Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Catholic Boys: concluded

17. A concert.

We got front row tickets to a concert. This was before computers, before Ticketbastard. A fluke. It was a famous acoustic band, three men with guitars. The night of the show I fell ill, but insisted on attending. The evening was magical, even as I grew sicker. By night’s end I was feverish and shaking. I had to be helped back to the car. You stroked my forehead tenderly and called me baby. We laughed about that, calling each other baby. We had made fun of Amanda and Jay for doing so, and here we were, hot with fever and love. Baby.

18. Sex.

Fucking, really. We were young and healthy with young and healthy sex drives. We mistook this for depth.

You liked to play Neil Young’s Decade when we were in bed. Two long tapes. A Man needs a Maid. Star of Bethlehem. The Needle and the Damage Done.

The Loner.

You told me how much that song meant to you. It was you, watching but saying nothing. I fancied myself the woman who saw you watching, moved by your silence.

Romantic love made me an idiot. But only with you.

19. Old Photographs

I have a few, surprisingly few when I think about how many photographs I took in those days. They are still difficult to look at. And now the backgrounds—the houses, the city we inhabited—have also taken on the freighted weight of memory. Better maybe not to look.

20. The watch.

You had your eye on a watch, a fancy digital that did lots of things; such watches were novelties back then. It cost forty-nine ninety five, which I saved up, painfully, on my $3.35 an hour secretarial job. I had taken this job to pay for certain things: glasses, clothing, a heavy woollen coat and fleecy boots. I had given up AP Courses and the International Baccalaureate for this job, attending school in the morning and then working from noon until five.

I saved and saved and finally bought you that watch for Christmas. I was so excited, giving that to you.

Christmas morning was spent with your family, who again made their dislike of me clear. God, they were cold to me. Though your sisters were nice. They were the ones that raised you, really. They were happy to see you happy, and young enough to get around my Jewishness.

You bought me a pair of ankle boots, with a moderate heel, lest I stand over you. Shiny black boots with pointed toes, shoes Lanie or Amanda would wear. On me they were all wrong; mine was a wardrobe of careful corduroys and matching sweaters, polite flat boots in dull neutrals. And they hurt: my toes are wide, my heels narrow, the exact opposite of those expensive shoes. I clomped about in them gamely, embarrassed. They were shoes for a thin girl, meant to emerge from the bottoms of stovepipe jeans I did not, could not, wear.

The shoes say everything, don’t they?

You lost the watch. It didn’t take long, a few weeks. You apologized. Said you would replace it. Did not.

By then we’d begun to fray. To fight. Did you break the watch? Sell it for blow?

How many forty nine ninety fives did you put up your nose instead of replacing the watch I bought you, the one you so wanted?

21. An ending

I say we’d begun to fray. Over parents: mine were increasingly unhappy with my obsessive behavior. Yours certainly made their feelings clear.

Your refusal to better yourself upset me. I did not want to live with a man who earned four dollars an hour. But I wanted to live with you, therefore, why weren’t you enrolling in the technical college, like Ryan? Didn’t you want to climb up, like me? Out of poverty?

You began saying things like: I will not let a Jewish Girl tell me what to do. Or, even worse, the morning you woke up and said: It’s Sunday and I’m in bed with a Jewish girl.

Add to the humiliation of throwing myself at you and trying to make you over the later humiliation of a woman looking at her younger self with disgust. I should have dressed and called a cab. Demanded you take me home.

Told you to fuck off.

Sunday morning with a girl who would’ve done anything for you. Instead of sleeping off your hangover alone. As if you would have hurried off to church had I not been sullying your Catholic bed.

What a fool I was.

For all your shyness you had taken your father’s view of women: submissive wifeys. Only now, at twenty, with a girl to treat badly, were your real feelings emerging.

Hence maybe this Baltic wife.

We broke up on New Year’s Eve. We both cried.

22. Aftermath

For months I could think of nothing else. I imagined, in graphic detail, our reunification. These fantasies, strangely enough, were not sexual. They were rescue fantasies. Something terrible had happened, a dead parent or brother, I was summoned to comfort you.

I missed you. I missed your voice, the way you laughed, your smell. You filled my being. Two years later, in college philosophy, a professor would try to explain the term noema, the immanence of being that fills a thing or person. You were mine. Which was, to continue the professor’s metaphor, living in bad faith, investing one’s reality in the existence of another.

It took two more years for me to stop living in bad faith. Four years, getting over you.

23. A conclusion, on wheels.

You loved cars and motorcycles. You drove a rusted old American car, a gas eater with a choking muffler. A German sportscar, not running, moldered in a side yard. In better weather you rode a rattling Honda 550. A Yamaha 650 with a loose front axle awaited repair in the garage. I was in, or on, all of these vehicles at various points: we rode in the sports car with the top down until transmission troubles sidelined it; you took me down the block on the Yamaha, the bike doing a wheelie courtesy of its dicey front end. You quickly turned for home. Too dangerous, you said.

So you drove me around in the Big American Car or behind you on the Honda. You even tried to teach me to ride the bike myself, but I was too inexperienced, too frightened. I was seventeen; I barely knew how to drive a car.

Just before we broke up, the American Car died. This because we took it to a parking lot and did something I’ve forgotten the name of. The idea was to simultaneously put one foot on the brake and the other on the gas, pressing as hard as possible. The engine revved like mad, the car made a terrible noise, and that was that. The replacement car was small, economical. It was necessary, soulless, and as a good a signifier of what happened as anything else.

Readers...thank you so much for reading.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish there were more chapters

March 11, 2007 1:36 PM  
Blogger Barking Kitten said...

Anonymous....thanks for making my day...actually, I think you made my week.

March 18, 2007 8:59 AM  

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