Illusions Lost and Found

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SEPTEMBER 1965: a half century on, it’s not easy to follow my movements with perfect accuracy, but here goes. I was staying up in Westchester County with Cheryl R., a fellow undergraduate a couple of years younger. We’d become friendly during the previous year, as part of the small huddle of Emory’s brainy misfits, a group shunned by the frat boys and sorority girls more typical of white Atlanta in the mid-60s. I was about to begin graduate studies at Columbia, expecting to get a doctorate in French literature and end up as a tweedy professor, maybe at one of the prestigious universities in the Northeast.

Having stayed in my home state for college, I chose Columbia now on the theory that living in New York would smarten me up. After all, New York was the world capital of the arts in that era, and I harbored a secret desire to become a Great Writer. Even a Westchester girl like Cheryl seemed so much more worldly than the born-and-bred Georgia boy that I was. Among my deficiencies, gay experience would have to be listed. I’d had very little of it at that point. A few fumbles during a summer spent in Europe and one romance in Atlanta. His name was Bob, an older smoothie, who worked for Knoll Associates and had the kind of social polish I was learning to associate with gay men. He gave me a few tweaks before displaying me to his friends; then, after about three months, shooed me out of his designer apartment to make room for the next waif on deck. I decided Atlanta had nothing more to offer me.

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Alfred Corn’s second novel, Miranda’s Book, came out last year, as did his latest book of poetry, Unions (reviewed in this issue).

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