GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) Chapter 8, Part 2 — “The Sands” (4 August 1964)

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In any event, Charlie and I’ve been having a fine old time, and we may have become a triumvirate.


His name is Frank Storm. Many kids around here call him “Secret Storm,” after some tv show or other that runs over here. He smiles when they say it, but he’s told me he secretly hates it. Still within school dress code, at least for the moment, our mutually long hair was certainly “an ice-breaker” – a common “outsider” status (though it’s also “in”).


Fritz’s point was well-taken. And, it doesn’t end at hair.

Frank, for all his popularity, shares my sense of feeling like a perpetual outsider here – like an alien – just for being who he is, and where he comes from. Frank and I share a feeling there’ll always be an airlock inside us – a no man’s land – that’s neither American nor European: A void we’ll never be able to fill, no matter how hard we’d try.


I might not feel Frank’s desperation or anxiety, but this I understand all too well. I’ve already felt a few grains of the sands of my Englishness slipping away: Just a few, as yet. If I went back right now, I’d return to normal in less than a week.

But the longer I stay here, the more the grains will slowly slip away. And, what’ll replace them?


The fact that we’ll no longer fit in where we came from doesn’t mean we’ll fit in here either.

Irrespective of how hard we might try, there’ll always be a touch of “as if” to our attempts to be Americans. Some American grains will replace some of the departing European ones – that’s inevitable, and welcome, in a way, I guess – but not enough to replace all the lost ones.

So what of the rest?  Will we ever be enough of anything, or will there always be a vast void – this great vacuum – inside us, denying us a feeling of ever belonging anywhere?

Stan, Rashmi, Jenny – I know each of you has felt like this at one time or another. What do you think – am I whinging too much? Are Frank and I jut feeling too sorry for ourselves? Are we wrong to use this as part of the reason we’re bonding?


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