In 1992, the morning rush hour commute from my stop in Brooklyn, to Mid-Town Manhattan took an average of an hour and a half. On our bus, we worked as a team, to make sure that we sat together and amused each other on the way to our jobs.
At the last stop in Brooklyn, before we got onto the Prospect Expressway, we stopped a the 'check point,' where all the other busses came in. Lots of passengers would transfer onto our bus, if we had available seats.
One of my 'bus buddies' noticed a behavioral pattern between two people and pointed it out to the rest of us. The man would get off the Mill Basin bus, and wait for the woman to get off a bus that came in from the Canarsie line. On the sidewalk, waiting to get onto our bus, they pretended to not know each other. When they sat down at the seats right across from us, they got very cozy.
He was a greying, rather overweight man, with a mean face. His mis-placed ego was as large as he was. Judging from his ultra-trendy clothes, he was obviously going through a serious mid-life crisis.
She was slender and much younger, with beautiful long, dark hair. She never spoke much, but when she did, it was in the form of 'baby talk.' That's what we named her, 'Little Miss Baby Talk.'
She always brought coffee and Danish from 'Dunkin' Donuts, for the both of them. He provided the New York Times. During their breakfast, he did all the talking. She hung onto every word, clapping her hands at everything he said, like a little baby girl.
He spoke very loud, as he went on and on about himself. He bragged about his impressive career and his impressive life. Everyone listened, whether we wanted to or not. When he showed her photographs from his family vacations, we craned our necks to see them. We wanted to know if his wife was in any of them, and what she looked like. She was in most of them. Somehow, they managed to gloss over the fact that she existed.
Once breakfast was over, and we were well into a traffic jam inside the Battery Tunnel for the next 45 minutes, things would get even more interesting.
They would take the New York Times, and build a sort of 'tent' to hide from the rest of us. Under their tent, they would make out all the way through the Battery Park and Wall Street areas. By the time we weaved around and along the FDR, going north to Mid-Town, passing the Brooklyn Bridge, he would re-appear. She, however, would be mysteriously missing!
We looked around at her empty seat and asked each other where she went. Finally, we decided that perhaps they had a basement in their little 'love nest,' and that's where she would go, unless she crawled through the floor and left the bus. Our group was amazed at his talent in making her 'disappear,' and so, we named him, 'The Magician.'
One day, 'Miss Baby Talk' was in the basement, and the 'Magician' was engrossed in the news article that he was pretending to read. An old woman had just stepped onto the bus and payed her fare. She was delighted to see what she thought was an empty seat, and she hurried down the aisle to claim it. She sat down for a second, and sprang to her feet, very confused.
'Miss Baby Talk' suddenly popped her head out of the newspapers and sat on the seat. The 'Magician' was annoyed that the disappearing act was abruptly interrupted. The rest of us clapped our hands and cheered at the performance, yelling, "One plus one equals two, after all!"
At 'check point,' from then on, we saw them meeting to get onto a bus together. They never bothered to ride our bus, ever again.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
The first time I ever laid eyes on John Daly, was just before Christmas in 1989. He was standing at the alter, waiting for my mother to march down the aisle and marry him.
I was sitting on a front row seat, next to my two brothers. It was the first time the three of us sat together like that since our father's funeral, and the second time our mother got married since his death. The deep level of sadness we were feeling, and the slow, droning organ music were the same on both occasions. The flowers at the funeral were much more festive.
Looking up on the stage, trying to figure out who my next step-father was going to be, I saw John standing there, alone. Hoping that my eyes were playing tricks on me, I shut my eyes tight for a few seconds, and said to myself, "Please, dear God, let him be the best man!" I stared at him, thinking that maybe if I stared long enough, I could find something to like about him, but it didn't happen.
I leaned over and asked the person sitting next to me, "Is that him?" and somebody nodded their head, 'yes.' I said, "We've got a problem here." I don't even remember who I said it to, but it doesn't matter. No one ever disagreed with me on this one.
The organ music changed to the sickening one-note chord that signaled us to stand up and face the back of the church, to behold the blushing bride.
Wearing a long, beige, lace dress, and holding a bouquet of flowers, she stepped in time to, "Here Comes The Bride." The smile on her face was scary. It wasn't a smile that reflected happiness. It was more a 'performance' smile. As she came closer and closer to the alter, the personae she adopted during her last husband, morphed into her concept of what she thought her next husband wanted her to be. She was trying on that person, as she marched down the aisle, on her way to her new life, as Mrs. John Daly.
After the wedding, I politely introduced myself to my new step-father, and my two revolting step-sisters.
Months later, my mother gave me much more information than I'd ever ask for, by telling me what happened on their wedding night. She said that they did not have sex at all. He stayed in the bathroom half the night, throwing up, because he was so nervous. I thought that it should've been the other way around. She should've been the one throwing up at the thought of having sex with him. In any case, it was an omen.
From the moment he said, "I do," John managed to ruin every family gathering that I ever attended. Christmas, birthdays, funerals, you name it. He put his own unique spin on making us understand that our family, as we knew it, was officially dead. He ran the show, and it was guaranteed that we would only be miserable. When it came time to leave, we left angry.
My brothers named him, "The Commander," because he made it his business to control every move we made. It always took me at least two weeks to recover emotionally, from all the 'divide and conquer' tactics that he put us through, and got away with.
Geraldine's three kids wanted to keep a semblance of what once was our family, but it was too much for us to ask. She completely ignored the fact that we were so profoundly unhappy. After a while, I decided that it was time to start protecting myself from this abuse. The last event I allowed myself to suffer through, was Christmas 1996.
Sometimes, Geraldine called me discreetly, from the guest room of their home. I always recognized her voice, but I never knew who I was going to be talking to. The conversations were never anything to do with who we really were, or what was really going on. That wasn't allowed. It was always the superficially pleasant, one-sided mother-daughter chat. She had this need to keep things wrapped up in a nice, neat little package, in order to live with herself. Every word that came out of her mouth was a form of manipulation. In between her false concerns, we'd go over how she'd re-invented herself, and how the rest of us were expected to play along. She always ended the call with an insinuation that we had a close relationship, and she was a devoted mother. It felt like anything but love.
Shortly after the call ended, and we hung up, the phone would ring, again. When I picked up the phone and said, 'hello,' the person on the other end would listen for a few seconds, for the second 'hello,' and then hung up on me. It didn't take long to notice the pattern. It wasn't a stalker. It was the heavy hand of John Daly hitting the 'redial' button to find out who she was on the phone with.
He probably didn't recognize my voice at first, because I'd be crying my eyes out by then. I cried every time I talked to those people. The truth of why I cried was too much of a burden for them to be bothered with. To stop being a burden, I stopped talking to those people. When I stopped talking to those people, I stopped crying.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Grandma Mary used to say, "I believe in romance, and I know I'll love, again. Jesus is going to send the right man to me, when I'm ready." And so, this match made in Heaven came to pass.
According to Grandma, she was working in her strawberry patch on a warm, sunny day, when she heard a truck pulling up in the gravel. She said, "I wasn't expecting company, and couldn't imagine who it 'twas. When I saw Floyd coming towards me, I asked him what in the world he was doing there. He said, 'Mary, I've got something to tell you. I was in church, praying to the Lord for a new wife. I heard the voice of Jesus tell me to come over here and ask you to marry me.'" How could she argue with that? She took his word for it and married him right away.
Grandma and Floyd assured their collective offspring that they weren't going to change their wills. They just got married because they were in love. With their inheritances protected, Geraldine and her two sisters gushed over their concept that Grandma owned half of Eaton, Ohio, and Floyd owned the other half. Together, they had a 'family dynasty.'
When Chuck found out how Grandma got married so quickly, he called Geraldine to inquire if the old guy 'knocked her up,' and if they had a 'shotgun wedding!'
Things went sour when the two 'love birds' went to Florida for the winter. Grandma went down there to enjoy herself, but it never happened. She was too busy cooking and cleaning for the constant company Floyd invited over. He and his guests had to be talking and eating, all day, every day. She didn't know them, and she didn't like them. It didn't matter to Floyd, as long as he was the center of attention.
She went along with his obnoxious behavior until she just couldn't take it any more. They returned to Ohio, much sooner than planned. She said that she had to get back home, and away from him, before she died from exhaustion.
My younger brother, Jeff, got the scoop on a more intimate level. She answered a lot of unasked questions, when she told him that Floyd was always 'wearing her out in bed.' She complained that she was always tired, and her 'crotch was constantly irritated from having so much sex.' I told him, "That's her way of bragging that she gets laid more than you do!"
Grandma had a bottle of prescribed pills, and doctor's orders to get bed rest. While she was trying to recover from him, Floyd complained to her that she slept too much. He said that if he knew that she was going to be so sick all the time, he wouldn't have married her, and he was getting bored.
One afternoon, she was knocked out from her pills, when Floyd packed up his belongings and moved back to his old house. Grandma woke up and caught him going through her jewelry box. He was taking back the engagement ring, and wedding ring that he bought her.
When she realized what was happening, she got out of her bed, to see what else that he took with him. He took everything, even the toilet paper. So much for 'Jesus as Matchmaker.'
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Although it was an unpopular thing to do, I actually liked my father. No one else noticed that fact, but him. He guarded that little secret well. Liking him in that house was simply not allowed, even after he died. If and when I defended his memory when Geraldine spoke badly of him, (which was always the case), it was perceived that I'd betrayed her.
In my father's lifetime, I couldn't count on one hand the things he's done that were ever good enough to meet up to Geraldine's standards. It would be easier for me to name the times she spoke of how great her life would be, if he would just drop dead.
Well, her fantasy came true. At the age of 54, he did just that. The official cause of his death was conjestive heart failure. In my professional opinion, I'd say, that the man died of sheer boredom. Living alone with her would kill anyone.
On the night that he died, they were in the living room, watching "Magnum P.I.," the TV series with Tom Selleck. Within the last fifteen minutes of the show, she went to the bathroom during a commercial. On her way there, she said something to irritate my father. She commented on how 'good looking' Tom Selleck was.
Sitting on the couch, he made a sarcastic remark in retaliation to hers, took his last breath, and croaked.
A few years after my father left the planet, I got an unexpected call from Geraldine. With a very excited tone in her voice, she said that she'd called to tell me that she'd just got married. I said, "I didn't even know that you had a boyfriend. How did this happen?"
She said, "Well, I met him in church. I looked up, and there he was! I prayed about it, and the Lord told me that I was supposed to marry him! Ten days later, we just went off and got married!"
I said, "The Lord, huh? Okay. What's his name?" I could feel her blush on the other end of the phone as she giggled. With the voice of a small child, she said, "Beeeyil."
I said, "Bill? Did you say that his name is Bill? So, what's your last name, now?" She said, "Snively," with another giggle.
I said, "Snively? You mean, like 'Snidely Whiplash' on the Rockey and Bullwinkle cartoons?" She just giggled.
I said, "Anything else I should know?" She said, "He has four kids. Two boys and two girls, so that means you have four new sisters and brothers! He has a daughter named, Kathy, too! Just like you!" I said, "Well, that's an excellent selling point."
She said, "He's standing right here, and he wants to meet you. I'm going to hand him the phone, right now! Here he is, now -- MEET Y'ER DADDY!"