“Everybody is pink.” An Excerpt from The Journals of John Cheever
God bless Blake for putting up with the likes of me. He truly celebrates diversity of tastes and temperments with letting me be a contributor. I love Cheever. I might love his journals as much as his short fiction. (I like his novels a bit less). Here’s an excerpt, a random one, from near the end of his life, when the world starts changing so fast on us, it dizzies us. I often think about aging and dying and how chaos and destruction eventually win our bodies whole. (Thanks Mom and Dad.) This excerpt is one of many strange and heartbreaking sections from his journals that show his delight in language and confusion as to what our time here actually means:
In town with D. His 65th birthday. The face is strong, his gray hair is long. We do not mention his remarkable wife, who choked to death during lunch a month ago. HIs mistress has called him from Australia and asked him to marry her, and I suppose he will. The barbershop at the Biltmore has been cut in half, and there are only three barbers on the job. Do people get their haircuts elsewhere or don’t they get it cut at all? One used to have to wait, reading copies of The Tatler. What is the sigificance of a dying barbershop? The barbers are all old friends, and we talk in Italian. I spend a dollar in tips for being whisk-broomed and drink a Martini at the bar, where there is a new, and more attractive, painting of a nude. The face seems unusually sensitive. But as I walk up Madison Avenue the city escapes me. What has happened to this place where I used to so happily pound the sidewalk? Where has my city gone, where shall I look for it? In the Playboy Club, The Century Club, the Princeton Club, or the Links? In the steamroom at the Biltmore, in L’s panelled apartment, in the skating rink, in the Park, in the Plaza, on the walks where someone behind me makes tonguing noises with his or her mouth? I don’t look. I know the city well, why does it not know me? A pair of well-filled boots, pretty legs, a tossed head. A restaurant where all the lights are pink, and so my hands are pink, and pink is the face of my friend. Everybody is pink. Fifteen of twenty men stand at the urinal in Grand Central. Their looks are solicitious, alert, sometimes wistful. They use the polished marble as a glass for pick-ups, and most of them are fondling or pulling thier various sized and -colored cocks. Why does the sight of fifteen or twenty men jerking off seem more sigificant than the string music in the Palm Court?