Letter and Photos from Jenny Davidson











March 5, 1999

Whenever I show anyone these photos of me and Anton from the summer of 1987, I describe him as the great love of my life. I say this only half joking. Here is the list of reasons why Anton Segal was the great love of my life:

The asthma paraphernalia.

His wheezy chuckle.

The strange objects in his bedroom at his parents' house in Houston: broken bricks and planks of wood from tae kwon do competitions, the auto-hypnosis tape supposed to cure acne (a joke present from his father).

The bizarre diagram he drew in a letter to illustrate an otherwise incomprehensible story about being stopped by the Houston highway patrol while driving in the contraflow during rush hour: the elementary-school kid he drove to school was asleep in the back seat and the cops thought he was driving illegally without a passenger. Do you follow? I didn't get it. Thus the need for the drawing. . . .

His favorite expression in July 1987: "Bloody FUCKING hell."

The song he used to sing in bed: "Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got love in my tummy, and it tastes like chocolate wine."

His secret and endearing anxieties about various embarrassing topics: penis size, SAT scores.

Books and music I associate with Anton:

Cat Stevens. Also some undistinguished heavy metal about which it is harder to feel sentimental.

Robert Ludlum (especially The Bourne Identity).

Kurt Vonnegut (especially Cat's Cradle).

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but only with a reservation about certain aspects of the father-son relationship: he couldn't understand how the father could be so heartless as to make his son go and wash the underpants he'd shit in the river. And he was disturbed by the preface to the paperback edition, where Robert Pirsig describes his son's premature death.

Anton was a connoisseur of sandwiches: grinders (Massachusetts), po-boys (Texas), hoagies (Philadelphia). Also and as a consequence he was a connoisseur of heartburn.

It goes without saying that Anton was utterly trustworthy. He also had all the goofy glamour of the hip seventeen-year-old. Irresistible features: having just returned from hitch-hiking in Greece, speaking fluent French, the "A" shaved into the side of his hair when I first met him. "A" for anarchy? Or just for Anton?

The year after we started going out, we were high-school seniors, a difficult time of life. I lived for my Sunday-night phone-calls from Anton. I will always remember his parents' generous hospitality in Houston and I treasure the big manila envelope full of his letters that sits in a closet at my mom's house in Philadelphia. I went to Harvard because of Anton--I'd gotten into Yale early but thought it would be more fun to be with him in Cambridge, MA. Ironically we broke up the week after I sent in my acceptance form to Harvard. But there was nothing to regret. I think we both felt shy whenever we ran into each other in Cambridge: too much intimacy too young, and no sense know of how to build a new friendship out of our past history. When I saw in Harvard's fifth-year anniversary book that Anton was working as a diving instructor in Egypt, I was filled with a secret and irrational delight: how characteristic, how perfect. Reading of his death in Harvard Magazine at the end of February 1999, I could hardly believe that Anton Winthrop-Sakai Segal no longer exists on this planet. He was made for the world and the world was made for him (I seem to remember a line from his college applications--the world's my oyster, he claimed, and we argued about whether the line was too cheesy to keep). None of us will ever forget the time we were lucky enough to spend with him.

Jenny Davidson
jennyd@pantheon.yale.edu