Month: December 2014

A conversation with you.

I have this fantasy about you and New York City.  Late at night, it’s raining softly.  And we’re under ground in a little restaurant below street level. A low ceiling. Stone floor. Wooden stairs to my right.  Tea lights on the tables. Laughter and the clinking of dinnerware and drink filling the small space.  Charming conversation.

Our waitress is from Poland. She’s quite busy tonight. The barkeep from Éire. His tap never at rest.  Nobody minds.  Everyone is happy inside here.  Just like you and I.

There’s standing room only for a while. So we make small talk with one another.  Then our favorite table is free.  Off in the far corner.  On another planet.  Cranberry linen.  A brick wall behind me.  The other patrons at your back.  Two seats across from one another.  A wobbly table between us.

You smile when you tuck my hair behind my ear. Leaning in close so I can absorb every word tumbling from your lips.  Leaning in closer because your words are only meant for me. I get so lost in your vocabulary. Transfixed by your tales.  And transported to your memories.  One word at a time.  One story before the next.

You’re quite smart.  And I can hold my own.

Sometimes you talk over me but I always deliver the punchline. We’re so similar, it stll catches you off guard, but I’m getting used to it. Worlds colliding. I think it’s nice to catch up.  Here in our place beneath the East Village.

My hand rests on the table by the pepper, yours beside the salt while we talk. Our fingers engaged in a dance but never parted. We sit like this for hours. Leaning overtop untouched meals.  Our voices only slightly louder than a whisper.  Our little secrets.  Your hidden gems.  Everything you’ve kept to yourself all these years. The anecdotes and the backstory.  And the night goes by so fast.  And the water is freshened often but the forks never rise from the table.

So much to say. You’re not crazy. So much to tell you. Neither am I. So much to hear. But what do we know?

Kaska clears our plates. Eventually returns with doggie bags. You leave a big tip and pull out my chair.  And I take a cab to Penn Station.  My heart full and my brain well fed. Until we meet again by the tulips in Abingdon Square and pick up right where we left off.

Just you and I … and New York City.

for the kids (4)

“I’m not really sure how much help I can give you.  This was an accident.  Right?”

“Well you see Ms Myers, we thought pretty much the same thing until we came across a letter.”

“A letter?  From who?”

“Anthony.  In his tool box at work.”

“Ok?  A letter from Anthony to who?”

“To whom it may concern….”

“About what? I’m confused.”

“Basically, Ms Myers….”

“Please, call me Bethany….”

“It’s a letter he wrote should he die prematurely.”

Bethany starred at the police officer.  Inside she was going ape-shit.  On the outside she hoped she looked dumbfounded.  It wasn’t a far stretch – she really hadn’t been expecting it to go like this at all.

“He says….in a nutshell….if I die, Bethany Myers killed me.”

Bethany choked out some version of a gasp but said nothing.  She grabbed the glass of ice water the officer had brought in for her. Took a drink of the now luke warm liquid and set it down softly on the table again.

“What do you think about that…Bethany?”

“It’s not really much of a surprise to be honest.”

“Oh?”

“Well Anthony was a bit dramatic during our divorce.”

“How so?”

“It was just very…messy.”

“So you two had an acrimonious divorce?”

“Yes.  Thankfully that is all behind us now.”

“Permanently.”

“Are there any other questions I can answer?  The divorce is old news.  We both learned a lot from it and have moved on.  Anthony is dating again…he was….I need to get home to my children.  Is there anything else?”

“No Ms. Myers.  That’s all….for today.”

“Do I need a lawyer?”

“That is entirely up to you.  I cannot give you legal advice.”

“Well I’ve done nothing but you seem to be taking some letter from god knows when to actually mean something and I ….”

“We have to do our jobs ma’am.”

“Of course.  Well if you have any other questions…”

“Stay local Ms. Myers.”

Bethany stood up and it took all of the strength in her body to not fall right back down in the seat.

“I’m going to bury the father of my children tomorrow Mr. Jackson and then I’m going to coach the children through their grief.  Travel isn’t in the immediate future sir.”

“Right…”

Bethany was shown out of the interrogation room and back to the front lobby of the police station.  In the back, in the same uncomfortable chairs they had spent the last hour occupying, the two detectives both scratched their heads and said to one another “coach?”

For the kids ( 3 )

On the far side of town, exactly six miles from the Cineplex, four fire engines, four cop cars and two ambulances idled loudly on the street in front of 4209 Wellings Way.  The yellow wood-sided home that occupied that land was barely standing beneath the night sky.  What was left was lit up like a Hollywood set by large field lights running on generators and the headlights from the hook and ladder truck.  All of the neighbors were out on the street. Crowding around. Gawking. Talking quietly among themselves though that was hardly necessary given the rumbling of the big rigs.

The fire was out finally, though small pockets of smoke rose through the air here and there. Hoses were still stretched out across the front lawn, however, they lay deflated on the ground.  No longer in operation. The hydrant turned off.  No use for them now.

Several firemen were standing in clumps on the lawn, busy now with bottles of water and post-incident recap.  Their boots still on but their fire proof jackets and oxygen tanks on the ground beside them.  Coming off the adrenaline rush, breath by breath.  Tale by tale.  The firemen did everything they possibly could to save the home.  But everything they could do, wasn’t enough.

“Jesus, Frank, what happened?” one fireman, a rookie, said to another fireman, more seasoned.

Frank shrugged his shoulders and took a big swig from the plastic bottle in his hand.  He was covered in perspiration and soot.  “I guess dude wanted to take it all with him.” he offered before pouring more water down his throat.

It wasn’t obvious what caused the blaze.  Which isn’t uncommon.  There’s not always a smoking gun visible after a fire like this. Besides, they weren’t there to solve a mystery, they were there to prevent even more damage.  And they were successful in their endeavor.  Even if they were standing in front of a burnt-out house.

All anyone agreed on at this point was the fire was significant.  The speed at which it consumed the house, suspicious.  But there was no way to tell from here what exactly happened.  Maybe it was electrical.  Maybe gas.  An investigator would fill in the blanks.  And they’d know, in a day or two.  Maybe three.

The incident commander waged a guess “Class B?”

“This is a hell of a lot of damage for a simple Class B.”

“I didn’t say simple.”

They all nodded quietly.  Accepting that there was a lot more to this story than a candle or a pot left on the stove.  More than a curling iron left by a towel on the sink.  More than they needed to know.  But they were still curious. The gossip would be plentiful.  The owner of 4209 Wellings Way was known around town.  In fact, he was an acquaintance, at the very least, to many of the men standing on the front lawn right here and now.  Anthony Meyers was one of them.  A member of the club. One of the boys.  He wasn’t a cop or a fireman.  But he was still one of the boys.  And this was his home.  Or at least was his home.

The arson investigator, an elderly gentleman arrived on the scene about fifteen minutes ago and he was telling a much younger guy who was videotaping the damage with a Go-Pro camera exactly what images to catch.  Making sure he panned upwards to the burnt out second floor.  Across blown out windows. Charred siding.  To the space where the roofline once hung.  To the blackened first floor.  The exposed rafters and beams that once made the center-hall colonial stand so stately.

The front door still hung on its hinges.  No walls surrounding it.  Just standing in mid-air. He captured that with the Go-pro.  A Christmas wreath. A door mat still in position and in good condition. Waiting for house guests that would never pass through again.  He zoomed in on the broken glass in each window.  Blown outward, plantation shutters peeking through.

“Looks like it just fucking exploded Matt.” the camera man said with dry eyes but a heavy frown.

“There was nothing…nothing anyone could do….it moved so fast.”  The arson investigator shook his head and planted his hands on his hips.  Such a shame.  So much loss.  And more than likely, from the looks of things…at least preliminarily…not an accident.  The arson investigator and his side kick walked back to the waiting firemen.

The incident commander patted the rookie on the shoulder once again.  Total loss with a fatality on your first fire is a lot to swallow.  Takes you down a peg.  The reality that creeps in once the adrenaline wears off is sobering. Total loss.  It’d take the kid a week or two to bounce back from this.  Or at least until their next call.

The arson investigator asked  “Anyone inside?”

And the incident commander said “Just one.”

“Medical examiner come?”

“Yeah, they cut him down and took him over to the morgue right before you got here.”

“Cut him down?”

“Suicide.”

“Oh.” The arson investigator flipped open a small pocket-sized notebook and plucked a pen from behind his ear. “Suicide by hanging or did he…”

“Hanging.  Master closet.  Looked like a bungee cord.”

The arson investigator scribbled in his pad. “I’ll need the full write up.  And I’ll check in with Jean in the morning.  Good job tonight Boys.” he said as he walked across the lawn right past the spectators and meandered over to his unmarked Lincoln.

Back across town, Bethany switched on the lamp beside her bed and shuffled out of her street clothes in to proper pajamas.  The next few days would be brutal.  She expected to feel that.  But she also expected to feel some relief.  It was finally the day she had dreamt of. The one she painstakingly planned for. The one that would save her from everything she was going through.  Everything was finally over.  But she didn’t feel good.  Didn’t feel satisfied.  Didn’t feel justified.  She was horrified.  What have I done? she thought to herself.  And she was glad she didn’t really know the extent of it yet.  She knew something was going to happen to Anthony tonight but they all thought it better, the less she knew, the more genuine her reactions would be. The only thing she asked, and this was for the sake of the children, that whatever they did.  They did it quietly and quick.  Though Anthony, that bastard, that animal, that fool, didn’t deserve a death so quiet.

For the kids (2)

Bethany still remembers the first time Anthony crossed the line.  It was a just a push.  But it opened a door inside him that should have forever remained closed.  He crossed a threshold and never turned back.  The same precipice his Father crossed many times with many different women.  And from there it escalated.  He’d come in the house angry at Bethany, before she’d even said a word.  Angry at the children for their very existence.  Everyone cowered in his presence.  Felt sick when he’d pull in the driveway.  Their new normal was wrought with pain.  Most of it anticipatory.  The waiting hurt more than the fists.

Bethany would give everything she had to turn back time to that afternoon.  To stop time in its tracks.  As if that would fix things.  It wouldn’t.  It doesn’t.  It would have happened another day.  In another room in the same house.  But a broken woman will believe anything.  And she beat herself up mentally from that day forth for unlocking the door.

The push happened on a Sunday afternoon when it was beautiful outside and the babies were taking a rare simultaneous nap. It was shocking and unexpected and according to Anthony, totally Bethany’s fault. He told her a hundred times after, that he never would have pushed her if she just went to Lake with him like he’d wanted to.  But Bethany didn’t want to wake the children.  It was so rare for them to nap at the same time. There was no way in hell she was going to wake them, even if a stroll around the Lake would have been quite nice.  When she opened her mouth and let the first words tumble out, she was only trying to be heard. Something she needed so desperately from him.  She had no ulterior motive.  She wasn’t trying to shame him or blame him.  She just wanted to be heard.  Bethany wishes she had kept her mouth shut.

But for a moment, she thought if she said the words to him, just once, he’d finally hear everything she had been begging him to notice over the past few months.  She felt lonely and isolated and unloved. And she needed that to change. For her own sanity. Deep down she knew he loved her, she just needed him to say it.  To show it to her from time to time.  Tell her he appreciated all she was doing.  Everything she had sacrificed.  Acknowledge her.  In the daylight hours.

She knew he had to still love her to some degree. If he heard her, they’d clear this hump. She’d be re-energized.  When he made love to her, late at night, when the kids were asleep; in that miraculous window of time between the 9:30pm and midnight when colic took a respite and he was actually home. When there were no diapers to change.  No medications to administer.  No bouncy seat batteries needing replaced. No swings needing rewound.  No misplaced binkies.  The only time of the day the chorus of crying that filled their home since the twins were prematurely born was silenced.  During that quiet respite they’d make love.  And in his eyes she’d see the man she married.  Lust-filled but content again.  For a little while.  And they’d lay there in one another’s arms like they used to.  And she’d feel connected again.  Even if her hair stank of barf.  Even if her breasts were leaking milk.  She felt connected again.  To the man who had promised they’d make it through this together, even though his time away from home increased each week.  In those moments, in his embrace, she could convince herself he was gone so much and so often for legitimate reasons.  Work.  Working for them – her and the girls.  This is where he wanted to be, where she needed him to be, but in spite of all of that, he was a brave man, who would leave their nest for weeks at a time to secure their future.  She believed it then.  Late at night.  When he was beside her.

It was the daytime that was hard for her.  Within the endless monotony of parenting premies with a wicked case of dueling colic she’d find her anger.  In the moments she was crying just as loud as the babies, that she would reach out to him and get a voice mail or brushed off by his assistant.  And that’s what she was trying to tell Anthony that afternoon.  A rare Sunday when he was home and the girls were actually napping. She needed him.  More than he seemed to know.

“You’re so fucking spoiled!” he shouted two inches from her face. “Look around you!”

“Please don’t scream, the babies are sleeping.” she begged.

“They’re always sleeping!”

Bethany’s face twisted upwards and her lips thinned and she said “Are you kidding me?”

And Anthony sternly said “Watch it!”

And being scolded hit Bethany like a ton of bricks.  The careful wall she had built around the pain inside her crumbled and she cried out in frustration “They never sleep Tony!  They cry all the time.  I mean all the time! Non-stop, no matter what I do.  It’s like they can’t be soothed for hours and hours. It’s so hard…I feel like such a failure.” She was begging him to hear her.  Begging for some kind of acknowledgement.

“Babies cry Bethany.”  You shouldn’t have had these fucking kids if you can’t handle it.”

“You didn’t just say that.”

He leaned in to her face, so they were eye to eye. “I did.”

“Oh, Tony.” She cried.

“Maybe you’re just not cut out for this.”

“I’m their mother!”

“And I’m their father and I’m sick of it.  You look like shit … you smell like shit.  You need to get it fucking together or I’m…I’m…I don’t even…Stop crying.  I’m so sick of all the crying!”  Anthony was pacing now.  And Bethany was crumbling.  Her spine curving. She could barely stand beneath her own sobbing.

“I need you …” she said and then the baby monitors picked up crying. The loud high pitched screeches of babies in pain.  And Bethany cried harder and Anthony put his hands on her shoulders and shook her.  “Look what you’ve done!” he screamed.  And her face registered flabbergast and Anthony didn’t like it so he pushed her away from him.  Hard.  And she stumbled backwards and fell to the floor.  Her head hit the glass sliding door.  And he stormed out the garage door and closed it behind him with a slam.  And she lay there dizzy.  Both babies screaming out for her through their monitors.  And in a haze she rose from the ground.  Balanced herself against the wall as she climbed the stairs.  And she went to the girls and shush shushed them through her tears.  Re-swaddling helped soothe Rebecca for a few moments while Katharine suckled Bethany’s breast.   And the three of them rocked in the chair in the nursery for an hour.  Crying off and on.  Bethany tandem fed the girls as life as she once knew it ended and another door opened.  Wide.

And she chastised herself for days while Anthony stayed away from their home.  And when he returned she was showered and in full makeup.  The children were up in their rooms having cried themselves to sleep.  And she dropped to her knees and welcomed him home in a way fit for a dirty movie.  And she pretended that was it – that it would never happen again.  And he apologized, in a small pathetic way.  And for a month, it was good.  He stayed away just as much but when he was there Bethany believed it was behind them.  Until..a month later.  When he pushed her again while she was holding a screaming Rebecca.  And the week after that when he broke her nose.  Time sped up instead of turned backwards.  And that became their new life.  For eleven years.  Eleven years and almost as many broken bones.