Passive Echoes

From December, 1970 - May, 1971


 


 


Indignant, bewildered, and bruised by Larry's cold and uncaring attitude, Marcia confronted him in the hallway between classes one morning. This occurred after she and Kay had passed him on a stairwell and he did not respond when they greeted him.

Larry says that he softly spoke and acknowledged their greeting but it was inaudible to them because of the loud clamor of students changing classes. When he was nearing the top of the stairwell they both shouted to him, "Are you too cute to speak?" Larry simply turned and briefly stared at them without saying a word, then continued to class.

During the next change of class Marcia searched and found him. She stood toe-to-toe with Larry and as she strained her neck to look up to him she adamantly demanded that he call her to discuss their relationship that evening.

However, because of Larry's acrimonious tone when he called her ("You asked me to call, so what do you want?") and their mutual pain this only resulted in a bitter telephone exchange. At some point, Larry softly said "goodbye" and abruptly ended the telephone call in the midst of her "telling him off".

Afterwards, embarassed by her behavior, for the next several weeks until the end of the semester she avoided him when possible. On the rare occasions when they did encounter each other they would not exchange any form of greeting.

The one exception occurred when he observed her limping in pain and immediately hastened to her side to offer assistance. She kindly refused his offer and assured him that she could manage unassisted. This foolish and immature pattern of conduct continued for several months until she became ill and sent for him before leaving from school one morning, a week after returning from winter break.


Marcia acknowledges that she did not acquire the ability and the capacity to distinguish genuine love from counterfeit love or infatuation until she was past her seventeenth birthday, during her freshman year in college. Before 1970, her relationships during the "not serious but just having fun" phase were marked by several infatuations or "puppy love" which soon fizzled out and dissipated with the test of time, which always occurs with counterfeit love.


In the past when she was  infatuated with someone it was with individuals that she had dated for many months or years. However, when she actually realized that she was truly in love with Larry they were rarely speaking and had no relationship, not even a platonic one. They merely attended the same conservatory and at times casually passed each other in the spacious hallways.

This occurred during the fall of 1970 and prior to Marcia leaving NCSA for the remainder of the school term in January, 1971. It was a love not blinded by any physical  or verbal expressions of affection nor "in your face daily" interactions because they were at an impasse in their relationship, and did not as much as hold hands or talk for more than a few moments during this period. 

Although her feelings were perplexing, they were genuine, permanent, and unique in comparison to past relationships. Marcia struggled with her feelings and did not want to confront or acknowledge the extent of them, not to herself nor to anyone else.

Furthermore, she had become somewhat hardened by her two previous years at NCSA and did not care much about the personal opinions of others, what they thought or felt about her. Because of her new sense of self-worth, confidence, and independent thinking her roommate, Kay, was somewhat baffled and suspicious concerning Marcia's preoccupation and anxiety about her relationship with Larry. Thus, she was compelled to ask her one evening if she had developed deeper affections or was perhaps in love with Larry.

Kay inquired due to Marcia's overall behavior; her anger, hurt, and deep concern over Larry's cold and dispassionate treatment of her. Marcia's response was: "No... I don't believe so. I just don't appreciate his rarely speaking and treating me this way. Larry has always been expressive, affectionate, and very tender with me. Never has he acted quite like this before, even when he was angered." In her heart, Marcia knew she was only deceiving herself and not wanting to admit that there was much more.


This was especially impressed on Marcia when she observed from a distance the woman that Larry was dating during that period dropping him off at school one morning. As she watched inconspicuously, this woman embraced and kissed him goodbye, however, she did not notice that Larry did not reciprocate this display of affection.

Marcia stated that she suddenly felt what she describes as: "That gnawing pang of jealousy and heartbreak. It nearly killed me." Although this "woman" in her mid 20's did not attend UNCSA, Marcia's worst fear had come to fruition, that of seeing Larry romantically involved with someone. The only possible worse situation was if he was seeing someone attending UNCSA. She remarked: "I could not bear the idea of his dating a girl on campus. I would not have been able to cope emotionally with that scenario."

Larry felt the same, and that was his reason for always leaving immediately after classes and living off campus. He could not envision a young lady as attractive and beautiful as Marcia not having a steady beau. In fact, when she was attempting to reconnect with him she was not seeing anyone. Furthermore, again similar to himself, during his senior year in high school at UNCSA she never dated anyone "seriously" on or off campus.

In part this dilemma was due to a bilateral agreement made between them when they ended their first courtship. This involved never discussing any details about if or whom they were dating. There were still strong feelings and affection that existed between them and neither wanted to know these matters.

This agreement was adhered to until initiated by Marcia in October, '71, they mutually agreed to dissolve it a few days after they were engaged during their second courtship. At that time they decided to be completely honest and totally open about their former relationships and the circumstances.

Somewhat befuddled by his lack of desire for independence, Larry's father had often asked him why he preferred to deal with the inconvenience of driving or taking the bus to campus daily for classes and various other activities. He could have enjoyed the freedom and convenience of on campus living in a private room if he preferred. Also, he had a meal pass that was paid for that he never used because of this fear of seeing her, as he put it, "with some dude eating lunch or dinner." 

Larry's explanation to his father his senior year was that the curfew for high school students would have prevented him from doing his 3-4 nightclub gigs during the week. The nine piece band and three singers that he performed with and arranged for were the "house band" for the downtown Holiday Inn during that period and often performed Thursday through Sunday. Once a month they were on the road for two nights. It was his desire to become a professional composer or a professional trombonist, composer, and arranger in the mold of trombonist James Pankow of the group "Chicago".

The money was good, so he was not going to sacrifice the gig for convenience, although his personal allowance from his father often exceeded what he made playing. However, similar to Larry, his father was once a jazz and R&B trombonist and played in clubs before becoming a medical doctor. Thus, he understood and permitted Larry to have his way, never knowing the real reason.


Although it was her intention to tell Larry how she felt before she left school in January, 1971, she did not confess her love for him until the following fall of 1971. Rather, on that cold January morning, Marcia implored her best friend, Kay, to summon Larry to her room, instructing her to "do whatever it takes" to get him there.


Larry was in Mr. Suggs English class when Kay located and pleaded with him to go and see Marcia before she left for the remainder of the year, or perhaps forever. Recognizing by her persistence that Kay was serious, Larry immediately left class and ran to  her dormitory.

When he arrived and she opened the door he recognized that Marcia had just finished showering and was clothed only in a short towel and head covering. Larry asked if she wanted him to come back later. Worried that he may not return, she said no and invited him in.

This was not an attempt at seduction. Rather, her apparel did not concern her because Larry's attitude and demeanor during the year had instilled doubt in her mind that he was still in love with her or was even attracted to her any longer.

Unsuspecting to Marcia, her appearance was extremely distracting to Larry and required all of his reserves of self-control to not take her into his arms. Thus, he avoided direct eye contact and simply stood in a corner with his arms folded and gazing away from her. This was especially so as she sat down on her bed as they talked and began to lotion her beautiful legs. This was a natural function for her but was highly sensuous and seductive to Larry. She mistakenly viewed his actions as detachment and ambivalence.  

Marcia had requested to see him to finally reveal the extent of her affection for him. Larry was emotionless as ever and if her intuition was correct, she feared that she could not bear his rejection if she revealed how she truly felt about him.

Unknowing to either of them, they were finally mutually in love with each other. Yet, during their somewhat brief interchange of apologies and regrets for what had taken place between them during the year, neither verbally expressed their love. They merely embraced, vowed to write, and said goodbye that dreary and sad January morning.

Before Marcia left, Kay inquired about how their meeting went. Marcia stated very dejectedly: "Not very well. I have serious doubt that he is still in love with me. But, I really don't know him anymore. However, we did agree to write to each other. Perhaps with time he will open up to me."  

Larry never returned to class. Rather, when he left Marcia he walked to an area of dreamy familiarity and sat on the picnic bench under the tress where they had shared months of intimacy and countless hours of conversing in 1968. As he reflected and reminisced, tears began to gently form in his eyes. For the sake of his own sanity he abruptly left that sanctuary from the past and walked home, a walk that he had made numerous times before upon leaving her embrace.


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Dr. Mennini's Influence:

Several years ago, Larry purchased a book about NCSA entitled, "A Passionate Preference: The Story of the North Carolina School of the Arts" by Leslie Banner. He states that Philip Dunigan aptly described Dr. Mennini's persona on pages 245-246:


"Our dean (of music) was Louis Mennini. Have you ever heard of him? Lou Mennini was the older brother of Peter Mennin (Composer and Julliard President, dropped "i" at the end of name to avoid confusion with older brother and composer, Louis), who had been my theory teacher at Julliard and at that time he had just moved into the job as President of Julliard. And Lou Mennini was one of the most wonderful men I've ever met, very low key, easy going, loved music, tremendous enthusiast, an absolute encyclopedia of knowledge of music and love of everything ... but on the conservative side.
 
So he and Vittorio hit it off great. They loved music, they loved beautiful girls, they loved to get together and have a little espresso in the morning and a little brandy, and that's the way they started the day. And during that hour in the morning, about ten o'clock, they'd go back in Vittorio's office, and no disturbing them! They had a little conference, absolutely wonderful, and then the day's work would begin."

When Dr. Giannini suddenly died, Dr. Mennini served as interim president until Dr. Ward was appointed. 


For Larry, attending NCSA was intended to be a one year experience, just a brief detour from his chosen career path. After graduation from high school he was to pursue medicine, not music. Larry misled his father to believe that he had applied to Fisk University, his father’s alma mater, for entrance to begin his pre-med education. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and ultimately attend Meharry Medical College in Nashville after graduation from Fisk.  

Composition students at UNCSA then and now are taught principally classical composition techniques. Hence, Larry’s father felt that that there was no threat to his goals and no true expectations of his making a living composing classical music. In March 1971, Dr. Mennini informed Larry that he was planning on leaving NCSA to focus more on composing. He encouraged Larry to continue his studies the following year at NCSA with Dr. Ward, his freshman year in college


Throughout his brief life, Larry had prepared to be a medical doctor and loved the challenges of medicine. However, he was now nurturing two greater passions, his love for composing and for Marcia. Pursuing medicine was no longer his focus or his aspiration. However, he pretended to apply for entrance into Fisk University.


This pretense ended in late March 1971 when he informed his father of his deception. His father was extremely hurt and disappointed in Larry’s ruse. He refused to attend his graduation from the high school division at NCSA. Nonetheless, all was forgiven by July 1971 and he provided Larry with more than what was necessary to support his career choice.

Marcia wrote to Larry her third and final letter in early April. She was hoping that she would receive a response this time. In this letter she mentioned his preparation for graduation and that perhaps he had become too preoccupied to respond to her previous two letters. She emphasized how much that she "really cared" about him and wished that he could take a few moments from his busy schedule to respond, even briefly, to her letters.

In actuality, being "So Far Away" (Marcia first introduced Larry to the music of Carol King) she longed to find an opportunity to return to Winston-Salem to be near him, to perhaps receive an invitation to his graduation and to the reception. She would have made arrangements to ride the bus for the nearly six-hour trip and stay with Kay in her old dorm room for a few days with the hope of resolving their impasse and discussing the possibility of a future together. Marcia had not given up on this possibility until there was no response from him near the end of April.

Larry only invited his immediate family, Luke, and Mr. Hunt to his graduation. He did not attend any festivities on campus before or afterwards. While shaking Dr. Mennini’s hand and embracing him when he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, Dr. Mennini whispered into his ear reminding him of a conversation they had wherein he counseled Larry, “Always compose from the heart, not the head.”

But his heart had grown so very weary from pain and longing and needed a respite. There was no celebration or graduation party. He asked that no one do anything special and that he desired to  spend the weekend alone to reflect on his future plans. After graduation he immediately returned home and changed clothes. Then he retreated to his backyard with a blanket, pen and paper, and a bottle of Chianti to devote time to writing poetry and to continue work on his first symphony.

He later went to the theatre alone but left midway through the movie and retreated to his basement for the remainder of the evening to nurture his misery while listening to old jazz albums and finishing off the Chianti.

 


 

 

 

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