“You lived in a bus? Like Ken Kesey and that bunch? Ferlinghetti told me about that, so I read Tom Wolfe’s book.”
“Nothing so elegant. Some of the buses were outfitted with fancy and I do mean fancy, custom woodwork and stained glass windows and fancy paintwork. Mine was just an old school bus that I took the seats out of. It was fully outfitted though; fridge, range, even a bookcase. It was still yellow, though. So it wasn’t very hip.”
“Were you drinking?”
“No, just smoking a little weed when I had some extra money.”
“You must have stopped the slide some way. How?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that for a while.
“After a while I got another job long-haul trucking. Trucking was a step up from cutting firewood.”
Agnes wiped her mouth on her napkin and took a sip of wine. Then she picked up the napkin and carefully folded it and set it back on the table.
“So now you have a professional job with an expense account.”
“To answer the question I think is coming, about how I got a professional job; I just lied. I pumped up the technical stuff about radio stations and a little time I spent fixing commercial stereo equipment. I got the people I’d referenced on my resume to vouch for my exaggerations. I was careful. That’s called resume padding. I don’t suppose you’ve ever had to do that.”
“Your climb seems pretty unlikely,” she said. “Not to call you a liar but hardly anybody makes it out of the working class in this country. — But then you didn’t start there either as I recall. It seems like you dropped out of your class of people.”
“That’s true but it wasn’t by choice. Things have been pretty tough for veterans the past decade.”
We were silent. The evening light was failing. Sipping wine, we looked at each other across the table, not like the star crossed lovers we’d once been but wary; she with the look of a woman to whom life has not been entirely kind, despite beauty and privilege. Me, the disillusioned young man no longer willing to extend himself emotionally. I recited to myself, ‘Brains, beauty and money,what more do you need ?
The evening damp was creeping in and Agnes excused herself to get a sweater. I reached for my sport coat. After a minute she came back, looking at me with a long face.