “Before I liked you Sherwood,” she remarked with deep sincerity, “I loved you, now I have both. I did not expect things to workout this way, you know me, but somehow I always knew I’d marry you in the end.” No: 794 (4-12-2011) SA