“What will happen to us?” I asked. “There will always be us,” he answered.”
Just kids is like one long shared breath; breathing in the same air as Patti breathed with Robert. Just kids isn’t an autobiography; it is the story of Patti and Robert, as they were, once lovers and artists together.
Patti Smith lives at home with her parents with dreams of becoming an artist. When she becomes pregnant she knows she cannot be a mother and she gives up her baby and moves to New York. On a step in Brooklyn she meets a boy, Robert Maplethorpe. The description of meeting him is almost like an awakening. Patti wants to be an artist and Robert is one.
They become lovers and artists together, it is one and the same for them. He is the artist of her life. She struggles with the loss of her child, and he struggles with accepting his sexuality. It becomes a search for identity for both of them. In each other they have what they themselves seem to lack. Robert believes that he is a genius artist, but does not know himself beyond art. Patti prays to be an artist, unsure whether she is truly called by the higher power.
And then she becomes successful before him. He asks her to sing a song she can dance to; and when she finally does she knows: he saw the true artist in her all along.
The struggle between Patti and the art is recurring during the course of the book; first she leaves her child to become an artist in New York. She meets Robert and they are young and carefree together; together their art is their children. So when she leaves New York and has real children the art is silent again. To create a family she cannot be within the art.
This is a story of growing up. This is her, ensuring that there will “always be an us”. Patti and Robert live in this book. She outlives him, but they live together in the pages of her memoir.