THE BRIDGE OF DREAMS--BETTY
[Fall, 1975. Early evening. One corner
of the stage suggests a comfortable New York apartment. Jack, seated
in his favorite chair, is thumbing through a magazine as Christine
Thought you'd be watching television, Dad.
Nothing I want to watch. [Putting the magazine down.] And looks like
I've already read everything I wanted to in this month's National
Geographic. Want to go to a movie?
No. But how about telling me how you met Mother. You keep promising
"one of these days." How about now?
[Laughs.] That was so long ago I may not be able to remember.
Twenty years. She was just about my age, wasn't she? I've heard her
version, you know. Now I want to hear yours.
[Looks at her.] Yes . . . just about your age. Well, stop me when
you've had enough. [Christine settles in the chair across from him.]
I do remember the date . . . June 1st, 1955. And the place. You've
been in Baker Auditorium, there at KU.
Once . . . with her. A big barn of
Huge . . . a high, arched ceiling, balcony seats going up almost out
of sight, and that long, straight aisle right down the middle. No
place to do a play, but there I was. Back from the Korean War, newly
enrolled as a graduate student in theatre, and just given my big chance
. . . to direct Shaw's Pygmalion in the Summer Theatre
program . . . in Baker Auditorium.
I've never seen Pygmalion . . . but know it's the play
My Fair Lady was based on. I just saw that on TV again
My Fair Lady was still going strong on Broadway. Everybody
was whistling "I'm Getting Married in the Morning," or "I
Could Have Danced All Night," or one of the other songs from
that show . . . a great show . . . I still love those songs. [He begins
to sing one of the songs, à la Alfred Doolittle. Christine
joins him.] And, if you think Audrey Hepburn is good, you should have
seen your mother as Eliza. [Pauses . . . to look at her again.] So
even people in Kansas had come to know the story of the professor
and the flower girl, and we thought we could get away with doing the
original play in summer theatre. I'd suggested it, in fact, because
I was high on Shaw then--for the first time. I would be again if I
spent the next two days reading him. Have you ever read any Shaw?
Oh, yes . . . we read Major Barbara last year in my
English class. And when Mother and Jordan were considering doing his
Caesar and Cleopatra along with Shakespeare's Antony
and Cleopatra I read it. But I suppose I should read Pygmalion--for
Mother. Jordan always said it was Shaw's best
Jordan would've thought so. He wanted to do Higgins badly enough to
pass up some choice summer theatre offers to stay and do it with me.
We'd even got an apartment together, just two blocks from the campus,
for the summer. I think it was mostly to keep Jordan there that the
people who made the decisions decided to include the play in the summer
schedule. Most things were being done outside . . . a whole set of
high-school summer-camp plays. Then a faculty director was doing Shakespeare's
Julius Caesar in the brand-new University Theatre.
So I got Baker, and memories permeated by its unmanageable vastness
. . . and its touch of the sublime. [Pause.] How I'd love to live
that summer over again.
Was that the first thing you did with Jordan?
No, no. I'd directed O'Neill's The Great God Brown,
for our directing class, during the spring semester, in the Experimental
Theatre. Jordan had dared me to do it after I'd said it was unstagable
. . . so he could play Brown--then had advised me about everything,
proving just how stagable that play really is.
I have read that play, and I'll bet Jordan was good in it.
Fantastic. Pulled out all the stops . . . really enjoyed himself.
And maybe thirty people saw it. Thirty . . . maybe forty.
What a shame! Too bad you couldn't have made a movie.
Well, it was just a class project. The Shaw was "the big time."
And I was up for it. I made a lot of mistakes . . . in handling the
cast, in a hundred technical things. And I certainly learned the fallacy
of scattering a small audience in a big auditorium. But I was pleased
to be doing it . . . anywhere. Jordan Simms' Higgins still stands
as the best performance I've ever seen on a college stage. Then there
was Betty . . . your mother, that is.
[Lights down on them and up on a table
across the stage, where two college students sit. Jack walks over
to them, rolling up his sleeves and looking at his watch.]
That's it for today. I think we've
got our cast. See you at 2:00 tomorrow, Maureen, to make out a rehearsal
[They say goodby and walk off to the
rear. Jack picks up a coke and clipboard from the table and, walking
center front, sits down on the edge of the stage, lights a cigarette,
and begins to look at cast lists. Christine has gone off to come back
on as Betty. Jack looks out front.]
Baker Auditorium . . . if I close my
eyes I can still see her coming down that long aisle . . . like a
novice entering the temple where she'll one day reign as high priestess.
[Still off.] Do you remember how was she dressed?
[Looking up the aisle.] Indeed I do. In one of those full-skirted
cotton summer dresses, that sweep and swirl, but are tight in the
waist and hips, short sleeved and low-cut . . . like those German
peasant dresses, that define the body and liberate the bosom. Ah,
yes . . . I remember it well. She wore that deep auburn hair long
then, caught loosely at the back with a ribbon . . . always a ribbon,
never a clip . . .
[Christine comes down the aisle, dressed
as Betty was.]
I stopped what I was doing . . . might
have put my cigarette out in my coke . . . as I watched her coming
straight at me. I'd begun doing things in my mind with that dress
until she got close enough for her eyes to meet mine. Then I quit
that. Once those eyes zeroed in on mine I was caught. She came up
close enough to touch [She does.] . . . though I wouldn't have dared
. . . then stopped. [He looks at her for a long moment.]
You must be John Curtis--directing Pygmalion?'
Yes, I am.
Well, I've wasted the whole afternoon where they're casting that Shakespeare
play, reading and listening. I finally decided I'm not interested.
It's a man's play, isn't it? Well, they can have it. Then somebody
told me that the play you're directing has a good part for a woman.
So here I am. Is that true?
You haven't read the play?
No, but we read a play by George Bernard Shaw in high school. Androcles
and the Lion. I don't remember the women's parts as all that
good in that, either. It was mostly the author's introduction. I think
the lion had the best part.
There's Lavinia . . . and, well, Portia in Julius Caesar.
yes, Eliza Doolittle, in our play,
is a better part for a woman. But I don't remember seeing you in any
of the plays here at school this year. Are you sure you're ready for
a lead role like that? There's a sister to . . . Freddy . . . and
No, I haven't been in any of the plays here. I decided to give that
up, and devote all my time to school work . . . to major in psychology,
not theatre. Mother would prefer that, and she's paying for my college.
But just going to classes gets boring. My advisor says I could even
minor in theatre, if I want. They're using a lot of theatre techniques
in therapy now, you know.
Oh? Well, what theatre experience have you had? And where?
I had the leading role in three plays in high school . . . in Dodge
City. A musical, The Fantastics . . . though I'm not
a great singer. Then, in The Barretts of Whimpole Street,
I was Elizabeth . . . in bed most of the time. [She does not smile.]
Then Strindberg's Miss Julie. My favorite. It's a very
good play. I loved doing it. Mr. Harris scheduled that for my senior
year just so I could do it. So, I've had experience. I have the programs,
if you'd like to see them.
Miss Julie . . . with high-school students! In Dodge
City! I wish I'd seen that. It challenges the imagination. [She does
smile.] All right, Miss . . . what's your name?
Elizabeth Martin Fredricks. But everybody calls me Betty.
All right then . . . Betty. Here's a script. See where Eliza has exchanges
with Mrs Pearce, Higgins, and Pickering . . . beginning here on page
28? Eliza's a flower girl, with a strong cockney accent. You know
how that goes? [Betty nods, but without conviction.] Step up here
and let's try it. [She does, and Jack begins, as Higgins.] "Why
this is the girl I jotted down last night. She's no use: I've got
all the records I want of the Lisson Grove lingo; and I'm not going
to waste another cylinder on it. Be off with you: I don't want you."
See where we are?
Yes. "Don't you be so saucy. You aint . . ." Aint?
Yes . . . that's Eliza . . . and Shaw didn't do apostrophes.
"You aint heard what I come for yet. Did you tell him I come
in a taxi?"
[Enjoying acting Mrs Pearce.] "Nonsense girl! what do you think
a gentleman like Mr Higgins cares what you came in?"
[Getting into it.] "Oh, we are proud! He aint [Hits the word.]
above giving lessons, not him: I heard him say so. Well, I aint come
here to ask for any compliment; and if my money's not good enough
I can go elsewhere." There's an apostrophe.
Ah . . . yes. "Good enough for what?"
"Good enough for ye-oo. [Starts to enjoy it, too.] Now you know,
dont you? I've come to have lessons, I am. And to pay for em te-oo:
make no mistake."
"Well!!! [Gasp.] What do you expect me to say to you?"
"Well, if you was a gentleman you might ask me to sit down, I
think. Dont I tell you I'm bringing you business?"
"Pickering: shall we ask this baggage to sit down, or shall we
throw her out of the window?" Don't worry about running, or any
of these stage directions . . . yet.
Oh, all right. [Syllable by syllable.] "Ah-ah-oh-ow-ow-ow-oo!"
[As Jack laughs.] "I wont be called a baggage when I've offered
to pay like any lady."
[Gently, as Pickering.] "But what is it you want?"
"I want to be a lady in a flower shop stead of sellin at the
corner of Tottenham Court Road. But they wont take me unless I can
talk more genteel. He said he could teach me. Well, here I am ready
to pay him . . . and he treats me zif I was dirt."
"How can you be such a foolish ignorant girl as to think you
could afford to pay Mr Higgins?"
"Why shouldnt I? I know what lessons cost as well as you do;
and I'm ready to pay."
"Now youre talking! I though youd come off it when you saw a
chance of getting back a bit of what you chucked at me last night.
Youd had a drop in, hadnt you?"
"Sit down." Ah . . . that chair over by the table.
"Oh, if youre going to make a compliment of it--"
"Sit down." [Mrs Pearce.] "Sit down, girl. Do as youre
"Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo." [Then she does it again, running it
into one continuous sound.] "Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo." [Then laughs.]
Now you're getting it! [Bringing her the chair, as Pickering.] "Wont
you sit down?"
"Dont mind if I do." [She sits, pleased with herself.]
"What's your name?"
"Liza Doolittle." [Laughs again.]
"Eliza, Elizabeth, Betty and Bess,
They went to the woods to get a bird's nes':
[In Pickering's voice.] They found a nest with four eggs in it:
They took one apiece, and left three in it." [Laughs.]
That's a coincidence, isn't it . . . the name?
A sign I must be right for the part. Shall I read some more?
No. That'll be enough. Here, leave your phone number on the sign-in
sheet, so I'll know where to reach you to let you know.
Why not let me know now? I get the part, don't I?
[Laughs.] What makes you so sure? We've had a lot of girls, with university
acting experience, read today. [Betty just keeps looking at him until
he breaks.] Okay, Eliza . . . Betty . . . Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Fredricks . . . you get the part. And you'd better be good . . . and
punctual . . . behave yourself at rehearsals . . . and not practice
too much of that sophomore psychology on your poor director. And I
still need a telephone number . . . for emergency cast calls in the
middle of the night.
[The light goes down on them then up on Jordan Simms, pacing up and
down with a book in his hand in a student apartment in the opposite
rear corner from the opening scene. He stares off in space for a moment,
"Simple phonetics. The science of speech. Thats my profes- sion:
also my hobby. Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby!
You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place
any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London.
Sometimes within two streets." [This last to Jack as he comes
in, a little apprehensive.] What kept you so long, Jack? Been talking
to Maureen and John about the technical problems we'll have in that
huge tomb? [Turns away.] Problems I hate to even think about.
[Somewhat aggressively.] No. A girl came in just as I was about to
leave who was very good . . . Elizabeth . . . Betty . . . Fredricks
. . . and . . . and I cast her as Eliza.
[Astonished.] I thought we . . . you . . . had decided on that brunette
. . . Kaye. She's got the stage energy, and we've worked with her
before. [Pause.] Betty Fredricks, you say. I've never heard of her,
Jack. What's she been in?
Well . . . a Miss Julie in high-school . . . in Dodge
[Breaks out laughing, but stops just as suddenly.] You must be pulling
my leg, Jack. You gave the lead role--a tricky lead role where language
is concerned--to a girl who's only done a . . . high-school . . .
Miss Julie? Dare one leave you alone amongst the co-eds?
[Catching him before his wounded sensibilities can explode.] All right!
All right! You're the director. We'll reserve judgment on how good
a casting director you are until
we see this girl in action. But I'd
keep a couple of the regulars in reserve for a day or two if I were
you--if they'll stand still for it. Which, of course, they will. That's
a damned good part, Jack. And her comic timing . . . is very important.
I know how important it is . . . that you have to play off of her
very closely . . . and that an inexperienced girl could ruin your
own performance . . . ruin the play. But let's give her a chance.
[Lights down on them. As they come back up Jack returns to the apartment
where Christine sits waiting.]
So Jordan wasn't all that enthusiastic about Mother when he first
heard about her. But, of course, he hadn't heard her read.
[Laughs.] Or seen her come down that aisle. [Pause.] Nor was she as
impressive at the first full-cast read-through, where she was just
dressed in jeans, and much less assertive than she'd been reading
for me. Jordan was prepared not to like her, and it annoyed me that
she seemed more awed of him . . . more nervous . . . made more mistakes.
But he was already well into Higgins' character, was overbearing and
condescending to her, and that probably had something to do with it.
But you still kept her in the play.
Oh, yes . . . I certainly did. At first, it was as if I had the Pickering
role as director, coming between her and Jordan in her defense. But,
as with Higgins, so with Simms, the girl
began to win his grudging admiration
through her hard work-- she actually had her lines before he had his--and,
finally, through her achievement. It became obvious fairly early that
she was going to be great as Eliza. She could flare up for those stage
arguments as if that red hair had caught on fire. She worked on the
timing until the exchanges clicked perfectly. And those 'Aaooww's'
were a thing of beauty. Jordan was the master of comic timing, of
course, as if born to it . . . but she had to have it in her blood,
too, for it to be so spontaneous. It was Shaw's theme working itself
out before my eyes, as Jordan brought out the Eliza in potentia, and
Betty halfway understood what was happening . . . and how much her
Pygmalion had to do with it.
They both would talk about that . . . about how much being in that
play had meant to her future . . . as you know.
Well, I saw a lot of Jordan Simms over the years, and still say Higgins
was his finest hour. They were awfully good together, an absolute
pas de deux. But, as opening night approached and it was obvious
how good Betty was going to be, I thought I detected a certain resentment
in Jordan, used to being the star. But I thought, 'No, it's part of
his characterization. Jordan knows that the better she is, the better
he is. And he's above such petty jealousy anyway.' And, as always,
we had problems. The boy I'd cast as Freddy dropped out, to head for
New York, and some opportunity a friend had written about--a week
before opening. He was pretty good, too, but I've never heard of him
since. I knew I wouldn't . . . not after the curse I put on him. Then
the kid I tried to replace him with wasn't right for the part, a little
too heavy. So, after Jordan had run him off, and insisted upon it,
I finally took the part myself.
So you played Freddy?
Yes . . . I finally got the girl. But I never felt comfortable with
it. Kaye, the girl I'd expected to be Eliza before Betty came down
the aisle, had taken the part of Freddy's sister, so bitched a lot.
She loved it, could bitch at me right on stage.
I'd think it'd be difficult to direct a play you were in yourself.
Not so bad if you really know what you're doing, but I was a little
shaky, confronted by all that talent. I enjoyed it, though, for, while
we were working on Pygmalion, the three of us-- Betty,
Jordan, and I--practically lived together, came to depend upon one
another for everything. But, through that whole time, I never took
Betty anywhere alone. Nor did Jordan, I'm sure, for they were never
out of my sight. And, right from the first, I knew it was the best
thing I'd ever done. It was Shaw, I had Jordan Simms, and, finally,
I was working with Betty . . . who had already become the idea of
theatre incarnate for me, working with her rare talent in what you
might call the pristine moment of our mutual theatrical innocence.
I was so hyper I could hardly contain myself from one rehearsal to
the next, and knew this was what I wanted for the rest of my life
. . . if I could stand it. You might say I had Higgins' problems in
reverse. I had to turn my duchess into a flower girl, get the Mid-West
to talk like the East-End. But Eliza was Eliza.
Mother was always good with dialects.
She had an amazing facility with language, could adapt very quickly,
with acute sensitivity to nuances. Partly it was range of sympathy,
I suppose. Then she simply worked harder, was never late for a rehearsal,
and spent every minute there working on something . . . variations
of costuming and make-up, little bits of business, patterns of emphasis
in lines, in this instance following Jordan's lead, that offered more
direction than I did. The audiences were small, all right, making
that big auditorium seemed empty, as if we were doing it exclusively
for one another. But if not many people saw the play, some of the
right ones did. I'm sure it helped Jordan get the acting scholarship
in England, though everyone already knew he was the best actor on
campus. It did even more for me, establishing a favorable impression
going into my graduate program, which helped me negotiate doing The
Scarlet Letter that following year. But it did most for Betty.
From out of nowhere she became a star--came down that aisle to take
center stage. And she loved it. Dr. Gillis, who was directing The
Rainmaker in the fall, came opening night "to see what
you've done with Shaw," then came back for both of the other
performances . . . had fallen in love with our Eliza. He made sure
she'd be there for tryouts for his fall play, and began talking as
if he just assumed she'd be majoring in theatre . . . to which she
responded with her blandest smile. [Pauses.] Then there it was . .
. closing night.
[Christine moves center stage, the
light moving with her.]
"That's done you, Enry Iggins . . ."
[From off.] "She's going to marry Freddy. Ha ha! Freddy! Freddy!!
Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!"
[Applause, lights down, then shift
to where Jack, already changed, sits musing, as Betty and then Jordan
[Hugs Betty.] Wonderful. You two showed how great a play it is. To
see it is to believe it. Shaw was a genius. Dr Gillis has already
been by to say he thought you and Jordan got better every night .
. . and to tell me he expects us all there for tryouts for The
Rainmaker. He said you might want to see the movie . . . with
Katherine Hepburn as Lizzie. Then he did that "Eliza, Elizabeth,
Betty and Bess" bit . . . and was laughing as he left. So I think
he's already got you cast. [Jordan comes in.] And you, too, of course.
It's just my future that's uncertain.
But what do we do now? Until The Rainmaker?
Listen to her! She's hooked, all right. Get a job in a flower shop,
of course. Or, since we've got over two weeks before school starts,
do what I'm going to do . . . [Smiling.] go home to your mother .
. . that dear lady who came to see our play.
I didn't even know you had a mother, Jordan.
Oh yes . . . everyone has a mother. But after my father died, while
I was in the service, mine moved to Estes Park, Colorado, so I don't
see her so often. But Estes Park is a perfect place to spend a couple
of weeks at the end of summer. Pickering's going with me, and we'll
be able to do some hiking and fishing . . . maybe camping back in.
How about you two?
I hadn't even thought about it. I've got a father in California--
but don't plan to visit him. I'll stay here, I guess. But Dodge City's
a lot closer, so you'll be going home, won't you Eliza?
No, I'm not going home. Mother and I argue too much. And I've got
other reasons for not going back to Dodge. I told Mother I was leaving
for good when I came to KU. She agreed when she was here that I should
stay and get a head start on the fall semester, especially if I'm
going to be in "these plays." She's not sure she likes that,
but when she heard Dr. Gillis talking to me about how good I was as
Eliza she could see that's what I'm going to do. And my apartment
is already paid for, after all. I think we understand each other.
But we don't need two weeks in Dodge City to argue about it!'
[Jack crosses the stage to their apartment,
with Christine, as Jordan goes off back.]
She did go home that fall, though . . . when your grandmother died
. . . of some kind of a heart problem. Betty went to the funeral while
we were in rehearsal for The Rainmaker. I think her
mother's death hit her pretty hard, but she never talked about it
much--even after we were married. I felt guilty about encouraging
her to stay with me at the end of the summer, which would've been
her last chance to spend time with her mother, but she said, "How
could we know that? I'd have argued with her the whole time . . .
trying to get her to move somewhere where something was happening.
What did she have in Dodge City . . . after father left? She said
her church, her friends. She'd grown up there, and wasn't going to
leave. So I did. I'm sorry Mother died. But I wasn't going back."
I don't believe Mother had ever been out of Kansas before that. She
told me the main reason she'd left Wellington, when she left me with
you, was that she wasn't going to let anyone tie her down to some
little town again. It was a real fear for her.
I'm sure you're right. Her mother being so comfortable in Dodge City
probably just aggravated that natural impulse to get out and see the
world. [Pause.] I got the idea she might also have had something going
with that high-school drama teacher . . . Mr. Harris . . . the one
who directed her in Miss Julie, and that she had definitely
decided to disconnect from that. What must it be like for a high-school
teacher in a small town to discover that kind of diamond in the rough?
I've never been to Dodge City, never met Mr. Harris, but, I'd be tempted
to go now, to try to look him up. I wonder if he's still there, still
teaching at the high school . . . still looking for another Betty
to bloom in one of his classes. I'd be pleased to know more about
the Betty he knew as a high-school girl. He'd probably be willing
to talk about it . . . don't you think? Might not want to tell everything.
Did she tell you whether or not he was married?
No, she never talked to me about him at all. Or about her father,
either . . . my grandfather . . . I think he was still alive when
my grandmother died.
He may still be alive now, may even have tried to get in touch with
your mother about a year ago. Shoko said there was a letter from a
William Fredricks, with an address in Wyoming, that really upset Betty.
But she just threw it away. We should
try to find your grandfather, shouldn't
we? To see if we could see any of her in him. There aren't many people
in Wyoming, are there? How many William Fredricks can there be?
I've never met any of my grandparents.
You should have known your grandmother. I'd have liked to spend a
long afternoon with her before she died . . . to get her side of the
Dodge City story. But I never saw her again, so have just the one
memory of that bright-eyed little lady. I think we'd have gotten along
fine . . . living next door to each other.
Wouldn't you have been living on a ranch in Dodge City?
You've been watching too much television. Your grandmother wasn't
Calamity Jane, was a good, middle-class housewife, with next-door
neighbors. I used to wonder what kind of influence she'd have had
on our marriage . . . on you . . . you know, "to grandmother's
house" . . . if she'd lived. But I doubt it would have made much
difference. Betty's rejection must have been as frustrating for her
as for, well, Mr. Harris . . . or any of the rest of us. It's a sobering
thought to think I might have been following in the footsteps of her
Mr. Harris . . . helping her to escape, only to be abandoned myself.
I was only conscious at the time of how much Betty and I shared .
. . in both having left home for good. And there we were . . . together.
Jordan was still there for a few days, and the three of us continued
to spend time together. They could both beat me at tennis, but I could
beat either of them to the other end of the swimming pool. We
went to movies, or watched old ones
on TV in one or the other of our apartments, where we could eat popcorn,
drink beer, and compete in clever critical comments. Then, after Jordan
left, I was surprised to discover how embarrassed I was to be alone
with Betty . . . to realize that I hadn't been, that we'd been chaperoned
by Jordan, and had always had the play between us as a psychological
cushion. I thought we knew one another pretty well, but suddenly she
seemed a different person. We'd still go to movies, those summer concerts
. . . everywhere . . . together . . . but not up to either one's apartment,
where each was living alone, both of our roommates having "gone
What did you do during the day . . . study?
We liked to go to the park in the afternoon, and, yes, spend the time
reading . . . if not exactly studying. We might even hold hands, but,
needing to turn pages, were more likely to cross our bare feet, or
one lie with eyes closed while the other one read to him, usually
Betty to me. We were comfortable together, I suppose, but I'd felt
more secure when we were actress and director, or Eliza and Freddy.
When you could play roles, not have to be yourself. Mother used to
say that, that one reason people liked to act was so they could run
away from who they really were. I agree with that.
But who are we really? And what makes us change . . . so that we really
are someone else? We discussed problems like that. It was obvious
Betty was already neatly hooked as an actress--
liked playing roles. That summer had
been exhilarating for all of us, and we were still living on the high.
[Laughs.] The irony was that, as her interest in psychology faded,
she began to demonstrate remarkable skills as a practical psychologist.
She almost always got her way, with everyone, even while we were doing
Pygmalion. During those last rehearsals, she would
sit quietly, listening to Jordan and me talk about some problem, like
an admiring disciple, then, with a single suggestion, leave us just
looking at her, wondering why we hadn't thought of that.
She became more intimidating in later years . . . once into what Jordan
called her Cleopatra mode . . . the years I knew her best.
Oh, she could be even then . . . if she chose. We were reading a lot,
but no more Shaw. It was only after Betty had left me-- left us--that
I went on another Shaw jag. She determined what we read, for the most
part. I read my first Freud in those two weeks. I remember reading
his analysis of young Dora. I know that you have strong opinions about
that little book, don't you?
Of course. You read the research paper I did on that last year.
I have strong memories of reading it then. Freud could find almost
anything in Dora's dreams . . . until she got sane enough to quit
telling them to him . . . to quit going to see him at all. That case
study is important in his dream theory, too. We were reading his Interpretation
of Dreams at the same time, and got to interpreting one another's
dreams. I was sure Betty was just making up her dreams . . . as a
kind of game.
Mother liked to tell me her dreams, though, and I believe that she
actually had some pretty strange dreams . . . but so do I.
I remember one dream she told me about riding a motorcycle up the
escalator at Sears. I told her I thought the motorcycle represented
her itinerant father . . . and then, after reading about Dora, that
she was substituting for him, and that it was really about her Lesbian
relationship with his Dodge City mistress. She had been laughing,
but suddenly stopped, and said, "I never even met my father's
mistress, Jack. He ran off with her before I was old enough to know
him very well." I started stammering something like "Oh,
I'm sorry . . . I didn't . . ." But then she was laughing like
a pixie, saying, "Oh, Jack, don't trust everything I tell you.
You don't, do you?" But she didn't say anything more about her
father . . . or his mistress. [Laughs.] But I got the chance to look
into those enigmatic eyes of hers a lot during that two weeks. And
they began to reflect mine from closer and closer range. The boy and
girl chemistry was working, if somewhat slowly for such ideal circumstances--all
alone, wonderful summer weather, and nothing to distract us.
And you think Jordan left you alone together on purpose?
I thought so at the time. He was always the complicated one. He may
not have had any reason to go home at all. And what would have happened
if he'd asked your mother to go with him do you suppose? He was fascinated
by her, too, as something of his own creation, a projection of a part
of himself. But how did he feel about her as a . . . a desirable female?
I wasn't sure.
It was always hard to tell what Jordan was thinking.
And, while Jordan hadn't said, "Don't you two do anything I wouldn't
approve of," he probably knew he could trust me with Betty .
. . that he could spot me two weeks then come back and take her away
if he wanted to . . . he knew his power over her. But, in spite of
his hovering presence, we did talk about "us" some, those
long summer evenings. As you know, I tend to be overly analytical,
and working with Shaw, then reading Freud, contributed to my delinquency.
Betty, enjoying the game, played it with real spirit, was already
the better analyst. But, behind this screen, we were no doubt just
doing what young fellows and girls who spend hours walking by the
lake, going to movies, sitting in parked cars together, fall naturally
to doing. Shaw and Freud just gave it an extra intellectual dimension.
We disputed whether I was the Pygmalion who had made her the Galatea
of our university stage, or she had brought me to life as a director--while
knowing that our Higgins, our acknowledged superior as an artist,
could claim to have created both of us, and was now allowing us to
reflect upon what had happened to us.
While Jordan probably wasn't thinking about you two at all.
Then, one night, at the end of those two weeks, I did reach out. I
kissed Betty, for the first time, and she kissed me back, with such
intense passion that the rest of it didn't seem to matter. As we came
up for breath, I looked into her eyes and saw another permutation,
one I hadn't seen before, though it's in a close-up in one scene of
the film she made of the countess's life.
Yes, I know the scene.
The dilated pupils told me she was mine if I wanted to take her. Many
a time in the next few months I condemned myself for not having had
the courage to accept what she was offering. But I thought at the
time that I was exercising admirable moral strength. I was twenty-four
and she was only eighteen, an innocent sophomore girl. She was mine,
and I would protect her--even from myself--even from herself. I'd
save this passion until it could be sanctified, would cradle her in
my arms and keep her safe. The psychology of a moment like that is
strange, but I felt it as strongly as I've ever felt any emotion in
my life. It was a kind of sublime experience. Do you believe that?
Yes, I do, Dad. And you were right.
No, I was wrong, but, in my unbelievable naivete, I thought I was
right. I thought that Freddy had gotten the girl, after all, because
he appreciated her more than Higgins did. Eliza was mine, I thought,
soaring on the idea, and I must cherish her. Ah youth! Ah humanity!
Whomever I'm misquoting sure knew what he was talking about. There
are many ironies in life, and we are often our own worst enemies.
In any case, it is certainly true that whenever I look at you I see
your mother as she was in those days, and realize how much I have
needed both of you . . . since I was that young man of twenty-four.
And I did get born, didn't I?