In the Background

I learned today, transcribing another letter, that Hugh Lawson got Penny her job at Greenshields Incorporated in Vancouver when we arrived in 1963. It’s in the one dated March 13, 1964. Here’s the quote:

One bit of good news lover. You remember Hugh Lawson, the chap who helped me get a job when we first came out here? Well, I was talking to him about my plans to go to England the other day and he said when my plans were definite, he would write to Dominion Securities in London and if they don’t have a job for me, they will see that I get one – Is that good news or what?

I didn’t remember then, and don’t now. What this reference means is either, that Donny told Penny to see his friend Hugh in Vancouver, or that she met Hugh when canvassing for a job and he later became friends with Donny in Toronto. Either way, Hugh met Penny from the get-go when we got there. This explains a lot that I haven’t discussed before.

Penny’s excitement at being with me in the Sault, Toronto and Muskoka, and initially in Vancouver, cooled over the first few months. I’ve mentioned the rain, the terrible climate, my depression; but Penny herself became distant during  December and January. This recollection made me turn to my unpublished biography originally written in 1995. Here’s how I described my feelings then:

We rented an apartment in the West End, Penny got a job with Greenshields Incorporated and I started with UPI editing their Canada West Radio Wire. Everything should have been just ducky, but for some reason, it wasn’t. I had the girl I always wanted, but at the same time I felt I didn’t have her. It was weird. On the one hand, there she was in bed. On the other, she was like a stranger. Even while we made love, I wondered who exactly she was. The wonderfully expressive Penny I’d seen in letters, and in person in the East, seemed to be hidden inside someone entirely different who was remote, independent, almost indifferent.

Let’s go back to the quote. Penny reveals more in it than she realized. Since she and Hugh worked for different companies, they weren’t work colleagues. She must have been meeting him socially. And even then, what woman discusses her marriage plans with a passing business acquaintance? For that matter, what businessman offers to guarantee a woman he has met briefly three months earlier a job in a foreign country? Clearly this is a personal relationship. It feels more like pillow-talk than idle chatter.

The obvious explanation for my subjective feelings, and for the innocent-sounding quote, is that Penny was spending her sexual energy with Hugh Lawson. Women have the ability to compartmentalize their minds, but not their bodies. I was getting sex, but I wasn’t getting passion, and dimly, I noticed it. For years, I blamed the weather. How human is that? You have to blame something. Now Martha Croome’s remarks about Penny having an affair in Vancouver, make sense.

This understanding has caused me to re-evaluate my feelings regarding my leaving Vancouver. Whereas for years I felt guilty, now I’m beginning to realize I left because I was subconsciously trying to draw Penny away from Hugh. Women are always more attracted to the unobtainable than the attainable, and suddenly I was dancing away from her. I couldn’t possibly have devised a better plan to win her a second time. So, well done Frank.

Like a game of chess, Hugh must have thought how he could counter my move. First, he could organize a job for her in his own company. That would keep her in sight. Second, he could intervene on her trip to England. Humm.

There is one other unexplained event. Penny originally said she was going to take the train to Toronto. At the last minute, she decides to fly. Where did the money come from? And what happened to the four days she saved from her schedule?

I think I see Hugh’s guiding hand again, don’t you?