We were walking toward the fountain, the epicenter of activity, when an older couple stopped and openly observed us. Robert enjoyed being noticed, and he affectionately squeezed my hand. “Oh, take their picture,” said the woman to her bemused husband, “I think they’re artists.” “Oh, go on,” he shrugged. “They’re just kids.”
He was searching, consciously or unconsciously, for himself. He was in a fresh state of transformation. He had shed the skin of his ROTC uniform, and in its wake his scholarship, his commercial path, and his father’s expectations of him. At seventeen he had been infatuated with the prestige of the Pershing Rifles, their brass buttons, highly polished boots, braids and ribbons. It was the uniform that attracted him, just as the robes of an altar boy had drawn him to the altar. But his service was to art, not to church or country. His beads, dungarees, and sheepskin vest represented not a costume...
He waited for me, and as we headed toward the subway he said, “One day we’ll go in together, and the work will be ours.”
He put on Tim Buckley singing “Phantasmagoria in Two,” then he knelt down and handed me a small book on the tarot that he had rebound in black silk. Inside it he inscribed a few lines of poetry, portraying us as the gypsy and the fool, one creating silence; one listening closely to the silence. In the clanging swirl of our lives, these roles would reverse many times.