Excerpt from I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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I Will Be Complete

A Memoir

by Glen David Gold

I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold X
I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold
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  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 496 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Print Excerpt

1. The Last Kings of San Francisco

Address Unknown

I think you're an adult when you can no longer tell your life story over the course of a first date. I might have gotten this idea from my parents, because they reinvented themselves so often. Their stories have odd turns which speak not of one life, but of many that don't seem to match up, and of choices you'd think no one would actually make.

When I was twelve years old, I lived by myself for a while. This was the mid-1970s in San Francisco, so the rules were a little different then—and yet not so different that me living alone made much sense. When I describe what happened, people tend to ask, "But how did you end up so—" They dance around the word "normal," then realize it doesn't apply, and instead they say, "So nice?" I'm not nice. I'm polite. Nice is a quality and polite is a strategy. But I have ended up happy. Also, I've ended up something more unusual than that: autonomous.

I have a good memory but lately I've been looking for people who might know more, and I come up empty. Life in the 1970s led to a lot of bad luck and unexpected consequences. Perversely, I'm relieved when I learn some people I wanted to talk to are dead. But then I find one man I don't actually want to: Peter Charming. He's almost invisible, but I'm good at research.

He has no business licenses. He doesn't own property in his name. The house he lived in when I knew him turns out to have belonged to somebody else, and even his 1970s phone number is assigned to a different person in old directories. I can't find any criminal records, though those are difficult to get to the bottom of. The San Francisco Superior Court, however, provides some sheet music in a way and it's up to me to imagine the score. There are civil lawsuits. In some, he's the defendant and in others the plaintiff. One of them went on for seven years and struggled all the way to trial twice.

There are ways the mind pushes back against knowing too much. You research too long. You obsess over irrelevant details. Your memories tend to come in snapshots without context. You amaze the world by how unfazed, how nice you seem. You discount cruelties as if they're anecdotes best brought out in a barroom competition. You also tend to say "you" when you mean "I."

When I was a kid, Peter was bad to my mom. She managed to escape eventually, but at a cost. I don't know if the damage he inflicted upon her was worse financially or emotionally. In our family, money is a convenient cipher for the wounds that are harder to qualify. Accounting for his charisma and promises, you could reduce him to an elemental force that moved my mother and me forward, then backward, then apart. My mother is much more important, but when I think of looking directly at her I reflexively retreat into research. I would rather look into Peter's life again.

People leave San Francisco but something always gets left behind. Usually it's gossip. I've mentioned his name to people who were in that social circle and it's like he never existed. I'm sure they met him and I don't think they're lying when they say they don't remember. He was of a time and a place that are gone. It's like asking about a statue in a park now the site of a high rise. What happened to that old bronze bust? Didn't you see it?

His picture is in the society column of the San Francisco Chronicle in the late 1960s, and he looks young. He hasn't learned arrogance yet. Instead, he looks just shy of self-confident, asking the camera to confirm it sees him as handsome. He's an escort for women who are older. They have their own money, and my hunch is that when they stopped seeing Peter, they still had all of it, minus what they'd given him knowingly. That was before the 1970s, the time that was made for him.

Excerpted from I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold. Copyright © 2018 by Glen David Gold. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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