We Talk For A While?
The relationship between
Morgan and Linda simmered along beneath the surface of their lives
through the spring and summer of 1964, a dance of intimacy where
each held the other simultaneously within and beyond arm’s reach.
Just before their graduation,
Linda’s senior-year steady, Howie, enlisted in the National Guard.
Before he shipped out for basic training, Linda wrestled with the
future of their relationship.
“He is such a good guy,"
she wrote in her journal, “and I love his family, but if I stay
with him, how long will it be before I get bored with my surroundings?
He will want to get married, I know.” And not surprisingly for somebody
who had already lived in forty-some different places before graduating
high school, she added, “I just can't imagine staying in the same
town for the rest of my life." Tearfully, Linda gave Howie
back his class ring. .
True to his word, Morgan
was “around,” but never for very long. He would stop by to take
Linda for a short ride on his motorcycle. Or he’d drop in to Ashlawn
for a brief visit, and then he was gone again. Linda actually learned
more about Morgan from her girlfriends, for whom Morgan was the
shining star in their gossip world.
For example: The last
Friday in August, Morgan had attended the Philadelphia Folk Festival,
and afterwards invited a group of fellow revelers — what his father
would disdainfully refer to as “hippies” — to spend the night on
his family’s farm. Early the following morning, Morgan’s father
was outraged when he discovered several couples in various stages
of undress nestled together in the hay loft. After kicking the sleepy
and disheveled group out of his barn, he unloaded on Morgan. “This
won't do," he bellowed at Morgan. “I won't have this sort of
activity here. You have a reputation to think about and this is
never going to happen again!"
Linda had already heard
about the sleep-over and ensuing confrontation in the barn when
the phone at Ashlawn rang, and she was surprised to hear Morgan’s
voice on the other end. “"Can I come over?" he asked —
“so sweetly,” she wrote in her journal, adding "I am sure that
I am just an afterthought to him, but he has made me very happy.”
half hour later Morgan’s father drove his car into Ashlawn’s driveway
and Morgan laughed as he unloaded a guitar and a sheaf of sheet
music out of the back seat. He also grabbed a towel, a toothbrush
and a comb, and when he noticed Linda was watching him curiously
he smiled at her and declared "I'm moving in for the day!"
Morgan’s father never got out of the car, but before he drove off
Linda was sure she’d caught him smiling at her, too.
Later, when Morgan told
her himself about that morning’s exploits at the barn, he commented,
“I guess my Dad figures that you are a better influence on me!"
Linda studied Morgan
as he turned and walked toward the pool, noticing how much simple
fun he was to watch, how tall and handsome he was. “Not if I can
help it,” she thought to herself.
As the late summer sun
rose into the cloudless sky, Linda and Morgan passed the time swimming
and lounging by the pool. Morgan strummed his guitar, which he had
bought the night before from one of the kids at the folk festival
— a Gibson J200 jumbo flat-top, just like Elvis played. Linda smiled
at him as he struggled with the fingering, and he promised, “Someday
I'll be able to entertain you with this thing, not just amuse you."
They raided the nearby strawberry patch and Linda admitted later
"I flirted outrageously with him, but I was so shy I don't
think that he even noticed.”
At one point, Morgan
took Linda completely by surprise, sweeping her into his arms. “He
was going to throw me into the pool,” she wrote in her journal,
“But I hung on so hard he couldn’t pull himself away from me, and
I pulled him into the water with me.”
Morgan sputtered to
the surface. "Damn,” he laughed, "you are one strong girl!"
“Damn Amazon,” Linda
wrote in her journal that night, “that’s what he’s probably thinking!
That was the only move he made on me the entire day!” Linda was
sure she’d blown it with Morgan when, instead of staying the entire
day like he’d promised when he first arrived, he wound up leaving
early that afternoon. "Here he is a champion wrestler, and
he can’t even rip me loose long enough to keep me from pulling him
in the pool with me,” she wrote.
Linda sized up what
she was now certain were her other shortcomings in the eyes of this
prospective suitor: “He loves to dance,” she wrote, “and I can barely
do a waltz. His favorite song is “Dancing in the Streets” and I
just can’t seem to keep up with him. He loves that big guitar and
I can’t begin to strum it. He can sing, and I am just too shy to
even try. I just know that I am so drawn to him that I can barely
breathe when he stands next to me.”
And then, contemplating
her impending departure for college, Linda wrote, “I have only fourteen
days before I leave for Southern Seminary — and he hasn't even kissed
Linda’s journals from
the summer of ’64 also make note the festering socio-political climate
of the period. Race riots were sweeping through the inner city of
Philadelphia as “1000 black people looted and tore places apart,”
in a series of disruptions that prompted a curious observation from
“Daddy commented that
he felt it was humankind’s response to an outside force that is
affecting all of us. He says it’s the same type of force that has
probably ‘encouraged’ revolutions and wars… It makes us all feel
like fighting. I dunno…. Those are not exactly the kinds of emotions
that I have been entertaining lately….”
Linda was busy with
her journal that weekend. Sunday morning she wrote, “I guess that
Morgan has made things even worse. Word from the grapevine is that
last evening he took a girl skinny dipping in the farm pond, and
then made the mistake of using his Dad’s car to drive back to the
main house to get some towels. His Father stormed out of the house
to ‘pull the keys,’ only to discover a naked girl dripping wet in
the front seat."
“I think,” Linda recalled
Morgan having mused later, “my father has seen one too many loose
women for one weekend.” But all Linda could think of was how jealous
she was. “I wondered if I had to stand in line — or didn’t he think
of me at all in a sexual way?” “Morgan and I," she wrote with
a sad resignation "live in an entirely different reality."
expected that last Sunday in August was going to be “a quiet day.”
Hattie, the Ashlawn housekeeper and her husband Taft, the butler,
had the house “looking wonderful” prior to their departure for a
vacation. Taft and Charles — taking a break from his driving duties
— were working in the garden; Mother was reading and Daddy was working
at his desk in the study.”
And as for herself,
Linda wrote, “I was purely agitated.”
By the time Sunday evening
settled in, the big house was totally quiet. Linda, still feeling
restless, had retired to the ‘rec room’ to watch some old movie
on the TV. The last thing she expected was a knock at the door.
And when she opened it, there was Morgan, whispering, “I know it’s
late,” he whispered, “but can we talk for a while?”
Morgan’s “while” lasted
until four the following morning. They talked about “everything,”
sitting by the pool, their legs dangling in the cool water under
the hazy summer’s night sky. They laid back on the deck around the
pool, staring up at the moon and star. The next thing she knew,
they were spinning off on an expansive dialog about the planets,
the stars, the vastness of space and even the possibility of time
Morgan started talking
about his family: how his parents had become estranged when is younger
sister drowned in swimming pool accident, how his mother never recovered
from her grief and blamed his father; how his older brother was
also trapped in an unhappy marriage.
“I just don’t think
marriage is in the cards for me,” Morgan said. “I don’t think I’m
ever going to take my father’s place in society. My parents have
these terrible fights, but they stay together, like they feel obligated
to make each other miserable because of what happened to my sister.
I don’t ever want my life to be like that.”
As Morgan continued
to express his contempt for conventional domestic tranquility Linda
smiled, surprised to find herself in complete agreement with Morgan’s
Morgan went on. “I just
don’t want the big house and mortgage" she heard him saying
" I don't want to have to stay in one place except for two
weeks every year." Linda could tell that the very thought made
him restless and uncomfortable. She smiled at Morgan and looked
“What do you want, Morgan,”
Linda asked quietly, looking skyward. “What do you see for yourself?”
Morgan seemed startled
by the question, as if he had never been asked that question by
a girl before. But when he started to speak it all came out in a
“I’ll go to college,”
Morgan said, “and then I want travel and adventure. It’s weird,
but I have this very clear vision of myself, I don’t know where,
or when, but I’m in someplace that’s mountainous, and really rocky.
No trees anywhere. I can see small pebbles on the trail tumble away
from my boots. It’s strange because I don’t know of any place like
around here. I don’t even think it’s in this country, and the vision
gives me this overwhelming sense of danger and excitement. Somehow,
I want to be there, but I don’t know where it is.”
Morgan looked at Linda,
could see her listening intently, as if she could see his vision
herself. “I don’t know where that picture comes from,” he said.
But somehow, that’s the answer to your question. That’s what I imagine
for myself, sometime in the near future.”
Linda took a moment
to absorb the majesty of Morgan’s vision, warming herself with the
thought that this particular image of himself was probably not something
that he cared to share with those other, mostly marriage-minded
After a quiet pause,
Linda smiled and confided in Morgan some of her own visions. “You
just have to listen to your own soul about these things,” she said,
“and somehow, you’ll just know what to do in the future. I have
my own peculiar premonitions. Sometimes I can just clearly see myself
riding horse-back over golden hills, past these strange, gnarled
trees. I’ve even drawn the trees in art class, but the teacher says
I should stick to reality, that trees like that don’t exist anywhere
in nature. I don’t know where that picture comes from any better
than you know where yours come from. But I know my trees are real,
and I’m sure your pebbles are real, too.”
Morgan studied Linda
for a long time without saying a word. Linda gazed into his grey-green
eyes and imagined that she could see them reflecting the sparkle
of distant starlight.
“Amazing…” was all Morgan
could manage to say,
Suddenly the silence
was shattered by the sound of a phone ringing on the wall of the
greenhouse. Linda sprang to her feet to answer it before the entire
household was awakened, positively irritated by whoever was calling
at this hour. But it didn’t matter who was calling. The spell was
On the other end of
the line, Linda’s older brother Joseph was calling from Oregon,
and wanted to speak with his mother. Linda set the phone down on
a ledge in the greenhouse, and whispered to Morgan, “wait, please
wait…” But Morgan just wiggled his fingers at her, gesturing a silent
Linda tip-toed into the
house to awaken her mother, who took the call on the phone by her
bed. Then Linda tip-toed back down the long hall, back down the
stairs, back out into the darkness and back to the greenhouse to
hang up the extension where she’d first answered the call. By the
time she got there, Morgan had slipped into the pre-dawn darkness.
In the distance, she thought she heard the trailing whine of his
Returning to the house,
Linda realized it would not be long before she’d be seeing him again.
His big Gibson was still leaning against a wall near the door where
he’d left earlier.