March 28, 2016
At Northern Illinois University, in Founders Memorial Library, on the top floor, on the north side, I sifted through Ceremonies. Then I sat, gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows into the night. Later, I walked down to the Private Collections Room. The librarians there allowed me to read The Songs of Bilitis. Its pages were uncut. They let me cut them with a letter-opener. They didn’t ask if I was a student.
It was spring, 1979, and I had quit my factory job. I had decided to take a year off to write. Almost every day, I drove from Marengo to DeKalb and spent the day at the university. I wrote at the Lagoon during the day. I wrote in the library in the evening. A foot-high pile of Ceremonies pages had collected.
Returning to the top floor, I pulled out the Ceremonies script. I couldn’t make sense of it. I loved the structure that followed no timeline. I couldn’t let go of it. I sat flicking through the pages until closing time at 2 AM. I never broke through. Then I drove home.