“You’re a Bachmann,” I said, uncomprehending.

“Yes, I’m a Bachmann. I’m Margaret Bachmann.”

“Margaret Bachmann? You mean . . . you’re Marcy?!”

“Yes, I’m Marcy.”

Speechless for a second, I quickly recovered and told her I was the guy who’d written the Newsweek story so many years ago, about her running away to New York, did she remember? Did she remember! She immediately lit into me as if she’d been waiting all these years for that guy to show up at her door. That was an awful, awful thing I did to her, taking advantage of a young girl, how painful it was, how horrible it made her feel, and how it had so upset her family, how embarrassing with friends and neighbors reading it. And she was 19, not 17 like I’d written, and she didn’t even know what STP was, although she did admit to a liking for LSD.

After agreeing that I’d done a terrible thing and apologizing a dozen times, I told her this man with the camera who was coming up the walk right now was my associate, Dan Loewenthal, and that we were here to do a film about the consequences of such careless and thoughtless journalism, hoping to make amends and be forgiven. And on and on.

Eventually she relaxed, and invited us into her living room, now a little crowded, what with us and her large rescue dogs, including a boisterous Rottweiler she’d acquired to scare away criminals. Speaking in a voice you could probably hear several houses away, she ran briefly through her life after being dropped off that day at the Jersey Turnpike. She and her friends hitched to Haight-Ashbury, she worked as a waitress, attended and then dropped out of college, knew Country Joe and the Fish and Timothy Leary, was present at Altamont. She then moved to Hawaii, where she got married and had three boys and a girl, made and lost a lot of money in real estate and the restaurant business, and, after getting divorced, moved back to Flint in the late ’90s. She bought out her sister’s share of her parents’ house, and was now settled into a quiet retirement, living on her Social Security check and tending her organic garden.

As it grew dark, we said we had to go, but made a date for lunch the next day. It wasn’t until we reached our motel that I realized I’d forgotten to tell her about the story that was running tomorrow on the front page of the Sunday Journal. Thanks to the digital age, it would include not only the reporter’s interview with Dan and me, but also the original Newsweek story, as well as the radio interview on WNEW. All of Flint would now listen in as Steve Young slid that old phone over to the clueless flower child and asked in his unctuous fashion: “Would you like to call your parents?”

It was as if I’d never learned a thing. Oh, Marcy, I thought, I’ve done it to you all over again!

*Correction: The original article erroneously had the writer searching through yearbooks from 1954, and Bachmann spelled “Bachman.” Please also see our Editors’ note about this piece.

 

Bruce Porter is the author of Blow. He is working on a book for St. Martin's Press about a woman who was kidnapped by guerillas in Colombia while working as an undercover operative for the DEA.