You should see me, Father! I can’t believe it. But it’s true, Father. So true.
I’m standing in front of my bathroom mirror, shaving and preparing myself for dinner with Lucy Libid, and her grandmother, Anna K. Libid. And, I was taking inventory on myself.
I was 53 years old. But, I still had my health and my well-built, 6’3 body. My teeth were still intact, still white and even. Mother’s bright blue eyes shown clearly from my light tan, cooper face. If I might say so, I’m still handsome in a rugged, aging kind of way. I kept my head shaven so I didn’t know if I had any real hair left or not.
Maybe, Father, all those years of military training had imprinted me permanently, because I still got up each morning and did my push-ups. I still cooked and ate the right food. My body was in great shape; it was just my mind that’s all fucked up.
Lucy had made sure that I was going to make this date by setting the time, the place and date right there on the bench! She pulled out a small, wooden pencil and little card and wrote down her address and e-number.
She pushed the note with the information into my hands, and the look on her face said I better not, not show up. It was a good thing that she went to all this effort, because if she had been causal about it, I know I would have found a reason not to go.
As soon as I got back to my apartment, I hurriedly looked through box after box, and opened and closed drawers, until I found the well-preserved program for Uncle Vanya, with a picture of the cast.
I knew it was here! The moment I remembered who her grandmother was, my mind quickly flashed on that program. As I looked at it, I smiled to myself. I was so glad to have found it.
I remembered witnessing a little fight between Mother and The Gangster over that program. Mother, as always, wanted only the best, which meant glossy paper, coated stock, with a full color photo of the cast members on the back page, to top it off.
The Gangster was beside himself! He was huffing and puffing all around our living room. He just didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a fancy program.
“No, Shasa! No, damnit!” he shouted loudly at her in English. “Better to spend the money on an ad. Why spend that kind of money for just a program?”
For a brief moment, Father, I thought that I heard for the first time, the mean, ruthless, brutal Gangster in his voice. The same Gangster people lowered their voices and eyes, and softly whispered about whenever he past them on the crowded streets of Brighton Beach.
But how wrong I was, Father.
“Just a program?” Mother answered back in a cool, no nonsense voice in her precise Russian. She put her hands on her thin hips and fixed her small, cold blue eyes on him, now even smaller than usual.
“Ok! Ok!” The Gangster said quickly, throwing up his hands in defeat, the hardness all but gone from his voice.
Talk about a weenie, Father!
It obviously didn’t take much for Mother to get her way with this man! I only smiled to myself at what a pushover he was. It was hard to believe that he was a hard-ass Gangster, the way Mother was always pushing him around, grabbing him by his ankles and shaking every dine out of him, whenever she wanted.
It was a good thing that Mother was so persistent (and spoiled rotten, I might add!). As I looked at the program, that photo of them looked as if it was taken yesterday. There was Mother in a big white wig, looking all the world like an Old-World Russian. And there was the pretty young Anna K. Libid.
If my calculations are correct, Lucy’s grandmother must be at least 67 or 68 years old, given that I was only fifteen when we first met so many years ago. When she played the young Helen, she could have been the same age as Lucy is now.
I remembered Mother complaining about now hard it was to fill that key part because so few young actresses spoke Russian.
“All they want do is work in Manhattan. Manhattan this! Manhattan that!” She said at one dinner. Mother spoke with growing frustration, wringing her hands in despair, then dramatically throwing them up to the high heavens.
I didn’t know what to say to her, so I kept my head down and concentrated on my food.
I can still see the happy look on Mother’s face just a few nights later as she couldn’t wait to tell me the good news.
Dinner was already waiting for me as I returned home, late, after hanging out with the guys longer than I should have. I had spent the afternoon at the nearby New York Aquarium. I never get enough of the place. I’m always deeply entranced by all the life floating endlessly around and around.
I was worried as I hurried home. We had dinner together almost always at the same time. I am convinced that this is why we bonded so closely, Father. She didn’t behave like my friends’ mothers. I couldn’t take my food in my room and sit and watch something while I ate. We both sat down together each night, at almost exactly the same time, whether she had to go to the theatre, go to work, or whatever.
Mother had to budget her time, which she became an expert at. That’s why she was always slightly pissed off if I came in late.
But not this night, Father! Mother wasn’t interested in any whys I might have for being late. To my relief, she was not angry at all. Her face filled with happiness as I walked in the door. She was just so glad to see me.
“She just walked in!” she said excitedly as we sat down for dinner. “What the hell was I suppose to do, Alex, close the damn play down? But she just walked in. I didn’t even know she was coming. She said someone just told her I needed an actress. Can you believe that, Alex!
“I could see Helen.”
Mother held up her hand and made a small spyglass. “That’s Helen! I say. I hope this bitch knows now to act, I say. Then she read. How she read.
“She good, Alex,” Mother said confidently. “Speaks perfect Russian.”
I looked up from my delicious soup and smiled at her, as pleased as she obviously was.
Mother was so excited as she cursed joyfully in both Russian and English, telling me this good news. This time, however, she didn’t wring her thin, white hands, but kept blowing the high heavens big kisses.
I loved that woman, Father! Especially at moments like this. She could be so dramatic!
It seemed that Anna Libid had only been in the US for a few years, and her English was only a shade worse than Mother’s. But Mother said that she was very educated and spoke the kind of Russian the great Chekhov demanded.
As I looked at all those wonderful artists on that old program, led by Mother, it all started slowly coming back. I started feeling a level of good feeling rising in me. I can’t remember the last time I felt like this.
I also got that funny feeling I had the day of the Big Bang. That some how, some way, nosy Mother was once again quietly intervening in my life; subtlety, but surely helping me avoid a major catastrophe.
How else to explain this, Father?
I know you have no doubt been quietly wondering what I have done for a love life during this long period. One thing I know clearly about you, which literally dripped from the pages of your novels, was that you thought sex between men and women was the greatest gift God gave human beings.
I mean, after all, you are the author of the infamous novel, The Woman’s Man.
Wow! What a read that novel was, Father, with sperm flying all over the place! Tsk! Tsk! my man, as you guys might say. But as pumped as you were about sex and romance, I’m sad to report that your only son has been anything but a woman’s man since the Big Bang.
Hoes, as you guys called them—prostitutes, hookers, streetwalkers, whatever they are called, have been enough for me. Speaking of hookers, Father, they are everywhere. You can’t walk the boardwalk without someone trying to pick you up.
That’s one of the reasons why I was so suspicious when Lucy first spoke to me. Was she a hooker? Or even worse, was she one of those goddamn caregivers?
All of those reverends in Washington tried to cleanse our souls, and now our streets are filled with women, young and old, selling themselves to any man willing to pay. What was better, Father, women in the workplace, or the armed forces, or the streets?
You won’t find many young men on the streets. Sure, if you look hard enough you can find them as well. I have seen them hiding in the shadows, beckoning me. But they knew, and I knew, what would happen to them if they were caught by The People’s Moral Force, with their silly looking, piss-ass uniforms.
Listen to this, Father: they have pointed hats, with little feathers sticking out of the back. I can see you now, rolling around on the floor in laughter. A fucking little feather! Who else but a lame-ass preacher who thinks that he is Neapolitan could approve something like that.
The asshole that designed those damn punk-ass uniforms should have been shot! But if one of those evil bastards ever caught some guy wanting to raise his dirty little butt in your face, then they could be a mean and brutal as we in the mighty army used to be, bad uniforms and all!
But ho’s. There were plenty of them. I would walk at night perhaps once or twice a month and just stand in the dark under the Boardwalk and let an eager mouth relieve me of whatever tension had built up.
I never touched them, or grabbed them tightly when I came. I just paid out the money, unzipped my pants, and did what I did, zipped back up, and was gone.
That was my love life, Father.
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