The October People. Chapter 32: The Seagull, the Cuckold, and the Longhair
I remembered more of the ‘Chasing the Waves Incident’ yesterday.
It all fell together after I remembered bobbing up to the surface beyond the breakers. Suddenly, it was just ‘there’. I wrote it down as accurately as I could.
But I still can’t believe what I’m saying. It’s impossible. If it wasn’t for that seagull, I’d think I was insane.
Necessity had made for a fast learner out there beyond the breakers. I instinctively learned quickly what worked best in keeping me afloat. I felt the awful enormity of my situation, but wasted no time on thoughts or crying. I didn’t know what else to do except keep from sinking. I don’t know how long I kept it up, until suddenly my sphincter slammed tight.
I saw something sticking up out of the water; dark, crooked things. As soon as I realized they didn’t move I began trying to reach whatever they were as something solid in a world of drowning. I kept my face tilted way back, furiously thrashing my arms and trying to run with my legs in that direction.
It was a driftwood log, with busted off stubs of roots sticking up in the air. The wood was dark and felt slimy when I threw my arms over the trunk. I couldn’t haul myself up on it, and if I tried to use a root to pull myself up with, the log began to roll sickeningly.
Regardless, it was an indescribable relief to have something to hold onto. I clung to that tree like a tick to a hound-dog; I was not going to let go. The water was warmer than the air, so I stayed as low as I could. The swells rhythmically lifted and lowered us like a roller coaster.
Night fell, the waves went to sleep, and the wind disappeared. The tree and I gently bobbed with the Ocean’s oily rolling. Only my head and arms were out of the water. My hands were numb, and my teeth began to chatter.
I could make out the shore because the sand was so much lighter than the water. I dozed off in quick snatches. When I was awake, I was dull with stress and fatigue. I felt no fear as long as I was clamped to that log. I didn’t think at all about how I had gotten here, or what was going to happen to me. I was alive.
Sometime during that interminable night, I watched a cluster of lights that had appeared on shore.
The dawn came, and it grew brighter slowly. The clouds of the day before, the wind, and the rough sea were all gone. My eyes closed again until I felt myself slipping and jerked myself up, getting a fresh grip. The sun was up now, and there were seagulls floating serenely in the water to my right, just past the end of the log. They all looked identical; except for a white one. It was across the log from me, about 6 feet away, quietly floating facing the other gulls. Its white feathers all had a delicate, light brown edging, and its bill was pink. It watched me steadily with an unblinking yellow eye; not a friendly eye, but not a threatening one either. The sun at my back lit the bird up with a numinous glow as we silently watched each other.
My tree must have drifted during the night with the tide and the current. I was now maybe twenty or thirty feet from shore; the boardwalk and the Visitors’ Center were much closer. But it still seemed an insurmountable gulf; it might as well been on the moon. Then I saw people moving on the Boardwalk. Something about how they were moving told me they saw me. Suddenly there was a future. That knowledge electrified and panicked me. I didn’t want that log to go back out to sea again with me on it. Desperate now, I moved my way down the tree and fought past the roots. The seagulls moved off, watching me warily. I let go and began running through the water, using my arms to pull myself. I was moving, getting a little closer, but I was completely exhausted, and I knew if I stopped moving I’d sink forever. I was terrified of feeling that again.
The surf was light and when I got close to shore a small comber pushed me in and dumped me in the soup. The sudden feel of solid land after that night of weightlessness was intense. My legs were stiff and numb, I could barely move them. As the wave retreated, the sand fled out from under my hands and knees, but I was not going to be dragged out there again. I scrambled and scrabbled, fighting the pull of that receding monster. Finally, the Sea gave up and left without me. I saw my chance and clawed my way further up the beach before the next wave could get me. Hands pulled at my arms and there were excited voices. I gave it up then, exhausted by the weight of the heavy, wet, sand-crusted clothing. And I was cold, so cold; shivering and crying spasmodically.
The next memory I have is of sitting on some woman’s lap, wrapped up in a dark green, scratchy blanket. Around me were glass shelves piled with souvenir items and clothes printed with the Park’s logo: A seahorse and a life preserver.
I was clad in all new, dry clothes; a grey “Jones’ Beach” sweatshirt, a far too-large pair of jeans, and a white sailor’s cap. The people were very nice; everyone seemed to want to do something for me.
I kept hearing the phrase: “...almost went to Davey Jones’ Locker” over and over.
They gave me a broiled hot dog with brown mustard that stuck out past the ends of the bun on a fluted white paper tray. And I got a thick white china mug of hot chocolate that was too hot at first.
I remember staring at a uniformed policeman’s chest and the leather belts that criss-crossed it. He was a big man, with shiny, tall boots. The revolver on his right hip had a dark wood butt, and he held his broad-brimmed hat with the round top and a chin strap under his arm as he wrote on a clipboard. He asked me questions like what my name was, what happened, did I remember?
“We played ‘Run from na Waves.’”
“’Run from the waves’? And what happened?”
“Daddy trew me down an he ran away an it got me.”
“Where’s your Mommy and Daddy now?”
“Gone? Where did they go?”
“Dey went home.” There was a collective stir, and murmurings. He wrote some more.
“Alright….” he said as he writing, “What’s your Daddy’s name?”
“Well…What does your Mommy call him?”
There was a delighted burst of laughter that broke the tension, and it made me feel good. I knew what I did; it was a way to get back at him. My aunts would try to get me alone whenever I saw them, and pump me for stories about Al and Lily. And I knew what made them laugh. The cop turned red, and tried not to smile.
“No, no, no. What’s his name that your Mommy … or somebody calls him? Your name is ‘Frankie’, right? What’s his?”
There was another man there who asked me questions after the policeman. He was smaller, wore a long grey coat, and had a hat like Dede’s, only it didn’t look as good. He wrote things on a small notepad he held in one hand. On a strap around his neck was a camera with a big silver flash reflector.
After he took my picture, blue spots danced all over wherever I looked.
I had eaten and drank, and I was dry. Even though I was still cold deep inside, warmth was slowly sinking all the way in, and I wasn’t shivering anymore. It felt good to be cuddled by that lady. My own mother never once did that. I fell asleep on her lap.
I don’t know how I got back to the apartment.
I caused Al and Loony Lily a great deal of trouble by simply telling the truth…as well as by surviving. I’d gotten in trouble before for talking, but this was different; this was about attempted murder.
As soon as the door was closed, they turned on me. Their faces thrust in mine, twisted in rage. Her voice was low, hissing and spitting into my face. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone ‘Family Business’, because telling on them was wrong.
Through my terror I couldn’t grasp the logic. Even though they did do bad things, it was wrong to tell on them? And I knew now they were bad things, because I had seen how other people viewed what they did, and saw that Lily lied to cover up what they did.
But now she wanted more than just my silence; she wanted me to take it back. She wanted me to say something which was not true; to lie, to say it never happened that way.
All I knew how to do was to tell what was, I had no idea how to deceive by saying something that wasn’t true. It always confused me badly when Lily lied, because I didn’t see how there could be 2 stories, both claiming to be the true one; the one I knew was real, and the one she said was.
That image of the white seagull is so clear; I was able to identify it out of a field guide this morning. I didn’t think there were any gulls with a flesh-colored bill, yellow eyes, and white feathers edged with brown.
But there was my memory right there in that book: An immature Glaucous Gull; Larus hyperboreus.
I don’t believe this. Nobody will ever believe this.
The next summer after that murder attempt, Loony Lily told me it was time for me to learn to swim. In all seriousness I told her I already knew how to swim. She said I didn’t and I insisted I did. Of course, that got me smacked.
But it was having Al be the one to ‘teach’ me that panicked me. I didn’t trust him at all. Especially behind me, holding the waistband of my trunks so that my buttocks were fully exposed while I was struggling to keep my head up out of the water.
The ‘lesson’ didn’t last long.
I was right though; by my definition, I did know how to swim. When I bobbed to the surface that day, I had to learn to swim, and fast. But what I meant by ‘swimming’ was more or less a frantic dog paddle.
To me ‘I know how to swim’ meant I didn’t drown.
There has got to be an article in some newspaper archive out there. But there were sixty daily newspapers in New York City in the 50’s. Now there are only 3, and I’ve only got sporadic access to the microfilms of the New York Times. And so far, I’ve found nothing.
Most people trust their memory. They don’t even think about it. It’s easy for them to because of a tacit acceptance by others that what you’re saying really did happen.
I’ve always trusted my memory before all this, and it has often been remarked that mine is an exceptionally acute one. But for those years that I had no memories of my own, enforced lies were laid over the top of blank areas. I was told to accept those lies as the truth.
Now I am remembering, and the truth is so weird I’m having a harder time accepting it than the lies.
February 1, 2008
My self-imposed deadline for re-entering the workforce is fast approaching. I told Melissa that I’d wait till the official end of the ‘Year of the Golden Pig’, but not longer. It will mean having to give up this dearly loved independence that I’ve enjoyed for all these years. It means living by the clock and another’s will, not my own. But what must be; must be.
I don’t think ‘Boutique Farming’ is viable for us any longer. In tough economic times people will have to, albeit reluctantly, cut back. They will always have to eat, but they don’t have to eat ‘Organically’, or “Locally Grown Heirloom Gourmet”.
I figured it was about the end of this wave anyway; too many people were jumping onto the Farmers’ Markets bandwagon with the collapse of the art and craft fair markets. It was getting over-saturated.
But this is no time to launch a new business. It’s time to hunker down and ride out the storm; because it’s crashing out there.
I would never watch movies, or read books that I felt were drawing on emotional themes. I said I saw no reason to be manipulated like that for the writer’s profit. I see now that what I was actually doing was protecting myself from being confronted with my own repressed emotions.
During my sophomore college year, something began with that first séance that I and a girl held late at night. It took off. A group of us began having them almost nightly. We began to be called “The Ghost-Hunters”.
I was the ‘Caller’:
“Whoever you are, whatever you are, come into this room…”
It started with me, and I was the common denominator. Nothing seemed to happen unless I was present. All those poltergeist-like manifestations…I was haunting myself?
Was it my buried past, trying to make myself heard by me?
It’s no coincidence that my college ‘career’ fell apart right then and there that October. I went from the Dean’s list to Probation in one semester. I felt like I was being hunted by some ‘Evil’ that I had awakened. It felt that strong. I was sure it wanted to destroy me. It created the same sensations in me as ‘The Thing in the Attic’.
Loony Lily insisted that it was the Devil, and warned me against using the Ouija board or the Tarot, because the Devil uses them to ‘confuse’ you about ‘things’.
I finally learned how to ‘shut the door in my head’ to exclude that feeling, that link to ‘it’. But by then it was too late. All interest in classes was gone; it all seemed trite, meaningless. I was looking for something again.
What, I didn’t know. I wanted to get away. I was lost, and became a Wanderer.
It is in my dreams that the core ‘me’ is put to the test. They don’t let me hide from myself. Intellectually I may hold a view or espouse a moral position, but it is my dreams that show me how deeply and honestly, I hold that view or how shallow or hypocritical I am. They either puncture my beliefs about myself and others or, less often, they ratify them.
Jung was dead on target here: They provide an outlet for an autonomous corrective voice to counter-balance my waking consciousness. Even nightmares are really but a burst of angry frustration at my not paying heed to a problem of critical importance to my ‘unconscious’ self, and what was once a helpful voice turns terrifying in its rage. But if I face that apparition calmly, with the intent to understand; it reverts back to a helpful symbol.
But for all their usefulness, dreams are not without their dangers. Too much daily focus and infatuation with them can lead to a type of lucid dreaming. Dreams then can become ‘wish-fulfillment’, but not in the way Freud meant. My views and desires can begin to influence the dream’s contents, which conform then to my wishes. Their original intent is warped by my over-attention.
Then instead of a useful dialog with a hitherto voiceless unconscious part of my psyche, I risk merely creating fantasies and run the danger of being led astray by delusions.
Maybe most dreams aren’t meant to be studied: If they serve a purpose, I can’t see it.
But during times of high stress, or fundamental confusion, during times when your world suddenly is shattered; the dreams that occur then are directed toward growth or a resolution somehow. They are insightful and helpful if the conscious mind actively reflects on what the symbols and content may mean. An actual ongoing dialog begins between what I think about them during the day and their response to my thinking during the night.
Penelope was right; until after the fact it is impossible to determine which dream was and which was not accurately predictive. Though a few dreams are without a doubt precognitive, the vast majority don’t seem to be.
However, an interesting point for conjecture is created by those few dreams that are precognitive, even if only known after the fact: The future then already exists?
If true, that means this is a determined universe?
There is a Fated Destiny for all of us?
Well, 2 days from now I’ve got an appointment in town to get my hair cut. That long braid down to the middle of my back is just about history. It’ll certainly be easier to get a job without it. But that isn’t the real reason I’m doing it.
It runs deeper than that: I’m no longer the same man.
More than a quarter of a century has passed since the Woodstock Generation threw its ideals into the dustbin of history and became yuppies, and I was still letting my ‘Freak Flag’ fly in defiance.
I grew my hair long when I was young for a reason, I didn’t do it to be cool. Back then you could get your head broke for being a “Long-Hair”. But I had become convinced by the arguments of the counter-culture. I believed in what we were saying and doing. I wore my hair long as a badge that set me apart from what I saw as an unresponsive society of injustices and corruption that was heading off a cliff.
By the mid 70’s, when I saw that everyone was growing their hair long just because everyone else was and even making fun of those few “short-hairs” that were left, I cut mine off. Still later, when everyone cut theirs to become yuppies, I chafed until I could grow mine long again.
That world hasn’t changed, if anything it’s even more corrupt, unfair, and wasteful. All those old issues are still there and very real, but only now do I see there was also a personal component in the stands I took.
I was projecting onto society and its ills my own unseen, unresolved problems; and the other side was doing the same thing. When there is that amount of emotional baggage it hardens everything into an ‘us or them’ stridency. There could be no compromise with, no understanding of the other side, and therefore no solution except confrontation or rejection.
It comes back to what came out of our “Bull-Sessions” in those days:
“Before you can straighten society out; you’ve got to straighten yourself out first.”
Watched “Edward Scissorshands” last night. It was like being back in 1st grade for me. He even looked as green as I felt that year.
“What happened to you?”
“What happened to your face?”
Questions met with silence, because I didn’t know how to answer. The poignancy of a little boy mistaking the curiosity or pity of little girls for love.
So it goes.
But not much fun for me.
The ‘Year of the Golden Pig’ is now history. I’ve done my utmost to remember accurately what Dede said to me. I believe he really did promise me something back then for far in the future, but the exact nature of it and the timing eludes me still.
This memory is unlike any of my other ones in one crucial respect: This one is a prediction. That means it’s verifiable, testable.
That is sobering.
In the meantime, it would be the height of irresponsibility to sit back and hope it all works out. The world does not work that way.
“Keep rowing for shore.”
I ran across Melissa’s resume folder while I was looking for my own. I was poignantly struck by how much living with me has cost her. It was filled with glowing evaluations by her professors. This woman had such potential, such possibilities.
I felt ashamed of what living with me had cost her. I never felt like that before. I always felt that whoever was with me was lucky to be with me.
February 23, 2008
Tried to reach Erica today. Left a message. She never called back; again.
Okay: I’ve got to know once and for all.
I’ve decided on a ‘Litmus test’ to learn whether she will believe me or not if I lay it all out or if she just doesn’t care. I’m sending her enlarged copies of the photos of myself as a boy with a brief explanation for each one.
This should get some response.
Though so much of my time is spent in the past, it’s not idle reverie or stewing. It’s a systematic investigation; both analysis and synthesis, in the midst of which I’m more alive than I’ve ever been, more here in the present than I’ve ever been.
Sent off a package today to Erica that contained some photos and accompanying explanations.
Here are a couple more photos for your collection. They’re blow ups of the originals. They’re numbered on the back. Below is a commentary on each.
#1 This was taken Easter morning, April 1957, in Queens. That’s your grandfather holding your terrified Uncle Jake, and that’s me standing in front. Your grandfather was your age. I was not quite 5. I remember that morning clearly, as well as when this photo was taken by your grandmother. I hurt all over. Just before this photo was snapped, Al shook the hell out of me with his right hand. That's why Jakey was so scared. But that’s not why I hurt.
#2 This is from October, 1957. It’s a class picture of Kindergarten in P.S. 13, Woodside, Queens. I was now 5 and a half. I’m the dazed looking kid in the front row with the striped shirt. See the children’s artwork hung behind us? The Jack-O-Lantern with no mouth was mine. I remember making it with the teacher’s help, and her asking; “Don’t you want to put a mouth on him?” I shook my head no. “Then how can he talk?” she asked. I never answered her. I couldn’t. I was almost killed after this photo was taken. I never returned to Kindergarten, and I missed the first 2 months of 1st grade. I never went back to school until November, 1958, on Long Island.
#3 This is a photo of me on my new bike. It’s from July, 1958, in Woodside. I had just gotten out of the hospital. I remember it hurt to smile like I was told to. Before Lily snapped this photo, she pulled the hair down over my forehead.
#4 This is an extreme close-up of the same photo #4 was made from. Look closely, and you’ll see why Lily pulled my hair down. It was to cover up those peculiar asterisk-like marks under the hair on my forehead. They are the remains of “Pond Fractures”. Note the scars on the left side of the face; under the eye, on the cheek, near the mouth. You can just make out 2 dots of a scar on my throat just at the collar-line.
#5 & #6 These are 2 copies of a photo from May, 1959, the first spring after the move to the Island. Unfortunately for clarity, Al and Lily had switched to a newer camera that lacked the fine detail of the old box camera. I’ve included them because if you look, you can not only see the same scars from #4, but others on the forehead that you couldn’t see in #4.
Erica should have gotten the photos by now. Tried calling her. Maybe I missed her. She said she was going to her grandmother’s in Arizona for Easter. I tried her cell again, and left another message.
As I was putting together those photos for her, I had stared for a long time at the Easter photo with Al standing behind me holding Jakie, remembering; hating.
It was hot up there on the 4th floor of the building in the summer and Al and Loony Lily had only a small hassock fan to provide any relief from the sweltering heat.
One hot, sunny, Sunday afternoon is lodged in my memory as a “Marker Buoy Memory” because I picked up on a change; a disturbing one.
It was odd enough that all three of us were together in the same room in that stifling heat that afternoon. Then Lily abruptly, ‘casually’, suggested that Al and I strip down to our underpants and sit around the fan.
He was out of his clothes before I knew she really meant it. She told him to bring her a basin of ice water to soak her feet in. He put it down before her, and took up his seat on the edge of the chair again. She gingerly slipped her feet into the water. Purple and blue vein networks covered her thick thighs like webbing.
I noticed she made no move to remove her blue shorts or white sleeveless blouse.
“Aren’t cha gonna take off ya clothes?” I asked her.
“Cause I’m a lady.”
What I had picked up on was something in Al’s behavior. He was excited, giddy at being just in his underwear, like a smutty schoolboy. He rocked on the edge of the chair, hunched over, his hands tightly pressed in his lap.
And he kept looking at me.
Not long after that Loony Lily had an appointment for a check-up with Doctor O’Brian because she was pregnant with Jakey. Al parked the big, old, black sedan in the shade of the trees that lined the street near the stairs to the Doctor’s office on the 2nd floor of the Brownstone duplex. When she got out, she had me sit up front with Al.
After she had gone in, I sat quietly drawing, engrossed in what I was doing. It wasn’t long before he broke the silence.
“Here. C’mon. Ya can sit on my lap.”
I was startled back into awareness. He half-pulled, half-lifted me onto his lap behind the steering wheel. It was a tight fit.
“Draw me sumthin.”
“Ya Mutha’s da ‘artist’, not me.”
But on the top corner of the sheet of paper he laboriously, tightly, drew a small jet plane and a tiny Tyrannosaurus Rex.
“You draw good.” I told him.
I felt something stiff underneath me in his pants. It was uncomfortable. I kept squirming to get off of it, but he kept pulling me back on top of it.
It wasn’t long after that when it began. The apartment was still warm that afternoon, but the stifling heat was gone. Only he and I were there.
I was playing quietly on the floor in the living room when he came into the room. He was wearing his plaid robe. I noticed his legs and feet were bare.
“Where are his pajamas?” I wondered.
He sat down on the couch near me. He was acting funny. It was like he wanted to do something, but didn’t know how to begin. He called me over to him, and sat me on his lap.
He was acting very friendly in a goofy way. I was leery; this was not at all like him. But at the same time, I was happy at the attention. He began tickling me all over, and running his fingers up my shorts. I giggled nervously as he fondled me, rubbing it between his fingertips.
He slid me off his lap, and stood me on the floor between his legs. He moved to the edge of the couch, pulling his robe open. His face was flushed, hot-looking, his lips thick. An erection stood out of his jockey shorts.
“Gaw head. Hold it. Gawon, it’s okay…See?”
“Kiss it.” he told me in a funny, strained voice.
I shot a look up at him. He was very red and tense now. I began to feel confused; something was not right. It was his voice and change of appearance that alarmed me, not what he wanted me to do. After all, Loony Lily often did that to me too.
He kept up a steady, low stream of talk. He was trying to sound re-assuring, but it came out as strained and taut.
“Make believe it’s ya thumb…Put it in ya mouth like it was ya thumb.”
I panicked and tried to pull away, pushing against his groin. Too late. Nothing was stopping him now.
“Knock it off!! Open ya mouth! OPEN IT!!”
I was petrified. This Al I knew. I stopped fighting, and tried to do what he ordered.
He pulled himself free, standing up quickly, knocking me down. He stuffed himself back into his shorts as he left the room, without looking at me or saying a word.
I wiped my mouth on my arm, relieved I wasn’t hurt.
It was always so much better when he was gone.
As usual, there was no greeting from her when Lily returned. By the way she looked at me as she passed by, she seemed to have known what happened. Her expression was not one of pity, outrage or contempt; it was a cool, measuring one to see how I’d taken it.
Unfortunately, Al forced his 3-year-old son to perform oral sex on him again. Not often, and not for long. If I had to try and put a number on it, I’d say maybe 10 times. I don’t think it was more, and maybe it was less
.…Or I could be saying that because I’m so f*cking embarrassed and humiliated by it.
Sometimes he came in while I was sleeping at night. If I pretended that I was asleep when he pushed it into my mouth and just ‘did it’, it was over soon and I wasn’t beaten. It was when I tried not to ‘do it’, that he’d slap and punch me until I did.
Those times were during the day, when the Witch was gone. After I finally ‘performed’ at last, I was rewarded with more punches and kicks. He called me names then, but other than “Sissy-Mary”, I understood none of them; but I understood the tone.
My sense of self, my ability to self-reflect was only newly born, but it had this to deal with: I had been ‘prematurely’ exposed to sexual perversion, arousal, and guilt. I was living in a nightmarish cesspool of confusion and fear.
Loony Lily’s ‘games’ mingled sexual titillation with bondage, terror, and pain. Al’s forced fellatio and the beatings created immense guilt, mainly because of the disgust with which he called me those names while he did it.
That I was forced to do it by him didn’t matter; I was horrible, I was doing something horrible. Maybe he was doing those things to me because I was bad. He always seemed to be a sky-high maniac on the verge of annihilating me.
And there was no one to tell. I saw no one. I had no friends. I was warned never to talk; ever. I was locked alone with it.
But they made a mistake at some point. They must have needed a babysitter badly is all I can guess; because I had a chance to be alone with Dede and Babi.
It was night, after dinner, and it was cooler out. Babi was doing the dishes. It must have been obvious to them something was wrong. He asked me what it was, his wonderfully kind, sky-blue eyes nearby, looking into my own with tenderness.
Unsure, hesitantly, stumbling for words to describe what I’d never said before; I told him. As I did, I was scared of how he’d react, I was afraid of losing his love. Would he hate me, call me names too? Was I bad?
I felt him stiffen and draw back as he suddenly grasped what I was trying to say. I almost panicked. Thank God he was mature enough and in control of himself enough to realize what it was I was really afraid of now, and put his own feelings of anger and revulsion aside. He hugged me comfortingly and told me, over and over, that it was not me that was bad, that had done bad things.
I cried my heart out. He carried me in to talk to Babi.
They talked long and earnestly together in Czech as I sat on her lap. She held onto me possessively, like no power in Heaven or Hell was going to take me from her.
They took me to the police. I vividly remember Dede in a dark grey sports coat and light blue dress shirt, holding his fedora. He was mad as hell and exasperatedly arguing loudly, and fruitlessly, with someone near the tall wooden Police desk. Babi sobbed hopelessly into her hands, disbelieving what was happening.
In 1950’s America, there were no child abuse laws; there was no social welfare system. The police told them there was nothing they could do, and to my horror called the Al-osaurus and the Witch to come get their kid.
Just like in “Invaders from Mars”, the 1953 paranoid sci-fi classic film: The cops were in league with the monsters.
Al never had any stories about having any girlfriends or even dating girls. Instead he told ones about him and his buddies going to ‘fag bars’ in the City and watching guys kissing other guys in the booths and dancing with each other under the watchful eye of a huge “Dike” bouncer.
Or of him and his pals stripping one of the others in the locker-room, holding him down and shoving an olive up his a*shole. I remember seeing an old 8mm film of him and his ‘buddies’ before he was married dressed in drag, wigs and all, camping it up big time.
Even the explanation about how Lily and he met wouldn’t hold still. It struck me that I had never seen him react to women like I do, or like any ‘hetero-male’ I know: I never saw his eyes follow a woman, not even surreptitiously.
And I watched for it, because it was so odd.
Nor did he did ever show any interest in movies or books of a sexual nature…except one: The black comedy, “Where’s Poppa?” That was the only movie he wanted to own.
His favorite part was the homosexual rape and when the victim sent the rapist flowers afterward. Whenever he talked about it he became ‘giddy’.
Every time that he talked about anything remotely touching upon homosexuality, he became giddy like that.
So; was, is, Al gay? I understand that open homosexuality was far more dangerous then than now, and that gay men often married women for cover.
But whether he is or he isn’t homosexual is not the point. The point is the rape and sexual assaults on a child. That, and not his orientation, is what I both accuse him of and condemn him for…And if I could, I’d kill him for even now.
Al never thought I was his kid, which of necessity meant he knew Loony Lily was sleeping with other men.
And he was right. I have a clear memory from when I was 3 and had recently gotten out of the hospital and went to live with them again.
It was a warm early summer morning. I had awakened feeling hungry and in need of relieving myself. I padded out of the bedroom, and headed for the bathroom down the short hallway.
I don’t know what it was that caught my attention, whether it was an odd sound or a strange odor from the living room where Al and Loony Lily slept on the fold-out couch. I mutely took a few steps into the room and then stopped, watching.
The curtains and blinds were open, only the sheers were drawn. The sofa was still pulled out as a bed and Lily was lying on her back in the middle of it, her head and shoulders resting on a couple of pillows. A light blanket was bunched up at the foot of the bed. Her yellow robe was open and she wore something white and soft-looking under it that was gathered up above her hips. Her hair was neatly brushed and she had her make-up on.
She was naked from the waist down. Her legs were spread and bent at the knees; her feet with their painted toenails were flat on the bed. I saw the deep, soft fold where her heavy thigh met her fleshy hip. Her upper arms were on the mattress, bent at the elbow. I could only see her right hand, which was lightly laid on the waist of the man lying atop of her between her legs, his groin pressed to hers. She was very calm and at ease.
There was a pungent, earthy smell in the air.
He began to get off of her, doing something with his right hand to his underwear. For whatever reason, neither of them had completely stripped. He had kept on his sleeveless undershirt and white boxers.
This man was larger than Al. He didn’t wear glasses, and had thinning dark brown hair combed straight back, unlike Al’s mop of hair. Though fairly thick through the torso, he was neither fat nor muscular; a desk-bound man. His smooth, heavy face was flushed. There were clothes, could have been a light grey suit, laid across the arm of the easy chair.
On the end table near me were some crisp bills, folded neatly in half, and tucked under the edge of the green turtle ashtray.
I instinctively sensed this was important; something unusual was going on. I stood motionless, taking it all in. Loony Lily saw me, but said nothing. She was completely unruffled by my presence. She didn’t act surprised, tense up, or try to cover herself. She just smiled; a slow cat’s smile that did not reach her eyes.
Only when the man got off her, did she nonchalantly smooth the white garment down over herself as she lowered her legs and then crossed them at the ankles. The stranger saw me as he stood up on the opposite side of the bed from me. He froze for an instant when our eyes locked. His ice-blue eyes blinked once, but he recovered quickly. He looked over at her. Seeing her smile, he grinned, turned, and began pulling on his clothes. He was a cool, cocky one.
I left wordlessly and went into the bathroom. I could hear low conversational voices. By the time I was finished, he was closing the door behind himself.
By doing an estimate of when it was that I came upon that coupling on the fold-out sofa and adding 9 months, it comes out to the right year and month that little Jakie was born. Loony Lily even shaved it closer for me by once mentioning that Jake was early by 2 weeks, which dovetails perfectly with my guess of when I saw them.
This is what I think may have happened: Al was never going to accept me as his, and especially not his eldest. I’m certain he knew something was going on, because one night when he was supposed to be working as a waiter he paid a surprise visit to the apartment. He must have been drinking to screw up his courage.
I was in my bedroom when I heard the door kicked open him yell in a slurred voice “Oh, Honey! I’m home!” Then there were angry voices in a tumult.
When I peered around the corner, I saw Al being shoved hard against the wall in the hallway by a man with dark hair in sleeveless undershirt and slacks.
A bigger, more muscular man than Al, he seemed to have just gotten out of the shower. He was disdainful of Al and kept shoving him hard in the chest with both arms. Al was purple-red but made no move against him. Finally, he have-stormed, half-fled out of the apartment. The man just laughed at him.
Anyway; maybe Al and the Witch came to an agreement: I had to go. She assured him they could arrange an ‘accident’ and get rid of me easily and if there was a policy on me, make some cash to boot. Then she and he could make a new eldest to carry on his name, one that he could be sure was his.
And that was her private joke: She’d give him his ‘Jacob’ to bestow his blessing on alright, and her in-laws who never liked her would also have to accept this new ‘eldest’ son. But unbeknownst to all of them:
Al’s new heir wasn’t his. The irony is wonderful: The one Al pampered all his life may not be his.
Lily used to keep her ‘income’ in a ceramic cookie jar in the form of a Rhode Island Red hen and her chicks in the cupboard over the sink. Later, on the Island it was used briefly for cookies, mainly Vanilla Wafers, on top of the refrigerator.
She also had kept it in the big frying pan under the stove until I found it. “Her” money she used strictly for herself. Whether or not she bought that full-length Mink coat or it was a ‘gift’, I don’t know.
And her shoes took up two whole shelves in the closet, her clothes filled the rack, and jewelry boxes and perfumes lined her glass vanity.
Not bad for the wife, who "neva had ta work", of a low paid warehouse worker.