fragments of me
This is an old post for my newer blogging friends to get to know me. It posted three years ago.
Fragments of Me
When we were young our lives consisted of questions.
The questions we needed answered. The hundreds of questions our parents and teachers asked.
But a ten year old was never meant to have all the answers.
My classmates attended the big party. Stupid me promised to dance with every girl. Boys stood on one side, girls on the other.
My friends taunted me. “Go dance.”
With wobbly knees and sweaty forehead, I tried to look cool.
Then I spotted Lisa Big Boobies Barelli. Oh my, she could fill up a B-cup like no other girl in school.
Ever since kindergarten when she first smiled at me, I knew the other girls didn’t compare. Lisa had all her teeth.
From across the room I admired her.
Who cares if she had rounder cheeks than the other girls?
Lisa had something the skinny girls didn’t have.
She had curves.
Deep breath…..I broke the ice approaching the circle of “cool girls” as they giggled like hyenas.
Unable to speak, I did something that became my signature move. Never inviting her to dance, I took Lisa’s hand and led her to the dance floor.
Everyone watched us dance as I impressed her with witty banter.
She said, “Nice party.”
I replied, “Uh-huh.”
“Are you wearing perfume?”
Even at that early age I knew women preferred a good smelling man. So, I wore my mother’s Chanel #5.
My friends mocked me for dancing with Lisa. I maneuvered us around so she wouldn’t see their hurtful antics.
The boys never understood. Why dance with other girls if I was already dancing with the prettiest one?
“Andrew, there’s so many beautiful girls here with lovely dresses and their hair in pretty curls. You could’ve danced with any of them.”
Then, Lisa asked the terrifying question. “Why me?”
I felt the universe collapsing on me. Boys laughed. Girls gave me dirty looks. Now, I had to answer this….
How much pressure could one ten year old take?
Searching for infinite wisdom, I gazed into her big blue eyes and whispered. “Why not?”
The lights dimmed.
A love song came on.
Lisa gave me a bear hug and kissed my cheek.
Thankfully, the darkness cloaked my confusion.
That ten year old boy learned so much that night.
He learned about having the courage to be the first.
He learned to go after the girl he wanted, no matter what anyone else thought.
And dancing cheek to cheek…
He learned some questions are meant to be answered by asking another question.
Photo of myself taken by friend of the family.
Fragments Of Me (Words)
My father emphasized the importance of being a man of your word.
My mother recited sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.
I remember the night I learned about the power of words.
We visited a friend of my father. Mingling adults with drinks in hand and hyperactive children filled every room of the dinner party.
Not interested in watching my father drink, I sought refuge.
To my surprise I discovered an oasis as I entered a room of wall to wall books. Nearing a shelf, a closing door startled me.
“Did I scare you?” Robert the home owner asked.
Silent, my gaze returned to the books.
Robert sat behind a large wood desk, “Do you like to read?”
Looking at the man with the graying temples and thick framed glasses, I smiled, “Yeah.”
“Did your father tell you I am a writer? I haven’t published anything, but I love to write stories. Writers create worlds.”
He opened a book. “Read it.”
“It was the best of times it was the worst of times…”
“Isn’t that amazing?” Robert interrupted, “What a wonderful quote; a great description of the French Revolution and a fitting description of our lives.”
Robert got up to leave. “Feel free to enjoy the books. You will find beauty on every page.”
Running fingers along the books, I read the name out loud; Wilde, Orwell, Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Dickinson.
Minutes later, the door opened. “What the hell are you doing here?”
The anger in my father’s voice sent chills up my spine.
His hand slapped the back of my head. “Plenty of girls out there and you’re in here. My son is not going to be a faggot.”
Exiting the room, a heavy foot kicked me, lifting me off my feet, slamming me into a wall.
My eyes swelled with tears, but I refused to cry.
Hours later that little boy stood at his bedroom window while his parents slept in the other room.
That night he learned some words create amazing beauty.
While the pain of other words linger long after the bruises have healed.
As children we believed they hit home runs or scored game winning touchdowns.
Lying in bed wearing Spiderman pajamas, I heard the hard crack of my father’s belt strike my mom.
Feeling nothing like a hero , I squeezed a pillow around my head to drown out her cries.
The next day, in an empty playground behind school, Lisa Barelli read my teacher’s note informing my father I slept during class.
She pointed at her notebook full of butterfly drawings. “Maybe you’re mother wants to be a butterfly like me.”
“Nobody hurts butterflies.” A tear streaked down her round cheek. “Nobody calls them fat.”
My eyes swelled with burning tears.
Someone laughed. “Andrew wants to kiss the fat girl.”
Jumping to my feet, I stood face to face with the thick chin of the school bully.
I responded in a firm, but diplomatic whisper, “That wasn’t nice.”
“What did you say?”
Bless Lisa and her powerful lungs.
“Andrew said you better take that back.”
Before anyone could react, I slammed my face into bully’s fist and dropped like a sack of sweet potatoes.
Bully shook his fist at Lisa.
Staggering to my feet, a second punch caught the side of my mouth. I twirled like Julie Andrews on a hillside. My skull rung, but it wasn’t the sound of music.
Receiving worse beatings from my old man, stubborn determination urged me to rise.
Hard knuckles slammed my eye.
An hour later, I studied my Quasimodo reflection in the nursing office window.
Furious with my inability to fight the bully, my angry father sent me to school with my busted lip, swollen cheek, and black eye.
Standing outside the yard, fear pounded my heart. I would be the school joke.
But something unexpected happened…
Boys rushed me to pat my back. Some shook my hand.
Girls batted admiring eyes.
Apparently, Lisa told the entire school how I defended her. She spent the year telling everyone.
I became an instant rock star.
Later, in a cafeteria full of boys and butterflies, that little boy realized being a hero had nothing to do with winning.
It meant something more.
He confirmed it, years later…
On a day when he stood at his office window, watching the World Trade Center towers collapse before his eyes.
Photo of me taken by unknown photographer.
Adults always complained about time.
Never enough time for this; not enough time for that.
My parents were at a dinner party; while I stayed at my friend’s house. I was summoned to the phone.
Barely eleven, I listened to my mother sobbing. Apparently, my drunkard father slapped her in front of all their friends. “Please check on the house.”
Two flights up, I unlocked the door with a spare key. Moonlight filled the dark apartment.
Terrified, I walked through the quiet living room until I reached the long hallway leading to the back of our home.
The man I hated for all of my young life, the tyrant who abused us, lay on the floor with a gun resting inches from his hand.
Fear, relief, joy, and sadness flowed through me like light through a prism.
Fighting the urge to run away, I approached him. The rise and fall of his back confirmed he lived.
Time for my first adult decision even though I knew it meant a beating the next day.
Dropping to one knee, my trembling hand reached for the gun. The weapon appeared to weigh a ton.
I thought of tucking it in my pants like they do in the movies. Then a odd thought crept into my mind.
Whoever said dog is man’s best friend didn’t have a pee-pee.
Shoving the weapon in my jacket pocket I ran out and didn’t stop running until I reached the black railing overlooking the East River.
Removing the gun from my pocket I stared into the barrel.
Why would anyone want to end their life?
There by the river, in a city of eight million people, surrounded by a magnificent skyline, I never felt so alone.
Making my second adult decision, I tossed the gun into the river.
That little boy stood there another hour, admiring the crescent moon, the river, and the city he called home.
He wouldn’t help but wonder…..
If time was as precious as people say, why do adults waste so much of it on hate and violence.