The family business was going through a very tough time and we would be forced to close. Apparently we were in debt for three million dollars.
How did it happen? My father simply trusted some Harvard business graduate to run the business rather than his own sons. Apparently, my father didn’t trust his uneducated children. The irony is this Harvard graduate never graduated from Harvard. He never graduated from anywhere at all and had destroyed two other companies under pseudonyms. The police came to arrest him one Monday morning.
At first he was nowhere to be found, six months later they nabbed him when he tried to cross the border from Mexico. He was brought to Brooklyn to be tried. He was found guilty and liable for millions of dollars. The problem was he had two dollars and forty five cents in his possession.
So 1993 began with a thud and although I had some money saved, it wouldn’t last me long if I stayed in this apartment. I sold my apartment and made a nice return. So I rented an apartment a little south of Union Square. I was out of work and not in a rush to find employment.
I was at a crossroads and unsure of what would be my next step. I was 30 years old and I still didn’t know what I wanted out of life.
“Think of it as a do over, Freddy.” Dr Blum said, “You are single, unemployed, a new apartment, financially secure for now and you still are young. Yes you do have obstacles to overcome, but basically you have a clean slate and no obligations.”
I had never thought about it that way. It was then that I decided to do some traveling to Europe.
I began in London and met up with some cousins. One of them, Louis, had spent time in New York and we became close. He would be traveling with me through Europe for the first week. I went to eat Friday night dinner at his parents home. His mother was my father’s second cousin. So we were not close blood relatives but my parents had remained friends throughout the years.
The father stood up, we followed and he began to recite the Friday night blessing on wine. It had been a very long time since I had attended a sabbath dinner. His mother has prepared all the traditional foods of Jewish Syrians. I was excited to eat since I hadn’t had a home cooked meal in months.
Around the table were Louis’ parents, his brother and sister in law, several children, myself, Louis and two girls who I had been introduced to but I could not remember their names.
“So where are you off to next, Freddy?” His father, Albert, asked me.
“I was thinking of Paris or Amsterdam. What do you think?”
“I think you should go to Jerusalem and see how beautiful it is.”
“I was thinking of making that my final destination.”
“Good!” The table laughed and it was then I noticed the two girls again. One of them began to talk to me.
“I love New York, Freddy. I went to college there. I was there from 1986 through 1991. The city was crazy over the Mets. “
“That was a great time to be there. I am a huge Mets fan so it was especially good for me.”
“I actually met a group of them in a restaurant, Cafe Society, did you ever go there Freddy?”
“I remember Cafe Society, I used to go there a lot. In fact I just rented an apartment several blocks from there.”
“They owned the city back then. Who did you meet?”
“I met a couple of pitchers, with very spanish names who didn’t seem spanish when they spoke. There was one big guy, Fernandez and another guy, Jesse. Another man, Keith Hernandez who also didn’t speak spanish but was very flirtatious.”
“That’s funny, I never even realized that about their names. It was an amazing team.”
She was so easy to talk to and very smart. Her accent was, to me, sexy. Only I couldn’t remember her name for the life of me.
“Freddy, I am heading to Israel for three weeks.” She said.
“When do you leave?”
“Next Thursday, I am so excited. Have you been there, Freddy?”
“No, I’m not really religious.”
“Freddy, you don’t need to be religious to go to Israel.”
“Honestly I never thought about it. But I am thinking of ending my trip there and heading back to New York from there.”
A couple of times I wanted to get her attention but there are only so many times one can clear their throat or simply start talking without addressing the person you are talking to. Especially since she kept using my name.
Finally we all moved to the living room to have tea and desserts. I walked over to Louis and asked him what her name was.
“The girl you were speaking with the whole dinner?” He laughed.
“Yes, shh quiet, I don’t want her to know.”
“Her name is Penelope.”
Later on, I sat next to her and I asked her, “Hey Penelope, where are you staying in Israel?”
Louis started laughing and she looked at me in half confusion and half humor.
“Who is Penelope?”
“I don’t know… Louis told me that was your name.”
“My name is Celeste.”
“Celeste, do you know a good lawyer?”
“A good lawyer?”
“Yes, because I am going to need someone to defend me after I beat up Louis.”