cation when necessary. In some ways, he
says, they were playmates.
When he made costumes for a Duke
production, he brought them home and
let her try on the ones she liked. He
redecorated and hosted parties at her
house. He borrowed her Cadillac to go on
dates and often found her waiting in the
driveway. In her more lucid moments,
Smith urged him to leave the art history
program at Carolina and apply to Yale to
study costume design.
Long was her main caretaker but not
the only one. “Everybody in the town
knew about Betty,” he said. “We all cared
for and protected her.” People helped
walk her home. Athas writes about that,
too, in her essay on Smith. The postmaster, Yow writes in her book, painted a
spot of red nail polish on her post office
box as a prompt.
Long left Carolina to spend the summer
in Florence, Italy. When he returned,
there was an acceptance letter from Yale.
Smith was gone. Her family had moved
her to the institution in Butner. It was a
complicated relationship, one that 40 years
later, he still struggles to define.
“Not motherly, oh no!” he laughed.
“She was very flirtatious. She loved men.
She loved young men. I had this room
upstairs with twin beds, and I’d wake up
some mornings and she would be sitting
on the other bed, just watching me.”
He feels such guilt that he left for Italy,
that he couldn’t rewrite her ending, that ...
the words dissolve. Finally, he settles on
“heartbreaking.” Love, in all its many
forms, can be that way.
After Yale, Long went to New York
Dreaming, perhaps, so that not one lit-
and flourished. Next to his five Tony
awards, his homes are filled with Betty
Smith ephemera; furniture, paintings of
her, photographs, even the sign from the
house that says, “Betty Smith, 315 E.
What he remembers more than any-
thing is the way he would find her most
mornings, sitting silently in the sunroom at
her desk. She couldn’t type. Couldn’t talk.
He believes she was still writing like
always, just in her head.
tle piece of living was ever lost.
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MARY E. MILLER is a freelance writer based