The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
🎧 765: “When I . . .”

🎧 765: “When I . . .”

What a Piece of Work I Am, Chapter 55, read by the author


“WHEN I STOOD HERE, that first night—in this place, just as you see it—when I finally had the new house to myself—I felt that I had turned a corner.”
     She turned to me.
     “You know how it is,” she said.
     “In the labyrinth of life?” I asked.
     “Yeah! Take your solo.”
     “Now and then,” I said, rising from the couch and stalking toward the edge of the stage, holding my hands out, palms down, and rocking on the balls of my feet with each step, rotating my shoulders in a groovy kind of way, “you have that feeling that you’re on the right track. You’re making progress. You might actually be on your way to where you wanted to go. But the thing about labyrinths—”
     I gave them a sardonic grin, a shake of the head, rotated my shoulders, added just a hint of the cha-cha.
     “—the thing about labyrinths is that there are no straight courses. There’s always a turning just ahead, and every turning looks a lot like every other.” I spun to face Ariane, held out my hands, inviting her to dance. “You think you’ve reached a turning point in your life, and in a way you’re right. You’re right about having reached a turning, about your life’s having taken a turn, but remember that in the labyrinth all the passages are short. There’s always another turn just ahead.” I spun Ariane outward, and added, “Very often you’re wrong about where the corridor is taking you—”
     She whirled back into my arms.
     “And,” I said, concluding, dipping her, “many a route turns you round in circles.”
     She made a curtsy, thanking her partner for the dance, and informing me that my part was over for a while. I had to urinate anyway. I walked to the bathroom, and she, gracefully, moved to the center of the living room and began to speak seriously, commanding the attention of the audience, trying to take their eyes off me. She said, “I thought that the new house, my panopticon, would open me right up. I thought that I wouldn’t have any secrets, wouldn’t want to have any secrets, not even from myself. Now, well—I don’t know. I think that I may only have wanted to find some kind of confirmation that the self I was putting on display was a self worthy of display, and I think that I thought that that confirmation would be enough.”
     She stood in the center of the living room, standing very straight, with her arms at her sides, her hands overlapping in front of her ­pubes, her head slightly bent. She seemed taller, and she seemed about to say more. The audience waited, silent. My urine splashed into the toilet. The sound filled the hall. I thought of flushing the toilet to cover the sound, and then I told myself to play the scene with ironic detachment and just play it out to its conclusion.
     At last she said, “It wasn’t. With all respect to you, my audience, I have to say that although the self that I put on display here may have been enough for you—at least for some of you, maybe for many of you—it wasn’t enough for me. My panopticon taught me two things. Three things. First, how much I wanted to be by myself. Not alone. By myself. I might have left the stage right then, as soon as I realized that, I suppose, but for the second thing: that I wanted to be good company. I wanted to be worthy of myself. I had a hunch that I had a lot more to learn before I would be willing to be by myself, and I was right. So I stayed for another seven years and more, and by staying, I came to understand many things, including the true nature of secrecy.”
     I shook my penis, tucked it away in my briefs, zipped my fly, flushed the toilet, washed my hands, trying throughout it all not to look out at the crowd, but at the last moment, when I was returning the towel to the rack, I couldn’t resist any longer. I had to see what sort of reaction I’d gotten. I glanced out at the seats and saw there a very attractive young woman I recognized from one of the restaurants around town. She was looking at me and wearing a smile that I found absolutely impossible to interpret. I turned my eyes to the floor and hurried back to the living room.
     Ariane was saying, “I came to understand that the final hiding ­places, the only real hiding places, are the head and heart,” and I understood exactly what she meant. “To explain how I learned that,” she said, “I have to tell you about several other things, and just so that you don’t get lost when my story takes its twists and turns, let me give you a clue to what’s to come. I’m going to tell you about my ambitious lovers, about television and war, about the golden-haired Terrence, about my period of reading and study, my ‘moments’ and my silences, and my offstage excursions, but not necessarily in that order, and with a little necessary repetition, since another thing about labyrinths is that many paths arrive at the same place, and when I’m done, then—well, my bags are packed.”

[to be continued]

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The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The entire Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy, read by the author. "A masterpiece of American humor." Los Angeles Times