The children’s teeth are set on edge

I would like to note, just for the record, that I have never slept with Grant. The importance of this fact will become clear shortly.

As Sandy and I slip-slopped around the kitchen this morning in identical Birkenstock clogs, I asked her how she had come to write her master’s thesis on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is one of my favorite poets.

She replied that she had spent part of the late ’60s in San Francisco, where she had found a job tending bar just down the street from City Lights Books. Working so close to the bookstore/publishing house/wormhole through which avant-garde “cool” enters the universe, she found herself pouring drinks for the likes of Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and all the writers, artists, and musicians who were either in their inner circle or wanted to be.

Giving me a conspiratorial wink, she added, “This was the ’60s, and I was a rather fetching young lady, far from home and on my own for the first time, so of course I slept with quite a few of ’em, too — the straight ones, anyway.”

I laughed, wondering what it would have been like to live in San Francisco in the ’60s. Mom had spent a year there — in fact, it was where she met Dad — but she was not quick to relive the parts of her past that involved him, so I didn’t get to hear many stories.

Sandy, whose picture probably appears in the dictionary next to the words “old hippie,” was more than happy to regale me with stories of her misspent youth, and we spent the next 20 minutes cooking mountains of French toast and bacon while she recounted her adventures.

I was enjoying the stories until she started telling me about the sultry summer afternoon in ’68 when a lanky young singer from New York with arresting dark eyes and a slightly ragged baritone voice walked into the bar, ordered a double Scotch on the rocks, and sent her hormones through the ceiling. As she treated me to all the steamy details of their two-week affair, a horrible thought occurred to me.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” I said in a very small voice, “who was this dashing character?”

My father’s name shattered across my eardrums, exploding into a thousand tiny shards.

One of the things Grant and I have in common is the fact that we both grew up without fathers. Grant never knew his father’s identity; he was just one of the nameless, faceless men his mother had encountered through a drug-induced haze, shadows moving aimlessly through one strange, hedonistic summer before motherhood forced a then-18-year-old Sandy to straighten up and settle down.

Grant is an Aries.

“Excuse me,” I said, clamping a hand over my mouth and rushing down the hall.

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