David was OK with her going to Brooklyn for the reunion, unfortunately he would not be able to attend with her since he was scheduled to give a seminar in Palm Springs that same weekend.
“Its OK David, I am used to it. Its either an emergency at three in the morning, an emergency surgery before our long weekend away, missed parties and missed dinners with friends.”
“You have been complaining about this for the past year, you never said a word prior to Samantha heading off to Berkeley. You are simply transferring your feelings from having an empty nest towards me. I can take it, I understand, but there are some things I cannot avoid. You didn’t seem to mind my job while living in this home, driving the BMW’s and wearing the jewelry you buy yourself.”
“I buy it for myself, David, doesn’t that sound kind of sad?”
“I have bought you gifts and I have provided for you and the children a life that has been without lacking anything.”
She caught herself, “I am sorry, you are right. I just need to do something for myself. Maybe find a better job, something more fulfilling. I love you and you have provided a life that has been without wanting and always having.”
“Come here,” He hugged her, “I love you and just another couple of years and I will be retiring and we can have all the time in the world. No more emergencies, last minute cancellations…just you and I, I promise.”
Some promises in life are made with the best intentions, some are made as a way to instill a sense of hope and faith about the future and some are made insincerely. This promise was made with only the best of intentions but like most promises about the future they are never fulfilled due to occurrences out of our control. Within six months Dr. David Salerno would be diagnosed with cancer that would take his life and render his promise unfulfilled.
Brooklyn May 12, 2006
She drove from her home in Connecticut straight to her Aunts house in Brooklyn. Her Aunt Frieda lived alone for the past year. She was relatively young, 62 years old, and had recently kicked her husband out of the house.
“He is a lazy good for nothing drunk.” She would say, with her own words slurring courtesy of her early evening Jack Daniels.
“You have been married for 30 years, now you decide you dont want to be married?”
“I do want to be married. I’ll let him back in a day or two. Then we will have the best sex. Its a game we play.”
“Oh! Ok, too much info Aunty. Where is the bathroom I need to spit out the throw up from my mouth.”
“Oh stop it. As if we dont have sex anymore. You should see these pictures we took with-”
“Thats ok – I need to get ready to leave.” She kissed her Aunt on the head and said, “Don’t ever change, I love you.”
The first party of the weekend was Friday evening – a dinner for the alumni and their families in the lunchroom of Kennedy High School. She walked the same route she used to walk when she would go to school. Some houses had changed and the people in the neighborhood as well.
As she passed by some familiar homes where she spent her childhood and teenage years scenes from her past raced in front of her.
Tommy the Italian boy who her father warned her against being friends with. He was her first kiss and that’s the porch where they sat that evening so many years ago that it seems like an old movie she once watched. All the details were fresh now – the rain had stopped and the streets were smoking. It had been over 100 degrees earlier that day and now the temperature had dropped to around eighty. The sounds of Brooklyn in the summer echoed throughout. Air Conditioners humming, sirens screaming, the voices of arguments and the old man who lived upstairs from Tommy, sitting by the window and listening to a baseball game on a transistor radio.
We sat on the stoop of his house and talked and talked for hours. Laughing and flirting…and then he kissed me and I felt his tongue swimming against my lips and then in my mouth. The taste of ashes and spearmint gum and a sense of excitement and fear all at once.
The sound of the Good Humor man coming around on his bicycle and the freezer connected. His white suit, hat, smile and bell sounding across the streets.
The building across the street with the opened windows and the ladies leaning out and conversing from one window to the next. Italian, Arabic and Irish accents and language. Looking at the windows now the lower floors have bars over them and the upper levels are pulled down.
The school loomed large with the steel-barred gates surrounding it as if a fortress. She wondered how many times these gates had been painted, how many generations of teenagers had passed through the doorway, up the stairs and into the school. The school was built in 1929 so it had been 85 years or so…yet it still seemed so new.
She passed through the open gates, walked up the stairs, saw visions of the groups who would hang outside. The druggies, the Goths, the geeks and the rest of the assortment of teenagers all in their own version of angst. The ghosts of Mary Bettelli, who died in 1986 in a car crash. She could see her standing there with a cigarette blowing smoke in the face of the school principle when he ordered her to stop smoking.
She thought about the faculty and wondered who was still alive, what had become of them and if they would be there.
Mr. Goldberg, the principle, he was around one hundred years old when she was in school and was an Orthodox Jew – one of the few in the school and the only one among the faculty.
There was the Guidance Councilor who was known to smoke weed with a select group of seniors until she was busted for selling to an undercover cop. She wondered if she would be there – Ms. Young was her name and she had the bohemian sort of look down pat back in 1977 when Brenda was a freshman.
Dr. Grubman and his white lab coat he wore all the time with a Hershey bar sticking out of this top pocket like a handkerchief. He was an innocent flirt who was not married at the age of 37 or something.
Her favorite, her English teacher Mrs. Ackerman. She had taught her the excitement that can jump from the old faded pages within crumbling books. About Scout Finch, Holden Caulfield, the Great Gatsby and the Old man Santiago. She told her to read Ayn Rand and whether she or anyone agreed with her philosophy was not important – the importance was to read each character and the descriptive emotional pulls which forced them to choose between right and wrong, right and left and yes or no.
She pulled the ten foot door opened and walked into a time machine and she was back in 1979…the place looked exactly how it did back then. Then she heard her crush, Andy Gibb, singing “Shadow Dancing.” She felt a sort of heavy feeling…
“Brenda?” A soft tap on her shoulder.
She turned to see Daisy. They hugged and tears formed in their eyes and they hugged again.
“How is Ted and the kids?” Brenda asked her.
“Ted is Ted – we are actually seperated right now.”
“Oh I am sorry…”
“No its ok, it was my decision. Whatever, the kids are amazing and guess what? I am a Grandma!” She took out her phone and showed her pictures.
“They are so beautiful. Your daughter looks just like you.”
“How about you Bren, how is David doing?”
“He is David – he is doing very good. The kids are all out of the house now and, well, lets speak tomorrow about all of this. What do you say we get a drink and just have fun?”
“Sounds good to me. You come to my house tomorrow morning and we’ll have some coffee.”
“OK, sounds great!”
Brenda and Daisy spoke as if they had not missed a day of seeing each other rather than the two friends who had not seen each other in 20 years. They walked into the gym arm in arm and walked right into Principal Goldberg.