Elegy for Sue Leonard who died last week.
When I was fourteen years old and wanted to be friends with the girls in my neighborhood, they held a council behind a closed door to debate my merits. I had to wait for their answer in the hallway. I remember that hallway. It turned left from the top of the stairs in the head girl’s house. The floor was wood, old wood. There were no windows. The walls were old dented plaster. I do not remember how they delivered their answer; I just remember the answer was no.
Sue Leonard earned my gratitude by not participating in this debate. She was too busy writing poetry and listening to Jefferson Airplane to come out and be cruel to me. I heard her name long before I met her. She was utterly and inexorably cool; everyone agreed on this. She had long swingy brown blonde hair. Sometimes she curled it. She did exotic drugs and drank exotic drinks. She read books and was not ashamed to talk about them. She had strange dreams — jungles, trains, Brazil — that troubled her and fascinated me: She did not think I was weird. Or if she did, she liked my weirdness. I liked being in her room. I would sit on her bed and she would sit on the floor on a pillow while we discussed drugs, boys, and music. Usually, her big brother was having a party downstairs that we were about to join or which we had retreated from. What were her favorite songs? What were mine? I can’t remember. The Kinks, I think. Cream. The Grateful Dead. Steppenwolf. I think we both loved a song called Magic Carpet Ride.
There is a misty picture of her on the internet that I stared at today. She was as beautiful as ever. I never saw her as a grown up.