WASHINGTON--No one has heard from any former Barack Obama girlfriend until now--when Genevieve Cook surfaces in a new Obama biography by David Maraniss.
Cook kept a diary of their relationship and she writes in one entry in 1984:
Saturday, February 25
"The sexual warmth is definitely there--but the rest of it has sharp edges and I'm finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all. I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness--and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me."
The diary segment is part of an excerpt in Vanity Fair where Maraniss writes that Obama met her in 1983 at a "Christmas party down in the East Village, at 240 East 13th Street. It was B.Y.O.B., and Genevieve Cook brought a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream. The host was a young man employed as a typist at Chanticleer Press, a small Manhattan publishing company that specialized in coffee-table books. Genevieve had worked there briefly but had left to attend graduate school at Bank Street College, up near Columbia, and was now an assistant teacher for second and third graders at Brooklyn Friends School. She was living temporarily at her mother and stepfather's place on the Upper East Side.
"....Standing in the kitchen was a guy named Barack, wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, dark leather jacket. They spoke briefly, then moved on. Hours later, after midnight, she was about to leave when Barack Obama approached and asked her to wait. They plopped down on an orange beanbag chair at the end of the hall, and this time the conversation clicked.
"...Obama was six months out of Columbia when Genevieve Cook came along and engaged him in the deepest romantic relationship of his young life. She called him Bahr-ruck, with the accent on the first syllable, and a trill of the r's. Not Bear-ick, as the Anglophile Kenyans pronounced it, and not Buh-rock, as he would later be called, but Bahr-ruck. She said that is how he pronounced it himself, at least when talking to her. He was living on the Upper West Side and working in Midtown, at a job that paid the rent but did not inspire him. He was still in a cocoon phase, wondering about his place, keeping mostly to himself, occasionally hanging out with his Pakistani friends, who partied too much and too hard, he thought, but were warm and generous and buoyant intellectual company.
"Genevieve offered something more. She was 25, three years older than he was, born in 1958. She kept a journal, as he did, and thought of herself as an observer, as he did, and brooded about her identity, as he did, and had an energetic, independent, and at times exasperating mother, as he did, and burned with an idealism to right the wrongs of the world, as he did.
"A few weeks into January 1984 they were seeing each other regularly on Thursday nights (when she would be up in his neighborhood, finishing one of her Bank Street classes) and on weekends. He was living then as a boarder in a fourth-floor walkup at 622 West 114th Street. It was a rent-controlled three-bedroom apartment. She remembered how on Sundays Obama would lounge around, drinking coffee and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, bare-chested, wearing a blue and white sarong. His bedroom was closest to the front door, offering a sense of privacy and coziness. Genevieve described it in her journal this way: "I open the door, that Barack keeps closed, to his room, and enter into a warm, private space pervaded by a mixture of smells that so strongly speak of his presence, his liveliness, his habits--running sweat, Brut spray deodorant, smoking, eating raisins, sleeping, breathing."