By Catherine M Schuster
Can you remember what it is like to burst with desire? The desire to experience everything, to feel everything, to know everything right now. My appetite was enormous, and in that particular moment I couldn’t stop talking about To A God Unknown, the early Steinbeck novel about a mystical connection to the land, sacrifice, love, death, and sex. Two weeks later and it might have been Huxley’s Brave New World or Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, and I would have been overwrought by the possibility of nuclear devastation. I was thirteen.
Peter Blind. Even his name was cool. I don’t remember what he looked like, other than a vague image of light brown curls, but I remember his name and the way he made me feel. I only met him a couple of times, but my feelings took up the whole room, the whole world. I was bursting with desire.
The second time I met him, Peter Blind brought me a signed photograph of Steinbeck inscribed to me—for Molly—and I believed it was the real thing. How could Steinbeck have known? How did Peter Blind get this for me? Even when I realized it was a joke at my expense, that he was mocking me, I wanted to believe. I was thirteen.
I believed because Peter Blind was my bridge into the world of adults. The current young artist darling of my mother and her friends as they yielded to the siren call of the late 1960s. But they were old, too old to be hippies, too old to smoke pot, to turn on, tune in, and drop out. They had children and jobs, houses and mortgages. So they drank. A lot. And dipped their toes into the cusp of a culture they had just missed, an accident of being born too soon. Peter Blind was their bridge back.
Peter Blind talked to me and took me seriously and made me feel all grown up. I was thirteen, and I was susceptible.
Peter Blind started writing me letters, and we corresponded because he lived in San Francisco, that place of possibilities: the Haight, City Lights, and Golden Gate Park, and I was in Los Angeles, the city of suburbs. Oversized envelopes filled with drawings and text arrived. He called me Doe Fawn, and I believed that’s who I was, a woman-child, an object of desire.
I don’t remember the content of our letters. I don’t remember if it was mostly innocent or mostly creepy. I don’t remember if he stopped writing or if I stopped responding, if he lost interest or I did. I don’t remember anyone questioning why a thirty-something man was writing to a thirteen-year-old girl.
But I remember that tickle of desire: intellectual, emotional, and sexual all rolled into one enormous swell, an awakening to a new world.
I was thirteen.