Tripping in Lincoln
Season Harper-Fox

The first time I met Theo my friend Sadie and I were tripping our asses off in Lincoln, Nebraska. We’d walked downtown, seen Mask, the biker movie starring Cher and Eric Stoltz. Afterward, we met Theo and Dante half a block from the university—Theo a brilliant local actor and director, Sadie informed me; Dante a composer/musician. Dante produced a key to the music building. Inside, he said not to turn on the lights. Then he sat at the piano, spread his fingers wide and stretched them. He played a riff, settled into a jazz improvisation of “Summertime” while Theo and Sadie sang, Theo keeping the beat with one Birkenstocked foot. After, we spent hours at Taco John’s.

Theo slurred his words. They’d been at Chesterfield’s bar earlier.

“Where’ve you been all my life?” he said.

“Married.” I sipped my soda.

He and Dante threw each other a look.

“Huh,” Dante said. “Why’re you out with us?”

I didn’t answer. I’d just gone to a movie with Sadie. I hadn’t made any suggestions, hadn’t done a thing but talk and enjoy the evening.

Sadie bumped my arm, laughed. “Her ol’ man’s out of town.”

Theo nodded. “Sounds good to me.”

Something inside me said, You know, you know, it’s time to go. I stood and finished my soda. Sadie didn’t move. She gave me that look that told me she was into one of these guys. I didn’t know which one, though I suspected it was Theo.

“Why don’t you walk us home?” she said.

They nodded, and Theo said he had to get his ten-speed first. Dante strolled over to the counter and grabbed some napkins. He wiped down the table, which struck me as odd.

Outside, we made our way to the mall where Theo had left his bike. The mall was locked, the janitor mopping the floor. Theo banged on the door. Pointed at his bike.

The janitor shook his head. Yelled, “Closed for the night!”

Theo banged again, this time harder. “I need my bike. All you have to do is open the door. That’s my bike, right there.” It was chained to an atrium tree.

The janitor kept mopping. Theo threw himself against the glass a few times, screaming and out of control.

“OK, OK.” A jangle of keys, and Theo was in and out of there.

“How easy was that?” he said to the guy. And smirked.

I’d never seen anyone with such a temper. It intrigued me and put me off simultaneously. He was beautiful by any standards. Like some perfect god with long blond hair, the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. A profile that had photographers and the art department after him as a model.

I didn’t see him again for two years.


I was newly divorced, still going to college. Wilder was in my astronomy class and I was lost, my science mind lacking. He offered help, let me use his book, said that I could return it anytime and he or one of his roommates should be around. We made plans to study together, maybe go out sometime.

Two days later my friend Julie gave me a ride over and I knocked on the door of the white house on 2nd Street, the house infamous around town for being the biggest party place. Five guys lived there at last count. The door opened and I stared into Theo’s knock-me-over blue eyes. The recognition was instantaneous.

“C’mon up,” he said.

I handed him the book. “It’s Wilder’s.”

“He’s not here. You like to party?”

I waved Julie over.

Upstairs, we crowded into a small den. A few guys were already there, listening to The Doors and passing around a pipe. After a couple of bowls, Wilder showed up.

“You’re here,” he said. “You want to study for the test?”

I was stoned and he wanted to study? But I nodded and went with him into the kitchen where we sat at the table and he talked to me about his sprouts and yogurt, the compost pile out back. He stretched his legs out, his bare feet dirty on the bottoms.

“You want to see a movie?” He told me The Magic Flute was playing at the Sheldon. He’d flipped the book open to a picture of a spiral galaxy. I thought about the Milky Way and the planets, the gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. The way planets circled the sun, the way moons orbited their planets, the comets shooting about the universe, meteoroids flashing in the night sky as they hit our atmosphere—how it all seemed it might be for some cosmic reason no one could understand. I wanted to be Einstein. And it occurred to me the refrigerator made a loud buzz, but only when you thought about it. Wilder’s hair curled and waved and swept down nearly to his knees. I didn’t admire that hair. I envied it. Reached out and touched it.

“I take that for a yes,” he said.

Then Theo entered the kitchen in his maroon robe. He’d decided to nap in the middle of our partying, had suddenly disappeared so that I’d wanted to excuse myself and go searching for him. Instead, I’d stayed put, sucking down the sweet burning pot till Wilder had shown up. At the table, I wondered where Julie might be, but forgot about her just as quickly.

Wilder whispered to me, nudged me. “Ask Theo if he’ll ever get married,” he said.


“Just ask him.”

I said it loudly and felt like an idiot: “Will you ever get married?”

He turned, his eyes suddenly inky dark. “‘Should I get married? Should I be good? Astound the girl next-door with my velvet suit and Faustus hood?’” He recited the entire poem, through werewolf bathtubs and penguin dust, all the way through 2,000 years and the bath of life, his radiant eyes locked with mine, and by the end of Corso’s “Marriage” I was his.

Return to Archive