Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cadillacs, Suits and Sweet Honey Pastries

Dov couldn’t even pretend that he was sad about leaving behind his life in the tiny village of B’nai Bor. He was going to live in NEW YORK CITY! New York City people. Do you have any idea what a big deal that is? Exciting things would happen every single second of every single day and what’s more is that his father was going to be a millionaire, which meant that he would get a hot car, a convertible probably because that’s what Americans drove, and Dov’s mother wouldn’t have to work ever again. She could just stay home and make briskets and sponge cakes and choose new window treatments.

Back in B’nai Bor the Elis didn’t even have an oven. Nobody did. There was a gigantic communal oven in the middle of the town – a wood oven, and everyone brought their things that needed to be baked and baked them in there together. Baking was a gigantic luxury in Israel. Remember this was back in the days when they were just building the country out of a bunch of sand and tents in the middle of the desert and whenever they tried to build something someone was bound to come along and blow it up. This explains why they didn’t install many gas lines for ovens. Plus it was just way too hot to have ovens in the cramped apartment buildings in which most people lived communally anyway. Dov’s mother hardly ever baked anything in the village oven except for the cholent she assembled every Friday afternoon and cooked in the oven until Saturday afternoon when they took it out and ate it. Everyone in B’nai Bor did this because they were forbidden to cook on the Sabbath and the communal oven provided them a little loophole which allowed them to still have a hot meal on their day of rest. Dov thought the whole thing was ridiculous and primitive and couldn’t wait to go to New York City where they could have an actual oven like real people who lived in the 20th century.

Uncle Mendel and Aunt Sharona had an oven. They moved just before Rosh Hashanah and after a month their letters arrived weekly and the entire Eli family read them with rapt interest. America sounded far more like the Promised Land than Israel. Jews could live there without fear of being shot, kidnapped or bombed. Everyone and anyone who wanted could be a millionaire if they worked hard enough and there were houses with yards and fences and basements that real people could afford to buy and live in with lots of room for their families (remember this is the 60s we’re talking about, it’s not the same anymore, I know). Uncle Mendel remarked of delicatessens where slab after slab of sturgeon and salmon sat piled, glistening with rich fat, under glass cases. Mendel had never seen such cakes as they had in New York and gigantic bowls filled with nothing but cream cheese to spread on soft, chewy bagels that you could buy at any time of day or night. Imagine, you want a bagel, a slice of chocolate cake, corned beef – anything – and it’s three in the morning. In New York you can get it. In America whatever you want – you can get it.

At first the Elis just read the letters for entertainment. They were excited to hear about things like gigantic bowls of cream cheese, because such things were impossible where they lived and it was funny to try to picture it. What would someone do with a gigantic bowl of cream cheese? But soon, Cantor and Mrs. Eli, about to give birth any second, began to whisper and speculate as they lay in bed at night listening to distant gunfire. What if they too could move to a place where Dov and Esther and the new baby could have a chance for a successful life where wealth was possible and violence nothing more than an abstract concept; some thing you read about in the papers that happened in far off countries. Maybe they could go to America too. If Cantor Eli got a job there, started a business maybe, they wouldn’t have to live off the spare charity of a poor village. Cantors are clergy, second to Rabbis. Traditionally the community supports the Cantor and his family as they do a Rabbi. If the Cantor lands a job in a wealthy community he lives well. If he lives in a poor, and often more religious town, he has to scrape by and try to supplement his income in any way that he can. Cantor Eli didn’t want to rely on offerings anymore. He wanted to be a big business man. In America.

The Cantor thought Hashem himself had heard and answered his prayers when his brother in law Mendel called unexpectedly one night to say he learned of an opportunity which the Cantor would be foolish to pass up. A Syrian Jew named Zahid Beshir came to Mendel to purchase a three carat, nearly flawless diamond as a wedding gift to his fourth wife, along with three sapphire rings for wives one, two and three which would serve as consolation prizes. Yes, Zahid Beshir was married to four women at once. Legally, he was only married to the first wife, as polygamy was illegal in the US. Spiritually, or religiously or psychotically, Zahid was married to the other three women and lived in a gigantic house in New Jersey as man and four wives with all of them and their eleven collective children. It was like A Sephardic version of Big Love.

From what I hear and I’m sure this has all changed significantly since the 60s, Syrians were the Mormons of Judaism. They used to allow polygamy. They encouraged it even. They don’t anymore, but I’ll bet there are still some renegades with visions of harem girls, who still try to pull it off. I have a feeling that Zahid Beshir was just trying to show off, because he was a very bombastic sort of individual. Uncle Mendel admired his sharkskin suits and jeweled rings on seven fingers. When Zahid Beshir purchased the stones from Uncle Mendel, he graciously invited him to his big gigantic house in New Jersey.

“You never saw a house like this.” Uncle Mendel wrote after visiting, “Not a house. This man lives in a castle. In the States you can buy a castle and you don’t have to be a king. Mr. Beshir’s home is like nothing I ever saw.”

Uncle Mendel described balconies and balustrades, curved staircases, gold veined marble and stained glass windows. They sat on antique Persian rugs and shared a hookah. The four wives, the youngest of whom was fourteen, fed them grapes and dates and sticky, sugary pastries flavored with rosewater and pistachios before pouring mint tea from ornate silver tea pots with long spouts and pearl handles. “You never saw a woman wear so much jewelry!!” Uncle Mendel scribbled excitedly.

In between bites of fruit paste and Turkish Delight, Zahid Beshir, whom Mendel now believed to be his best friend, because why else would a man like this invite him to his home to be fed and pampered by his four wives, asked him a fateful question.

“You have relatives in Israel, no?” asked Zahid Beshir.

Of course Mendel had relatives in Israel. He had no one in America.

“I’m starting new business. Import/ Export. I have hundreds of customers, finest shops and boutiques in the city waiting and have no one to work. I can bring your relatives here to work and give them a percentage of the business. I am busy, busy man. There is no time for running stores and managing workers. I need smart men, smart men like you Mendel, to do the business for me, but you have business already. I think to myself, a smart man like Mendel has a brother maybe? Maybe a brother who can run my business, another Jew, someone I can trust. Must have someone I can trust. Too many thieves in America. Don’t know who to trust.” Said Zahid Beshir.

Third wife wiped a droplet of honey from her husband’s lips. Fourth wife admired her gargantuan new diamond ring, which cast prisms over the room when the candle light hit it at certain angles. It dazzled Mendel. Second wife fed him another pastry.

“I have a sister in Israel. My brother in law is a Cantor. He is a very smart man. Escaped the Germans in Hungary and then came back to smuggle people into Israel. You don’t know how many lives my brother in law saved and now he has devoted his life to God. He is a good man, but poor. He talks all the time about wanting to start a business. He wants to be rich. He wants to send his son to a good Yeshiva.” Mendel told him.

Zahid Beshir was interested.

“Ahhh. I know the head of the finest Yeshiva in New York. We can get your nephew in. I can bring your family here. I can pay all expenses for them to come. There may be problems at Immigration, but I have connection. I can get it done. Please, telephone your brother in law and tell him. You will use my phone. First Wife!! Bring the telephone!!”

First wife dragged the telephone, cord and all from a crystal table across the room. Mendel didn’t know what to do. It was one ‘o’ clock in the morning in Israel, and his brother in law didn’t have a telephone. The apartment building had one phone that everyone shared. The fact that Zahid Beshir had a phone in his house, on a crystal table, with a cord that could be dragged across the room, along with the fact that this extraordinarily wealthy man was willing to make an overseas phone call from his own phone to call Mendel’s brother in law, was too much to take in all at once.

Mendel called the operator who tried to connect the call. It took three times and an elderly woman on the first floor answered. She could barely hear. Between the staticky line and her deafness, it took several attempts to get her to understand that she needed to go get Cantor Eli. All Mendel could think about was how much this call must be costing Mr. Beshir and how that must mean that Mr. Beshir really, really wanted his brother in law to come to America. How wonderful would that be, Mendel thought. They could all be together living safely in the United States making more money than they ever imagined possible.

Cantor Eli thought someone died, and came to the phone in a panic.

“I have an offer from a very wealthy business man. He wants YOU, brother in law, YOU to come with your family to run his business in America!!” Mendel exclaimed, his voice shaking with happiness and anticipation.

Zahid Beshir grabbed the receiver and passionately described the wonderful opportunity. He threw out numbers, figures and names that sounded prestigious and American. He talked about Park Avenue, penthouses and Cadillacs and an expensive hat store for his wife. Send her measurements and Zahid Beshir will have a hat and a suit sent for her. She can not come to America without fine attire. Zahid Beshir offered to have a suit made for the Cantor as well. Working as a big business man, the Cantor would need a tailored suit as well.

The three men talked for almost a half hour. Mendel couldn’t stop thinking about how many dollars Mr. Beshir spent on this phone call, and all to help his family! Many things needed to be arranged. It would take a few months but Mr. Beshir had connections and he would make sure the right people in the highest places got everything done quickly so the Elis could come as soon as possible and start making money.

“You make money fast, I make money fast. Everybody make money fast!! Then we go to Mendel to buy more big diamonds!” Beshir declared, panting and salivating at the tantalizing prospect of wealth and abundance for everyone.

Cantor Eli hung up the phone, dizzy, confused and overjoyed. Never before in his life had Hashem answered a prayer that quickly, because at the very second the old lady from downstairs knocked at the door with news of a phone call, the Cantor had been praying for money to make Dov’s Bar Mitzvah the finest in the history of B’nai Bor. Then he prayed that the new baby would be a healthy son and finally he prayed for a chance to give his family a big house with a yard where all the children could play. And Hashem heard him. Finally, God rewarded the Cantor’s lifetime of good deeds.

He woke his sleeping wife.

“Ruthie my love, my dear, wake up!! We’re going to be rich! We will have a big house. We never need to worry about money again. A beautiful suit is coming from America for you – with a new hat!! Take all of our savings, all of it, and spend it on Dov’s Bar Mitzvah because you will have more money than you ever dreamed possible in just a few months. Order the duck a l’orange my love. Let’s show B’nai Bor the biggest Bar Mitzvah they ever saw! A huge celebration!! We’ll keep it a secret. I’ll announce it at the party. Don’t tell anyone, my love. We’re moving to America!”
Friday, June 22, 2007

Duck A L'Orange (Who Knew It Was Kosher?)

We’re going to leave Sissy where she is at the moment. She has a lot to think about on her long drive to Jim’s drug dealer’s house and the dark and winding country roads might help her focus. She’s easily distracted you know and you can’t be distracted when you have important decisions to make. We’ll get back to Sissy in a little while. For now, we’re going to Israel in 1966.

Dov’s Bar Mitzvah was the biggest event the tiny Orthodox community of B’nai Bor had seen since the Rabbi’s youngest daughter was married three years prior. Dov came from a family of musicians and he was the firstborn son of a firstborn son, of a firstborn son, all the way to probably Abraham and Isaac. All of the firstborn son’s in his family became cantors and religious scholars. His father was a cantor and he was expected to be cantor. Dov also had an uncle who was a Kabalist in Jerusalem and another uncle who could sing opera, but instead chose to be a very religious doctor.

For seven generations no one on either side of Dov’s family had ever committed a single sin. People swore when Dov was born that he would probably be the messiah. That’s a lot of pressure for a Bar Mitzvah boy. Imagine your entire village showing up to hear you sing and recite complicated texts thinking you are the son of God, when you’re far more concerned about what Naomi Klepterberg looks like in her underwear than saving humanity from its imminent destruction. In fact you believe that the sight of Naomi Klepterberg in her underwear might be stunning enough to save humanity from its imminent destruction and spare you the effort. That’s how Dov felt.

Dov broke his family’s seven generation winning streak of purity. He sinned constantly. The day he was born, no the HOUR Dov was born, he committed his first sin. He looked around at all the other babies in the hospital and thought vainly to himself that he was by far the best looking baby in the place. It was true, the other babies didn’t have a thing on Dov. He was the most beautiful child ever born in B’nai Bor, cementing the town’s assumption that he was really the messiah, although by the time his Bar Mitzvah rolled around he was definitely going through an awkward, gawky teen phase. Still, the villagers were not deterred. So, messiahs have always to be beautiful? Someone said the King of Kings can’t get a little acne? He’ll grow into the role, they believed. Everyone’s funny looking when they’re thirteen.

Dov’s sinning didn’t stop there. He questioned things, got into things, and made messes on things where messes shouldn’t be. He made faces in shul and thought appallingly impure thoughts. He thought school was purely for socializing with the other children and he didn’t always look forward to the high holidays as much as he ought to have. Dov’s parents were worn out. They were relieved that his younger sister Esther turned out to be far more pious and obedient. They hoped their third child, with whom Dov’s mother was pregnant at his Bar Mitzvah, would come into the world placid and ready to study the Talmud (she didn’t).

Dov’s problem was that B’nai Bor was dull. Life there was just a series of religious observations which continued in a never-ending cycle year after year. The only time they had any excitement was if there was a war or if Rakesh Farman showed up in town, having broken out of prison yet again.

Dov wasn’t too keen on wars, which were sadly common in Israel then like they are now, but he loved when Rakesh Farman came to town. He was about the only one, because Rakesh Farman was the most notorious criminal in all of Israel. Rakesh started off as a hero in the Israeli army, fighting for Israel’s independence. A seven foot tall giant, he is said to have killed hundreds of enemies in battle and to have committed selfless acts of heroism. One day Rakesh’s troop was going somewhere by train and the train had to stop short and nearly derailed. This ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem, except that Rakesh, wanting to show off, was actually on top of the train, happily riding along on its roof. When it stopped, Rakesh went flying and landed on a rock in the middle of the desert. Anyone else would have been killed, but Rakesh survived his head injury. Unfortunately, he was never quite the same. He had brain damage that turned him into a violent sociopath.

No longer a soldier, Rakesh became a gangster. Previously Israel had no gangs or mafias, so Rakesh got busy organizing some crime. He robbed banks, held shopkeepers at gun point and devised elaborate schemes to cheat people out of money. The man had no boundaries. Not a day went by that Rakesh neglected to beat someone up or steal something and he never tried to hide his misdeeds. After robbing a bank, he’d stroll right over to the nearest café for a Turkish coffee where he’d sit and nibble halvah until the police came to haul him off to jail. It didn’t matter. He’d just break out anyway, because no prison could hold Rakesh Farman.

Every time Rakesh knocked someone out, stole the cash box from the kosher butcher or ransacked a restaurant because their baba ghanoush was too acidic, the police came and locked him up. Every time they locked him up, he escaped. After about eleven times the whole thing was a joke, but what could they do? The police couldn’t just let him wander around the country at everyone’s peril.

You wouldn’t think that Rakesh Farman would have any need to visit B’nai Bor. What would a legendary criminal want with a poor Orthodox town out in the country? No one had any money to speak of, the local café was awful (run by polish immigrants, their hummus always tasted like old cabbage) and as we established before – nothing ever happened. You couldn’t even get into a good fistfight in B’nai Bor because the orthodox men wouldn’t fight, and who could blame them. No one in their right mind would fight a seven foot sociopath anyway. When Rakesh Farman came to town people scattered and women home alone locked their doors and shuttered their windows. When Dov saw his mother suddenly jump up from mending socks or boiling carp to secure the house, a thrill ran through him because he knew Rakesh was on his way and something would happen.

Rakesh Farman came to B’nai Bor to harass, or in his mind VISIT, his sister Sharona, who was the only woman in the village to dye her hair flame red like a rooster. Sharona’s husband was none other than Dov’s Uncle Mendel, the local jeweler. Rakesh had no other family besides Sharona and in his rare lucid moments, where bits of his old, non-sociopathic brain still worked, Rakesh wanted to maintain a sense of family. It didn’t hurt that Sharona married a jeweler either, because that meant there was always something good to steal in their home and Mendel certainly never challenged his gigantic angry brother in law.

Mendel started keeping his gold and jewels in his shop where they would be safe, but on his next visit Rakesh picked Mendel up by his collar and carried him much like a mother cat carries a kitten, through the streets of B’nai Bor to his shop and made Mendel give him every single valuable in the place. He had to borrow money to avoid losing his business after that. Then Mendel got a safe and hid that in his house. Rakesh figured it out and tore the entire house apart to get at it.

Finally Mendel and Sharona had it with Rakesh wreaking havoc on their lives. They packed up the few remaining belongings that Rakesh hadn’t smashed or stolen and moved to America; New York to be exact. Rakesh wasn’t allowed to leave the country so there was no danger of him chasing them overseas. Uncle Mendel easily found work in the diamond district and they made plans to start a family. Without the stress of Rakesh they could finally have children.

All this disappointed poor Dov because his hero, the larger than life, tall tale of a man that was Rakesh Farman, no longer came to his town. On the nights that Dov didn’t lay in bed thinking of Naomi Klepterberg, he tried to imagine where Rakesh was and what he was doing. Kids in school told him that Rakesh lived in a cave. Some people said the police gave up and just let him do what he wanted. Rakesh lived by his own rules. He decided where he was going to be and when. No one was the boss of Rakesh Farman.

Rakesh Farman did not show up at Dov’s Bar Mitzvah. Uncle Mendel and Aunt Sharona couldn’t come either, but everyone else attended and thoroughly enjoyed the duck a l’orange. Dov did well, though perhaps not as well as the Messiah might have.

At Bar Mitzvahs, which are religious ceremonies marking and then celebrating a thirteen year old boy’s entrance into manhood, it is customary for the boy’s father to make a speech. You’ve seen the same sort of thing at a million weddings. Dov’s father, a jovial and gregarious man, delighted the party guests with songs before he made his speech. He talked of how proud he was of his son, remarked on Dov’s energetic and curious nature, and made some jokes about the time Dov got in a car and started to drive it away. Dov was five years old when that happened. Then Dov’s father, Cantor Eli explained how Dov was now a man and how he hoped to send his son to a prestigious Yeshiva. He said he loved Israel more than life itself and that he loved B’nai Bor even more than that.

“I regret,” said Dov’s father solemnly, “That you will not be able to watch my son continue to grow and that you will not know the baby my beautiful wife carries, but know while we are in America, that we will be thinking always of you and always of home and we will try to return often.”

A collective gasp sounded in the Temple’s small banquet hall. No one knew the Elis were moving! Dov almost fell off the stage. No one told him anything about it, but he was about to run out of the synagogue and start packing. America?? They had TVs and food he never heard of. They had movie stars and radio stations, magazines and busty blonde women. America had Hollywood and pretty soon America was going to have Dov Eli too!! This was the best Bar Mitzvah present ever and to think, he thought all he was getting was an engraved prayer book and a set of personalized yarmulkes!

Over the murmur of the crowd Cantor Eli made his announcement.

“The Eli Family is moving to New York.” He said.
Monday, June 18, 2007

A Little Pink House on the Beach

OK, so that’s not exactly how it happened. I know some jackasses do actually wake up one morning and say “I’m going to solve all my life’s problems by selling drugs” but my mother didn’t and you shouldn’t either, because it’s a sure path to misery. Trust me.

My mom, who is going to have to have a name if this story is to continue, was sad. We’ll call her Sissy, because that’s what her family calls her still. In the South every oldest sister in pretty much every family, is called Sis or Sissy. No one can think of my mother as anything other than Sissy, and all her myriad nieces and nephews call her Aunt Sis, which cracks me up because that’s like calling someone Uncle Brother or Grandpop Son. It’s ridiculous. It’s my family. We have long since established that all of them are insane.

So Sissy was sad. She lost her little girl, her trailer, her job, her cats and her beat up car that didn’t go over 40 miles an hour was on its way out too. Things just don’t get much worse. When people get in a jam like this one, especially if they are 19 year old girls with no education and no skills, often they make bad decisions out of just really god damned needing to feel good in the right here and right now. That’s pretty much what happened.

Sissy dumped her boyfriend JT who would later go on to find The Lord as well as the health benefits of mangosteen juice. She exchanged him for a new boyfriend Jim, who was mild and who had rich parents. Here is where Sissy made mistake number one. She was desperate and she and Jim moved in together after knowing one another for all of approximately three days. This is as sure a path to misery as becoming a drug dealer. Don’t do this either. I don’t care how in love you think you are, you never move in with someone after three days or even three weeks for that matter and don’t go sending me a bunch of stories about people who did and how it worked out because I’ll just think you’re lying anyway.

Not only did Sissy and Jim move in together after a whopping three days, they moved into Jim’s parents’ beach house. Remember Jim had rich parents. Well, rich for Millpond anyway, which meant that they had two TVs and an above ground pool and maybe some kind of nice attachments for the pickup truck. Jim’s dad had prize Blue Tick Hounds, which were a source of pride and envy in Millpond. Jim’s parents were rich enough that Jim was lazy as hell and never did anything. Jim was downright sorry in his blatant and shameless laze. He got up at three in the afternoon, went back to bed at five, got up at seven and asked his mom to make him a pimento cheese sandwich, smoked some weed, watched some TV, slept some more, smoked some more weed and then listened to Wings. Somewhere in there his parents gave him money for all this which he spent on more weed, but since he was so damned triflin’ the drug dealer had to deliver. Now you know you got problems when you can’t even pick up your own drugs.

Jim’s parents were probably fiercely relieved when he announced that he was moving in with Sissy because at least it implied some movement on his part, which meant that he wouldn’t get the rotting bed sores they feared might fester on their sedentary son. They gladly offered up their beach house, as Jim knew they would. They didn’t use it and it was impossible to rent a beach house in Massacre Beach.

The beach house was not glamorous. Erase any and all images of idyllic dunes, clapboard and Adirondack chairs. Picture instead a vast expanse of mud and dead horseshoe crabs. The stench carried miles inland. Massacre Beach was desolate, lonely and depressing. With a name like that what did you expect?

Jim’s parents’ beach house was a three room, pink shack on stilts which overlooked a muddy bay. On overcast days, which meant about EVERY day, the bay was gray. On sunny days it was brown. You couldn’t go in the water unless you wanted to lose an arm to sand sharks or impale yourself on horseshoe crab tails. The best thing about the beach house was that it was cheap. The second best thing about the beach house was that your could party your ever lovin’ ass off in it because it was so remote that no police patrolled the area to arrest you and there were no neighbors to complain about the noise.

Sissy, in her deep depression began to smoke pot. It helped her concentrate, she believed and if she was ever to find a way to make a fortune and get her baby back, she needed a clear head to come up with a solution. Yes, I know this makes no sense, but it did to her. She sat on the dreary sand and dug holes into which she poured hot wax to make candles. Then she got really good at macramé. Jim became a permanent fixture on a bean bag in the living room. After a couple weeks they didn’t have any food so Sissy found a rowboat and a cane pole and went out into that scary, nasty bay to fish for flounder. She cleaned and filleted them herself. Then she got a string and used the fish heads to crab in the creeks. Behind the shed where the rowboat lived, a patch of blackberries climbed. Beach plums flourished all over the shore, and that’s what she ate. When I came to visit on the weekends, that’s what I ate too.

I was allowed to visit my mother two weekends per month. Sissy’s former in-laws were extremely strict about how this went down. Once, her beat up car broke down on the way back in Millpond and she brought me back two hours late on a Sunday night. They took her to court and she lost visitation for a whole month. She became more desperate and more sad. The sadder she got the more pot she smoked and the more macramé she did.

Sissy decided she needed a friend in the court system and she needed some money. She decided to take her sand candles and her macramé and go sit outside the courthouse selling her arts and crafts projects. This way she could make some money and get to know the people who came and went from the courthouse every day. Remember this part of the story. This will prove very important later on.

You will never believe this, but people really liked Sissy’s candles and plant hangers. This was the early seventies and she was quite talented. She used the money to buy something to eat and more art supplies. People got to know her. Pretty soon lawyers and judges called her by name and asked for special scents of candles and plant hangers in their wives’ favorite colors. After a while they knew her story. That was that pretty, blonde girl selling crafts to get her baby girl back. Her name was Sissy. Ain’t she pretty? She sure is. She’s sellin’ that so she can get her baby girl back. Let me get a plant hanger. I’ll take three of them candles sweetie.

Of course, in total she didn’t even make twenty dollars a week, but it was something. She got her story out there and it was a good story. She got herself fed and she made enough to buy cinnamon and sugar so that on the weekends she could fix me cinnamon toast. Somehow she found a German Shepherd and he took up residence under the stilted, pink beach house.

Jim had yet to move. At all. Not even an inch. Now he was totally inconvenienced because when he needed money from his parents he had to drive all the way in town to get it. He made Sissy do it. Can you all believe that she did?

One time Sissy took me with her to Jim’s parents’ house to pick up money and Jim’s dear mother gave me a teddy. This was no ordinary teddy. My Teddy was pure white, like snow – a small polar bear with a purple satin ribbon. You would have thought I was handed the Baby Jesus himself. Still the sight of polar bears makes me weep, especially when they swim for hundreds of miles in iceless seas looking for rest and fat seals. Teddy was my world. I never let him go.

One morning I woke up at the pink beach house and Teddy was gone. The world had come to an end. Jim still hadn’t moved so it couldn’t have been him. I was inconsolable.

Sissy eventually located Teddy, no longer pure white, but now the sodden grey of the overcast bay. Teddy was dead, mauled by the German Shepherd under the stilted pink house – ears hanging, paws severed, purple satin ribbon chewed ragged. It was horrible. Honestly, I can’t even write about it, it was that bad. His left eye was so scratched up he looked like he had cataracts.

I cried all day and refused to let my mother throw Teddy in the trash. Believe me, she tried. She thought I was crazy. Finally, and only because she was terrified I wouldn’t love her anymore, she gave in.

“Do not tell Mommom Jewel I let this happen.” She told me, fearing my grandmother’s wrath.

She thought my biological father’s mother, who approved of nothing she did and probably rightfully so, would use this as one more example of how utterly unfit a mother she was. What kind of a parent lets their child’s favorite bear be attacked and murdered by a mangy dog?

I was still sobbing and clutching the critically injured bear when we climbed the steps to Mommom and Pop’s house where I lived. Sissy knew she had some explaining to do.

This was her most dreaded hour. She hated those Sunday nights when she dropped me off, crying and snot nosed at my grandparents’ house. She knew it would be 12 more, long days before she saw me again. Every weekend with me passed too quickly.

“Jewel, the dog got a hold of Teddy.” Sissy explained regretfully.
That instant something softened in my grandmother. My mother saw it and softened too.

“Come inside.” Jewel said. She had never invited my mother inside since the divorce.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, now get in here out of that cold. You’re lettin’ all the heat out.”

We stepped into the bright living room.

“Get your coats off and let me see that bear.”

“It’s pretty bad.”

“There ain’t nothin’, nothin’, that can’t be fixed.” Mommom Jewel said.

The two women, sworn enemies, worked together for hours, in the house where my mother was not welcome, to fix this bear. First they soaked Teddy in bleach. Then they ran him through the washer, tumbled him in the dryer and took the hair dryer to him. They cut up a pink washcloth and patched the ends of his paws where the dog had gnawed the stuffing out, so it looked like he had pink paw pads. They found some pink felt in the sewing basket and my mom reconstructed the insides of Teddy’s ears. Mommom Jewel found Teddy a new, golden ribbon and then combed his fur which had previously been fuzzy, but which was now quite nappy. My mother had the brilliant idea of reglazing his glass eyes with clear nail polish. Instant cataract surgery. Teddy could see again.

Sissy and Jewel were pleased with their results. They woke me up to show me the new Teddy.

“Teddy ain’t the same as he used to be, but he is still your Teddy and he still loves you just like you love him.” My mother explained.

“And sometimes in life accidents happen. Things get messed up. Teddy’s get hurt, but we promise you, we will always be there to fix things as best we can.” Mommom Jewel continued. “Do you still like Teddy?”

“Yes. I said. I like Teddy no matter what bad things happen to him. He is my Teddy like you are my Mommy and you are my Mommom.” I said, because I was a prodigious, articulate genius at two years old. Did you think anything less of me?

Luckily my biological father was off in Japan doing missionary work or this may have never been possible.

Sissy left her former in laws’ house that night feeling a shift had occurred. The women remained cold to one another for years, but they always had an unspoken understanding. They both loved me more than life. They’d both die for me and they knew the other felt the same so they couldn’t hate one another and later on, this would pay off. But not for a long, long time.

This is not the happy ending just yet. We haven’t even hardly gotten started.

Remember Jim? He still hadn’t moved and he was on Sissy’s last nerve. Do you know where Sissy had to go right after she left Mommom Jewel’s house with tears in her eyes? She had to go to Jim’s drug dealer who refused to deliver all the way out to Massacre Beach. Can you believe the nerve? Sissy and the drug dealer couldn’t either. Sissy was so mad and sick of it she swore she was leaving Jim as soon as she could find a place to live. The problem was, her period was three weeks late. Sissy just found out she was pregnant.
Monday, June 11, 2007

Father's Day, Part I

Last week I somehow ended up at the Mullet House, a fish fry/ raw bar that we have around here, which upon stepping into, will immediately catapult you back to 1974. It has red vinyl booths, amber tiffany lamps hanging over the fake wood tables, and they give you a big basket of blueberry muffins as an appetizer. If you get there past 6 the place is deserted because all the old people who frequent it start coming at 3 for the extra early bird special. As my mother eloquently put it the people who go there are so old their kids are dead. The Mullet House does serve some excellent fried shrimp, and you don't have to get dressed up to go since everyone else dining around you is legally blind anyway.

Sometimes I can catch my mother in the right mood and get her to tell me stories. Now that I'm older I can begin to piece together some of the mysteries of my life from what she remembers. The night we went to the Mullet House she was in the right mood. I caught her as she smoked a cigarette outside and asked her how the hell she ever ended up with my biological father, because it is a mystery I've never quite gotten and it bothers me. It's hard for me to ask anyone about him because everyone just starts throwing a huge fit.

My mother gets touchy sometimes because she wants me to banish all memory of his existence and sees any curiosity about him as an insult to my real father who raised me and loves me. I don't exactly see it as devaluing him just because I have questions about how I came to be, but she does and so I have to tread lightly when asking. I don't want to hurt feelings, I just want to make sense of who I am and where I come from.

The only other person I can ask is my biological father's mother, Mommom Jewel and she gets mad because it upsets her that her son is a lunatic who abandoned his child, except that instead of just saying she's upset about that, she acts like it is half my fault, which it isn't. Then she gets all defensive and pissed off and will only say good things, which are obviously not accurate. The only things she told me about him that seemed to have any speck of truth was that I have the same handwriting as he does and that we are both terrible patients at the doctor's office and refuse to go to the dentist until we are absolutely dying and have teeth falling out onto our dinner plates. I thought, what an odd thing to have in common. Of all things, we both hate dentists, but lots of people hate dentists.

So at the Mullet House my mother brought up my biological father, known as BF from here on out because I don't want to write the entire thing. She mentioned him because his wife is dying of breast cancer, suffering unimaginably with it, an has a blog about her breast cancer. Please respect their privacy and don't try to go find it, no matter what I say about them. My mom read in his wife's blog that the end was near and we talked about how sad the whole thing was. Someday I will talk to you about this woman and the things she did to me, but not in this story. Since my mother brought them up in conversation and not me I was able to ask her how on earth she ended up with BF in the first place.

She said they started going out when she was 12, in the 8th grade and that in Millpond you just stayed with one person back then, since there were only like 5 people anyway and 3 of them were your cousins. She said he had a nice family (he does), was smart (he is) and that they used to sit at Mommom Jewel and Pop Byron's house and eat Chef Boyardee pizzas while watching TV. She also said that everyone got married in their senior year and that things were so unhappy in her home that she wanted to get out and have a home of her own. Back then she saw her only option for escape as marriage. She really didn't think things out, but she was only 17.

Poppop June, my mother's father, the one I'm named after, was doing well with his trucking company and could afford to give them a nice wedding. My mother wore an empire waist chiffon gown and blue eyeshadow. Her hair was freshly bleached. They had the reception at the Fire Hall, or if you are from Millpond, the FAR Hall, although it is very close. It was catered, which is unheard of. To this day most Millpond weddings are strictly potluck.

A week before the wedding, after the final dress fitting, BF got mad at my mother over some small infraction and pinched her squarely on the arm, making a huge black and blue that she had to lie about to everyone who asked about it. It was too late to back out. She had no choice, but she said she knew she was making a terrible mistake, but at least she'd be out of her house and at least she'd have me.

The honeymoon was awful. They went to a motel for the night, leaving their own reception so early that she didn't get to toss her bouquet of pink carnations or eat some of the catered roast beef. The next morning they checked out and went back to her now in-laws house to watch the Superbowl. How's that for romance?

They fought the whole time she was pregnant with me. They had a huge fight over my name not being Robin Sue and they fought some more over my crying. BF's temper got worse and worse and mostly I lied in my crib crying as he ransacked the trailer one day in a rage over something. I was crying because I think as a baby I wanted to opt out. There had been a mistake and I was with the wrong family. It wasn't supposed to be this way. How did I end up in a trailer near a pine forest with a man who smashed every glass and plate in the kitchen cabinets because his dinner wasn't hot enough?

"God, I told you I wanted to be a writer. Where are my English professor parents? Why am I not in a Cambridge colonial?" I cried.

"I'm giving you something to write about." said God.

It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind. I think when in Heaven I mentioned I wanted to be a writer I hadn't intended Southern Gothic to be my genre. But it is, and here I am now, writing.

In less than a year my mother had enough of that. By then her parents were having marital troubles. Her brother od'd on drugs and had to be institutionalized. Aunt Kiki was running wild at 13 and getting into drugs herself. My mother had no money and a beat up car that wouldn't go over 40 miles and hour. No one wanted to hear about her problems because they all had their own problems, but she left anyway and for this I commend her more than almost anything else she's done. A lot of women just stay and take the shit and get kicked around like dogs and let their babies get kicked around like dogs and nothing ever changes until maybe someone dies or eventually runs off with someone else. But at 18 years old, with no life skills, no education and never having had a job, my mother packed me up and took off in the beat up car that wouldn't go over 40 miles an hour.

Shortly thereafter she was divorced and had an apartment with a girl named Doreen. The two of them worked at Woody's Ranch House. My mother waited tables. She wore a maroon polyester uniform with a ruffled apron and her duties included wiping up the salad bar and asking truckers if they preferred Woody’s Sweet n Smoky or the Five Alarm on their baby backs. It was awful. She could never find a babysitter for me. Sometimes Doreen would watch me but once my mother came home and found me wet and hungry while Doreen did bong hits. Sometimes my mother's new boyfriend JT watched me, but he was barely 20 and didn't know what to do with a baby. This has nothing to do with the story, but JT and my mom are still friends. He found God and has fallen for several multi-level marketing schemes.

None of my grandparents wanted to watch me.

"You wanted to get married and have a baby so bad, now deal with it." they all said.

Sometimes my cousin Keith babysat. Keith was crazy and just got back from Vietnam, shell shocked beyond repair. He still isn't normal. I ran into him in the Millpond Wal-Mart and he reminded me of Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade. He doesn't make a lot of eye contact.

My mother didn’t last long at Woody’s Ranch House. She’s always had a problem with authority figures and she quit when her boss yelled at her in front of her best customers for letting the shredded iceberg in the salad bar get brown on the edges and for not picking the fallen chickpeas up off of the carpet often enough. After that she worked at a pizza place and almost got fired because she had to call in one night because she didn't have anyone to watch me. Then the beat up car broke down and it took all of her money to fix it. She was 18, broke and completely alone.

My mother went to her former in-laws and begged them for help. BF moved back in with his parents and lived in their basement, where he brooded and became more angry and bitter. She begged them to please just watch me for a weekend so she could work two doubles at the pizza place and make enough cash to satisfy her landlord.

"Please, take the baby and my cats for the weekend and I'll be back for them Sunday night when I get off work." she pleaded.

"Fine." they said.

She left the two cats in my grandparents' basement and dropped me off with a playpen and some feety pajamas. I was about one year old, but this is my first memory.

I am alone. I want my mother. I don't know where I am. I am in a bed and not my crib and I want someone to wind up my orange hippo that sings "Go to Sleep Go to Sleep." I cry and cry for a bottle, which they won't give me because they think I'm too old. They won't let the cats come upstairs so I can play with them. I cry and cry at the basement door and my father won't open it and bring me down to where he is and the cats are.

My mother worked her ass off all weekend.

"You can have the cats but you aren't taking the baby."

My biological father found his ultimate revenge. He knew the best way to hurt my mother and to get her back was to take me away from her. She claims my grandparents were in on it, and honestly I don't know. I tend to think, or hope, that they felt they could take better care of me than an 18 year old waitress who couldn't find a decent babysitter. Who knows? Maybe they wanted a little girl after having three boys. I will never know the truth, and I want to think the best of them. Looking back I'm actually thankful for them because they did provide me a stable, happy home that was about as normal as I was going to get. They provided me a nine year foundation which allowed me to handle things like monkeys, moving 29 times and fiancés getting other girls pregnant.

My mother was devastated, but on some level I think she knew I'd be better off with my grandmother who didn't work and who could be with me every hour of every day. My mother didn't have the money or the capacity to fight. She barely had a place to live herself and she had just dumped JT, who was really nice, but just not the man for her.

She realized that to get me back she needed money. She needed a house, stability and income. She couldn't get that slapping down twenty five cent slices of pizza all day. She believed she wasn't smart, so she never imagined college. Instead, she plotted and schemed while her heart bled for her little baby who cried for her each night. She would do whatever it took to get me back.

My mother day dreamed of a life in which she could prove to everyone that she wasn't a dumb hick. She wanted a flashy car that went over 40 miles an hour. She'd have a pretty house, all decorated with macramé and terrariums. She would buy me a canopy bed and white Persian kittens. I'd have a collection of china dolls and a snow cone machine. Everyone would see that she was the best mother in the world and that she could be more than a waitress in a pizza place. But how would she accomplish all this?

She'd sell drugs of course.

And that ironically, in the most twisted, strange way possible is how she came to find my real father, the one who loves me and cares for me; the one who willfully chose me as his daughter. This is the beginning of a real love story. This is not just the story of how a desperate country girl fell in love with a handsome Israeli boy while selling drugs in South Florida. Instead it's the story of how a whole, very unlikely family fell in love and made it work when no one in the entire world said it could.
Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday and the End of the Dang Story Already

Well, I have returned from my trip back "home" to the land of sweet tea and gardenia blossoms in jelly jars, a place where racks are for guns and are on pick up trucks instead of made from silicone and saline and placed a little too high on the chests of insecure young women. I had to go North to get to the real South and once there, once I drove through narrow winding roads with trees taller than any building in South Florida, and once I had a mouthful of real macaroni and cheese, I began to feel a terrible, sorrowful longing which the Brazilians call Saudade. I want to be in that idyllic "home" of my imaginings so badly that I nearly burst into tears on the cracked sidewalk in front of my favorite place to eat biscuits. Then I saw all of my old friends, who had gathered for the wedding of our other dear friend and they all said how much they loved reading my stories. They love hearing about this wild life in South Florida. It's all they wanted to talk about. Imagine that. I was shocked. Who would have thought? So I guess I better keep on writing.

When last we met I was in 8th grade, desperately wanting to be kissed. Another summer passed with nary a glance from a member of the opposite sex. I spent that summer down here in South Florida with Aunt Kiki, who up and decided she wanted to live here instead of in Millpond. My parents were trying to start a cosmetics business selling green lipstick that miraculously turned a unique shade of red once applied. It was like a mood ring. Problem was, you couldn't match it to your outfits and you just never knew which shade of red it was going to turn at any given time. You could start the evening with a nice rose and end up in an unflattering coral by the end of the night, and let alone if you got into a fight with someone while wearing it - it turned a brazen, flaming scarlet. This was a terrible lipstick for lady poker players. It just didnt allow you to hide your feelings very well.

So my mother with her ever changing lip colors sent me down to live with Aunt Kiki who lived in another shack with another mess of animals, a husband (oh my lord she actually got married) and her two kids Alexis and Fallon (remember Aunt Kiki loved Dynasty) who were a disaster. In this story they were actually younger than the other story I told about them which took place the year after this one. Aunt Kiki was raising hell with her girlfriend Delilah back them and both of them couldn't get a rein in on their partying which worried Aunt Kiki's temporary husband something awful. I liked him. I still do actually. He was a shrimper and dreamed of refinishing Corvettes one day. We ate a lot of shrimp that summer. I could act out that scene from Forrest Gump to describe how we ate - fried shrimp, baked shrimp, shrimp pie, shrimp burgers... The other thing we ate a lot of was mangoes because there was a tree in the yard and Aunt Kiki was still on welfare so we had to stretch the food stamps. Apparently shrimping was not lucrative for Aunt Kiki's temporary husband.

This summer didn't work out exceptionally well for me being that Aunt Kiki left me with her kids everynight while her husband shrimped and she partied with Delilah. By the end of the summer her 30 year old husband had a heart attack, a real one, and was in the hospital and Aunt Kiki had taken up with the Colombian dude next door who had a messed up leg from polio and who later became her stalker. Do not even ask. Then I got pneumonia from Aunt Kiki's fouled up, bacteria laden air conditioning window unit and my mother finally took pity on me and let me come home. I was never more thankful to go back to school in my life.

Halfway through ninth grade my parents gave up on the green lipstick and decided to start a junk store with two Persian guys. One was named Farheed and the other one's name was FarSHEED. I kid you not. Farheed was short, fat, dark and hairy. FarSHEED was tall, fat, pale and bald. They were a very odd looking pair and neither had a full command of the English language. I have no idea what my parents were thinking, but they just had to have a junk store with Farheed and Farsheed and the junk store could of course not be located in Riverbank, New York where we actually lived, because there was another junk store nearby from which my mother got the idea that she wanted her own junk store much more than she wanted mood changing lipstick.

The junk store, named Jumpin' Junk was several hours South in a college town outside of Millpond, and was on the outskirts of the middle of ass fucking nowhere. But this is where my parents and Farheed and FarSHEED needed to have their junk store. Who was I to argue their logic? Kids have so much sense sometimes and so little power.

Rather than move again, my parents left me home alone, because that's what all good parents do. They imported a woman from an Indian reservation in Montana to take care of me and Hope, but the woman had never been off of the Indian reservation and thought she was in the middle of New York City, which she was not. She was convinced that there were robbers constantly lurking outside our front door and refused to go out of the house. Literally. She was totally useless. One day I will make that into a story unto itself.

Needless to say, Andrea, my future porn star best friend and I got into worlds and worlds of trouble, some of which involved the police. My parents nearly murdered me for making them drive all the way back to New York when the Indian woman couldn't take it anymore and left.

"You have to go back to Collegetown with us and work off your punishment at Jumpin' Junk." my parents said.

This was awful. What made it even more awful was that I failed my little sister Hope who had to go live with my grandfather because my parents were too busy and I couldn't be trusted to babysit because I had done terrible, terrible things with Andrea, some of which involved the police. I was miserable.

My parents pulled me out of my fancy private school and took me to live with them and Farheed and Farsheed in an apartment they rented. We all slept on mattresses and there was no furniture because no one was ever home to use it since we all worked non-stop at Jumpin Junk. Jumpin Junk was a really big store with a whole lot of junk, so there was much work to be done. I didn't get around to going back to school for a good month. I just worked and then everynight we stopped at the 7-11 and got pints of Haagen Dazs peanutbutter swirl ice cream.

Eventually it dawned on my mom that I should probably be in school. I was 14 afterall and not old enough to quit. She took me to Collegetown High School and enrolled me. I proceeded to imagine interesting ways to kill myself. Collegetown High School was gigantic, 4000 students gigantic, and was overwhelming to me. I decided to cut most of my classes.

All day I went to school. All day and all night my parents worked at Jumpin Junk. They didn't get home until at least 3 in the morning most nights so I rarely saw them. When I got up to go to school they were still in bed and were not happy if I woke them up. One night I got up in the middle of the night and found Farheed and Farsheed out in the unfurnished living room of our shared apartment. They had pushed their two mattresses together and were engaged in an activity which I would much rather not describe, but which involved Farheed the short hairy one in a dominant position. Turns out my parents found them doing the very same thing a few nights earlier.

No one cared that Farheed and Farsheed were cheating on their wives with one another, but my parents had a rare moment of parental inspiration and thought maybe their 14 year old daughter seeing two oddly matched Persian men going at it on a mattress in an unfurnished living room, might suffer long lasting psychological effects. Needless to say I HAVE suffered long lasting psychological effects but they had more to do with other incidents not having to do with Farheed or Farsheed or their butts and what they were doing to and with them. My parents got us our own apartment in the same complex and we, believe it or not, got some furniture for it and it looked like an attempt at normalcy. My parents still left me alone with the cat and the dog whom we had to also drag down from New York. The monkey, having taken priority over children, dog and cat alike, was part of the original move to Collegetown. What? I never told you we had a monkey?? Surely I mentioned the monkey.

Yes, we had a monkey. When I was in eighth grade I came home one day and my mother had gone and gotten a monkey which she named Minky. It wore diapers, although it normally ripped them off so it could more easily smear its poo all over everything. It also ate fruit and monkey chow and made my life a massive living hell. I hated the monkey and my mother treated it like my sibling, but the monkey was just awful and I never agreed with having an animal like that in captivity. It drove me insane and it stunk and was just plain mean. It attacked me and Hope numerous times and bared its teeth at everyone, making them think it was smiling, though I knew otherwise. Its grin was a sign of aggression and this was one pissed off monkey. I understood. I was pissed off too.

The monkey went to live at Jumpin' Junk because it was a customer draw. People would hear about the monkey, come to the store to see it and end up buying sixty dollars worth of discontinued Pablo Picasso scented nightlights and unicorn figurines that sang Sunrise Sunset. On the way out they might even pick up a glow in the dark feather duster and a case of Pina Colada flavored floor cleaner/ toothpaste imported from Mexico. So the monkey proved to be ultimately more useful at the store than me, who sullenly priced box after box and row after row of cheap, senseless, unwanted products from Asia and South America. I came to believe that because of this, my parents actually loved the monkey more than they loved me. They certainly saw it more often. Instead of thinking of creative ways to kill myself I thought of creative ways to murder the monkey.

Shortly after we moved into our own apartment things got worse. Things got so much worse that the story moves to another level of surreal bizarre, no-that-did-not-actually-happen-ness. But readers, yes, it did too actually happen.

Because God knew that I wanted to be a writer even back then, HE decided to throw not only a monkey, but also some suspense and thrills into the mix of my life.

An honest to God serial killer started dumping the bodies of prostitutes in our apartment complex. It was in the middle of ass fucking nowhere and was all under construction so it was the perfect place to drop off the mutilated carcass of a former lady of the night.

One morning I got up to go to school and on the way to the bus stop I encountered a homicide investigation. When I came home from school my muddy, unfinished complex had been invaded by news crews. And I was home alone.

Imagine my terror when it happened again. I don't think I slept at all anymore.

The third body the killer dumped in the creek behind the apartment complex.

By the fourth I was so jaded and desensitized that I was like "Oh jeez, another strangled whore. How dull."

Then I tried to think of a way to disguise the monkey as a prostitute in hopes that the serial killer would make it his next victim. I never worked out exactly how to get that done, so the dang monkey lived on while rural, white trash meth hookers were dropping like flies.

Every day, alone, on the way to and from my bus stop I imagined the serial killer stalking me, waiting to attack me and throw me in a red clay mud puddle, all traces of his DNA rinsed away in the rain. I lived in such a state of heightened anxiety that I threw up every single morning and lived with a constant stomach ache. I was a nervous wreck and from this, not from Farsheed giving Farheed a rim job, I have lasting psychological effects.

By around April things decided to get worse again. The serial killer was still on the loose and then one day, after I ran the half mile home through the mud and construction, hoping I wouldn't trip on any waterlogged prostitute bodies, we had a tornado. I was home alone with the dog and cat, a freakin' axe murderer on a rampage in my neighborhood, and then there is a tornado. After the tornado ended and I crawled out of the shower where I hid, I went outside and yelled at the sky.

"OK!!!" I shouted. "I surrender. I have had it! What else could you possible do to me?? God! I am tired of this shit. I can't take anymore. You seriously owe me for this. You had better find a boy to kiss me or I am going to be really upset!!!"

God responded with a rainbow. I took this as a sign.

In the midst of all my trauma, fear, anxiety, guilt and loneliness I decided maybe, rather than focus on the overwhelmingly depressing things that actually bothered me, I should think about boys. I fell in love with a popular skateboarder in 11th grade who had devastating green eyes and who was going out with a Barbie doll of a girl who was in training to be an Olympic figure skater. She was the prettiest and most adored girl in the entire school of 4000 students. There was no way I could compete with that, which is probably why I chose her boyfriend to fall in love with. I had this thing for unrequited, impossible and unattainable love. I loved to pine for things and people and places I couldn't have. I still do it. I suffer chronic saudade.

My first week at the new school a group of misfit boys crowned me their queen. These boys skateboarded, but they weren't the hip popular skaters who would get "sponsored." My boys liked horror movies and Dungeons and Dragons. They thought I was the most beautiful female creature they had ever seen outside of Japanese Animation. It was like I was their long awaited, prophecied savior-ette and I did kind of enjoy the attention.

To this day, I am still the goddess of geeks. Sci-fi nerds, comic book store guys and boys hopelessly into things I've never even heard of because they are so nerdy, fall all over me. I can't even set foot within a mile of a Renaissance Festival without jousts and sword fights erupting over my honor. It's very dangerous.

My boys got together and made me my own skateboard and then spent an exhausting weekend teaching me to ride it, thus elevating my status in the school of 4000 students to overnight high school celebrity. I was the only girl in my school who could skate. You don't get much cooler than that in 9th grade, let me tell you. And I'm not even saying I skated well. I sucked. I could barely keep up and I tore my left leg to pieces trying to ollie a little curb. I don't even know if I spelled that right. In any event, I was famous in my school.

The boy began to call and talk to me!! The popular boy! The one with the ice skater girlfriend!! He thought I was cool. He said I had skin that was white like porcelain. That's a lame line now, but the first time you hear it, from the popular green eyed boy you LOOOOVE, it's a pretty amazing line. But then the ice skater got mad and my love went back to unrequited status.

I had a lot of boys offer to kiss me that Spring. One brought me daffodils. Others drove me home to save my life from the serial killer. Some gave me reeses cups, a sure way to my heart. I was living it up. I flounced around school in my drop waisted purple dress, skateboard over my shoulder, like I owned those orange lockered halls.

My best friend was a boy named PJ. PJ was a BMX biker who was "sponsored" and rode in shows and events. He wrote stories and skateboarded with me and wanted to make movies when he grew up. All he talked about was going to film school and he was really good in art. I told him I would write movies and he could direct them. PJ and I were committed platonic friends. We watched The Wall together. We ate McDonalds apple pies and wandered the streets of Collegetown listening to The Cure on his walkman. Every second I spent with PJ was perfect and he was a very deep and sensitive boy. I really liked hanging out with him. But AS FRIENDS. Remember I was really in LOOOOVE with the other boy who had the girlfriend.

One night PJ and I wandered the streets of Collegetown til very late. PJ wanted to go the hospital and look at the babies in incubators in the maternity ward so we did and PJ said some very deep things for a 15 year old, involving the innocence of new life and how in 15 years those babies would be just as cynical and sorrowful, wandering as lost as we were. Then we listened to Love Cats and skipped and danced our way back to Jumpin' Junk, where my parents were ready to kick my ass for wandering the streets until 1 in the morning without them knowing where I was.

I got grounded until the last day of school. I thought of ways to invite the serial killer to come to my house and put me out of my misery.

PJ and I cut the last day of school so we could wander the streets again.

"I have to confess something." he told me, as we strolled the grassy, gravelly patch beside the train tracks and kicked stray kudzu vines from our path.

"What?" I asked. I stepped down to pick a wildflower, Queen Anne's Lace I think.

"I totally love the new Rick Astley song."

I started cracking up. How lame of PJ to like that cheezy pop. We were way cooler than that.

"No, come on! I know it's corny, but it's really sweet. You have to listen to the words. I"m going to buy the single right now."

PJ went into the too cool, college record store and confidently purchased the Rick Astley single, which he popped into his walkman. Back beside the train tracks, he made me listen to it.

"Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie and desert you." he sang. Loudly.

"I LOVE this song!" he yelled.

Then, without any warning whatsoever PJ grabbed me, wrapped his arms all around me, causing me to drop my skateboard, and with the song still playing "never gonna run around and hurt you" PJ kissed me a perfect Hollywood kiss.

All of the nervousness, performance anxiety and intimidation I had before was gone. I kissed back. We kissed for a long time and then, just as if we were in a John Hughes movie, it started to rain and we kissed more. When I finally opened my eyes I realized that I never noticed that PJ had the bluest blue eyes in the whole world. So we kissed some more.

Then we layed (or lie?) down in the kudzu patch by the train tracks and kissed and kissed while it sprinkled and while trains passed and I even let him look at my bra. God looked down from Heaven and smiled and I secretly told Him, inside my head "God, it was definitely worth the wait."

The other day I googled PJ for fun and pages upon pages of results came up. Guess what? PJ really is a movie director!!!!!!! I am so infinitely proud. He's on imdb. He's making a documentary right now and he's written and worked on all sorts of neat projects. Current pictures also show that he grew up to be really cute and he has a wife even. I could not be more overjoyed to learn that he really did end up living his dream. So thank you PJ, if you even remember me, for giving me a perfectly framed, timed and well lit first kiss. I'll be cheering you on on Oscar night next year, or some year.

Ok readers, you can't not hear the song after all that. Please go listen to it. I found the video on YouTube and almost started to cry and laugh at the same time. HERE, my present for you all. Theee Rick Astley video.

Amazon Search Box

About Me

Blog Archive

Search

Loading...

Followers

There was an error in this gadget