I am so thoroughly healthy and empty. No dreams, no desires. I am like the luscious deceptive fruit which hangs on the Californian trees. One more ray of sun and I will be rotten.
The first thing, if you are lucky, that you discover about Henry Miller is that you shouldn't introduce him to your wife, your sister, your mother or any other female that you care to leave unsullied. He is like a bloodhound once he catches the scent of a female that he has not had carnal knowledge with. It wasn't that Henry made the best of first impressions, but give him time, give him an evening even with a nun, and she'll be at the alter the next morning, still trembling from a night of degradation, renouncing or reaffirming her vows.
Henry fought with his wife, the first wife, the one with the shovel face, like two piranhas caught in a barrel. If you have read any of Henry's books you know that he shares his life, everything, even the stuff that makes him look like a lout. "When I got home my wife was awake and sore as hell because I had stayed out so long. We had a hot discussion and finally I lost my temper and I clouted her and she fell on the floor and began to weep and sob. The girl upstairs came running down to see what was the matter. She was in her kimono and her hair was hanging down her back. In the excitement she got close to me and things happened without either of us intending anything to happen. (I didn't believe that part for a second.) We put the wife to bed with a wet towel around her forehead and the while the girl upstairs was bending over her I stood behind her and lifting her kimono. I got it into her and she stood there a long time talking a lot of foolish soothing nonsense. Finally I climbed into bed with the wife and to my utter amazement she began to cuddle up to me and without saying a word we locked horns and we stayed that way until dawn. I should have been worn out but instead I was wide awake, and I lay there beside her planning to take the day off and look up the whore with the beautiful fur whom I was talking to earlier in the day. After that I began to think about another woman, the wife of one of my friends. Henry is a man that is never satiated. One conquest just inspires him for the next one. With a clap on my shoulder and a squeeze Henry always launches into a new story that has me shaking my head. By comparison, I feel like my life is as boring as a Methodist sermon.
Henry is living for all of us.
Like every other fool I know I've lent Henry money. Lent, that is rich, I'm still deluding myself. He doesn't repay a loan. He makes you forget you lent it to him in the first place. I remember one night when a mutual friend of ours explained the circumstances with Henry. "If you need a little money I'll raise it for you. It's like throwing it down a sewer, I know, but I'll do it for you just the same. The truth is, Henry, I like you a hell of a lot. I've taken more from you than I would from anybody in the world." Henry just grinned as our friend's hat passed around and even people that had known him less than an hour tossed in a bit of green. It wasn't until we were leaving, weaving our own snake trail out the door, that my friend discovered that along with the money Henry had also absconded with his hat.
I was with Henry the night he met the nymphomaniac Paula. "She has the loose jaunty swing and perch of the doubled-barreled sex, all her movements radiating from the groin, always in equilibrium, always ready to flow, to wind and twist, and clutch, the eyes going tic-toc, the toes twitching and twinkling, the flesh rippling like a lake furrowed by a breeze. This is the incarnation of the hallucination of sex, the sea nymph squirming in the maniac's arms.", Needless to say I left by myself, but not before Henry touched me for a Jackson.
I have never figured out if Henry is a coward or the bravest of the brave. He rejects the life that I spend so much of each day trying to build for myself. He didn't tell me this, but I found it in one of his books. "I realize quietly what a terribly civilized person I am-the need I have for people, conversation, books, theatre, music, cafes, drinks, and so forth. It's terrible to be civilized, because when you come to the end of the world you have nothing to support the terror of loneliness. To be civilized is to have complicated needs, And a man, when he is full blown, shouldn't need a thing." The thing of it is Henry couldn't be Henry except for the existence of people like myself who always buy him a drink and marvel at his stories. He is living off the efforts of "civilized" men and women. He doesn't have to own anything, because someone will always give him what he needs. "He had neither pride, nor vanity, nor envy. About the big issues he was clear, but confronted by the petty details of life he was bewildered."
The Nasty Genius
The thing of it is despite his best efforts Henry Miller became a useful member of society. He published books describing a life so unencumbered that even those of us perfectly satisfied with our soft lives eking out a possession laden life of soulless corporate kowtowing have doubts that we have chosen our lives wisely.
Henry met this woman named June who hauled him off to Paris.
I don't get to hear his stories first hand anymore. I have to buy his books to find out what he has been up to. I miss Henry. He had me gaze upon the greener pastures on the other side of the fence, but he couldn't convince me to jump over and stay over. Every so often despite his better financial circumstances I still get a note with a plea for a few dollars for old time's sake. I, the dutiful enabling friend, always send him what I can spare.