Wednesday, September 27, 2017

THE ROCKSTAR AND FOUR BOTTLES OF MOBIL 1

I was at Pep Boys yesterday morning, under somewhat embarrassing circumstances. They had gone out of their way to procure me 4 bottles of motorcycle oil on the day I needed it, getting someone to drive it over from the Queens location. After a couple of my friendly mechanic friends fell through, it was clear that I would need to go to a storefront mechanic, and they would have no interest in helping out a customer who "cheaped out" by bringing their own fluids and filter. So I now had a total of 5 containers, way too much to hold on to, so I headed in to Pep Boys and the guy that had gone above and beyond was at the register. "Domingo" had a broad smile on his face and a warm welcome. I plopped all the containers down and said, "you're gonna kill me" - plus, I could only find the receipt for two of the four bottles as I had purchased them at different times during that day. He said, "no problem, let me see what we can do." And as my mother used to say - we got to talking. He asked me about my ride and told me his dream was to one day own a Harley Fat Boy with saddlebags. He had such a nice way about him, and I told him so - he said he had just requested a raise from the 13 dollars he was making - to 20 dollars, which he was told was manager's pay, but they would see what they could do. I mean, this guy was a rockstar- before and after my sale. I said something like, "good for you, I appreciate people who know their worth." He told me he always worked hard, working as a dishwasher at Peter Luger, and a lot of the restaurants on Court Street. This was his first job with some growth potential, and he was doing everything in his power to be at his best. He went on, "you know, I was homeless." I was stunned, it was like one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks moments you see on Undercover Boss. He told me he had gotten a divorce, lost his job, his home, and before he knew it he was on the streets, going from restaurant to restaurant looking to wash dishes, never asking for a cent from passerby's. He finally earned enough to get himself an apartment, and one day, he told me, he was coming off the subway and recognized a homeless man who was asking for help. It was a friend of his from high school who had fallen into crack addiction. What did Domingo do? He said, "come live with me". He took his drugs and paraphernalia, brought him home. and back into the world. Domingo showed me his pictures on Instagram - the once homeless friend now living in Florida, with a wife and two kids, his drug addiction, history. I was blown away and told him so, "What a complete privilege to meet you, I heart you, Domingo!, you're an amazing man" He had managed to refund all of my money, and told me to come by anytime, he was there most days. I said, jokingly, "I'll prolly be back tomorrow to re-buy all this oil, ha!," which is exactly what happened. See, the biker who had offered to help me texted me this morning saying, "I just woke up and realized I left you hanging! When do you want to do this?" I didn't want to admit that I had lost faith in him and had returned the oil to Pep Boys. It would be my secret, so I headed back to the auto supply store to re-purchase the 4 bottles of Mobil 1, counting all my blessings along the way.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

THE PROPHECY

I asked him if he would care to exchange photos. His letter to me was generic, but I could feel the holiday weekend fast approaching. I had solid plans with my best friend solitude; so I found myself exchanging concise, uninspired emails with Robert. We swapped photos and I found his to fall squarely into my demographic: bald, with a red beard. Excited, I shot a photo of myself back to him which he responded with brief prose, “you look good”. It was strange in that he didn't know me, perhaps me meant in relation to the age I had posted on my profile, or perhaps he meant simply, “good enough”. Solitude persisted so I hit the reply button again. I asked, where do you reside? He said, “I reside in Manhattan”. I told him I lived in Brooklyn, he responded, “never been”. Did his cellular plan charge by the word? Perhaps he wasn’t a morning person, or had never learned to type. I noticed myself making excuses for him, before I’d even met him. Still, the red beard intrigued me, with such great facial hair there had to be substance. I needed to know more. So I turned to the web with promising results, I’d matched his picture to his name. Now we were getting somewhere. Beers and burgers on the water, an evening walk down a secluded path. I clicked on a link and there was my Robert, a US Army veteran. He had almost no friends on Facedbook, he had started a GoFundMe in his own name that had later been removed. Robert said he suffered PTSD, he had reached out for others to help get his life back on track. He qualified as 100% disabled, no wonder he had been reticent to share the details of his life. Perhaps he was wheelchair bound. I’d had a dream the night before; an epic love scene with a man in a wheelchair.

Had that dream been a prophecy? I reached out to Robert again, telling him my passions, asking him about his, the memory of my dream-state wheelchair make-out session filling me with anticipation about what his answers might be.


His response was expedient. “Do you like oral, “ he queried - my prince hadn't bothered to answer any of my questions, or even bothered with adding a question mark. My wheelchair dream had, in fact been a prophecy, a sure-bet indicator that I would once again seek out damage, sit in his lap, and attempt to save him just in time for the next holiday weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The three times I didn't speak to Michael Cera

The first time I saw you was in front of the laundromat. It's not everyday you see an A list actor on the corner of what and what - I walked by again on my way back from the store, and I'm embarrassed to say I mentioned it on the social networking site, and everybody fanned out and got really jelly. People dig you, Man. I said you looked cool, like you kinda wanted to engage with strangers (that day, you did); God, this is embarrassing, but necessary to tell the story. Anyway - my assessment of you being *accessible* prompted one of my friends to send me the link to that piece you wrote that appeared in New York Magazine, "My Man Jeremy". I thought it was a great success - not an easy story to construct, and it conveyed such a great atmosphere of boredom, loneliness, and rejection, but maybe that's my life, lol. Anyway, I really dug it.

Cut to a couple weeks later, I'm downstairs at the grocery store and you actually inadvertently cut me off at the register. There's like no one there, so it's pretty funny. But once again, you prove yourself a kind human being and slide your half dozen eggs forward on the conveyer belt to make room for my chopped turkey meat. When I got upstairs, I thought, shit, I shoulda said something, I should have told you I loved your freakin' story. And I swore to myself, next time- next time I see Michael Cera - I'm gonna say something.

And that was today. I'm embarrassed to say, I was ordering some friend chicken wings at the Chinese restaurant and I look out towards the street and what do you know; it's that gifted author, Michael Cera, groceries in tow, I run out to say something, but he's halfway down the next block, high-taling it home.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

IN DEFENSE OF CRAY

I recently (in the past 30 years) have realized that we are all crazy; sliding around somewhere on The Continuum of Crazy. Maybe you're the "crazy cat lady", kookoo for Cocoa Puffs, experiencing that Time Of The Month or suffering from Grouchy Old Man Syndrome - or maybe you're all the way over to the right, the certifiable, NAMI defined, impossible-to-live-with CRAY.  

Even the recent coining and viral embrace of the phrase "cray" implies a certain affection (and acceptance) for crazy behavior. "That's cray" is the much cuter, bouncing baby sister of "CRAZY!!!" It's an evolved way of calling out behavior without putting the "crazy" sticker on your forehead. And that's a good thing - because no matter how "healthy" or "together" you are - sooner or later Cray says, "come out to play-ayyy."

I, for one, have the tendency to be constantly checking myself for signs of cray to "collect data" to properly find where I fall on the Cray-tinuum. 

I've discovered that I also use others to accurately place myself on the continuum of crazy on any given day. If I have spent time on the internet typing in your behavior, waiting for a proper diagnosis to pop up, you are one of the people that helps me validate my belief that my cray is better than yours - or less than yours, and therefore supporting my cray notion that I am "righter" than you.

A friend of mine referred to me as "Crazy Glue" - a diagnosis/term of endearment defining who I  am in relationships - the implication being "they"flock to me like moths to a cray. Which begs the question, what is the attraction? Do I have an air of cray that implies "cray's ok by me!" Is it a silent reciprocal no harm/no foul contract? Or maybe I simply like focusing on my partner's "quirks" in order to avoid the painful self-dive.  Or maybe it's just that I like my men big, brooding, and unpredictable vs.  "bookish" or "overly neat." The truth is, my "type"makes me crazy, which sometimes just feels good - in a 'crack-feeling-good-to-a-crackhead' kinda way. 

Sometimes "crazy" is mild, or an addiction, or a diagnosis with prescription, it doesn't really matter; at the end of the day it just IS. And the sooner we embrace it in ourselves and in others the better.

So how 'bout we all just own up to our crazy and cut ourselves some slack. Call me crazy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

THE SAD SELLER AND THE PRETTY WHITE BIKE

I had barely gotten any sleep the night before. A combination of hourly hot flashes, and visions of the bike I was going to see early in the morning had me twisted in my sheets. My alarm was set for seven – and sounded just as I had settled into a restful deep sleep. I fed the dogs, splashed some cold water on my face, loaded up my bag with cash, DMV forms, grabbed my helmet and jumped in the car. I circled around to pick up my friend Brian. When we had dated a long time ago and could never trust him with my heart, but years later we had settled into a deep friendship and I now could trust him with my life – and with riding my new Triumph Bonneville back from Long Island without incident. I found this bike in the same place I found my last boyfriend. I had come across it on Craigslist. It had been a harrowing couple of weeks dealing with bike dealerships, I would hold the two wheel hucksters up to a standard they couldn't possibly live up to; expecting them to be decent and fair was naive. Soon they would let me down with a sexist comment or shell game upon closing the deal. So I went back to shop at the only place I truly trusted: the Craigslist community. And one day I saw it, it wasn't like all the other Triumph Bonnevilles – the ubiquitous black ones the hipsters rode around with on Saturdays to buy artisanal groceries, or over to the far reaches of Brooklyn to the latest beer garden. This "Bonnie" was white, all my friends had poo-pooed it; it was the anti-Bonnie and thus had to be mine. The owner was a guy named "Sal". Coincidentally he had grown up in my neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, long before it was tony and exclusive. It had been a family oriented old school neighborhood, Italian, a little rough back then. Sal had moved out and moved up, he implied on the phone. He was out on Long Island now, had a house, a family, a boat. He told me the bike was a midlife crisis, we bonded on that, the hood, life in general – he sounded like a kind, decent guy. We arranged a time for me to come on out and take a look at his midlife crisis ride the following week. But in the next day or two Sal became agitated. He would call and send emails within minutes - he seemed manic and filled with anxiety about our upcoming meeting. I almost bailed on the deal as Sal's communications increased, but I kept coming back to that first pleasant conversation and the photos he had sent me in one afternoon of the pretty white bike. So off Brian and I headed to Sal's place on Long Island. Sal kept the calls coming though out the week. We had originally planned to meet on Friday morning, but he had called Thursday night sounding oddly intense. He asked if we could push the meeting up to 8 AM. he said he had something to do much further out on the Island that Friday. So we changed the day to Sunday, and as we ware 20 minutes away, Sal was calling in yet again. I picked up, Sal sounded calm yet sad. He explained that he had taken the bike out to give it a wash and now for the life of him couldn't get it to turn over. It was on a battery tender, but still showing no signs of life. He wanted to let me know and said we were welcome to still come, but it would be like coming to "buy a puppy and getting a dead dog." Still, we had come this far. So we went ahead and pulled up on his modest, sweet suburban street. There was a shiny new Audi convertible parked out front of Sal's house; the midlife crisis' latest effect. Sal came out to greet us. He was a 50 something guy, nice looking, a little rough around the edges and weathered from what looked like some hearty partying and a sunscreen-free life in this seaside town. He welcomed us past the white fence in the driveway and led us back to the separated garage which was next to a small well-kept pool. The bike was outside, all white and shiny, with a long black tail that led back into the dark, freshly swept garage. The battery tender had our hopes up as we all stood around the bike. Sal began his tale. "I bought this bike to piss off my wife, we were having a real hard time back then, she must have been menopausing." I never heard "menopause" used as a verb, but I liked it; I had been menopausing myself just the night before and was now considering adding it to my skillset on my LinkedIn profile. But Sal continued. "Yeah, she was a real pain in the ass about it so I decided to pull the trigger. Had some fun with it, even got the wife on the back a few times – but now I dunno. I lost my brother last week and riding is pretty dangerous, ya know, we can't have another one of us dead right now." He had gone from his wife menopausing vignette to his brother's passing story so seamlessly, I barely caught it. But Brian was kinder, and a much better listener than me. He had been a detective and never missed a detail, whether he was tuning into a perp with a "story" or just a regular Joe on the street. "I'm sorry, Sal," he said, "can I ask what happened?" Sal explained, "he committed suicide." Now Sal had my full attention, the bike had lost its pull and my eyes were now squarely on the surviving brother. "It was weird, there were no real signs, no. um reason we could tell," Sal explained, "he cashed his paycheck that morning, washed his car, and killed himself that afternoon." Brian nodded like a doctor who had just told a patient they had cancer, I was looking down at the freshly hosed asphalt of Sal's pristine driveway. "He called me to say 'goodbye' – but he didn't call my cellphone, I think he dialed my home number by mistake and left a message; anyway, it doesn't matter now." I then realized why Sal had changed our Friday appointment. His further out on Long Island meeting had most likely been his brother's funeral. I wasn't sure how Sal was processing his brother's death. He had gotten the news that evening and apparently listed his motorcycle on Craigslist the next day. After he shared his intimate story with us he had moved on with levity. Talking about the bike, how hard it was to get the seat off to reach the battery - recalling his old motorcycle with the under-seat-easy-access compartment where he would store his essential items, "my cigarettes and weed." We all stood around the bike and silently mourned Sal's brother under the guise of closer inspection to the angelic white steed. Sal offered me the honors to try and start her up but in spite of my best efforts, she was still and lifeless. It would have been crass to discuss a deal given the news about Sal's sibling and the general pall of the morning that ensued. "Maybe I'll take her out the the beach house, I dunno. Sorry again for your wasted trip," he said as he led us out through the gate. He had taken our sensitivity to not show interest as disinterest and sullenly talked about re-listing her on Craigslist. When we were back in the car I asked Brian if I should have discussed a deal after all. He said, "no, it wouldn't be appropriate," he explained not because of Sal's story, but because the bike hadn't started. "I think it would be nice when you got home you reach out to Sal again, let him know you liked the bike," he said hopefully. "Yeah? Should I send him an email," I looked to Brian, he always seemed to know what the situation warranted. "A call is always nice," he said sweetly as we turned the corner from Sal's sad street and out into the silent Sunday morning out on Long Island.

Friday, August 24, 2012

THE CYRANO LUNCH

I went to meet my honey out at a pub in Stroudsburg, NY. I decided to leave my bike at home and drive, we planned to grab a cozy booth, have a big lunch, a beer, and ride on his bike along some back roads down to the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon out on his boat.I waited for him on the front porch of the pub, we kissed hello, went in, and the hostess led us to a remote booth in a back corner of the wood and brass restaurant. As the waitress brought our first round of cold draft beers, the hostess seated a man and a woman behind us. She was a seen-better-days blond. Hard to pinpoint her age, but her ravaged white blond hair was thin and desperately trying to reach her waist. Her too-tight blouse was straining across her missile tit bra, circa 1963. He was an unfortunate looking lackluster man, probably early 60’s in an unflattering shade of grey/blue, revealing a sad pair of deflated man-boobs. It was hard to tell if it was a date, an interview, or possibly a hybrid of the the two. I only noticed these details after we had paid our check, I had to get a visual on the conversation I had just overheard.Jim, my man, had just finished telling me yet another hard-to-conceive story from his childhood. His Dad was a retired Marine who had decided to raise his family in about the worst area of Brooklyn imaginable. Even as the drug dealers, addicts, and prostitutes had taken over the streets, he held fast to his territory like it was Custer’s Last Stand. His brother had left the block many years ago and bought a house upstate, by a lake, he had told Jim’s dad about an inexpensive house that had become available right up the dirt road, but Custer wouldn’t hear of it. Although they would have to sweep the sidewalk of needles and condoms before the grandkids would come down to play, Jim’s dad held his ground. Cops used to question Jimmy as he walked down his block, yelling at the young boy from the car window, “hey, kid!! watcha doin’ over here, it’s dangerous, go the heck home!!” But he was home. The local news had come to interview the last of the holdouts on the block, after a couple of the homes were burned to the ground by pimps or dealers in some payback deal. Jimmy described coming home from school and turning on the TV. He told me how excited he was, his Dad yelling at the reporter, “I’m nevah leavin’, WE was here first, this is OURS (probably referring to his Irish heritage), this is OUR neighborhood,” he was now talking to the camera, and the Puerto Ricans and Cubans who had taken over, his arm outstretched, and pointing down towards the sidewalk, violently delivering the last few rounds of bullets into the imagined scum bag’s body with an invisible firearm. Jimmy sat across from me, mirroring his father’s murderous mime from the 5 o’clock news, with a mixture of pride and disbelief, although it had occurred almost 40 years before.Jim had a million stories like these, and they just kept coming. Charming, horrifying vignettes from his boyhood from the west side of Sunset Park. He was a great storyteller, a fine mimic, I loved to hear Jim talk in a car, or in a bar, I especially loved hearing his tales echo from deep inside him as he would recount another episode with my head pressed against his chest in the wee hours of the morning. These stories explained a lot about his deeply embedded anger and hurt, and I loved how he fluctuated from being “stuck” in all that emotion, and the next minute being full of joie de vivre as he narrated his recipes as he chef-ed around my kitchen, or as he would playfully look back at me with a wink, as he captained us out into the middle of the lake, or led me onto more and more beautiful adventures on our bikes in Upstate New York.“I love complicated men,” I told him, and it was true. I had a fascination and passion for men who had survived problematic childhoods. Maybe it was because I had grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth on the pristine wooded streets of Westport, Connecticut and never had to work too hard for anything; maybe it was a simple case of bad boy complex; or simply because I was just plain fucked up - but I had accepted a long time ago that this was who I am, and what I love, and I had settled on Jim. And as I told him, “I love complicated men,” Jim looked into my eyes suspiciously, like was this a compliment, or an insult, but he quickly resigned himself that it was what it was and took another gulp from his sweaty mug of brew. It was then in that gulp of silence between us, that I heard the woman in the shiny polyester date/interview blouse chatter to her man friend, “I just LOOOVE complicated men!!” I couldn’t quite believe my ears. I looked behind me, her “complicated” man looked dully towards her, he wasn’t trying to decipher her comment, he simply waited for her noise to stop as he went on talking about some sign that a neighbor had put up on his street corner, and was trying to have removed by attending a city council meeting. She went on, “I could listen to your stories all day,” she cood, the plagiarist continued. I had said this to Jimmy just moments before, saying it in all sincerity - little did I know that I had been acting as Cyrano to the unfortunate woman sitting within earshot just on the other side of the pine back of the booth that we shared.I told Jimmy what I had just overheard, he shook his head and closed his eyes like he was recalling being molested as a child. I stopped providing the woman material at this point, now that I was aware that she had one ear on me and one eye on her date/prospective employer. But now she was on her own. “I LOOVE intelligent men,” she told him. He didn’t respond, so she just kept saying it, “I just LOOOVE intelligent men,” a second, then a third time, until she got the response she wanted as he dully told her, “and I like intelligent women.” “Why THANK you,” she said with an insipid giggle, “I ‘ppreciate that,” she snapped back. Jim still had his rape recollection face on and said, “let’s get the hell out of here, it’s a beautiful day out there. She’s gonna suck his dick in the parking lot, and it’s not going to get her the job or a second date.” The man sure had a way with words, I could listen to him talk all day. We got the check, hopped on the bike and rode down to the lake where we spent the rest of that beautiful late August afternoon. I wondered how the lunch ended between the interview/couple. Had she swallowed the man’s penis for dessert in the parking lot, as Jim had predicted; her charms beyond that seemed limited. But enough of that, I thought, as I rubbed Jimmy’s back as he steered us into the welcome silence of the vast placid lake.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

THE DEFAULT OF THE EX-WIFE

I met my boyfriend just a few months ago, we attached very quickly. We had a few things in common; motorcycles, music, cooking, over-eating, and a desire to be loved by someone who loved us back. I had a failed relationship behind me, he had split up from his wife who he met back when they were just in high-school. They had been happy, raised three children together, had a close knit family, he thought it would be forever. But towards the end he sensed that she had a secret, she had always handled the finances until one day she finally revealed that she had leveraged their house against her secret off-the-rails spending. Since then she had chased lower interest rates, opening multiple credit cards until it snowballed out of control. My boyfriend Jeff was set to pay off the house and retire in a year; his faith in his marriage and plans for retirement were destroyed in what seemed to be overnight.

While Jeff went on high-alert damage control over the family finances, his wife started spending all afternoon on the treadmill in their carpeted basement, or hunting down spray tan at the BOGOs at the local CVS. She had maxed out a credit card buying tank tops in neon colors at nearby Mandee shops- she had lost 50 pounds and started coming home at odd hours; his Straight Edge Christian wife now smelled of cigarettes and tequila. They always spent the 4th of July down by the lake, Jeff took the kids down to the water to watch the fireworks but when he turned around his wife wasn’t there. After the show was done, he and the kids ate hot dogs and hamburgers without her until she showed up two hours later - riding in on the back of the bike behind an Eastern European bottle-blond - dismounting her new friend’s ride in her short shorts, wife beater, in all her spray-tanned glory. It was then that Jeff knew that his family and their life as they knew it had come a sad, slow halt.

She announced that she was leaving soon after, “taking a break” to move in with mutual friends of theirs. Jeff heard from their friends days later that she had never shown up on their end - the guestroom bed was untouched, her car had never been seen in the driveway. She left no forwarding address, she’d never said a word to the kids. Before she left Jeff had asked her if there was someone else. She threw him a sly grin, his oldest daughter chased her out of the house and into the driveway screaming, “wipe that fucking smirk of your face.” striking her in her face with a chunk of ice she had pulled from the front steps of the house. Jeff’s wife sped away from the house leaving Jeff, and his three kids in her wake. They didn’t hear from her for weeks, she never divulged where she was staying - all they had left of her was a kitchen table piled with bills and a half-used bottle of store brand spray tan.

Jeff and I met a few months later, we fell fast and hard. He was strong, masculine, with an open, romantic heart. He had married his childhood sweetheart, had been saving up for a house in the country since he was 9 years old. He had grown up in the toughest area of Brooklyn, had dodged many bullets literally and figuratively before he took his new wife to a beautiful town in Upstate New York where he bought her a house on two acres of land. He had three great kids in good public schools, and now he had me. But the wounds from his ex-wife were deep. I knew that it was best not to date a man who had recently been burned, but it was too late, against my better judgement I had fallen in love.

Jeff would take me for long drives to the country, opening the car door for me, holding my hand as we rolled through the back roads, kissing me softly before we would get out of the car to have lunch at a quaint country inn. He was the sweetest man I had ever met - until the ghost of his ex would take control of our afternoon. Jeff revealed his painful story slowly at first, I would get tidbits here and there, his face tightening, his mouth forming a grimace as the words spewed from his lips. It was hard to listen to and painful to watch; the emotion taking over his body as he pretended to enjoy the Hudson River views. The man was barely managing - he had to work nights, then go home and clean the entire house, do the food shopping, the laundry, make a square meal every night, look after their three kids, catching 20 minutes of sleep here and there wherever he could. The ex was long gone – she had only contacted him once, the morning of what would have been their wedding anniversary, texting him first thing that morning from some stranger’s bed, “no matter what happened, this will always be a very special day to me.” Still, I played devil’s advocate.

“Jeff,” I tried to cut through his vitriol, “you two met so young, she’s just now living out her teenage fantasies .” I hoped that this would somehow help him put a better spin on things, take the edge off his hate - I’d since met his kids, their grades were slipping, they were sad and disoriented, I wanted them to have some sort of relationship with their mom. Jeff would cook up a storm; we would all sit around the table eating and laughing, but after dinner a silence would come over the house - the ghost of their missing mother was lurking about in the buzz of the overhead lighting. How could they live with suddenly losing their mother? I discouraged Jeff from making so much as a sour expression in front of the kids when her name came up. The ex had recenlty started texting them, asking to see them, but they’d all refused. They had removed all signs of her around the house, just the bottle of spray tan remained - collecting dust in the corner of the kitchen, a shrine to the mother that had betrayed them all. Still, I held out hope, Jeff had noticed on his medical insurance that his wife had seen a therapist once or twice. Was this a sign that she was working on her issues for herself and the children? The kids needed their mom, particularly the youngest one. She had opened up to me, we had taken to having heart-to-hearts, I cut her hair one Saturday afternoon, she smiled and said, “um, I think we’re bonding.”

In spite of the kid's resistance to see her, the ex would pipe up now and then, she texted the kids around Christmas saying she had money for them from their Grandparents so they could buy themselves something nice at the mall. They all met up for breakfast, the three kids returning home from the diner an hour or so later, sullen and quiet. Their mother had given them two unwrapped gifts – a waffle iron, and a margarita maker set, seemingly re-gifted from a housewarming party from her new mystery address. She had passed along the grandparent’s money, the kids left the envelopes on the coffee table next to the misappropriate presents. Still, it was a start, I thought, still clinging to the hope that these kids could reclaim their mother. I continued to remind Jeff not to disparage her in front of them, and maybe even offer up the idea that they could forge a relationship with her over time. But it never came to pass. Their mom took to sending repeated rapid-fire “I LOVE YOU!!” text messages from her mystery location, imploring them for support, texting, “I NEED YOU TO COMFORT ME!!” The eldest girl, the one who chased her mother with the block-of-ice-weapon, set her straight immediately, “you’re the fucking mother, we’re the kids. Get it straight who comforts who!!” The writing was on the wall after that, but their mother kept on coming, each attempt more strange than the last. She pleaded with their son to meet her out one night, she devised a plan to get a beater car from her parents in Florida, she asked that he and his sister buy one way tickets to Florida and spend their Spring break driving it back by themselves. The following week she showed up at the youngest one’s school unannounced, ambushing her at her school play rehearsal - forcing the 13 year old to snap photos of the two of them on her phone that she would later post to her Facebook page where she was posing as Mother of the Year. It was long past due that I give up any hope of the kids ever having any semblance of a normal relationship with their mom at this point. I knew that over time Jeff’s anger would subside, now I would support him in whatever he was feeling and listen and nod. With the kids off at school in the afternoon we would lie in his bed talking about the summer that we would soon share, surely it would be a better Fourth of July for the kids - he would pull me towards him in the peaceful drawn shade darkness of the bedroom, until the shrill ring of the intermittent creditor’s calls would slice our cocoon; their repeated attempts to address the multiple defaults of Jeff’s ex-wife.