Yvonne Hopkins

The University of California at Berkeley was on the quarter system. There were four quarters a year, and you were expected to attend three of them and take one quarter off as vacation. The theory was that you could take any quarter off you wanted to. After a few years this was abandoned and they went back to the semester system. But while I was there they were using quarters.

I started attending the University of California at Berkeley in the Autumn of 1966. I attended the Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer quarters, then took the Fall 1967 quarter off as my vacation. My big adventure was to hitchhike to New York City.

This was the era of the counterculture, the "Summer of Love", the Hippie experience. The beatniks had grown into the Hippies and suddenly the whole of the United States was leaning towards San Francisco. The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Bother and the Holding Company, young people all over the United States were listening to their records. Someone was singing "When you come to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair", and he was singing it from every radio station in America.

It was in this atmosphere that I crossed the United States. That is another story. But my life was changed by the lady I found in New York City.

I met a girl named Yvonne Hopkins. She was with her friend Alice. They said that they were going to an abandoned haunted apartment to shoot up heroin and sleep with each other.

A week or two later she came by apartment where I was staying with some other guys. We sat in the kitchen and talked. She showed me her "toys"; an eyedropper and a hypodermic needle that attached to it. She said she used it for taking heroin.

She asked me if she could kiss me. I said "yes". So she did. Wow. I mean WOW. I had never before in my life been kissed by a woman. I could feel that kiss on my lips six hours later.

A week later she stopped in and announced that Friday night she would come and spend the night with me. Well, I knew what this meant. This meant that I would finally lose my virginity. This was a big event for me.

It is a curious coincidence in my political / sexual development that the following Saturday was "The Exorcism Of The Pentagon". Many of my friends in New York City were hitchiking down to Washington to attend. I would have gone, but I stayed in New York City, awaiting a very special visit by Yvonne. At the time I thought it significant that I chose sex over war; love over politics.

In this run down apartment building there were some apartments where nobody lived. My friends and I had cleaned out one of them and put in a cot so that anyone who wanted to be alone with a lady could have a place to do so. I was proud to announce that I was reserving the love nest for Friday night.

Sure enough, Friday evening Yvonne came over and we went into that apartment. I tried to be romantic. I built a fire in the fireplace. A few minutes later the guy from upstairs came running down in a panic. It seems that the flue wasn't cleared out all the way to the roof, and the smoke from the fire was merely going up one floor and pouring into his apartment. So we doused the fire.

So we went to bed in my sleeping bag on the cot. With our clothes on. I rubbed anything of hers that I could find to rub; I didn't really know anything else to do. I didn't really know what to do. It made me feel great that I was allowed to have sex with her, but I was too much a child to actually do it, or even to know how to do it; I was just glad that I was going to do it. Eventually she realized that I was never going to do anything on my own, that she was going to have to do it to me, so she did.

Ten days earlier she had been the first lady to kiss me. That Friday she was the first lady I had ever had sexual intercourse with. Monday she became the first lady to come to live with me, and Tuesday morning we set out for California.

That first day we hitchhiked only as far as New Jersey. We had brought the cot along as well as the sleeping bag, clothes, etc. I remember that night we left the freeway and walked into a small wooded area near some fields, set up the cot and the sleeping bag, and slept there.

The next day we made it all the way to Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. This is where I had spent my childhood. A month earlier I had stopped there on my way to New York to see my childhood friend Danny Elek. This time I was returning from New York with an actual female lady. Danny was overwhelmingly impressed.

Danny's parents were not pleased. Danny's parents weren't going to allow this illicit sex in their house. They had to let me sleep there because I was Danny's old friend, and they had to let Yvonne sleep there because she was with me, but they weren't going to let us sleep together. In fact, they made me sleep upstairs in one of the bedrooms, and they made her sleep downstairs in the basement. So at night, after they were asleep, I had to sneak down two flights of stairs in order to continue my research.

After a couple of days Yvonne and I left and headed west. We got several rides, finally culminating in a "fastback" car. This car was jazz, but it also had an exhaust leak that sent carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment. By the time we pulled into Chicago everyone was dizzy and confused and I don't know how the guy managed to keep driving. I guess he was used to it. Then we hitchiked south-west out of Chicago.That night we found a motel in south-western Illinois.

The next morning we were picked up by a guy who wasn't going any particular place. He offered to drive us all the way to California if we paid for the gasoline. We agreed. But I didn't have enough cash on me to pay for the gas, so I telephoned my parents and got them to wire us some money. We would pick up the money at the Western Union office in Amarillo, Texas.

During that phone call I dropped the bombshell on my mother. I said that I was not alone, that I was bringing a friend with me from New York. Then I said "Her name is Yvonne." Dead silence from the other end of the phone line. I smiled; I could just imagine what was going through my mother's mind.

The guy and I took turns driving. We picked up the money in Amarillo and drove on to Southern California. Yvonne was really shocked when we pulled into my parent's driveway. Because of the poverty she had been raised in, and because I was wearing grubby clothes in New York, she assumed that my parents were poor. In fact, by her standards my parents were rich. They were merely middle class, maybe upper middle class, but she came from the slums of New York City. California suburban life was incredible luxury to her.

My parents imposed the following sleeping arrangements: I would sleep in my room, and Yvonne would sleep in my sister's room down the hallway. Soon, however, Yvonne and I fell into pattern. We would stay in the living room watching TV until my parents went to bed, then we would screw on the living room floor. Then we would each go to sleep in our separate rooms.

I remember vividly that one night we broke out of this pattern. Yvonne and I watched TV for a while, then we went together to my bedroom, took off our clothes, and climbed into bed together. But we just talked. No sex, just talking. What do you like, where will we go, what will we do, that sort of thing. After almost an hour, my mother burst into the room and said "I can see an occasional piece of ass, but this playing at being married has got to stop!"

This line has gone down in my life as one of the major sayings. My mother's mouth was so pure, for her to say "piece of ass" was incredible. The big joke was that, apparently, screwing the girl was OK but talking to her was prohibited. Years later I was married to Grace, and we had two children and owned a house and two cars and a swimming pool and a color TV and a fireplace. Sometimes I would stop, look at her very seriously, and say "Grace, I can see an occasional piece of ass, but this playing at being married has got to stop."

After the holidays Yvonne and I moved up to Berkeley so that I could continue with my studies at the University of California. My father was sore perplexed by how much money to send me. To give us money would be to support the illicit sex and yet to give us no money at all would be to deny me a college education. Eventually he decided to send me exactly the same amount of money that he had sent me the previous year. It was exactly sixty two dollars and fifty cents every two weeks.

Yvonne and I found an apartment to rent in West Berkeley. This was a low class part of town; lots of blacks lived there. Our apartment was half of the ground floor of a house; the people upstairs were the landlords. We got along fine with them.

When we started there we had very little money. While waiting for my father's check, we lived for a week on potatoes and Kool Aid. I remember having six baked potatoes for lunch and eight baked potatoes for dinner. When the check arrived we splurged on spagetti.

One time Yvonne baked us three cakes and to liven things up she used food die to color one of them red, one yellow, and one blue. They tasted OK but they did not look like food.

In those days all us young people smoked marijuana; "pot" as we called it. Yvonne came from a New York culture where one was measured as cool by how much pot you could smoke and not be affected by it. When we started hanging out in Berkeley, she would play her usual tricks of taking minor puffs off the joint, holding it but not inhaling, doing all her stuff to appear to be smoking it but trying to be as unaffected as possible. My friends got irritated because she was just wasting the stuff. I taught her that in California you were measured as cool by how stoned you could get and still keep functioning. The idea was to get totally blasted out of your mind yet still be able to figure out that those dancing wiggly creatures in front of you are suposed to be cookies and you can eat them. Get so blasted that going to the toilet is a major expedition. Get so blasted that just standing up requires arguing with your various body parts for ten minutes before they can all agree on a plan of action. Eventually she adapted and blended into the culture.

Jimi Hendrix, probably the greatest guitarist of all time, had his first album out a few months earlier, "The Jimi Hendrix Experience". A cut on that album was "Foxy Lady". This was Yvonne's dream. She wanted to be a Foxy Lady. She wanted to be The Foxy Lady.

In February we had some difficulties between us and Yvonne flew back to New York City for a week. Then she returned to California.

Yvonne's mind did not work in ways that I was used to. She had a hard time dealing with certain things. Yvonne did not know how old she was. She thought she was maybe fourteen, but she wasn't sure. I'm not sure, either. Her mother had remarried, and Yvonne did not know how to spell her mother's new name. Yvonne would get on the telephone to the operator in New York and she asked for the telephone number and she couldn't say her mother's last name correctly. When the operator asked "How do you spell that?" Yvonne would call out a string of letters that was wildly incorrect. The operator would say "Would you please spell that again, please?" and Yvonne would spell it again in a completely different way. I got upset the first  time, but after that I just thought it was funny. The poor operator must have been going off the wall! I would get on the line and tell her how it was really spelled and we would get the number and Yvonne would call her mother. She said that her mother was Puerto Rican, and that her father was black. I don't know; I never met any of her family.

Everyone I know has the ability to keep a list in his or her head, and to follow the items on the list. Yvonne could not do this. Yvonne operated on a gestalt principle. Given the universe as it is, what do I do now? She could not follow a task list { A, B, C, then D }. On the other hand she seemed to be psychic. Her mind worked in a very different way than my mind, and yet it was fascinating to be with her. Perhaps Edger Allen Poe was like that.

All the time I knew her Yvonne only worked at a job for one day. She got a job stuffing envelopes, and she got fired the first day. They had printed up form letters and envelopes. Yvonne had to fold the letter and put it the envelope that had the same name on it as the letter. But no. She would put two letters in one envelope, no letter in another envelope, put the letter for one person into the envelope addressed to another person.  After they fired her they had to rip open all the envelopes, reprint them, and stuff them all over again.

Two friends came  from La Habra to see me. We went prowling together. That is, my two friends came to the apartment and we four were supposed to go out together. But we dumped her. We said that the motorcycle only held two people plus the driver, so the three of us would go up to Telegraph and then I would come back alone and pick up Yvonne. That's what we told Yvonne. Actually I confess that we had no intention of coming back. My friends and I had a fine time that evening.

About 4AM, we were sitting in another friend's house when Yvonne walked in. She came over to me and dropped into my lap a computer printout that I had done at the university and taken home.  She pointed to the printout and said "How could you do this to me?" I understood her perfectly. I was used to how she thought in images, icons, associations. The printout was part of my college experience, part of my intellectual life, a life she could never share with me. She could not fit into algorithms and mathematics and computers. Her universe was experience and expression and imagery. Her mind was poetry, not mathematical logic. She might paint, but she could never program. I was moving on, and I was leaving her behind. My old friend Don, sitting there, was blown out of his mind. He said later that it was like a scene from the Beatle's song "Eleanor Rigby".

She and I were no longer lovers after that. A few days later she climbed on an airplane and flew back to New York City.

My father offered to pay for her airplane fare back to New York City. He sent me a check, but I tore it up. I figured that part of being a man was that you had to pay to get rid of your own women. When the time comes, you shell out the cash and wave good-bye; it's part of being a man.

That autumn, when I was already living with Grace, I received a letter from Yvonne. In the letter she said that she had been pregnant when she left me, and that she had gotten an abortion in New York City. She said she was sorry for my unborn child. She said it was getting cold, and she asked me to give her a winter coat. Grace and I talked about the letter, and I decided to ignore it. If I received such a letter today, I would not ignore it.


The first version of this web page was put on the world wide web several years ago. On Saturday morning, September 8, 2001, I received an electronic mail message saying that it came from Yvonne. I had not heard from her for thirty years. She had seen my web site, and the page about her, and she was very upset.

Because of her comments, I reviewed what I had written and indeed it was too harsh. She is different, but she is not "dumb". Her mind works very differently from the way my mind works, but I have no way to judge her mental level. So I rewrote this page. This time I have been more careful about the contents. This page is now more accurate.

Please remember that everything I have said here is about the young girl I lived with forty years ago. She has changed considerably since then. It is not who she is today. She has found Jesus. God has turned her life around. She is a new woman. She stopped taking drugs many years ago. She now writes poetry.