For Throwback Thursday…
The Story of Brenda and Eddie
Written by Freddy S. Zalta
1981 Brenda and Eddie
The diner opened in the 1950’s and was owned and run by a family from Greece. The father was an honest man who wanted to open a restaurant so his family would always have something to eat. The diner had a name, “Patras” named after the city where the Drakos family came.
The jukebox was in the back left corner of the room – right next to the Men’s and Ladies bathrooms and adjacent to the two payphones. On the wall surrounding this area were black and whites of James Dean, The Marx Brothers, Elvis and Humphrey Bogart. In these pictures they were all young and in control, or so it seemed. Facing this wall was another wall with some more black and whites of Marilyn, Garbo, Kathrine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. The Beatles were peeking out of a bus and Bob Dylan was wearing wayfarers and holding a cigarette.
There was a smoking section in that area, in the back of the long diner. There were always people by the phone booths, talking and looking through the songs on the jukebox as if the choices of songs would magically change before their eyes. The songs hadn’t been changed nor updated since the mid-seventies.
Eddie saw what he was looking for, dug into his pocket and pulled a quarter out and rolled it into the coin slot. Pressed “B52″ and stood aside.
He walked towards Brenda and put out his hand. She took it and smiled. The piano began and then the voice, “Wise man say, only fools rush in…” He twirled her and then got on one knee, opened up a small box and proposed to his girlfriend with a emerald shaped 2 carat ring. Somebody unplugged the jukebox and the lights went dim.
“Brenda, you are the -“
“No!” She ran into the girls bathroom followed by her friends, Karen, Daisy and Fran.
“What happened out there?” Daisy asked her.
“I do not want to get married. I …”
The door burst open.
“What happened? I thought that…girls please go out and leave us alone.”
“No its OK they can stay. Eddie I do not want to get married. I really like you a lot and I have fun hanging out but I am not ready to settle down. I don’t even know how to respond to this – why didn’t we speak about this before?”
“Well, I thought you loved me, not ‘liked’ me and we have spoken about living together and raising a family.”
“We have but not in a realistic right-away, way. It was just talk, right? We are both 19 years old, I am planning on going back to school this fall and I am not ready or I do not want to just end my life right now.”
“I didn’t know marrying me and starting a family is ending a life.”
“It is – its ending my first chapter of my life and I am not ready to close that out yet, Eddie. Maybe I do love you, I know I care about you and love being with you. But I need to see the world, to learn about the world and the history…to see history and to witness my ‘here, now and future.’ I am sorry, but I am leaving now…please don’t call me. I am sorry…”
“What was Eddie thinking?” She asked Daisy.
“Maybe that he loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you?”
“But we never even spoke seriously about that. He knows I am going to college in the fall and that I want to travel the world before…”
“Brenda and Eddie – we always thought you guys would last forever, like the song.”
“In the song they got divorced.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t. Daisy would you mind clearing everyone out I want to be alone for a couple of minutes.”
“Everyone out – I just saw a mouse.” Daisy smiled. “It works all the time.”
Brenda was embarrassed to have to walk through everyone to get out of the diner. She was crying and realizing that possibly the first chapter of her life had just ended and that frightened her. She sat alone in the bathroom and she felt a strange sensation within – a sense of loss but combined with a sense of freedom. She looked around and noticed the window, pulled it open, climbed out and left the diner. Leaving her friends and Eddie behind her along with her chapter “one.”
She knew where she wanted to go first.
Brenda had been living in New Haven since she went to Yale back in 1981, the fall after Eddie proposed to her. Her family had moved to Long Island in 1984 so she had not been back to Brooklyn since then. She had married in 1988 to a Pediatric Surgeon and they settled into a large home in Greenwich. They had four children within a four year period which almost drove her mad. The first two were planned – but when the twins came along it was anything but expected.
“Do you have twins in your family?” Her obstetrician asked as he examined her.
“Yes, but I don’t see them often, they live in New York.” She answered.
“Um, well, look a little closer at this sonogram and tell me how many heart beats you see.”
“Do you mean?” She fainted on the spot. When the twins came into the world in August of 1992 she thought she had it all figured out. The two elder ones would be in Kindergarten and Pre-School and she would be with the twins. What she didn’t anticipate was having a major case of “Post Postpartum Depression.” But like everything in life time marches on and in the words of her mother, “Don’t worry dear, be patient, remember, this too shall pass.” It did pass – the good times and the hard times and before she knew it she was caught up in the moving hands of the clock.
The years passed by and the kids grew up too quickly. She found herself questioning what was left for her once the kids all left the house. She was at home one Saturday morning when she began to go through the mail from the past week. As she went through the pile of bills and magazines she came upon a letter from her High School. She opened it and saw it was an invitation to her 25th High School reunion. She sat down and remembered who she had left behind and wondered how she had let it all slip from her mind somehow. She had spoken with Daisy for a couple of years after she left but lost touch since then, not really feeling a void there. She had heard from her mother and her sisters some gossip here and there but they had left Brooklyn and not looked back as well. Besides for some older relatives there was nothing to draw them back there and they rarely ventured there besides for the occasional funeral or wedding.
Brenda was still as beautiful if not more so than she was back when she was 19. Despite the few pounds put on by the pregnancies she retained a two piece bikini figure. She lay in bed that night thinking about the past and the people she had left behind. It was when she was driving the next morning and Elvis came on the radio sing, “Cant help falling in love” that she knew she would be going to the reunion.
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.
As Brenda walked alone towards the restroom she recognized several faces, they seemed to have aged a lot. When she washed her hands and caught a glimpse of her image in the mirror above the sink. She half-expected to see herself at the age of 17 or so – when she saw her 43 year old face looking right back at her.
She had noticed the aging on Daisy and the other graduates – she saw the weight gain, the varicose veins, the over made-up faces caked with what they hoped would be reverse aging powder. She still saw herself as 18 years old, still looked at the world the same way only with a lot more knowledge. When she actually thought to herself that she is really 43 years old – it hit her for the first time.
As she walked out she, of course, walked literally right into Eddie. Of course she would, fate has a way of peeking itself in and out of peoples lives at the peek of their vulnerability.
“Excuse me.” He smiled, looked at her and then did a double take.
“I cannot believe it, you look, amazing. You haven’t aged at all.”
Brenda took it all in quickly; he had gained a little weight and his hair had receded a bit but he still had that youthful look to him and those dimples.
They actually had not seen or spoken to each other since that night in the diner. He had tried to contact her but she knew that once she heard from him she would be in trouble.
“Brenda, I would like to speak with you and get some closure on some things. Can we meet for lunch tomorrow? Don’t worry, I am not looking for anything from you – I just have some questions I believe I deserve answers for.”
“After all these years you need ‘closure’?”
“Ok…are you here with anyone?”
“No, I am here alone.”
“Lets get a drink.”
“You lead the way…”
“I have a better idea…go wait by the classroom over there – I will be right there.”
Brenda walked slowly into the classroom and was transported back to 1979. She could swear she saw Mrs. Ackerman standing by the desk with a smile and a knowing nod. The classroom was decorated with English Literature signs – pictures of authors, “Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Harper Lee and Arthur Miller.” Signs stating, “Readers wanted” and “After School Book Club.” The walls were painted with what seemed like 100 coats of paint. The floor were tiles of black and white and the desks had connecting chairs. The teacher’s desk was placed in the front of the room with a green chalkboard as the backdrop. She could see her teacher standing there.
She turned and saw Eddie with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
Eddie had gone into a big funk after she climbed out of his life that night at the diner. He had turned to stone for a while – literally closing himself up in his room for weeks until one day he felt OK. He wasn’t sure what it was but it was as if a cloud had lifted and he was able to feel again.
“The thing that hurt more than anything was this feeling of being rejected, like a groom left waiting at the altar, you know? Besides that I missed you and being without you took some getting used to.”
“I am sorry, I just knew that-“
“I am not looking for an apology – I just wanted to express my feelings to you.”
“I don’t know what to say other than ‘I am sorry.’ I knew that if I gave in to my emotions I would have married you and I would have regretted it no matter how happy you might have made me. I needed to go to Yale without any attachments – I needed to break free from Brooklyn, I needed to forge my own identity. I wasn’t ready to forever be ‘Brenda and Eddie.’ I needed to be Brenda.”
“Yeah, well, I can understand that now – I guess sometimes in life the only way selfless act is the selfish one.”
“How did it all turn out for you?” She asked him with soft tears in each eye.
“What do you mean by ‘all’? Do you mean my life? My life has been good. I graduated from Brooklyn College, got a job with an investment firm, made a shit load of money and then lost it all just as quick. I got married at 26, had three kids and got divorced at 34.”
“Sorry about that…”
“Its OK – I just got tired of pretending to want to be married out of loyalty or responsibility. I love her but I need more than she is able to give me emotionally and physically. I just didn’t want to be the ‘Great Pretender.’”
“Yeah, well, I guess we all end up being Pretenders in order to just get through the day sometimes.”
“Or the years…”
She had been pretending for the past several years. Pretending to herself, convincing herself that she loved David and the life they had built. She pretended she was happy for the kids leaving the house – when in fact she was miserable about it. She was frozen from the emotionally and physically detached husband – he was a great man and did his best to make her happy. Sometimes, some people just are unaware how starved their loved ones are for the things they are either unable or choose not to share.
“We should get back to the dinner – I am glad we had this chance to speak.” Brenda said to him. She put her arms around him and whispered. “I am sorry…”
As they walked out of the classroom they were met by Daisy and some other classmates who embraced each other and exchanged updates on their lives. The dinner passed with toasts and reflections. Principle Goldberg spoke and made the first toast. He looked as he did 25 years ago – if that is possible.
“When I was your principle I was around your age now. I must have seemed ancient to you back then and now I stand before you, once again, 68 years old this time and welcoming you back home.”
Mrs. Ackerman walked into the room un-noticed and sat down alongside the Principal. When one student recognized her and then another – a wave of applause began and she stood up to acknowledge her students. Brenda thought to herself that she wasn’t only her favorite teacher – she obviously had a big effect on each of her students.
Brenda walked over to her and introduced herself to her.
“Hello Mrs. Ackerman, do you remember me, Brenda-“
“Of course I remember you. You haven’t changed, if anything you are even prettier than you were back then. How are you?”
“You look amazing and I am great. I am so happy to see you.” Brenda embraced her and began to cry.
She cried because she was given this opportunity to see the person who had the greatest influence in her life other than her mother. Her mother had died several years earlier and for some reason she had not allowed herself to grieve for her. But now it came out. “Sorry, I need to go now – I will see you tomorrow night, right?”
Brenda walked out the front doors and began to walk back to her Aunt’s house. She heard her name being called and turned around to see Eddie running towards her.
There were sneakers tied together and hanging on a wire that crossed the street above her. The echoes of sirens, a dog barking and airplanes flying overhead filled the cavernous streets. On each side of the road there were homes connected and crowded together as if to fit as many as possible on the small lots. The sidewalks were broken up by the roots of trees that seemed to have been around since the Jurassic era. Horns honking and bass beat pulsing along with the occasional “Cat in heat” moaning.
Eddie was running because he wanted more from the girl he had once decided to spend the rest of his life with. The years since that evening in the diner had found him scarred and crazy glued to the past. The songs he listened to were from that time period in the late 70’s and the romanticized past was waxed free of any pain or indignity.
Eddie saw Brenda leave and he knew he needed to spend some more time with her and this time he wouldn’t let her get away so easily.
“Brenda.” He called out, she turned and stopped.
“Eddie…” She said it with a smile and it was 1978 all over again.
“Bren…lets go for a walk, ok?”
She wanted to say no, she wanted to tell him to let go of what they once had because it was only a pitstop to where they each needed to go. She wanted to tell him that she was married and found it inappropriate to walk and be with another man.
“Lets walk to the diner, Eddie. Is it still there?”
“Believe it or not it still is. Some things just don’t ever go away.”
2006 Brenda and Eddie
The diner opened up in 1956. Alexander Drakos was a 25 year old son of Greek farmers who had been serving food at their home for their whole life. Alexander decided he wanted to move to New York when he was 15 years old. At the age of 19 he took a plane from Athens to New York City. His Uncle Stavros had a small diner in Queens and that is where Alex got his start. He worked with Stavros and lived in his apartment along with his Aunt and their seven children. After working and living with his Uncle he met Agape. She was a 17 year old second cousin of the Drakos family. She was dark skinned, slender, almost 5 feet tall and had the bluest eyes – “even bluer than the sky over Patras.” They married after 2 weeks of getting to know each other. It was a month after that Agape’s father gave him a briefcase full of One Dollar bills, actually 99 thousand and 23 of them, and told him to go start his own business.
With Agape by his side they set upon Brooklyn and opened up a “Greek Diner” where an old clothing store once stood. On March 14th 1956 they opened the doors and served their first cup of coffee at 502am to his Uncle. The dollar bill still is posted on the wall behind the register. Agape first saw the jukebox at a dance club in Manhattan. She thought about how it could be such a great way to bring in some extra money while also being able to hear the latest songs. She loved the new guy Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and the Comets. She decided one morning as she worked in the Diner that they would invest in a jukebox.
One evening as they were closing shop – Alex put on a slow song called, “Love me Tender.” With the door locked they danced and then made love on table 9 as Elvis sang the words, “Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled. For my darlin’ I love you, and I always will.” The love between the two of them would resonate through the years. The diners sensed it and came to feel it more than to taste the Baklava. When their children began working there it became a sense of responsibility. That is when love became work and Alex found his way to different tables at closing time with different waitresses. Agape knew about this but looked aside – she knew he would always come back to her and she would be there to receive him.
In 1976 they celebrated the US Independence Bi-centennial and Patras celebrate 20 years in business. Agape looked on as the sailboats and ships from around world descended on New York Harbor on the 4th of July. From a distance she saw an old acquaintance and she smiled and he smiled back. A year later she left Alex and she ran off with the acquaintance to Greece and didn’t come back for six months. She moved back in with Alex and they stayed together, exclusively, until he passed away in 2004.
Brenda and Eddie walked towards “The Pat” as they called it back in high school. Eddie had not been in there for several years and Brenda had not set foot inside since the night she climbed out the bathroom window. They saw the sign up ahead as they walked slowly up Kings Highway.
“How many times did we walk this walk to the Diner?” Eddie asked her.
“I could not even tell you – is Alex still there?” She asked.
“I heard he passed away a couple of years ago, some sort of cancer. Fucking cancer. My mom and my Aunt both died on the same day in 1999 – which in a sense was good for them since my brother and my cousin both were in the towers on 9/11. Both worked for the same investment firm and both stayed behind thinking it would all be ok.”
“I remember reading about him in the Times. I was going to call you but I didn’t think it would be appropriate.”
“Yeah and my cousin Kevin. Both engaged to be married- both lost their mothers on the same day and died together. They called them heroes at their funeral. They weren’t heroes, they were hard working guys who were trying to make a living. Trying to make a future for themselves and their families.”
“What I have come to learn in this fucked up world is the heroes are the ones who get up each day, look at their responsibilities and do whatever it takes to fulfill them. Not by screwing others but by living an honest life and somehow making the world a little better.” “Yeah…well.”
“How is your Pop?”
“My Pop is a hard ass Irish old man who looks life in the eyes and dares it to knock him down. That is after he finishes his Hennessy”
“Oh yeah, I remember Edward well. He never really liked me.”
“Oh yes he – well no he didn’t. ” They laughed.
“He used to look at me and then walk to your mom and Irene and him would give me this nasty stare.”
“It wasn’t you they disliked, they disliked all Jews.”
“Hmm…and all this time I thought I was special.”
“Nah – but you should have heard them consoling me…the words they used to describe you would make a truck driver blush.”
“I guess I deserved that.”
“Yeah, well you did. There she is! The ‘Pat’, the scene of the crime.”
“Wow…it hasn’t changed at all.”
“Well I think they nailed down the bathroom windows shut since then, though.”
They opened the door and were taken aback by the man behind the register. “Welcome…Eddie! How are you? Do you remember me?”
“Junior, Alex Junior. I know; I constantly get this look as if people are seeing a ghost. Its a blessing to be able to say I look like my father”
“I am so sorry about your father, I used to come here all the time when we were growing up.” Brenda said.
“This is the one that got away.” Eddie said pointing to Brenda.
“The one – Brenda? Of Brenda and Eddie?” Eddie nodded and Brenda looked down. “You are a legend here!”
“Thanks…I don’t know how to take that.”
“My father told me you were the most beautiful girl who ever came in here. I can see he wasn’t lying and you don’t look at day over 30.”
A middle aged lady slapped him playfully across the back of his head. “Stop creeping out the customers Al.”
“This is my wife, Eileen. Eileen these are the celebrated ‘Brenda and Eddie’.”
“From the Billy Joel song?”
They sat down at a booth near the same jukebox that Agape had bought back in 1956. There were some songs that remained the same despite the years passing – and when Eddie stood up to put on a song, the song that he pressed was B52.
“What song did you put on?” Brenda asked.
“You’ll see.” They ordered two coffees, a slice of chocolate cake and a slice of Cheesecake. The song playing from the jukebox was Elton John singing about Daniel.
There was one waitress sitting down on a bar stool, wearing reading glasses and working on a crossword. From time to time another man would come out of the kitchen and try to answer a clue, give her a kiss on the head and go back to work. The tables were empty save for Brenda and Eddies and several others which were occupied by a middle aged couple, a table of around 6 boys and 2 girls in their late teens and a lone man sitting and reading a book. It was the Diner at 1145 PM on a Friday evening.
The song winded down and the record was changed automatically, the look on Brenda’s face as B52 began to play was one of panic. “Come on, lets have that dance that we should have had that night.”
She hesitated. “You owe me at least a dance to the song I proposed to you to.” Eddie said as he extended his hand. She lifted her hand towards him and they stood by the jukebox – surrounded by the faces of bygone celebrities covered in dust from the years past – and he held her against him as they swayed to Elvis’ voice.
“Wise man say…”
They sat down after the song and some wise guy followed that selection with another Elton John song, “The Bitch is Back.” They laughed at it and then noticed it was Eddies friend David that chose the song.
“David!” I didn’t see you at the dinner tonight.
“I just landed around an hour ago – I needed to come straight here – the scene of so many teenage crimes. Brenda you look amazing.”
“Amazing for a bitch, you mean?” She said with a chuckle of false resentment.
They kissed and exchanged a hug. David introduced his wife to Brenda – Eddie already knew her as they had stayed friends since the “Old days.” They all sat together and spoke about their lives since, how fast time goes and how their children were now their age and older when they would hang out together. They spoke about some old times, but stayed mostly on topic of current events. Brenda spoke about her husband and her children and they exchanged pictures. By the time they walked out time had reversed itself and it was as if it was just another night at the diner circa 1979. Only now there we some grays, wrinkles and extra pounds added to the mix.
Eddie walked Brenda home and they said goodbye at the door.
“I am glad we had this chance to say hello again.” She said.
“I am as well – if only just to say goodbye on equal terms.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow night?”
“Yep, I’ll be the one with the light blue 80’s tuxedo.”
“Hmm I’ll be the one with the ozone killing hairdo and a face with way too much makeup.” “Two clowns in the same circus from the same ancient era.”
She leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. Sad-smiled him, turned and went inside.
Eddie walked along the streets – with the sounds of sirens, barking dogs and squealing cats. Car alarms and car tires screeching. Brooklyn, the place where he was born and moved away from. After college he moved to Great Neck and commuted to New York 5 days a week. He missed the Brooklyn he grew up in and was thankful for the Brooklyn that never left him. Great Neck was beautiful but its identity could be somewhere in New Jersey or any other state in the country. Brooklyn was “Fucking Brooklyn.” The place where the Irish, Italians, Jews and every other immigrant always ended up. It was an International Pot-Luck mixture of persona’s and cultures. He laughed.
A door to a home slammed closed and a squirrel jumped from a tree. A strong breeze blew some leaves around and a plastic bag was airborne. He was staying in the city and was walking towards the El on Avenue P. It was getting cooler now and as he ascended the stairs to the platform he could swear that time had stood still. But when he was on the train and heading towards Manhattan he looked across the graveyard and noticed the twin towers were gone. He closed his eyes, said a prayer and shed some tears.
Eddie woke up on 34th Street and jumped. He stood and walked out the parting doors and found his way upstairs through the ramps, the beggars, soloists, dancing bands with Michael Jackson as a backdrop and a barbershop quartet. A young girl danced next to her mother who was sitting and breast feeding her other child while begging for change. Preferably cash change – if not a reality change.
He felt the shaking of an arriving subway – but the characters were unmoved. He thought about his kids and he wanted to speak to them now to tell them how much he missed them.
He thought about his wife and felt an inner disgust at himself. Laughed when he remembered what he told his Psychologist.
“I married her for her looks and her psychosis – ironically I divorced her for the same attributes.”
He thought about Brenda. What was he doing? Brenda and Eddie is a memory that he worked hard to come to peace with. Her rejection of him and her subsequent climb through the window and out of his life – was a very traumatic and hurtful period for him. Now he is contemplating the soft kiss on his lips..
He decided to walk through the streets past his apartment 57th Street and up towards Central Park. He bought a vanilla ice cream on a sugar cone, sat down on a bench and people watched.
He thought about the past 20 years and the lies he told Brenda about his life. His divorce wasn’t amicable as he made it out to be, are any divorces? Can anyone who fails ever feel “OK” with it? He thought about his children, he had four of them. Two boys and two girls and how he loved them and missed them right now. They gave him a sense of being that nothing and no one had ever inspired in him.
He retired from his job because he had more money then he would ever know what to do with. He had around 25 million in the banks and another 15 million in investments across the globe. He lived an unflashy life to avoid losing his mind as he almost did several years earlier when his wife threatened to sue him for half of his everything.
Although he had incriminating evidence of his wife’s infidelities – he decided to burn them for the sake of his children. He gave her half of his holdings – some 5 million dollars in one shot. Put up trust funds for each child and then decided to make some money once she was not in the picture any more.
He made over 25 million dollars in the next 5 years – but only he, his accountant and a handful of investors had knowledge of it. He was an anonymous philanthropist and a silent depositor in the bank accounts of the people he cared about. He had enough and all he really wanted to do was – what? He had yet to figure it out.
Now as he sat in front of the Plaza Hotel he pondered his future and shook about his bringing back to life the pain and darkness that once threatened to destroy him. “Hurricane Brenda” as his father once called her, had come to town and had already caused some collateral damages.
But that soft kiss on the lips – like a spring breeze and the scents of bursting fragrances of flowers and life. It made him weak when he felt, once again, the softness of her lips…
He stood up. Around him were the sights and sounds of New York City in the late Spring. Horse carriages, the tourists posing in front of the Plaza and the statues and fountains. There were trickling of an assortment of noises, honking horns, brakes from buses and cars, the occasional “Fuck you” from the occasional New Yorker wannabe. There were the neighs from the horses as they slowly made there way into gear. With the young couple already kissing as they were being taken somewhere on some mystery ride.
He knew what he needed to do and how he needed to approach it. He stood up, threw the wrapper from the cone in a garbage can and headed back home.
Brenda walked up the stairs and tried to keep quiet. She could hear her Aunt and Uncle giggling in the other room and she was kind of grossed out. Although there was something kind of romantic about their relationship. So many years and they still played cat and mouse. She opened the door to her room and the door made a slight squeaking noise. Thankfully it was not heard by anyone. She sat down on her bed and lay there all clothed. Her mind was in a tornado as her thoughts and feelings where in a whirl.
“Strange how he still gets me…” Her mind raced to Palm Springs and her husband…Daisy, Mrs. Ackerman and Principle Goldberg…were they all happy? Did they ever think or fantasize about, well, climbing out the bathroom window and leaving their world behind for a fresh start?
She looked at the walls and noticed the Wham poster alongside Duran Duran. How she had such a crush on them. First George Michael and then Duran Duran especially Simon…Her phone began to vibrate.
“Hi honey, how’ it going over there?”
“Going well, I spoke a little today and tomorrow is the big day. I wish you were here, you know?” He sounded sad.
“I wish you were here…” She meant it – he wouldve been her excuse to steer away from Eddie.
“How about we go away together and bring along all the kids?”
“That sounds great!” It did – especially right now when the void within needed some love, some warmth and some new memories.
They spoke for a while describing each others evenings; each one holding back to downplay the rush and excitement they each felt. They said goodbye with a kiss and I love you.
She walked down the stairs to get a glass of water and felt her phone vibrating in her hand. She walked into the kitchen and answered.
“Did I wake you?” It was Eddie.
“No, not at all I was just getting a glass of water.”
“I just wanted to apologize if I seemed a bit distant but it was the way you kissed me that shook me up Bren. How many years later and I am back to feeling like a stupid schoolboy. Its as if nothing has happened in the past 20 years. “
“Eddie I am married now.”
“I know – thats why I am calling to apologize…as much as you still have a hold on me I feel I need to somehow run away from you. I dont think we should see each other tomorrow…”
“I understand…but that second when I kissed you impulsively…it stirred something inside of me. A million scenes of ‘what might have beens’ swirled in my mind…I am sorry…”
“AHHHHH!” She thought to herself. This is a crazy stupid spot I put myself in! Damn it I climbed out the bathroom window for a reason!!!!”
She shook her head and knew right then and there what she needed to do.The next morning mercifully came and she sat in the kitchen drinking percolated coffee.
“You guys were kind of having fun last night.”
“Its not proper to-Oh what the hell. Yes we did – I told you – break up to make up.”
Daisy pulled up outside and honked as she had hundreds of times before. Brenda jumped in and Daisy had the GoGo’s playing on her radio.
“You sure you want to do this?”
Brenda smiled and nodded, “Yes.”
Brenda and Daisy spoke at length about what they would be doing that afternoon as they picked at breakfast and drank their coffee. The diner was full that morning but they were able to secure two spots in a booth right by a window and a small jukebox.
“Strange Daisy…I am sorry I lost all touch with you. I feel we picked up exactly where we left off. As if in mid-conversation.”
“I was hurt when you stopped returning my calls but I was busy with life, the kids – time kept on marching on and on.”
“Its my loss, I have never met anyone who could fill the void. I stopped having friends or even caring. I concentrated on being a mother and working, Before I knew it the kids are out of the house and I am there drinking my coffee in leisure as opposed to running from one place to another.”
“Its hard when they leave…but it all changed when I became a grandmother. I never thought I could love anyone so much…” She dabbed her eyes as tears welled up.
“What’s wrong, Daisy?” Brenda took her hand.
“I get so lonely, Bren. I miss Ted but he seems to have forgotten all about me – even more than he did while we were married. I caught him Bren, I caught him with the housekeeper right in our own bed. She wasn’t even pretty. He said she came on to him but who cares? If he did it in our bed how can I believe he never did it when he was on his ‘business trips?’”
“Fuck him, Dais, move on and move ahead. You are still beautiful-“
“Stop it I am a cow.”
“You are not – you really are still beautiful and you are young. A young grandmother for Gods sake. You need to get out more often – come stay with me in Connecticut i can introduce you to all the rich dudes over there.” She laughed. “Dudes, could you believe I just said that?”
“I bring out the teenager in you.”
They both laughed and then Daisy looked up and smiled. It was David and his wife, along with Eddie and a younger girl, who Eddie introduced as Jennifer.
The time flew on by as the memories came flowing towards them like a river of dreams, scenes and slow dances. Music was played from the jukebox – old songs chosen by Eddie and David. They spoke about the night before – the teachers, their fellow students.
“I kept looking around and saying to myself, ‘Robert got old’ or ‘Paul lost his hair and got fat.’ Then I caught a glimpse of myself and realized, I got fat and my hairline is receding. Was I as old as they were? and well, of course the answer is yes.”
“I felt the same way…I am still trying to figure out where the time went…” Brenda said looking away and then looking at her watch. It was time.
Daisy looked at her as she stood up and Brenda looked back and smiled, a sad smile of recognition that some scenes can never be replayed again – once the lines are recited and the curtain falls there is no going back. There are some plays, plots and stories – no matter how much one rehearses the gestures, lines and the steps that should be taken – nothing can adequately prepare one. We still find ourselves standing on the stage, spotlight on and an audience waiting in anticipation for the next line, the next scene…a cold sweat beneath the lights and the curtain begins to close but there is always another line to be recited, another word to be spoken…no amount of anticipation or rehearsal can prepare one for the adlibbed lines thrust upon them or the wrong performer reciting the lines.
Brenda walked across the floor and put a quarter in the jukebox. Picked B17, smiled and turned away.
She stood alone in the bathroom with the window locked shut – no escaping this time but this time she was not going to even try.
She washed her hands, adjusted her hair, walked out into the diner and sat down next to Daisy.
They all smiled as the song ended – the song was the same song and possibly the same vinyl record from all those years ago.
But the ending this time would not be an ending or an escape it would be a sort of homecoming or a continuation to what once was.
“Dad do you mind if I leave, I am meeting Charlie for dinner and I want to go home and get cleaned up.”
“Of course darling – we are on for Wednesday, right?”
“Yes I’ll remind the gang, love you.” She gave him a kiss.
“It was so nice meeting you all and putting a face to the mythical names I have heard about all these years. You are all even more beautiful than I ever imagined.” With that she left.
“That was your daughter? She is beautiful! Why didn’t you introduce me to her?”
“She doesn’t like you too much.” He laughed. They all joined in.
“I guess I can understand…”
They finished breakfast which had turned into lunch and made plans to meet up that night at the reunion. Brenda had already made up her mind.
“I am going home in the morning Daisy. But please now that we both tasted what its like to be friends again please lets not lose touch.”
Daisy gave her a hug and they both jumped into the car.
“Turn up the music loud!” There was a commercial. Brenda changed the channel, another commercial. “What a buzz kill.”
“Here listen to this CD.” Daisy pushed it in the slot and a familiar piano began to play.
They both laughed and then Brenda looked out the window as they passed the old familiar spots. The spot where a Carvel ice cream parlor once stood, a now vacant lot where there was once an arcade and they would order Egg Creams and play Asteroids and Space Invaders for hours. Actually the boys would play and the girls would sit and talk. Oh those talks, those friendships, those innocent times when life was in front of us and within our grasp.
“A bottle of red…”
They drove past the school where the banner welcoming them back for their reunion was hanging on one end. The clouds were forming above and a wind was blowing.
“A bottle of white…”
There was a crack of thunder and then a blustery wind and they were in front of Daisy’s old house. It did not look like it once did – it was totally redone.
“They gutted it a couple of years ago – I watched it slowly taken apart. I swear I could hear the voices from my past calling out.”
“Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the king and the queen of the prom…”
“Now I try and remember what it was like back then and there doesnt seem to be any proof that we had a childhood and that it was as special as my mind makes it out to be.”
“It was though. At least that’s what I choose to believe – to remember. Memories are just replications of themselves – they become figments of each other shaped in the form we choose.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of deep for me.” Daisy laughed.
“You know what I mean though?”
“Yes of course – that’s why each person will remember the same event in their own way.”
“I am glad I left Eddie back then; I made a decision and you know it was on my mind from before that. But I knew the only way to truly breakaway was to just…breakaway.”
“And climb through the bathroom window.”
“And climb through the bathroom window.” They both laughed.
“I guess sometimes that’s the only way out.”
Brenda and Eddie had had it
Already by the summer of ’75
From the high to the low to
The end of the show
For the rest of their lives
They couldn’t go back to
The best they could do was
Pick up the pieces
We always knew they would both
Find a way to get by
That’s all I heard about
Brenda and Eddie
Can’t tell you more than I
Told you already
And here we are wavin’ Brenda
And Eddie goodbye.
The night went well – there were dances and there were toasts. Mostly toasts to things past, people past. When the last song was played Eddie walked Brenda home and they said goodbye at the door. She closed the door behind her and he walked away.
The memories were past and the moments were now enshrined once again in the hall’s within our hearts and minds – we are given moments. We are given these moments and try to not forget to make the most of each second. We capture pictures, remember aromas and sing the songs – remember each word, each kiss and each hand held. When the time comes to think back or when the night falls too soon and the darkness overwhelms us – we remember as we choose to remember.
A bottle of red, a bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant.