How did it get to this? When I first saw her! Oh! The smiling! From, me, to her, from her, to me! I felt it so much, the connection. I spoke to her, said something I can’t remember, and then walked away. A few days later, I called her, got her on the telephone, and we arranged to meet, to go for a walk.
That night when I stood at the corner, so sunny, I was trying to look casual, to be at ease. Then she arrived, me squinting through the bright light and her emerging, so much more amazing than I had remembered – I thought she could not be here for me, its not her – but she smiled at me and said hello.
She was here for me. We walked and walked all evening, around the neighbourhood – past the stores and theatres, past the guys sitting out on their stoops, past the school. I wanted them all to see me with her. She finally made me feel like I was someone.
I knew a little gap in the fence at Ebbet’s Field – I pushed the wire back crawled through – she took my hand and followed. It felt like flowers. We were in the vast stadium alone, and felt so small, but somehow, with her there, I felt alright. Like we could do what we wanted. I left her at the top of my block that night, and went to bed, smiling at the sky outside.
Now I am often at the window. Just looking. The sky stares back. When she is here I feel like there is a weight upon me. My mind races to say the right thing, can’t think of anything, so I stay silent. She hates this, and shouts at me. “What is wrong with you!?” I have no idea. What is wrong with her? Well, probably me.
I can’t do shit for her. I tried to put up a shelf last week, and two huge cracks appeared in the plasterwork. When she came in and saw the new shelf with a vase of flowers on it, she looked beneath them, and at the cracks, then at me, then went into the bathroom.
And that thing with the book! That was goddamn crazy… well, I guess I should have just done what she… I mean, she tries to help me out, hint at what she wants, but I want to be able to work it out myself. Or to not have to work it out. Is a girl meant to be a riddle? Is all of life meant to be some puzzle? When I try to do something my way, do it the way I’d like, it gets shoved back in my face. I just can’t do it.
I did all life asked of me – Ma and Pa saying I should go to college, my brothers saying to get married, Joan telling me… Well, I did it all and where is my reward? Why am I not happy? They probably all told me to do this shit so I end up as unhappy as them. They’d hate to see me go somewhere else, do something big.
That’s what I’ll do! Leave this place and start again, where I can be something else. But Joan… I don’t want to leave her. When I look at her eyes, and she is staring at me with some sort of hate rays, well, they fade after a little while and I see her again for the first time, all the years fall away and I love her with everything I have. At that point, I want to grab her and wrap my arms around her, just hold so tightly that all of the world around us goes away and it is only us. All of the rest of it, the city, the boss, the family, the apartment, means nothing to me then. And she smiles again. Just like I hoped she would. I wanted to get her that rabbit because its so silly and funny and sad, like her. She would have liked it, and I think she would have smiled at it. Then at me.
WALKING THE STREET
Pa is such a jerk! Fuck him! I went by the cafe and he is there with his gang, the lot of them just drinking and watching everything pass by, and he shouts something I don’t quite hear, but they all laugh. I heard “college boy” but not much else. That was all I heard. That was meant to be the proudest time for my family, I was the only one who went, not my brothers, and not that dumb asshole for sure. But I fucked it up. I didn’t belong with that lot, they seemed like they had known each other their entire lives, they had some, like, secret language, from all these schools they go to… I had no idea. I got the work done, got an alright grade, but when they all went to work with their Pas on Wall Street or the family firm, or the Madison Avenue businesses, or travel somewhere else, start something… and I just stuck here, working the nights at Chandlers, hauling those metal sheets from one side of the place to the other, letting the machines do their thing, and hauling them back. All night. Shit, I’d have been in charge of all that if I hadn’t have gone to college, and I would at least be more like the guys there. Now, they think I think I’m above them. That’s the last thing I think.
How do they know how to talk, joke, get girls, work, laugh? I never found out. All my life, he was there, just shouting out the same stuff, again and again, “Richie, let me tell you something…” No! Let me tell you something, you fucking waste of space – Ma is way too good for you – however you got her, I’ll never know. She has done everything for us while you just sit and stare, watch that TV, eat that food, complain about both. Yeah, just because you feel hard done by, like you don’t want any of us to be around, that you want to be free to shoot the shit on the corner, shout at passers by, have people listen to you… You want to have all that, and you want someone to be there for you too. You want to avoid that empty home, that knowing that if you die, no one would know until…
Dad, I want to be there for you. At least you have been around. I wanted better for you, too. I don’t think you understood college, like I was rejecting all you had told me. I wish I listened more. I think I can sort of see why you are like you are… Fuck, I’ll just write it down, now, one, and I’ll throw this out the window into the street – Pa, I’m so like you – I wish we could have been together more, to be able to build more. You paid for me to go away, to try and be better, to get more than you had. And when I got no further, I think you felt you had failed. No, you have not failed. I have. I will…
Pa, I love you. I need to know – can I have a life with Joan? What would you do? I want to have what you have, but like you, I need something else. And nothing, no other women, no job, no liquor, no friends, no apartment, no marriage can fill the big, BLACK HOLE like a clenched fist in the centre of my fucking chest.
Please forgive me. I’ve done the best that I can. I hope that you haven’t had it too hard. You know, I wish I could tell you these things face to face, to look you in the eye and say “I love you,” but ou know I never could. You understand me. In some way that none of the others will.
You never demanded anything of me, and I never gave you anything back. Even when you made me my favourites, I hardly ever gave more than a grunt as a thank you. Well, for all those times, I’m sorry, and I thank you now.
I’ve got to do something different, I’ve got to start again. I’ve messed this all up, and I want to show you that I was listening all those times, that I will “keep on keeping on” I will “do unto others as you’d like done unto you” and do this all better.
When I’m with Joan, I don’t always do things right. I wanted to be to her like you were to me. But she didn’t need that, she can do anything. She doesn’t need me. I couldn’t even get…
It doesn’t matter now. I’ll do it better. I’ll be proud to look the world in the eye and call me your son. I need to go now.
Ma, can you give me some money to get me started? There is someone at the plant who knows of an opportunity. I just need your help one last time.