THE CONSPIRACY OF '72
By Justus E. Taylor
Copyright © 1993 by Justus E. Taylor
It should have been obvious to me, as a savvy New Yorker, that there was something really big going on when it was announced in May that J. Edgar Hoover had died. April had been a balanced month, sort of, with a resumption of American bombing of Hanoi, but balanced with a kind of atonement to Charlie Chaplin, his finally getting an Oscar for his contributions to the film industry. So how did these events relate to the fact that Anita and I were dating, for almost eight months, and we were both married to other people?
You have to understand that the plot against us must have been intentionally subliminal. Being part of an unhappy marriage is not news to anyone, but one's build-up to attack that situation isn't within your control. There has to be a conspiracy afoot, and it can be a scheme to keep you locked into the marriage, or to make you believe that you can actually get out and be happy afterward! You have to see and hear things, without really noticing them. Things that accumulate beneath your consciousness, but they all add up to portents of great change. Like Bobby Fisher becoming the first American world chess champ. The Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty (unhappy marriage?) was unconstitutional. Richard Nixon visiting China. Angela Davis being cleared of all murder charges, in the same year that Ms. Magazine starts up. All this could not have just been coincidence. Were these things being engineered to make us dare to risk changing everything about our lives?
Even more suspicious was whatever drove us to take an evening class at the New School, which turned out to be an indoctrination on the writings of Wilhelm Reich, M.D.: "Character Analysis" and "The Function of the Orgasm." We had signed up for the class primarily to have a cover for spending evenings together, since our office romance was automatically limited during the day. But there we were, being brain-washed that our sexually dysfunctional marriages were blocking our right to be naturally free of anxiety, disease, bad habits (like my smoking one-and-a-half packs a day) menstrual cramps, incipient schizophrenia and the pains of childbirth. Who wouldn't have been lured by such siren promises? And all this in the same year that Mark Spitz was winning seven (seven, mind you) gold medals in the Olympics. We even sewed together Reich's recommended "Orgone" blankets, made out of a combination of sheep's wool and steel wool! Clearly, we were in a year when anything would be possible!
Since I was thirty-eight and Anita was only twenty-four, in the very early part of the year I don't think we were so much about falling in love, as about winning some happy hours together, one evening at a time. After all, I had three children to support and relate to, from two marriages. Fortunately for us, her husband was away on occupation duty in the Army, and she had no kids, so she had more freedom than I had. However, although I lived in the same house, I was already physically and emotionally separated from the woman I was tied to. Our affair was nice, but we were both wondering, is this all there is, when along came the music and the money!
Whoever arranges conspiracies should be embarrassed about the way they use sneaky music. It's always used to help trap the unwary victims. What were the odds that at any other time there would be a Roberta Flack infiltrating our minds with the question, "what will it be, our ages or our hearts?" And "Let Them Talk!" It seemed as though the whole world stopped and listened every time a DJ played her, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" We began to believe that fate had meant us to be together as the Carpenter's hits, We've Only Just Begun," and "For All We Know," busted the charts. At the same time it was becoming clear to everyone that the Beatles', "Something", was a song that was going to join the immortal standards. It was so intoxicating that it became our song, and as people found out about our relationship they often remarked that we were pretty obvious from the way we lit up when we heard the song. We began to assume that we had been lovers in other lives. I even got a twenty-per-cent salary increase without even asking for it. It's clear now that we were helpless.
I'm not sure what pushed me over the edge; what awakened me, too late, that I had already been caught in a secret net, and was irrevocably in love. Looking back from here it seems like it must have been the very art of connivance, having that movie, "Last Tango in Paris" hit the movie houses just then. It scared the hell out of me that I might already be too old. I still remember Marlon Brando wondering what he could do to delay his accelerating hair loss.(Probably should have worried more about his weight) Anyway, I found that I had turned a brand new corner. I don't remember ever wondering whether I was in love. I went straight to wondering what caused love, now that I was in something that I had never been in before. Anita was also trying to find her way. We talked and talked about it.
"What do you think love is?" I would often ask, when I felt that I had come up with some idea that explained the feeling.
She'd say something like, "it's the way you feel about another person, excited, sickly, scared...but very happy to feel those things."
"Yeah, yeah," I coaxed "but what makes you feel those things about that other person?"
"Oh, I get it. Well, maybe how they act, how they look, how they treat you, or maybe how they move?"
"Yeah, OK," I'd affirm, "but would you love them if they were ugly or if they treated you like you were a patient and they were a very very busy doctor?"
"Of course not," she'd frown a little and re-cross her beautiful legs, to show impatience. "You have something in mind and I might not say the exact words you're looking for for another year or so, so simply tell me what it is. I mean besides the facts that the woman must be pretty and clever and the man handsome and strong."
Smiling slightly with pleasure at her teasing, I'd disgorge my little philosophical security blanket I had recently woven for myself: "love is probably a matter only of assets and knowledge. The other person must be marketable, in some special sense, and they must have taken the trouble to develop a deep knowledge of you, so they know how to treat you, eh? Of course, good looks, like ours, a good career, good health and such are only some of the assets." (I can see now that I was totally unaware of the conspiracy)
"Makes sense'" she'd allow. "I have to think about it, but it could be right. In the meantime, I know what I feel.
Neither of us knows where our "Orgone" blankets are now. We've found out that Reich's claims were generally exaggerated. (Surprise) However, testing the ideas has been a glorious experiment for us. We recently celebrated our twenty-first anniversary as lovers, our eighteenth anniversary of both being free and living together, our seventh anniversary of being retired and living in the country. I haven't smoked in five-and-a-half years, and the kids all got educated and are independent.
We wonder what our next turning point will turn out to be. We talk about moving to the Caribbean.
I was recently shocked to learn that the piece of wood we've always known as a "two-by-four" is really only one-and-five-eighths by three-and-five-eighths inches! Now it must be that somebody arranged for me to find that out. I wonder why.
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