Joyce Johnson speaks to the Guardian about her relationship with Jack Kerouac:
For the time they were together, it seems Kerouac leaned heavily on Johnson; both before and after the hurly-burly that proceeded On the Road's publication, she represented a rare fixed point in his life. "When I met him in the January of '57, he had absolutely no idea what awaited him," she says. "Because he'd suffered - he'd had a novel published in '49, The Town and the City, and he'd written several other novels, including On the Road, and none of them had been published. And he'd lived an impoverished life, essentially the life of a homeless person. It's all very romantic to go on the road, but it's also rather terrible not to have a place of your own. And he was always sort of searching for a place he could be, but because of the way he was, he could never find that. He'd set off for a new destination imagining it was gonna be great, and then he'd get there and bad vibes would come, and the bad vibes were inside him, of course ..."
Kerouac took, it seems, a similar attitude towards relationships. "Yes," she nods, "I think he had a grass-is-greener idea about women. I also think he was very messed up about women because of his overly intense relationship with his mother. And in a way, I think, flitting from woman to woman was his way of staying faithful to his mother - no one was ever going to supplant her as the fixed figure in his life." When Johnson and Kerouac finally split for good, it was after he had spent an evening drunkenly flirting with another woman right in front of her. "Choked with pain, I searched for the worst words I could think of. 'You're nothing but a big bag of wind!'" she writes in Minor Characters. "'Unrequited love's a bore!' he shouted back. Enraged, we stared at each other, half-weeping, half-laughing. I rushed away, hoping he'd follow. But he didn't."