Stab Me with a Pen
Stab me with a fountain pen and I will bleed ink.
My black embryonic fluid will splatter into letters, words, and sentences on sheets of creamy, white paper and pool at my feet when I fall asleep, head on the desk, clutching the pen in my stiff hand.
My insides will splash and stain the nearby walls with confused ramblings and carefully edited thoughts that have been bouncing off the walls in my brain for as long as I’ve been able to think.
Can anyone remember the first thought they ever had? The first tear they ever shed? Their first nightmare?
The crazed mist of memories is all here, tucked neatly into the never sleeping beehive under my skull. How can humans not go crazy? So many thoughts fighting for a place in our heads. Every day more thoughts crowd into that finite space.
Stick a pen in my vein and let the thoughts drip out onto the pages before I lose what little sanity I have left. Any pain in there? Bleed it out onto the screen before me, so I can understand it. Regrets? Many. They live rent-free in my head until I pour my inky blood out onto hungry pages, looking for redemption. Dreams? They are gone. Taken by my past.
Writing is a sick business, done in the dark by sick people.
Here, Little Leprechaun
Little did the foolish Leprechaun know
This glorious pot of gold was all for show
I lured him in with my shiny facade, little by little
A fine fix he's in now that he's in my kettle
Sweet green stew, bubbling away with the flames on low
Your life will shatter like china on the floor. If you break free, don’t go back for more. Listen to your friends. They see with their eyes, not their hearts. Your heart can’t be trusted. I know because I’ve watched you stumble and fall. I’ve seen the bruises and the tears. Run when you get the chance. The next time- run a little bit faster, a little bit sooner.
Ignore the ones who don’t believe in you. Believe you can do anything you set your mind on. You are stronger than you know. You are smarter than you think. Stubborn is not a fault. Time and time again you’ve proven nothing will stop you if you’d only trust yourself. People have their own reasons for putting you down. It has nothing to do with you. It’s all about their own pain. Believe that. I’ve seen all you have done with the little you’ve been given.
Know that your decision was the right one, even if no one tells you so. Know that your choices were good and your heart was pure. Someday you will see. Now you just feel empty, hurt and confused. I know because I was there with you through it all and I counted your tears and felt your scars. Trust me, though, when I tell you that someday you will be rewarded with joy. Be patient with yourself. Don’t give up too soon. Your answered prayer is right around the corner. I promise.
Stop thinking you deserve all the bad things in this world. You deserve happiness. You deserve love. You deserve better than what you’re taking from life. It’s coming. Don’t think your life is always going to hurt. Put away the razor blades and stop self-destructing with bad men, liars, cheaters and abusers. When life offers you choices, think twice and stop settling. Whatever you’ve done that makes you believe you’re worthless- it’s a lie. You don’t have to take the leftovers and the crumbs. God is preparing a table for you and it’s a feast. You just have to hang in there a few more years.
Someday you won’t be running away from life. A day is coming when you won’t be speeding past happy homes with toys in the yard on your way to another lonely week. Someday the life you are missing will find you. Someday there will be love. So much that you would never believe it if I described it to you right now. You will have children who will leave their toys in the yard and you’ll cry because it’s everything you’ve ever wanted. You’ll be happy. You will be happy. Don’t quit.
Someday you will put away your suitcases. Someday you will hang up your dancing shoes and find a place to call home. Someday you will be surrounded by a family and love and happiness. The fog clouds your eyes now- but when the sun finally shines on your life you won’t believe how warm it feels.
Listen to me. I come from the future to warn you of your present. I can’t change it for you. It will happen the way it was written. All I can do is tell you the pain won’t last forever. Keep trying. When you fall down, get back up. What you endure now will make you wiser, kinder and gentler with those in your future who are suffering what you’ve gone through. It’s not for nothing that we hurt.
Cheating on Me Causes Accidents II
It was my second week stripping at a new club in Quebec City. I had just found out that I was pregnant, thank you, my dear ex-boyfriend. All that afternoon I'd been sewing on my newest costume, a sheer, chiffon gown with a halter top and an ethereal, flowing gathered skirt. When I finished the final touches, I was so excited to try it out onstage that I left for work early. Carrying my costume bag to the club’s outside dressing room entrance I saw, with alarm, a familiar sight in the parking lot. Son of a bitch. Jake’s blue truck. How did he find me here?
I hurried into the dressing room and peeked out at the club from behind the curtain. Shit. Jake was sitting in the back near the service bar. Not his usual confident self, he was looking a little worse for wear. What was it- an eight, ten-hour drive from Hamilton to Quebec City? Too bad he made the long trip for nothing.
The first stripper of the night had just started dancing. The other two girls were still getting ready in the dressing room and Jean Luc was taking a break at the service bar, chatting with the good-looking waiters. Shit. What was he doing? Jean Luc was heading determinedly to the table where Jake was sitting. No. No. Stop. How did he know who he was anyway? Nothing good was going to come of Jean Luc getting involved in my snit. I couldn’t watch.
I ducked back behind the curtain and started getting dressed and doing my makeup, wondering what to say or even if I should speak to Jake after my show. When Jean Luc asked for my music before my show, I was going to grab him by his scrawny neck and demand to know what he said to Jake.
The first stripper came back to the dressing room and Jean Luc commenced his entertaining. After he announced the next stripper, he came back through the curtain to the dressing room where I accosted him.
“How did you know Jake was here? Why did you talk to him? What were you thinking?” I demanded.
“Calm down. Calm down. No harm done. How did I know? You described him to me a dozen times. How could I not know? I told him you will come and talk with him after your show. That’s what I was thinking.”
“What if I don’t want to talk to him? What if I don’t want anything to do with him?” I asked, hands on my hips.
The other girls in the dressing room stopped what they were doing and eavesdropped on our argument. I guess it wasn’t officially eavesdropping because I was pretty loud.
“You really should talk with him. He drove ten hours to see you and you have important things to talk about.” He said as if I’d never told him I wasn’t telling Jake anything.
“Oh, God. Jean Luc. You didn’t say anything, did you?” I angrily snapped at him.
He ignored my question and asked what show I was planning on doing first. After giving him my tape, he waltzed away to chat with the stripper who was waiting for her show time, conveniently forgetting to answer my question.
After Jean Luc went back onstage to announce the last stripper before my show, I took another peek out of the curtain and saw one of the house strippers sitting at the table with Jake. Well, that was just fine. I was done with him.
I stomped back to the makeup table and slapped on another layer of eye makeup, fluffed my hair, and checked my stockings for runs. Jake had driven ten hours from Hamilton to the club I was working at. That must mean he wanted to talk with me. With Jake, however, perhaps it meant he was looking for French women to screw. It was hard to tell with him, so I wasn’t going to assume anything.
I peered out into the audience once more and the other stripper had flounced herself down next to Jake. I could care less- or is that I couldn’t care less? Anyway, fucking sluts. I hoped they all had fun tonight after the club closed. Maybe Jake could take home a souvenir from Quebec for his wife, herpes, crabs, clap, hoof, and mouth disease, or any number of other sexual ailments.
The last house stripper ended her show and came backstage. Jean Luc introduced me, and my blues tape began playing Stormy Monday. The new gown I had just sewn flowed beautifully with my movements. The spotlight and the blacklights really set the colors aglow. The next song on the tape was Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers. I loved slow, smooth undulating movements, and Ain’t No Sunshine spotlighted these perfectly.
The chair routine song was always a crowd favorite.
The song Black Coffee and Cigarettes was about as sultry as you could get. I did the chair routine a little differently this time. I left the gown on and straddled the chair with my back to the audience while I slowly untied the top of the gown and let it fall away from my breasts. Then, I stood up slowly, lifted the gown to show the tops of my silk stockings, then let it fall to the floor before sitting back down on the chair for my chair gymnastics.
When the last song began, I slid like a snake from the chair to the floor in one gliding movement. At Last, by Etta James, poured out of the speakers like honey and I slowly removed my G-String and dropped it onto the chair. I was not a nice person, and that night I decided to put on a little show to remind Jake what he would be missing out on. Mixed in here and there with my elegant ballet leg extensions and acrobatics there were little memories of his favorite sexual escapades with me from the past seven months.
Eat your heart out, big boy.
When I sat down at my section of the makeup mirror in the dressing room there was a folded note next to my makeup. More fan mail from a flounder, I assumed. Yep,
‘Please come out and talk to me. I need to see you. Jake.’
I took my time getting dressed in my jeans and a sweater. One of the house strippers had come back from the club and was getting ready to do her show. I put a sympathetic look on my face and approached her sweetly, “Hi, just wanted to let you know about that guy you were sitting with.”
“Oui, il est sexy! Mon dieu!” She gushed, practically drooling on the floor.
I had no idea what the hell she was saying. But I got the vibe that she liked him very much. Such a shame. “Um, I don’t want to ruin your night. I used to date him and couldn’t stand it anymore. I came here to get away from him.” I said convincingly.
“But, why? Why would you go away from such a man?”
“Oh, he didn’t tell you about his accident?” I shared cautiously.
“Accident? Non, non. What accident?” She was puzzled.
“He was working on a construction project and his- you know, those, (with my hands I indicated round things at crotch level) got crushed when his ladder fell. He didn’t tell you? Oh, that figures. He’s such a liar.”
I mimed a floppy cock with my forefinger and walked away shaking my head in pity for the poor girl he was trying to fool. I had all I could do not to laugh my ass off at the look on her face. Her plans for the evening with that hot guy just went down the drain… all because of a damned ladder accident.
That will get around and Jake will wonder where those hot French girls went. Couldn’t happen to a better man. I was giggling as I walked out to the club. My dear friend, Jean Luc’s very handsome boyfriend, Sol, was sitting a few tables away from Jake and I made a beeline to sit with him, making a big deal out of bussing his cheeks and hugging him. Take that, you asshole. I can sit with a hot guy anytime I want.
Jake didn’t need to know I was the wrong gender for Sol. At least Sol hadn’t suffered from any construction accident, that I knew of. I’m sure Jean Luc would have dished on it if he had.
I had to carefully balance blatant flirting with Sol to piss off Jake without pissing off my delicate friend, Jean Luc. Sol snapped his magic fingers and a hunky, blond waiter appeared instantly to take his order. I was going to order a 7&7, my usual, but Sol took over and told me I should try a cognac cocktail and ordered me a Sidecar.
Sol turned to me after the waiter left and said, “My dear, you could turn a queer straight. Tres chaud, tres chaud. Just don’t tell Jean Luc,” He chuckled and patted my hand.
“Um. Thank you, I think?” I mumbled.
Sol laughed and said quietly, “I see someone has followed you here. What are you going to do about him?”
“I’m not sure. He was pretty busy entertaining the girls, so maybe he’s just looking for French women.” I joked.
“He could have found them three hundred miles ago.” Sol claimed, “No, I believe that Jean Luc was correct. It would be best if you talked with him. You don’t have to do anything but tell him the truth. You know how you complain he’s a liar? If you do not share with him your truth, what does that make you?” He pointed out.
That punched me in the gut. Sol was right. I was angry with Jake for keeping things from me. Now, here I was trying to keep this surprise pregnancy from Jake and feeling self-righteous about it. Truthfully, it wouldn’t change the fact that he would never leave his wife for me. Thinking about it was one thing but hearing him say it out loud was more than I could manage at that point.
When my drink arrived at the table, Sol handed it to me and said, “Go. Talk with your man. If it hurts, it hurts. At least you will have tried to do the right thing.”
I took a big swallow of the drink and steeled my backbone, hoping that Jake’s harem had disappeared. I walked over to his table on wobbly legs. Good grief. Even hating him didn’t stop the butterflies in my stomach when I saw him up close. As I approached him, I asked, “Mind if I sit with you?”
He was hunched over the table, carefully peeling the label off his Labatt Blue bottle. Even with a two-day-old beard, he looked far too good to be with me. When he didn’t answer I sat down next to him anyway and waited for him to make the next move.
He looked up at me from his label-peeling project and grumbled, “So, this is how you deal with arguments? You disappear? How does that solve anything? It took me a week to find out where you went.”
Good Lord. He thought we were still together, and I was just having a snit about him leaving for his damned family Christmas party. Incredible. I was at a loss for words, so I downed the rest of my drink. Within two minutes flat a Labatt Blue with an intact label and another Sidecar arrived at our table, thanks to Sol. I waved a thank you to Sol and Jake tipped his bottle to him.
“So, are you fucking that old guy?” He demanded to know.
I was shocked and annoyed and shot back, “No. I’m not like you, Jake. I can’t just jump in and out of beds with people because I’m horny. I have to have feelings for people first.”
“So, then. What’s the deal with you two?” He wanted to know.
“Are you really doing this? Now? Don’t you want to know why I left as I did without telling you? Or do you just want to shift the blame for everything onto me?”
“I don’t know what I’m to blame for. I told you about that deal with the family Christmas party. You knew I had to do that. I told you the truth.” He complained.
“This has nothing to do with a fucking party, Jake. What else have you not told me? Your life when you’re away from me is a mystery- but I have to be content with that, while you put me on the fucking witness stand whenever we get together again.” I said loudly, as I downed the second drink quickly.
“I don’t know what you think I haven’t told you.” He said a little too quickly, confirming what his friend had told me about his wife being pregnant.
“Maybe you should begin by telling me how far along your wife is.” I glared at him and fiddled with my empty cocktail glass.
“Wh-Wait. How. How do you know?” He back peddled.
“Dan came into Hanrahan’s and told me she was five months pregnant. That sounds like the week you went home for her birthday. So, I figured that was about right.”
He was stunned. I wasn’t sure it was because his best friend had betrayed him or because I knew. He stuttered, “I- Oh, God. I. I wanted to tell you. I tried a couple of times. I really did. It was going to hurt you and I just couldn’t tell you. I’m really sorry. Oh, wow. That was an awful way for you to find out.”
“So, when we were in Toronto and you were talking about your wife never wanting kids and you’re going on forty and all that crap was just bullshit, right?” I asked.
“What? No. No. That was me trying to work up the nerve to tell you. We were. We were just having such a good day I didn’t want to ruin it.” He argued.
“You didn’t want to ruin a good day or the possibility of a good fuck? Which one is it with me, Jake. Am I just another piece of convenient ass for you?” I demanded.
He reached across the table and took my hand, which I wasn’t about to give up easily. “No. You were never that. Okay, maybe when I first met you, I thought it would be fun and then one of us would have to move on.” He admitted, “but then after getting to know you I didn’t feel like that anymore. Honestly, I couldn’t stop thinking about you when we weren’t together. You messed with my mind. I’ve been cheating on Bree for years. Literally years. But I never felt bad about it because I could honestly say those women never meant anything to me. It’s different with you. I swear to God.”
“Ummha. Well, you think about that. I have to get ready for my next show.” I got up and walked to the dressing room trying to discern the truth from his lies. It was interesting to me that he believed this was a stunt of some kind because I was mad at him over some trivial thing. He had no idea that disappearing was one of my secret superpowers. I would take a lot of pain and abuse until I couldn’t. Then, I could disappear better than anyone I knew. The question was, did I want to disappear this time?
Cheating on Me Causes Accidents
Stripping adventures in Quebec City
In January of 1976, I had been booked at a big club in Quebec City as a feature stripper for the first time. What should have been an exciting time for me had turned into an unbelievable mess.
My seven-month-long love affair had ended with a disappointing fizzle when I found out my boyfriend's wife was pregnant and he would never be able to leave her. For months he had been telling me that he was working on getting free, all the while knowing that was never going to happen. He was just using me. Stringing me along. When I left my last booking I didn't tell him where I was going, hoping that would end things and we could both go our way without a scene.
The Sunday after arriving in Quebec City, my new friend, Jean Luc, the Master of Ceremonies at the club took me to the hospital emergency room because I kept getting sick to my stomach. The doctor congratulated me on being a month and a half pregnant. Oh, joy.
The next morning in Quebec City was another dark, cloudy, day, the sky bursting at the seams with snow. My stomach was flip-flopping, so I brewed a cup of my friend, Jean Luc’s magic mint tea which, I now knew, would not be curing what ailed me. At some point, I would have to call my agent and tell her the unwelcome news. I was new to pregnant problems, so I wasn’t sure how long I had left to perform onstage before a little hand would pop out of my belly button and wave to the audience.
At around ten in the morning, Jean Luc and his boyfriend, Sol, pulled up outside my door in Sol’s sleek, black Mercedes. Jean Luc pounded on the door, yelling, “Wake up- you cannot sulk all day. We’re going for brunch and you’re coming with us. Get dressed. I will wait.”
I made one last run to the toilet to return the peppermint tea to the ocean so it could swim freely and threw on jeans with a sweater. I grabbed my jacket and jumped around, trying to get my feet into boots without socks, and ran outside to the waiting car.
Like the gentleman he was, Jean Luc opened the back door for me and introduced me to his lover, Sol, “My dear, Tina, this is Sol. Sol, this is my lovely dancer friend, Tina.”
“It is good to meet you, Tina. I must come and see your new show. Jean Luc believes you will become a star.” Jean Luc's extremely handsome lover said.
“Jean Luc is very generous with his knowledge of music and entertainment. I’m fortunate to be working with him- especially these two weeks.” I replied.
Jean Luc asked, “So, have you given any thought about contacting your lover?”
“Yes, and no. I don’t believe I will.” I stubbornly insisted.
“We’ll speak more of this later. I still believe it is the right thing to do.” Jean Luc insisted even more stubbornly and folded his arms across his chest.
Sol glanced quickly over at Jean Luc, then at me in the back seat, and simply shook his head. He was going to brunch with two difficult and stubborn women. “Mon Dieu!”
Sol found a parking lot before we fully entered the Old City. He led us across the cobblestone roundabout to a private restaurant situated in the basement of a 17th Century stone building. Le Bon Repas had seating for fifty and was practically filled when we got there. However, Sol had made reservations, and the maître de gushed all over him before taking us to a quiet table in the corner of the restaurant, near the fireplace.
Oh, my. This was a fancy place. What was going to happen when my stomach rejected the fine fare? I looked around in a panic, finally locating the ladies’ room, and then tried to estimate the running time between the table to the toilet. Thirty seconds, perhaps twenty-five at a trot.
The menu was completely in French, so I had no clue what to order. “May I suggest you order tea and soft-boiled eggs with toast? That may agree with you best.” Jean Luc offered.
“That sounds good. Can you order for me?” I whispered.
“Of course, my dear. You must get a dictionary, so when I am not with you it will be easier for you to get around.” He suggested.
With Jean Luc, it was easy to tell that he was not interested in women, except, perhaps to borrow their wardrobe.
Sol, however, seemed extremely masculine and if I had met him without his paramour, I would never have guessed his sexual persuasion. He was tall and dark-haired with piercing gray eyes, a patrician nose above a healthy salt and pepper mustache, and a chiseled square jaw.
Sol was a bit brusque and direct. It seemed as though he was used to being in a position of authority and simply did not know enough to turn that part of himself off with poor Jean Luc, who often was brought to tears by Sol’s remonstrances. I was a freeloader in their affair, so I kept my nose out of it. I had enough emotional spaghetti piled on my own plate to be interfering with others.
Sol snapped his fingers and two waiters appeared at our table as if they jumped out of Sol’s magical thumb. Amazing. Instant men. What a gift. Sol took over ordering for us and the waiters hustled away. He inspected me across the table and said, “I hope it was not untoward of Jean Luc to share your troubles with me.”
“No. Not at all. I trust him." I assured him, "I don’t agree with him. But I trust him.”
At that, Jean Luc chuckled and replied, “You don’t have to agree with me for me to be correct.”
The waiters magically reappeared without Sol snapping his fingers and laid out the tea and coffee services for us. When they had once again disappeared into thin air, Sol said to me, “Let me ask you, if I may, why you are opposed to contacting your lover?”
Jean Luc interrupted my answer and replied, “She’s simply stubborn, Sol. She thinks she can do this alone.”
Turning his steely gray eyes toward Jean Luc he quietly stated, “Dear, I was talking to Tina.”
I was worried that Jean Luc was going to go for his floral hankie again- but he simply shook his head haughtily and fidgeted with his silverware. This was becoming uncomfortable.
“Jean Luc, you don’t know Jake like I do.” I insisted. “That’s why you think he would want to know I’m pregnant. Believe me, his life is already a mess, and this just makes everything worse. Plus, you keep telling me that a man should know. Unfortunately, Jake is not a man. He is a coward and when things get tough, he hides.”
“Well,” Sol concluded, “that sounds reasonable to me. Jean Luc, not everyone has your tender heart.” He said as a way to ameliorate Jean Luc’s wounded feelings.
Thank God the food arrived, and we could get off the subject of Jake and me. I couldn’t remember the last meal I had that actually stayed where it belonged, and I was starved. The soft-boiled eggs arrived in fancy porcelain egg cups and the toast was freshly baked sourdough dripping in homemade orange marmalade. It may have been the best breakfast I’d ever eaten. Or maybe I was just really hungry.
I sipped my tea and listened to Sol and Jean Luc bicker about their upcoming cruise to Europe. “We went to the South of Spain last year, love. I cannot stand that kind of commercialism. You know that. It has become strictly a tourist trap." Jean Luc whined.
“Well, I am not spending my Summer in the middle of the continent, when beaches are calling us. So, no to going to Switzerland again.” Sol declared.
Oh, to have my choice of cruises to worry about. What a luxury that must have been. Instead of cruises, I was worried about how many more months I had to dance and how I was going to save up enough money to take care of myself until the baby was born. Having already tested my hometown friends’ loyalties and found them lacking when my knee had been dislocated the previous year and I was unable to work. This was going to be on me. I could not depend on anyone else- least of all Jake.
Sol and Jean Luc bickered all the way back to my hotel and I was happy to get out of the car and trade the noisy conversation for some peace and quiet in my room. Having bid them adieu I went back into my pink, frilly sanctuary for a nap. For the first time in months, the meal did not demand escape from my stomach. Good thing, because I would need all my strength later that evening.
My latest boyfriend, Gino, dropped me off in the afternoon at my new strip club gig in Niagara Falls. He wanted to stay the night but he had an overnight shift at the glass factory he couldn't turn down. After helping me take my bags to the creepy, little apartment upstairs over the club, he took off, leaving me to fend for myself.
By that time I was used to Gino disappearing for night shifts, day shifts, and double shifts. The man worked all the time, it seemed. I was just happy to have someone who cared about me and didn't lie, after my last two ex-boyfriends.
When we first arrived at the apartment it alarmed us that there was no lock on the upstairs apartment that had been provided for the dancers. Neither of us was comfortable with that. So, Gino unscrewed the ceiling light at the top of the stairs and I deposited obstacles on the steps to make it difficult for someone to quietly climb them. I also tilted a wooden chair under the door knob for extra protection.
I hated being alone at night. I hated the dark, and I especially hated creepy places. That evening checked all three of my worst nightmares.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I became vaguely aware of something falling near the apartment. I thought nothing of it and fell back asleep, only to be woken up by someone landing on the bed next to me. It was the greasy, little club owner, drunk out of his mind, trying to grapple with me.
Panicking, I didn't know where to run and did the absolute worst thing in a situation like that. I ended up trapping myself in the bathroom, scared that he was going to kick the door in. I wasn’t familiar enough with the apartment to have realized the exit door was closer than the bathroom door and I could have easily escaped him in his drunken state.
At least the protection of the flimsy bathroom door gave me time to assess the situation. I looked around to see if there was anything I could use to protect myself when I spied a can of comet cleanser on the floor under the sink.
I knocked the can on the side of the sink to make sure the powder was not all clumped up and stuck together. When he finally did kick the door in, I shook the contents of the can right into his eyes and flew, literally, down the stairs. The bricks I'd placed on the stairs didn't hinder my escape in the least, as I was flying, using the handrails to launch from every three or four steps.
Not familiar with the property I was on or the proximity of other residences nearby, I began running down the highway just as fast as possible in my shorts, t-shirt, and bare feet. It must have been cold. It was February and there was snow on the ground. I was too frightened to notice and just kept pounding my feet down the pavement to get away.
Behind me, there was a sound of a car revving, and I needed to find a hiding place soon before he pulled out of the club parking lot and saw which direction I was headed. A couple of hundred feet down the road there was a small trailer park. I swerved into the property and hid behind a trailer, watching the owner speeding down the highway past me. I didn’t know who lived in that trailer- but whoever it was had to be a safer bet than being found by that maniac. I beat on the front door repeatedly until a groggy-eyed young guy opened the door.
“Please, let me in, he’s trying to find me!”
“What? Who? Who’s trying to find you?”
“The owner of the strip club is trying to get me- please, just let me inside before he drives past and sees me.”
He unlatched the door and let me in just in time. The club owner zoomed past the trailer I was hiding in and skidded around for a while in the park, looking for me.
“Should I call the cops?”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“Here, sit and catch your breath.”
The guy brought me a blanket and got me settled on the sofa while I tried to figure out what to do. I had brought nothing out with me, so I didn't have Gino's work phone. I thought maybe I could call his house and get his mother. She and I hadn't met yet, but I was certain she could get a message to him.
“Can you call information and get a number for me?”
“Sure- what’s the name?”
“It’s Gino Baldacci in Hamilton.”
"Can you call for me? I haven't met his mother yet and don't know what she'd think of me calling in the middle of the night. Just ask her for Gino's work number if you would." I asked.
"Sure, no problem."
He got the number and dialed. I could only hear his end of the conversation, "Hi, there, um I'm calling for Gino.
" Uh, huh, Okay. Bill, um, from work.
"Yeah, that would be great.
"Hey, Gino, it's Bill, you know, from work in Niagara Falls...yeah, there was a problem in Niagara Falls tonight and I'm gonna need you to come down and help sort it out.
"Um huh. Everything's okay now. Just get here as quickly as you can.
"You bet. No problem. Frontier Highway trailer park, the first one after the entrance. Blue and white. Number 10.”
After he hung up he gave me an odd look and asked me,
“So, what the hell happened over there?”
“I was sleeping, and the owner just jumped into the bed next to me. There’s an apartment upstairs where the dancers stay, and I was worried because there was no lock on it. I put a couple of bricks on the stairs and turned off the light at the top. It didn’t stop him.”
“Sheesh. Pretty scary, eh?”
“Yeah. Thank you so much for helping me. I didn’t know what else to do. I was afraid he was going to run me over.”
“I’m glad you came to me for help.” He said.
“What’s your name?”
“Do you want a cup of tea or something? It’ll be a while until your friend gets here from Hamilton.”
“No. I’m shaking too hard to hold it. Thanks.”
Bill sat up watching the highway out the front windows to see if the owner was still circling. A car finally turned down the driveway. It was a small red coupe and wasn’t familiar looking. When it parked outside Bill’s trailer, two doors opened up. Gino got out of the driver’s seat and a woman with blond hair got out of the passenger side.
“Oh, my God. Who’s that with him? I can’t go out there- that sure isn't his old Italian mother. Can I stay here until the morning, I’ll call the police and get things straightened out.”
“I’m so sorry. It looks like your boyfriend is married and he brought his wife.”
“God. Why tonight? Why tonight?” I cried.
Hadn't I just walked away from another married jerk? Was I that stupid to get stuck again with another cheater? 'Sorry, I'd like to stay the night, but work, eh?'
'I have to work a double tomorrow so I won't see you until the weekend, eh?'
As much as I hated my last ex, at least I knew where I stood with him.
I could hear some squabbling from outside. “Just stay in the car, Dianne. This is a friend of mine and I’ll take care of it.”
“What’s going on, Gino?”
“Jesus. It’s not your problem, OK?”
Bill went out to meet Gino halfway to the house and thanked him for coming right down.
“Yeah, you want to help me check the gas connection, dude? I thought there might be a gas leak and you know how to fix this stuff. It’s around the other side.”
Dianne got back into the car and Gino walked around to the other side of the trailer with my new buddy. Bill wanted to tell Gino what was going on without his wife listening in.
I heard them shuffling in the gravel back to the car. Bill patted Gino on the back and stuck his head into the car to thank Dianne for coming out in the middle of the night to help him with his emergency.
“Hey, thanks again, dude. I didn’t know if I was going to freeze to death tonight or get blown to hell in my sleep.”
The little red car backed around and drove to the highway, leaving me with a total stranger and in limbo with new revelations about my latest failure of a relationship. Not to mention my whole life was still sitting in that apartment and I had no way to get to any of it.
Bill had to get up for work at five in the morning, but he told me to rest up as long as I wanted and call the police from his place. All he wanted me to do was to make sure the doors were shut completely when I left.
I thanked him profusely and went back to sleep, after locking the doors again.
According to Bill’s stove clock, it was a little after eight when someone pounded on the door. Scared it was the club owner and that he had finally found me I sat frozen, unable to even peek out the window or say a word.
“Tina! Tina! Open up.”
Thank God. I raced to the door and let Gino in. Instead of asking me how I was or what happened, he wanted to know why I had called him at home. “You have no idea what kind of a hornet's nest you just stirred up.”
I was stunned. He'd been lying to me for three months about being married and making excuses to beat the band, but I did something wrong when I had something terrible happen to me.
He was more upset about his wife being disturbed than what had happened to me. It was eye-opening and had I not absolutely needed him at that moment I would have kicked him in the balls and told him to get the hell out.
“What happened?” He asked me crossly.
“The owner jumped into bed with me in the middle of the night and I ran out of the apartment. He tried to drive after me and I ran here. This guy opened his door and let me in just before the owner drove past the trailer.”
“Son of a bitch. That creepy little bastard. Can we use this dude’s phone to call the police?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
We called the police from Bill's house and shut the doors behind us, climbing into Gino's truck to wait for the police in front of Bill’s trailer. Gino gave me his jacket to put on and turned the heater on high for me. When the police car pulled in behind us, he got out and explained the situation. The officer came to the passenger side and interviewed me.
We followed him back to the club and the officer went in to find the owner, who hadn’t come in yet. His wife was cleaning the club when the officer got there and didn’t know anything about what had gone on the night before. She did, however, let the officer and Gino go up to the apartment to collect my belongings.
While they were in the apartment, I noticed a girl packing things into the trunk of a white car in the parking lot. She must have been one of the other dancers. Was she arriving or leaving? I couldn’t tell. It looked like she was packing costumes in her trunk. Maybe the owner had bothered her, and she was also leaving.
Gino and the officer returned to the parking lot with my suitcases and purse. Gino looked angry and was shaking his head as if he was in disbelief. “Half your costumes are gone. Why would that douchebag keep your costumes?”
“My jacket. Did you find my jacket?”
“The little fur one?”
“Yeah.” I said, my stomach falling through the floor.
“No, it wasn’t there either.”
Oh, my God. That was where I kept all the money I was saving. All that work. Damn it. Why do I even try anymore? Everything I do goes to shit. I might as well be putting my paycheck up my nose, like everyone else.
I was too furious to even cry. That was it. Every time I turned around someone was stealing from me, cheating me, abusing me, or using me. It was over. An ugly chill seeped into my bones right then and there in that parking lot and I changed. I can remember the feeling like it was yesterday. People were going to start paying for what they did to me.
I got out of the truck and walked over to the white car, where the other dancer was fishing around in her back seat.
“Open your fucking trunk, bitch, or I’ll rip your wig off right here in the parking lot.”
“Who are you talking to? I know you ain’t talking that shit to me.”
“Yes, I am. Open the trunk now.”
The police officer and Gino came running over when they saw the altercation. The officer interrupted us, “Whoa, whoa. Someone tell me what’s going on here.”
“She’s got my stuff from the apartment in her trunk. I saw her putting it in there.”
“That bitch is crazy. I don’t know what she’s talking about.”
“If you could open your trunk for us we can end this right now.”
“I ain’t doin' shit. You can’t make me open my trunk. Leave me alone”
The officer turned to me and said, “I don’t have the authority to search her car. If she won’t open her trunk voluntarily, I can’t make her.”
The other dancer grinned at me triumphantly and waddled her fat ass back to the club entrance. I yelled after her, "When that drunken scumbag rapes you tonight- don’t say I didn’t warn you. I hope you don’t get away from him.”
I wanted to go after her, but Gino pulled me back and deposited me in the truck. I was dumbfounded that all of us knew she had my costumes and my money, but we were powerless to do anything about it.
Next time I had a problem I would solve it myself.
“Well, what should we do?" Gino asked, "you want to go to TO and talk with your agent? Maybe you could stay at the Warwick and get the tailor to replace a few of your costumes.”
“All my money was in my jacket.”
“Why the hell do you save your money on you? You can open a bank account up here, you know?” He pointed out testily.
“The last time I had a bank account my roommate emptied it. I turn my pay into traveler’s checks and sew them into the lining of my jacket. That way I’m the only one who can cash them.”
“Yeah, shit. Exactly.” I agreed.
“Let me get your suitcase so you can put some clothes on before you freeze.”
He pulled out my suitcase with the street clothes in it and brought it up front. I tugged out a pair of jeans, my sneakers, and a sweater, then shimmied into them in the front seat.
“Buckle up. We’re going to have some fun” He said, smiling.
He pulled in front of the white car and backed up a good ten feet, then hit the gas and rammed the back end of the car until the trunk crumpled up like a tin can. Swerving out of the parking lot he hit the highway at about sixty and laughed all the way to the next intersection.
“Holy shit. You didn’t just do that, did you?”
“Ha, yeah. I did. Let her try and open her trunk and sell your costumes now. Fat bitch. Hope she wasn’t planning on trying to squeeze into them.”
I was still reeling from the losses, but the demolition derby helped soften the blow. I didn’t know he had it in him. I just hoped the cop didn’t have his license plate recorded.
He pulled into a restaurant that served breakfast all day, so we could plan the next moves, now that I was without more than half of my shows. He put my other suitcase on the passenger seat so I could see what costumes were left. Damn, the Cabaret suit jacket was gone. The White Satin gown was gone, as were the Jungle Fever and the yellow disco jumpsuit, and my black sequined gown. Those were huge losses for me. At least she hadn't stolen the little old lady costume that I had picked up at the Salvation Army store in Quebec City.
When we sat down in a booth at the restaurant, he handed me a pen from his pocket and a napkin and I quickly wrote a list of the remaining costumes. 'Doll Costume, red jumpsuit, Singing in the Rain- partial costume, Cabaret halter top and shorts'
“Well, this sucks. That’s not even enough for one shift at a club. It seems like I’m always starting over.”
“Cheer up. Let’s go shopping. We’ll pick up a few outfits that the tailor guy can fix up for you and you’ll get through the next couple of weeks. Damn, I think she stole your twirling capes too. I didn’t see them anywhere.”
I fell asleep and when we got to Toronto, he woke me up to see if I wanted to stay at the Warwick Hotel, my home away from home in Canada. It seemed like the best place to be. My agent lived nearby, and I had good friends there.
Gino was going to take me to Eaton Center to look for temporary replacement costumes. Usually, I did not like to depend on anyone, especially men, for supplying me with things I needed for work- or anything else, for that matter. However, I figured that after three months of lying his fool head off to me about his marital status, he owed me and I was going to make him pay through the nose for it. Wait until his wife asked him where his paycheck for the past month had gone.
I burned through his wallet faster than a rooster shitting runny turds after eating a spoonful of molasses, and it felt good. I thanked him for getting me back on the road with new gowns, underthings, and very expensive shoes, and kissed him goodbye sweetly when he told me he had another shift at the glass factory.
"Well, thank you for rescuing me. I'll see you when I see you." Or not...
Make up my Mind, Please
All my life I've been plagued by indecision.
I want what I want.
my heart throws a tantrum
The demons dance
The angels cry
Halfway to the want, I pause
Think it over
Think it over
Don't make a mistake
You're already over your quota
Backing up, into myself
it's out of my control
The brain snaps out of its fog
I know what's right
Like a timid turtle
I pull back inside my shell
close the door
turn the lock
Whew, safe for now
Demons, go back to hell
where you came from
Take your tricks with you
Hanging by a Thread
I had been recuperating from a miscarriage and a concussion in Toronto. My friend, Judy was singing in a new club in Markham, a suburb of TO, and she invited me to hear her sing on a Friday night. Needing a break from sitting alone in my room crying I took her up on the offer.
While there I met a very promising man, named Bill, who played in the band that was also performing there. He was funny and sweet and extremely easy to look at. Chatting with him made me realize how abusive my relationship with Jake, my ex, truly was. Although he had left no visible bruises, a constant hum of anxiety had been the theme of our relationship for the past seven months.
Judy came back from her singing set and settled in next to me and noticed I’d changed from Sidecars to ginger ale and gave me a quizzical look.
“Ah, yeah. I guess my emotions are a little raw to be over-drinking. I think I just scared that poor fellow away.” I said, lighting up another cigarette and enjoying not getting sick from it.
In the background behind us, I heard a familiar voice and a shot of electricity jolted through my body from head to toe.
“Oh, my God, I missed you, Baby. I thought I’d never get back from that damned job up North, eh.”
“Jakey, I’m horny. Let’s just go back to my place. I don’t need any more to drink.” A drunken, slutty, little voice piped up.
I looked in the mirror behind the bar between the bottles and saw a bleached blond with big boobs and not enough shirt hugging my ex-asshole, Jake, and crawling all over him. Well, well, well, this just kept getting more interesting. She wasn’t pregnant, so it wasn’t his wife. He was lying to her about his whereabouts last week, so it wasn’t me.
I jabbed Judy in the ribs, “What? What? Tina, that hurt.”
“Look, I hissed. No. Don’t look. Look in the mirror.”
“Holy shit- is that…” she began.
“Yep. It sure is and that’s not his wife.” I whispered, “sounds like he’s making excuses for the week he was with me in Quebec City.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing yet. I’m thinking.” Then I ordered another Sidecar and a gin and tonic for Judy. This kind of thinking needed lubrication. Lots of it. I clinked glasses with Judy and put my evil thinking cap on. So far, he hadn’t noticed me, and I was hoping it would stay that way. At least for the time being.
My ex, Jake, came up to the service area of the bar, which was almost on top of me, so I leaned over like I was telling Judy a secret. He didn’t recognize me, with my new hairstyle, fingernail polish, and clothes, but I caught him checking out my legs. Good grief. All hormones- no man.
He picked up the tab for a little drink with an umbrella and two Labatt Bleus. I could clearly see their table from where I was sitting and she was just about sitting on his lap, playing with the chest hair that stuck out of his partially unbuttoned shirt. Little whore.
I had a few ideas swimming around in the cognac of my mind. I could simply go over there and punch her lights out and drag her across the floor. I could go over there and say hello to Jake and ask him when he was going to get back from seeing his wife. Or I could ignore them completely and go outside and smash the hell out of his truck.
Judy had to go up for another set and she left me there swimming in my evil murk by myself, until Bill returned, and we took off where we left off kidding with each other.
I whispered into his ear, “Do you mind if I use your body for a little while? My ex just walked in with another woman, who also is not his wife. I don’t want to make you feel bad by using you. But…”
“Only if you don’t get carried away and go home with me later.” He agreed.
Fair is fair, so I wrapped my arms around Bill and kissed him on the lips, doing a deep tongue dive and shocking the shit out of him, I think. It didn’t seem to deter him, because he gave as good as he got, holding me tighter and pulling me to him. We both broke out laughing at the silliness of it. He pulled me close again and said, “You aren’t going to stop, are you?”
“Um. I can’t do anything right now, but I wish I could.” I said, meaning it.
“That’s fine with me. This is more action than I’ve had all year.”
“It’s only the fourth week of the year.” I reminded him.
“Yeah, so far it’s been a pretty dry year.”
We continued shameless petting until Jake came back up to the bar for a refill. He was checking out my ass, which was being firmly gripped by my new playmate when something must have registered in his drunken, neanderthal brain.
He stood stock still for a moment, then swigged his beer in a few gulps, ordered another one, and tapped me on the shoulder, “Tina? What the hell are you doing? Is that you?”
I turned around so he could compare my legs and ass with my face. Sure enough. It was me.
“Yes?” I said sweetly. “Do you have a problem, sir?”
“You gotta be shittin me. Seriously? Really? We’re barely broken up for a fucking week and you’re already screwing someone new?”
Then he looked over at Bill and spewed, “Get your fucking hands off her.”
“Don’t tell my boyfriend what to do, you lying, cheating piece of shit,” I said way too loudly. “You’ve been fucking three of us for how long now and you wonder how your life got so messed up. You need help. There is something wrong with you.”
I gripped Bill’s thigh even more tightly, to Jake’s extreme displeasure. By that time his Markham floozie had to join in the party. “Jakey, who is this? How do you know her?” She whined in a nasal voice.
“Yeah, Jakey,” I mimicked her whiny voice, “tell her how you know me.”
“Sandy, go sit the fuck back down. This isn’t your problem.” Jake ordered.
“Yeah, Sandy, go sit back down. You don’t want to disobey Jakey and make him go
home to his wifey. You know he got wifey and me both pregnant, don’t you? Even after his terrible accident. You know, when he fell off a ladder and got his balls crushed?”
Jake slammed his hand down on the bar. “Son of a bitch. You’re crazy, Tina. You’re fucking insane. I never should have gotten involved with you.”
“That’s funny, Jakey, because when I met you, I was perfectly sane. Must be what you do to women.” And I flounced off with Bill right behind me.
“Holy shit, Tina. That dude is an asshole. Let me walk you to the subway stop. I’m gonna give Judy my number. Call me when you get back home. I’ll be done here soon.”
This time I gave Bill a real kiss. He was a good guy.
As soon as he showed me which platform to catch the train, I waited for him to leave. Then I tip-toed back up to street level and spied Jake’s truck in the parking lot behind the club. Glancing around over my shoulder and seeing no one, I walked over and looked in the bed of the truck. Oh, my. A tire iron. The man is always prepared for emergencies. That’s good. However, this is one emergency he was not prepared for.
I scooted over to the side facing away from the back door of the club and unloosened the nuts on both tires until they were just hanging by, literally, a thread. Then I bashed the passenger seat window out and let myself in. Taking my time, I pulled a nail file out of my purse and went to town on the genuine leather seats.
‘Sandy was here’
‘I hate you’
Then I hopped out, replaced the tire iron in the bed of his not-so-new truck, and skipped off giggling all the way to the subway station.
The curse of modern-day existence assaults me daily. One website or another nagging me for a new password. I can barely remember what I’ve had for breakfast and they want me to use a unique password for every stinking site. I’m not even sure of what ID I’ve used for these sites, let alone the passwords. If I only had to make up a new one I’d be fine. But they expect me to remember something I’d made up six months ago when I was annoyed and bothered by their constant whining, ‘reset your password’.
My all-knowing millennial children tell me to use those password banks. I do. I just can’t remember their passwords, so they are useless to me as well.
When the whining climbs to a fever pitch I generally make up passwords like, ‘heresyourfuckingpasswordasshole’, or
‘takeyourpasswordandshoveitwherethesundon’tshine’. After which. they inform me, ‘weak password, needs capitals and numerals.’
You don’t want to know what I make up next.
I try to write down passwords and IDs every time they have to be changed. That worked out pretty well in the beginning. Now, I have little scraps of paper floating around in my desk drawer with notes on passwords I used five years ago. None of them are correct, so I don’t know why I save them. But, I’m scared to toss the scraps, just in case.
On January 2nd I received another whiny-ass message from my local bank insisting on another password change, which was just changed last month because I’d forgotten it again and they thought I was trying to break into my $246.78 account. A ‘reset your password’ message appeared on my log-on screen, just as I was about to settle in for the day.
After a barrage of colorful language and slamming my mouse on the desk a few times I tried to comply. I really tried. However, I couldn’t remember what email address I’d given the bank to communicate with me. They sent me a notice on the screen informing me that my three attempts had been exceeded and I would have to get in touch with the bank to get a new password.
Shit. I hate using the phone. I hate talking on it. I hate having to answer it. My mother called me last week before my second cup of coffee and I didn’t even wait for her greeting before I shouted into the phone, “I don’t need a fucking car warranty. Go to Hell.” She probably won’t be bothering me again anytime soon.
Instead of calling my damned local freaking bank, I was going to pay them a visit and give them a list of passwords to insert into special places. I grabbed my coat and car keys and broke the speed limit the seven miles to my “local bank”.
When I arrived I was ready to do battle. I spied the customer service office with the nameplate, ‘Mr. Thompson’, and plopped myself right outside the door- I mean, right outside the door. This guy wasn’t going to lunch until he talked with me about their problem. I had hefted the chair directly in the path of his egress.
When the unsuspecting dupe opened his door he practically tripped over me. Surprised, he asked the most foolish question ever, “Can I help you?”
Duh. No. Just getting a suntan here. “What do you think?” I snarked back at him.
“Um, why don’t you come into my office?”
“Good idea. Why don’t I.” I walked into the office and slowly shut and locked the door. His eyes turned into golf balls as I did that and I said, “See what happens when you spend too much time on the golf course? Your eyes turn into little white balls.”
Just kidding. But he did look frightened, which is what I was going for. I did not sit down. Instead, I towered all four feet and ten inches over him on the other side of his desk.
“So, this morning I got a message from your branch that said, ‘reset your password’. I’m not going to do it. I just gave you a new password last month. You can’t make me change it because I’ve just memorized it.”
“Oh, yes, I can see where that can be annoying. However, it is our policy to request a password change twice a year. I have no control over that, Ma’am.”
“Really? You have no control over that.” I snarled as I walked behind his desk and spun his chair around to face me. “If you have no control over it, why did they tell me to contact my local branch? You are my local branch, are you not?”
“Um, yes, Ma’am, but we can’t change your password for you. You have to do that.” He said through trembling lips as his hand snaked out, reaching for the phone.
“Oh, no you don’t. You don’t get to call the help desk. You will do the reset password thingy for me or you’ll be very sorry.”
“I’m sorry, I just can’t do that. May I leave now? I’m late for lunch.”
“No,” I mocked him, “You can’t leave now. Either do what I want or I’m going to call the police and tell them you sexually harassed me.” With that, I tore my blouse, popping three buttons, and fell to the floor.
The poor fellow had no idea what to do, so I helped him decide. “You either reset my password right now or I start screaming.”
He pulled up my account and began typing furiously on his computer, one eye on me in case I tried something. “There. Done. Your browser will remember it.” He told me, sweat dripping down his sideburns and onto his computer keyboard.
“Fine. Thank you, young man. Will you help me up?”
He hoisted me up off the floor and I straightened myself out before exiting his office. I grabbed my cane off the back of the chair in the waiting area and hobbled slowly out to my car. I think my hip was dislocated from the fall. Hey, I’m seventy.
As I walked away I heard him shout, “Don’t forget to answer the customer satisfaction survey.”
Shards of a Life
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. Who was that old woman staring back at me? Why is she here in my bathroom?
She has been beside me for the past ten years in everything I've done, following me everywhere I go. However, I only see her in reflections. She is bent and weathered, unlike me. I feel fresh and vibrant. My mind is no different at seventy than it was at twenty. Ageless, I will live forever as my best self, never changing.
I woke in a fog, one confused morning after a dreamless night, stumbling blindly into the bathroom to rinse out my stale, wine-soaked mouth. Oh, Lord. I found the old woman staring back at me from the mirror over the sink and I couldn't take it anymore.
"Stop. Stop. Stop, dammit. Stop chasing me. Leave me alone. Go bother someone else. Can't you see I'm having a bad morning?" I screamed at her face in the glass as I tossed a hastily discarded high heel from the previous night at her.
She shattered without a word, staring back at me sadly with crinkled, dull eyes. Her hair was a tangle of silvery roots peeking out of the unkempt forest of artificial auburn curls. 'Who was she kidding', I thought. Her pursed mouth was sitting at the intersection of wrinkle and line, with her garish russet lipstick bleeding into the gutters along the roadway of her face.
"Shit". I knelt to pick up the broken pieces of glass and heard my knees crack and creak at the effort. Picking up a star-shaped fragment of the mirror on the floor a flash of a memory escaped it. Had I imagined it? I looked again and the flash turned into a movie of myself as a toddler crying out in the night after a bad dream.
I saw the nightmare emerge from the glass. There was a bear cub stuck at the top of a burning tree that was pushing up through the floor of my bedroom. I couldn't reach the little bear and I sobbed until my Daddy swept me into his big arms and tried to comfort me. At that age, I had no words to explain my terror. It didn't matter. Whatever it was, he could make it better.
Dropping the toddler dream glass into the waste basket I stooped to collect the next piece to see a still photo of my big sister and me, dressed in our pastel Easter coats with be-ribboned straw bonnets. My sister already had chocolate smears on her face from sneaking her candy before church. My skinny legs looked cold under my fancy dress covered only with little white lacy socks, which always seemed to droop on my toothpick ankles. A happy day. A good memory recorded on the broken glass.
A jagged slice from the mirror glowed darkly under the bright overhead lights. It brought back a frightening memory of my parents' darkened bedroom. Shades are drawn, and the doctor left the room carrying his black bag, shaking his head. What was happening? What was wrong? No one talked to me. I was six years old and in the way. They wouldn't let me talk to Mommy.
I sat on my bed and cried, while my older sister told me to quit being a baby and shut up. That day was a mystery to me until years later as an adult I heard the story being retold to my younger sister. The doctor was there to take a blood sample from my mother, who was RH-negative. He was concerned there were going to be problems with my baby sister because of my mother's blood type. My God. I thought my mother was dying. It was all so secretive and frightening to a child.
I quickly disposed of that portion and picked up a good-sized chunk that was reflecting my first flute solo in the band when I was in fifth grade. The song was, 'Girl from Ipanema'. My mother surprised me by sewing a pretty navy blue dress with a red ribbon on the bodice. She also bought me my first pair of stockings and a girdle, which she had refused to let me wear before, even though all my friends had been wearing them since fourth grade. She finally allowed me to shave my legs. I remember playing the solo perfectly, shaking in my shoes. The only thing I was concentrating on was hoping my stockings did not fall down while I was standing alone on the stage.
My fingers bloodied on the next pieces, leaving rusty drops on the tile. Alone in a hospital room with two nursing students trying to guide me through the paralyzing contractions for the birth of my first son, Jeffrey. Alone in my hospital room after his birth, listening to a social worker trying to make me give him up for adoption. The rage and anger welled up in me again, remembering how they kept him from me, hoping I would give in.
The next slip of glass made me smile, watching my husband hold my hand as the nurses rushed the stretcher down a crowded hallway yelling, "She's crowning! She's crowning! Get the doctor!" All I could think at that moment was, "I'm not alone. I'm not alone." And, that made me cry. I set the piece aside to keep forever.
The other bloody shard of glass showed me a movie of my daughter in the recovery room after my granddaughter was born by C-section. My little Sara looked so worn out and fragile. Everyone else was admiring the baby. I wanted to make sure my baby was comforted and that she was not alone. We didn't need to say a word. We were just two mothers sitting together, sharing a bit of peace before the world intruded.
The last bit of glass that was big enough to pick up with my hand had white frosting on it. In the glare of the bathroom lights. I could make out three little bridesmaids marching down the grassy aisle to the strains of a Star Wars march. My Son, Sam, dressed in a vest and bow tie, waiting for his Bride to follow the little bridesmaids to meet him under the arbor.
I turned the glass around and saw white and blue frosting smears and a cloudy portrait of my daughter in white, her new husband, and their little family posing for wedding day pictures, surrounded by our family.
I swept up the glass dust with a broom and dropped it into the waste basket, turning to see if that old lady was still in the room with me. Without the mirror, she had nowhere to hide. I smoothed my artificial auburn locks and promised myself to make an appointment with my hairdresser very soon. I didn't want to end up looking like that old crone.