Darlie by Crad Kilodney
“Life is hard. People disappoint.” So read the tag line on an article in the National Post. The article was a poignant memoir of depression by an American writer I’d never heard of before. I’ll just call her Darlie. Her photo reminded me of Marlene Dietrich. She was a thin, beautiful, very German-looking blonde, with dark, brooding eyes, and in her forties. I must make friends with this lady, I thought. She’s a kindred spirit.
Knowing only that she lived in Brooklyn, I searched the Internet for her phone number. I found her listed under her full name, which rather surprised me. With a few butterflies in my stomach, I called her, expecting to get an answering machine. However, she answered the phone herself. I explained how I’d read her article in the Post and wanted to send her a gift, and would she give me her complete mailing address. After a moment of hesitation, she gave me the apartment number and zip code to go with the street address in the directory. We couldn’t talk for more than a minute because she was bathing her daughter. Nevertheless, I was very happy to have spoken to her.
The next day I went to The Bay and picked out two lovely necklaces — an amethyst and a lapis lazuli. They were on sale, so this was not anything extravagant.
I wrote her a nice, friendly letter and enclosed a photo. I didn’t tell her I was a writer, only that I’d had a bohemian past. I didn’t want this to be a friendship between writers. She’d be the writer; I’d be the “civilian.” My letter was not too intense or too personal. It was a “get-acquainted” letter, designed to make a good impression and elicit a reply. When I mailed her the gift, I was sure I’d hear back from her within a short time. I imagined a beautiful friendship blossoming between us.
I went to a bookstore and bought one of her books — an autobiographical novel about her sordid youth. The back cover featured glowing tributes from various review media. Evidently, a confessional novel with lots of sex by a gorgeous, articulate lady who had been a bad girl for a while was just what critics appreciated these days. It was a pretty good novel but maybe not the “tour de force” I was led to expect.
I learned more about Darlie on the Internet: graduate of such-and-such college, writer-in-residence, graduate fellowship, several books, regular contributor to a leading music magazine, currently teaching at a college in the New York area. I felt more than a little intimidated, as if I weren’t in her league. But then, I wasn’t presenting myself as a fellow writer, just an admiring reader who wanted to make friends.
For the next two weeks I thought about Darlie all the time. I believed she would be very touched by my gift and would write back to me. After three weeks and no reply, I worried that my package might not have gotten to her. So I called her again to ask if she’d gotten it. She said that she had several notices from the post office for packages waiting for her but had not yet gone to collect them. Then she cut the conversation short because her little girl was demanding attention. I was a little discouraged by her abrupt manner, but at least I had the reassurance that my package was waiting for her. I still expected to hear from her, and I still expected a beautiful friendship to develop. After all, was she not a kindred spirit? Had she not written a memoir baring her soul? Had she not been hurt by people who let her down?
Well, I never heard from her after many months. Of all the ironies, I thought. Not even a perfunctory note to thank me for my gift. Darlie was, and probably still is, in therapy, by the way, which may explain why she seemed to have no concept of common courtesy. Courtesy is not a clinical issue.
“People disappoint.” Indeed, they do. And you, Darlie, are one of my biggest disappointments.
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Crad Kilodney, P.O. Box 72577, 345 Bloor St. East, Unit 7, Toronto, ON, M4W 3S9
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