I have a cabin at Rough River where I sometimes go to write. I have had it for years now. I consider it my place of refuge, of escape, maybe especially when I was still married. But some-times the isolation I am seeking becomes more than I can deal with. Recently I was having just such a weekend so I decided to return to Louisville early. It was summertime and I was on I-65 heading north toward Louisville when suddenly a severe rainstorm literally drove me off the highway at the next exit. I landed at a truck stop about 20 miles south of my destination.
I decided to have a cup of coffee as I waited for the downpour to let up. I headed for the counter and found myself seated next to an exceedingly attractive young woman, and while such beauty ordinarily shuts me down totally, somehow I managed to engage her in conversation. Blond and blue-eyed, she could have been a model (though not rail-thin) or a movie star. I found it intriguing that she was consuming a rather large slice of chocolate cake. We began to chat and I learned she had been visiting family in Tennessee and was now on her way back to Hollywood. She was indeed an actress, she told me, more aspiring than successful, she added, but she did cite a number of commercials she’d done. I guess she recognized my Massachusetts accent and commented upon it, and soon she was telling me about having studied drama at Emerson College there in Boston.
I don’t know how the subject of Richard Yates came up, but she told me she knew him from working at a Brighams Ice Cream Shop in Boston. She told me Dick Yates used to come in every evening, almost without fail, always alone, and he often lingered to talk with her, she added with a laugh, always trying to convince her to go into the theatre and ditch her Hollywood ambitions. She had fond memories of their conversations those many evenings in Boston, and she knew of his reputation as a writer. But what stuck in my mind was what she said next, and that was how lonely a figure she perceived him to be, how isolated, and the sadness of it all. I could picture him lingering over his coffee, perhaps dreading to return to his dreary apartment nearby. I don’t know if this lovely creature beside me ever made it back to Yates’ place — I rather doubt it, much as he, on his part, would have welcomed such a tryst.