Anthony and Lydia
Chapter 1 – Lydia, Groucho, Anthony and a Dog Named Ike
The only one who ever cared or at least did a good acting job of it was Theodore. It was the one day in the year when he would avoid hitting or verbally abusing her. When he died on her 65th birthday, it was the best gift he had ever given to her.
She remembered her father and the love he always lavished on her mother. The flowers, the hugs and the kisses. The notes left around the house and the stolen moments they would spend alone. True love defined. She missed them…it had been almost 20 years since they both were killed when their car went off the highway in Staten Island.
Her daughters would call her daily and send her their love; never once listening to any answers to the mundane questions they would pose to her. If she was able to get a full sentence out about her own well being it was a rare occurrence. He sons would call as well, maybe once or twice in a week with insincere invitations to spend some time together.
Lydia was an artist who loved to sit by her easel, canvas white but for her vision. After some hot black coffee the visions would be born…there were the flowers in vases, small cafes in an open area – windows on the second floors of each establishment – each expressing a separate scene, a separate life of their own. Silhouettes of a lady, a window with a shelf of flowers, two lovers dancing and other scenes all dependant on her mood.
It was on her 66th birthday when she bought herself “Groucho.” Groucho was a Yorkie who was being sold by her neighbor in the building where she lived. She looked at the Yorkie she realized how lonely she was by seeing how lonely the little pup seemed.
When she moved into the building, while Theodore was still alive in the hospice, she felt as if the walls were closing in on her. Although the sounds of the neighbors, the occasional company in the elevators or in the mailroom had been strangely comforting. She missed the whole idea of having someone with her – but sure as hell did not miss the son of a bitch.
Anthony was an old school Italian man. He was born in New York City on the day the world and history would remember as “The day that will live in infamy;” December 7th 1941. His father was an older man tried to enlist into the army but was rejected due to his being 52 years old.
Anthony met Marie at Church one Sunday when he was 19 years old. He had been rejected by the army because of a leg injury that left him with a limp. He was one of the few 19 year old men at the church and when they saw each other he told his father that he would be marrying her. His father nodded and spoke to Mr. Berentelli right after church that day. The two families went to dinner at the same restaurant (without the kids knowing) and when the fathers greeted each other they combined tables. Anthony sat next to Marie – few words were spoken, their hearts pounded, they felt a strange uplift in spirit and their eyes look into each other as if they knew.
Anthony and Marie were married for 50 years when she felt a thrust of pain run up her chest, fell on the floor and died. Anthony was lost. He had never lived alone and had been “Mothered” his whole life. Now he found himself alone in a home where Marie and himself had spent their lives, raised 4 children, celebrated and mourned life’s twists and turns and loved one another.
Anthony was not the best communicator and was an old fashioned father. He didn’t want his childrens love he wanted their respect. He ignored their invitations to live with them after their mother died, saying he preferred to live alone.
A year after her death he put his house on the market and decided to take a one bedroom apartment in a building several blocks away. Since him and Marie had a dog, “Ike” (named after Eisenhower) it was the constant reminder of a life once shared with her. The kids, of course, but they carried too much of a responsibility to talk to, to give money to and to advise on things that he didn’t understand while he was going through them, much less now that he had gotten older.
Anthony was walking Ike one day on Ocean Parkway and began to feel pangs of sadness. He was not complete without his Marie – he was still feeling a sense of withdrawal from her departure. Still could not sleep on both sides of the bed, still could not sit by the table for meals and still made sure the space next to him in church was left vacant out of respect.
The day he moved out of the house was like a bandage being pulled from an open wound. He held in his tears until he got into his apartment, locked the doors and fell to the floor. He stayed inside, boxes still unpacked until his daughters showed up to help out.
It was in the middle of February and the temperature had turned into a very unseasonably warm 63 degrees. Anthony pulled on his sweatshirt, his derby hat and placed the leash on Ike.
“Come on now Dwight D – we are going to go breath in the fresh air before the cold air comes back again.” He walked towards the elevator, pushed the call button and stood there waiting. Whistling a tune from another lifetime he smiled as several memories came racing to him. The elevator bell rang and he stepped inside the empty car.
Lydia was in a singing mood and when she picked up Groucho’s leash, connected it to his collar and opened the door to go for a walk.
Lydia was singing “Summer Time and the living is Easy,” when she pushed the elevator button. The car arrived and there was a man inside with a dog.
Chapter 2 – Dogs
As soon as Lydia saw that the elevator was occupied she stopped singing. The dogs barked at each other throughout the ride down to the lobby. Ike and Groucho seemed to hit it off and as the doors opened – they each began jumping in tandem.
“Its a good thing they are both males – otherwise we would need to get a priest to marry them.” Anthony said and Lydia let out a short laugh.
They walked together out the front door, the dogs leading them towards the same direction.
“What is your name?” Anthony asked.
“What a beautiful name.”
She blushed, fought back a smile and looked at the ground.
“Thank you, and what is your name?”
“Anthony – not such a beautiful name.”
“That’s not true – it is a handsome name.”
They walked in silence both betraying a sense of excitement by smiling as they watched Ike and Groucho leading the way.
“Groucho, stop it.” Lydia called out as Groucho began to bark as a little child walked past them.
“Groucho? I thought my naming Ike was strange.” They both laughed.
Lydia closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“I wish this weather could last…its been a long winter.”
“I know – if it weren’t for Ike I probably wouldn’t even leave the apartment. I lost my wife a little over a year ago…” He said his voice trailing off.
“I am sorry. My husband passed five years ago, on my birthday actually. So its five years ago yesterday.”
“Oh I am sorry…I dont know whether to wish you a happy birthday or …”
“Oh its fine…it was actually the best gift he ever gave me, my freedom. Although freedom does come with a lot of chains and locked doors.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Sorry – I meant that the freedom I craved for is nice – but it can get kind of-.” She caught herself. “Its nothing. I have to go now, sorry. Come on Groucho.”
“Was it something I said – I didn’t mean to pry-”
“Its just too quick too soon I don’t even know you and here I am confessing my personal sins…”
“How about we get to know each other – would you like to get coffee tomorrow morning?”
“I don’t know…I cant…I have a lot of things to do tomorrow…”
“OK I understand – well, if you ever want to talk or have a walking companion…I am in apartment 5D.”
She walked away with Groucho barking in protestation. She was shaking and felt it would be inappropriate to give him her cell number. She smiled, she meant to say apartment number. She had been calling it a jail cell since Theodore passed away – feeling as if she was doing time for some sin she must have made somewhere, sometime to someone but she could not recall…
When the door closed to her apartment it would echo down the hall and give her a chilling reminder of her being in some sort of solitary confinement.
She had her friends but they were busy with their lives; husbands, jobs, grandchildren…she didn’t have a job, didnt need one and wasnt really sure what she would be able to do anyway. These days it was all computers – she wouldn’t know how to even turn one on if her life depended on it.
Anthony walked away and then turned to watch as Lydia, “What a pretty name for such a beautiful lady.” He thought to himself. What right does he have to be thinking such thoughts. “I will go to Father Fletcher tomorrow and confess my sin.” What sin? He thought again. Speaking to another lady who for some reason he felt an awakening with? He was feeling a surge of energy, like a school boy when the first glance of love is caught. He kept picturing her and feeling her presence- but it kept slipping away…
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 3 – Lydia
She couldn’t move from her bed. She felt the room spinning and spinning as if on a never ending merry-go-round. She looked up at the ceiling and noticed a shadow was moving closer and closer. A little girl was standing over her and whispering something. What?
Where was she? Sometime in…
She jumped up. Lydia had a bad dream. A nightmare where all memories have been wiped away – like the chalk from a board. Still somehow seen but totally illegible. Markings on a worn out stone from thousands of years ago – written in a language long dead.
Lydia’s fear was forgetting.
She had an Aunt who had lost all memories of herself – as if her mind had been stolen from her body and that remained was her physical self.
Lydia stood up, looked at the clock which said 532. Pulled on her robe and went to boil some water. Sitting down by the small table in the kitchen she thinks about her kids and hopes they have found what had eluded her…
True happiness was like sand in a hourglass – piling up one moment and slipping away the next. Who was this man, “Anthony.” Why had they connected so quickly? Why had been so frightened when she felt that she was speaking too much?
Loneliness can be quite the impetus for two strangers to begin a relationship. For long ago forgotten emotions to spring awake and begin to poke and prod their way back into ones life.
Her phone rang.
“Hey mom.” It was Daniella, her eldest.
“Good morning Dani.”
“How you doing mom?”
“I am feeling good – just had a strange drea-”
“Cary woke up at 3 oclock with a fever. When I took his temperture he threw up all over the place.”
“Is he ok?”
“He is sleeping now and I am up doing laundry – so I guess he is ok. He doesn’t have fever now. Not sure if it’s the Motrin or if he is doing better.”
“Do you need my help? Do you want me to come over?”
“No its fine. So anyway…”
Lydia wanted to be needed, to be asked to come over and help out. She barley listened as Dani kept speaking about stupidity without even once thinking to inquire about her mother.
At one point Lydia put the phone down, refilled her cup with some hot water and came back without her brief absence being noticed.
“Dani – I have to hang up.”
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, yes, how much of this can I hear over and over again?”
“Nothing, there is a lot of noise – I will call you later.”
Lydia made her way out of the kitchen, looked outside and noticed it had clouded up since the night before. She thought about Daniella and how she was always self-absorbed even as a child. Abby on the other hand had changed. Abby was the good one, the caring daughter who was always dreaming and writing in her journal.
At twenty she thought she had found the answers to her questions in her philosophy professor. It turned out his philosophy in life was to screw every coed he could before he turned 60. When she walked in on him with another student, a freshman, pleasuring him at his desk. She threw her books at him and stormed out of the building. She never went back and began working as a waitress a week later in a diner a block from our home.
Today she lives outside of Port Washington. She is married to a lawyer who is as big of an asshole as her father was. Their three kids make up for any sadness that he causes her – she visits twice a month.
Daniella lived 30 minutes away and would stop frequently – it always felt as if it the visits were made out of duty than out of love. Her kids, 4 girls had taken after their father who was a much better person than Dani.
That thought saddened her – made her feel as if she failed as a mother.
A knock on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Its Dwight D and Anthony, good morning.”
Groucho began to bark and jump in circles by the door. She took his leash and connected it to his collar and opened the door.
“Good morning, I was just taking Groucho for his walk.”
“Would you mind if I joined you?”
“Not at all…maybe we can grab that coffee.” She smiled.
“Sounds absolutely wonderful.” He smiled right back.
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 4 – Anthony
Anthony walked back to his apartment after taking Dwight D for his evening walk. He was feeling kind of melancholy and lonely.
The night was navy blue and there was a winter silence on the streets. The temperature was dropping back to its February average – so the early spring was no more.
The brown leather leash was sagging and Dwight D seemed to share the melancholy. He had met a friend and then suddenly that friend was gone. Anthony thought about Marie – sweet Marie…
It had been one year but the year had been hard. Adjusting to sleeping alone in a bed – that was a tough one. Moving out of the house where they had spent their lives together was more cathartic than painful. He needed to leave – he couldn’t spend more time in a house that was no longer a home. She was the home – without her it was just bricks and wood. No aromas from the upcoming meals sneaking through the kitchen doors and windows. No love – no love…
Six months ago he had begun spending some time at the soup kitchen down the block – helping set up the tables, the chairs, cleaning the dishes and serving the soup. It was only 5 hours a week but it had a major impact on his life. He was needed, he worked hard, made people smile and was appreciated. What more could one ask for?
Anthony was still a handsome man. His hair was full and his weight had not changed in 50 years. He dressed in slacks and a buttoned down shirt each day – although he had given in to sneakers – his one concession to dressing well. He was usually clean shaven but lately had begun to grow a pencil thin mustache – similar to Vincent Price once had. His eyes were blue and his hair a wild white.
One day as he sat in his livingroom he spoke to Dwight D; told him how much he was hurting – and Ike seemed to understand. He just sat there, face in Anthony’s lap and let him pet him. Anthony’s livingroom was sparse. There was a black leather couch that looked like a relic from the 1980’s which faced a television which in itself was a relic from perhaps an even earlier decade. Antenna made out of a wire hangar and only the broadcast channels available. The walls were painted a bone white with several drug store paintings adorning the four walls. The carpet was burgundy and was laid upon the ground of the apartment, save for the kitchen and bathroom. There were two windows facing the courtyard and a building right behind looming with its twenty or so windows facing him. He lay in bed at night and watch as each window would betray the isolation of nameless souls occupying each.
“I need something more in our lives Ike…”
That same day they walked into Lydia as they stood in the elevator riding down. He enjoyed her company and felt a reawakening when he was with her for that short time. But there was something about her that made him feel she was what he needed.
She was a fragile soul, Lydia. Looked as if she was frightened of life – of expressing herself. He wanted to get to know her more and have Ike spend time with Groucho. She asked for some time but God knows time was not a luxury either of them had the leisure of wasting.
He decided the night before to go down to her apartment and ask her if she would like to take the dogs for a walk together.
He woke up an hour early, shaved, trimmed his ‘stache and splashed some Old Spice on his face. Combed his hair and worked in some Vitalis; then pulled on his pants and the newest shirt he had.
“Come on Mr. President, time to find something more before its too late.”
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 4 1/2 – The Lady with the Red and Black Suit
After the walk that morning a routine began to take shape. Anthony would knock on Lydia’s door and they would go for a walk. In the morning they would get coffee and in the afternoon they would walk to the cafe and have a cup of tea together. They had developed a routine and each one of them began to look forward to spending more and more time together.
Three weeks or so after their first meeting on the elevator, it was five o’clock in the afternoon and they were walking down Kings Highway. The temperature had warmed again and the clock had been set to Daylight savings time in New York. So the sun would be setting an hour later than it had been.
As they walked across the street Ike began to bark and Groucho joined in. There was a lady in a red and black suit sitting on a stool and handing out tarot cards.
She shooed the dogs for barking and they went silent.
“Please take a card.” She spoke in a gypsy accent. She was in her forties, leathery skin on her face pulled across her facial bones. Her hair was black, her eyes were black and she had a black diamond stud in her left nostril. Her coat was half red and half black. She wore a knit cap on the back of her head and by her feet was a satchel full of her tarots.
Anthony took a card and it was the card of lovers. Embarrassed he was undecided of what to do with it. Not that Anthony and Lydia were lovers, they not even held hands, but it was as if it were a sign of sorts.
“Aah, you pulled the card of lovers. You both are not married, Am I right?”
“No, yes, I mean, no we are not married.” Lydia responded.
“Oh but there is feelings between you two…where are your spouses? Wait don’t answer…” She pulled a card and it was the death card.
“So they are both deceased and each of you are having feelings of guilt for enjoying each others company…dis is the reason you are not yet lovers.” She smiled a knowing smile.
“Not yet…um, ok.” Anthony did not know what to say – but he knew she was correct.
“Take another card…” She held one towards him.
“Aah…the hanged man. This is interesting.”
“What she is going to hang me?”
“No – the hanged man is not what it seems. It is based on Odin the Norse God who hung himself upside down for 9 days to try and learn the knowledge of the runes.”
“So what does it mean?” Lydia asked.
“The hanged man is telling you to stop trying to control every aspect of your life. Let go and let things fall into place and they will. There is a destiny for each of us; the harder you try and to evade it the harder it is your life will be. Give up your sense of control – its as real as a fake orgasm. Looks real, feels real but it is not real and no benefit is derived from it.”
“You must go now…but stay together. There is adventure ahead.” She closed her eyes and gestured to her satchel.
Anthony went into his pocket and pulled a five dollar bill. Dropped it into the satchel and they walked away.
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 5 – Anthony and the Father
Father Fletcher looked exactly like Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel in “Its a Wonderful Life.” The stereo-typical old Irish man. His nose was usually red and his hair parted to the left. He would speak to himself and when caught would say he was speaking to the Lord. He would hum when he was nervous which presented him with some uncomfortable situations. He was Anthony’s oldest friend and confidant.
“Forgive me father for i have sinned, it has been you know how long since my last confession.”
Anthony confessed to sins he had not committed yet felt obliged to express. When he was done he let out a short laugh.
Father Fletcher responded quickly and ended with, “…and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.”
He crossed himself and said, “How are ya Anthony?”
“Good Peter, sorry I haven’t been around. I met someone – I feel alive again.”
“So why are you confessing that to me? Come on lets go have a tiny drop of somethin’.”
“I feel guilty Father.”
“Stop with the Father crap, lets speak as friends. Have you done anything to feel guilty about?”
“No I haven’t but I feel the temptation and I wonder, do you think Marie would mind?”
“Are you confessing to God or Marie?”
That silenced him into enforced introspection. He thought to himself, “If it were me that had died I would not want her to be alone…but would I be ok with her loving another man?”
“Anthony? Step outside and lets go for a walk as friends.”
The Father walked into the backroom, pulled on his coat and tapped on his stetson, tilted to the left. He threw his scarf around his neck and walked to greet Anthony.
“How you doing buddy?” The Father outstretched his hand.
“I am doing well Pete.”
“Shall we?” Gesturing towards the exit.
“We shall.” He smiled.
As they sat in a booth at “O’Leary’s,” a dark and damp rectangular tavern with wooden floors and walls. As you walked you could feel your shoes lightly sticking to the floor – the lights were always set to a low dim because it would be poor business to lighten up the room and expose the stains on the floors, walls and bar itself. The bar had been opened for sixty years and many a great man has spent moments of muddled confusion amid the aromas of vomit and a floor that had not had a proper mopping in over a decade. Al was at the helm today and he smiled as he greeted the old friends.
“Pete today, Father later on.” He winked.
They sat down as friends now – friends since they first met back in the 60’s some time. When Anthony looked across the table he thought to himself that his good friend had aged none to kindly. Then he caught a glimpse in the speckled mirror across the floor and saw what he mistook for an older man looking right back at him. OK I guess time spares no one…besides Sofia Loren I guess.
“So tell me about this ‘new found happiness.'”
“Well, I met this girl…”
“OK I am interrupting you. Is she a good person?”
“Yes, it seems like she-”
“Is she nice to you?”
“Yes, of cour-”
“The cut the bullshit, excuse me, and enjoy the company and the love – for a lot of people it comes once in a life, for some two or three times. But for some it never comes so – if God has blessed your ugly mug with love – grab it and don’t let it go.”
“Is that spoken as a father or friend?”
“Both now be quiet and order another round, I am thirsty.”
Anthony smiled, looked at his friend and noticed the emptiness in his eyes. He had helped hundreds, maybe thousands with his guidance over the years, still he found himself living alone and possibly in regret as well. Now he felt guilty again. How could he take love for granted? What kind of person would be given the chance to posses the most valuable stuff in the world and dismiss it as a nuisance? Love wasn’t to be taken for granted – love was to be treasured and grabbed onto each second of its presence.
The barkeep brought them their two shots and two extra’s “On me, gentlemen.” They smiled.
They looked at the glasses, smiled and Anthony proposed a toast.
They both laughed. Before they drank there was a pause.
“I miss that son of a bitch.” The Father’s eyes welled up with a sadness that could not be expressed too openly. Sometimes ‘love’ can be considered a sin even if its love.
“I know…I do as well. I love you Pete you are my brother.”
“If I am your brother and your Father – and Irv was my…we make up a really messed up family, kid.”
They drank and drank again; all the time laughter replaced the sadness they both felt inside. They time had been stolen from them from under their feet – the worlds laws and expectations causing shifts in the foundation of being human.
“What’s her name?”
“Lydia.” Anthony said with a smile.
The Father began to sing, “Lydia oh Lydia, have you met Lydia? Lydia the Queen of tattoos. Does she have any tattoos?”
“Not sure yet.” He winked, “But I intend to find out soon.”
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 6 – Lydia and the Girls
Daniella called her mother to let her know that her and Abby would be arriving that evening.
“Whats wrong?” She asked
“Whats wrong? A lot mom, all three of us need some time together.”
“I would love to spend time with you but is everything ok?”
“Abby and I are going to take you to Atlantic City for the night. We will leave in the morning spend the day and then the night there.”
“Tomorrow morning we are driving there – just us mom.”
“I need some warning, I need to plan in advance, you know I do have a life.”
“I know you do and we want to be more a part of it than we have been.”
Daniella was a little taller than her mom at 5 foot 6, she had reddish blonde hair, light skin and dark eyes framed by soft eye brows and freckles beneath them. She was an easy dressed lady – could have passed as a Gap model with her white collared blouse, blue jeans and uggs. She was not the prettiest looking woman out there but there was a pull which made her seem prettier than she was.
She pulled her mother closer and embraced her.
Abby arrived later that evening – on her cell phone arguing with her husband about something to do with him being late that evening to be with the kids.
“I understand that you work – ok, no problem. Just make sure they all eat dinner, finish their homework and then go to sleep. Three things – I love you. Thank you for this.”
Hearing Abby say “I love you” brought a sense of cheer to Lydia.
Abby gave her mother a long and strong hug as Daniella watched from the kitchen.
“Just like old times.” Her mother whispered.
Daniella joined in the hug and each began to tear up tears of their own recipes.
“These two days are going to be about all three of us, OK?” Abby said.
“What spurred this on?” Lydia asked.
“We both have realized the void in our lives has to do with our being too busy with life but having nothing to do with living.”
The words were spoken, discussed and the memories were dissected. The who, what, why and wheres were not important any longer. There was the now which needed to be grasped.
They spent the evening sleeping, all three of them in the same bed – each taking turns staring at the ceiling, the window aglow with the street lamps and the darkness. Swatting away the ingredients to the tears that were cried earlier.
By the time they drove back to Lydia’s home they had each decided that Lydia would be joining them each weekend. One Sunday by Abby, Daniella and then, at Lydia’s insistence, by Lydia. “Husbands, grandchildren and all.” Lydia stressed.
The evening when she returned there was a note left under her door handwritten;
She smiled even though she had to read it several times to decipher it. “Please let me know when you get back. Your Pal, Anthony.”
It was only 7pm so she rode the elevator to his apartment and knocked on the door.
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 7 – Anthony and Lydia Ride the Conveyor Belt
Anthony heard the knock and could not understand what was happening. He was sitting in his recliner and was lost in a parallel world. As Ike barked and jumped at the door Anthony just stared at him lost in a fog.
“They are coming after me.” Ghosts swam throughout the apartment – from a coffee stained spot on his carpet at his feet to the corner of the ceiling to the far left of the door. He sat there, soiled in his seat and sweating. Screaming but not making a sound; running but not moving an inch. He could not move – chains were tied around his arms, his legs…
Lydia kept knocking at the door, heard Ike barking and was hoping that Anthony had gone for a walk on his own.
Ike was barking, howling and jumping.
Anthony was jumping, twisting and turning – chains at his waste now – almost free, almost free…
“Knocking, banging, pounding, from where, from whom?”
Ghosts swimming, river is running across the carpeted room – a river running wild, heading somewhere.
An old song played out loud as rain began to fall, “If it keep on raining the levee gonna break…” The river like a conveyer belt – bringing, taking, pulling, pushing – take me home, take me home…
The knocking on the door stopped as Lydia stepped away in deep thought. Ike continued to leap against the door and suddenly the good General, President and leader jumped onto Anthony and began to squirm and howl in a sad wale…
Back in reality Anthony saw the room for what it was…a lowlit, messy one bedroom apartment with stained carpet and cheap paint job walls.
Lydia waited for the elevator to come – it showed the car was on the 7th floor.
She felt a nagging pull towards Anthony – she turned and knocked again.
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 8 -The Tarot Card Reading Gypsy Woman
The knocks on the door continued, he went to see who it was only to find himself in a pool of piss and shit.
“Anthony, are you in there? Are you ok?” It was Lydia.
“I am fine, I fell asleep – can I call on you later on?”
“Yes, of course. I will be in my apartment – come by I will make us some tea.”
He smiled – this old Italian still had it and he would find out soon enough if this Lydia was the queen of Tattoos.
“OK I will be up there at,” He looked at his watch, surprised it was already seven, “around seven thirty, is that ok?”
“Yes of course, see you then.”
This wasn’t the first episode he had experienced. This was happening way too frequently lately and although he was nervous about what its cause was – the last thing he wanted to do was to go to the Doctor and have them run tests on him. Poke, prod, put to sleep, poke, wake up, ask questions…he had seen it done to Marie and he was not about to let them do it to himself.
The elevator came and Lydia walked in.
The lady in the red and black suit stood there with a knowing smile. Gold tooth, gap in between the two front teeth and the knit cap was in her right hand.
“Oh my…” Lydia said.
“Hello Lady.” The gypsy spoke in her gravelly voice which made one want to clear her throat for her.
“Do you live here?”
“I live. I live here, I live.” She smiled a creepy smile.
“What apartment are you in?” Lydia asked her.
“Oh no, I don’t live here – but I do live,” She spread her arms, “Here.”
The Tarot Card reading Gypsy Woman pulled out an amulet.
“I want you to wear this on your chest tonight.” She pulled out a second one. “Give this one to Anthony and tell him to do the same. You are both suffering from an illness that will eventually take away your thoughts, your memories and your soul.”
“What are you speaking about?” Lydia was scared.
“I know about your ‘episodes’ where you are in a dreamlike state and the world is all…helter skelter. You are not alone, Anthony shares this with you and the Gods have brought you together to form a bond. I have been sent to perform, hmm how should I phrase this? To help facilitate an age regression and heal the infected lobes of – to make you younger and healthy again.”
“How do you know about my…episodes? and how do you even know Anthony’s name – we didn’t introduce ourselves to you?
“You are not alone, Lydia. No one is, really. Oh you may feel lonely and you may feel a sense of a cold wind blowing. But you are not alone.”
The elevator moved. Lydia hadn’t noticed the elevator had not moved throughout the conversation. The elevator stopped at her floor. She hadn’t even pressed the buttons…the lady was gone.
Anthony finished cleaning up, showering and splashed on some Old Spice. Took out a comb and pushed his hair back, pulled on a buttoned down shirt and looked in the mirror.
“God I am old…then why am I mentally so young?” He said out loud as if expecting an answer. The phone rang.
“Hey Pop, its Nicky. How you feeling?”
“Hey, hey Nicky. I am fine, fine.” He didnt want to let on about Lydia – he felt that Nicky would be upset if he knew that he was interested in another woman.”
“I want to come up with Bella and the girls on Saturday, will you be around?”
“Yes of course I will be. I will take you all out for lunch, we can go to L & B like the old days.”
“Oh man – I can smell it and taste it pop.”
“I am meeting a friend of mine for tea. Lets speak on Friday so we can confirm the time, ok?”
“OK, good night dad. Oh and dad?”
“I love you.”
Anthony smiled, “Thank you, good night.”
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 9 – Everyone Says “I love you”
Anthony couldn’t muster those words while the line was engaged – when he pressed the “End” button he let out a deep breath and whispered, “I love you.”
What was it about those three words? Why was it so important to everyone to hear them? He was brought up to believe that respect was tantamount to love. His father drilled it into him. His mother had her German mother’s strictness and never uttered those three words in her life. She did hear them from his sister and his brothers – but Anthony refused to ever say them to her. When she lay in her casket he placed a white rose and whispered it in her ear. By then his father was long gone – but he still felt the chills of fear race through him as he walked away.
To his wife he was romantic and expressed his love through flowers, song and obligatory acts of a husband. He loved her and would play music and slow dance with her – but when she would say it to him he would smile. She understood.
So why this need to say, “I love you”? Why this pull to call each of his children and grandchildren to express his love with three words? Through a lifetime of service he had provided shelter, food, clothing and served as a role model. He had left behind and never looked back his dreams of being a painter. He had no regrets but felt that if three words, eight letters in all – were not voiced – why the bitterness from his children?
He looked at the clock and realized he was late. Seven Thirty Eight.
“Well its about time I was going to go check on you but…” She kept silent.
“You can come by any time you’d like – its always a breath of fresh air. You have no idea.” He smiled she looked troubled.
“Whats wrong Lydia?”
“I dont know – maybe – at first I thought I had imagined it but then I saw the two amulets on the table.”
“Yes…do you remember that gypsy lady the other day? The one with the Tarot cards?”
“Yes of course – she was kind of scary.”
“Well, when I left your apartment I went in the elevator and she was in there.”
“The gypsy lady? Maybe she was visiting someone.”
“No she wasn’t, well, she wasn’t visiting just anyone. Apparently she came to see me, or more exact, us.”
“Why, how would she know we lived here and why would she? She was probably putting you on.”
“Anthony – I have these episodes sometimes. Its as if I am in a dream or nightmare and crazy things are happening. The clock on my wall – the arms begin to race round and round; pictures in frames begin to speak to me as if the person in the picture is alive and having a conversation with me.”
“I have those same crazy scenes also – where I am floating above my bed – there is a river running through my room and I am shaking…”
“I know you do – the Gypsy Lady told me…”
“Anthony – she actually was in the elevator, the elevator did not seem to be moving and she spoke to me for several minutes. When she was done the door opened at my floor. She gave me these two amulets,” She walked across to pick them up and show it to him, “she said that one was for me and the other for you. She said we should put them on and go to sleep. She said we should be sleeping in the same bed in order for it to work.” The last part she made up because she did not want to sleep alone that night. She was scared – what if the old hag came back?
“Well if you are using this as an excuse to get me in bed, let me tell you something – it worked.” He said laughing.
“Anthony, I am scared.” She put her arms around him and her head on his chest. At first his instinct was to pull away but then he let her melt into him. He thought to himself, “What if there is some truth to what the Gypsy had said?” Then he said aloud.
“I say we wear them to bed and see what happens. What is the worst thing that can happen? Lord knows whats been going on in my head I haven’t revealed to anyone – so if she knows about it maybe there is something, um, something magical? Maybe she is a Shaman – my mother used to say that all women are by nature a shaman – able to heal with their motherly powers.”
“In my religion that’s called witchcraft.”
“Well in my condition I will take anything or do anything to reverse whatever death is coming to my brain.”
“I agree – it is frightening…”
“Don’t be frightened – I will be here for you.” His lips touched hers – instantly he felt a feeling of awakening. Instantly he knew that he was once again, alive.” Groucho, sensing this barked. Their lips parted and Lydia bent down to calm Groucho down.
“Oh come on Groucho – you know you are my favorite.” They laughed and Groucho walked back to his corner.
“That was nice…Lydia…” He kissed her and suddenly her mouth opened to let him in – she tasted like Cinnamon Apple tea – she thought he tasted like peppermint candy. They found their way into her room and she closed the door.
Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 10 – Don’t Fall out that Window!
Anthony woke to find Lydia sitting by an open window. He looked at her from behind and her silhouette whispered and he responded. The weather had turned and it must have been in the 70’s already – “what a strange weather we have” he thought to himself. He walked behind her, put his hands on her shoulders and whispered in her ear, “If you fall out the window and break both of your legs, don’t come running to me.” She laughed. “I believe it was your dog that said that.”
Anthony felt strange – there was a lightness and an easiness about him this morning. “I guess love can make us old folk feel alive again.” He said to Lydia, who sat with her back against the window pane and her legs on the sill. She looked radiant.
“I was just thinking the same thing – I feel so invigorated.” She stood, “I will put up a pot of coffee.” She stood up slowly expecting to feel the usual soreness, aches and pains only to feel…what? “What was this light feeling as if floating on my feet?”
She heard a glass break in the bathroom where Anthony was. She ran towards him as if floating.
“Um…I don’t know…I must be having one of my ep-I need to lay down. Please don’t mind me.” He walked out of the bathroom, his face out of her sight feeling out of his mind. “Not now, please. Be strong – don’t have a meltdown now in front of her…” He screamed at the top of his lungs in his mind and he lay down, covered his face with the blanket and mercifully fell into a deep sleep. Breathing loudly which put Lydia at ease knowing he was, breathing.
She went back to put a pot of coffee up and then went into the shower to wash up. It had been a while since she had, well, slept with someone and now she wanted to look good for him. Her clothes fell slowly to the ground, she pulled the amulet over her head and placed it on the basin. Turned the hot water on and stepped into the shower.
Under the water she felt a memory tingling through her body and she let her head fall back under the water. Her hands were softer than they had been and wondered if the manicure she had in Atlantic City was the cure for her curling fingers and brittle nails. Her breasts were upright as if standing at attention as the soap caressed her she was smiling.
The mirror in the bathroom was fogged over from the heat of the shower. She threw a robe around her, tied a towel over her hair and opened the door.
Anthony heard Lydia turn on the shower. He jumped up, pulled on his clothes, carried his shoes and walked out of her apartment. As he stood waiting for the elevator he decided to walk the stairs instead; then thought better of it. If he was in the midst of an episode the last thing he needed was to fall down the stairs and not be found until someone else decided to take the stairs. In a building predominantly occupied by older folk, well, it could be hours if not days.
The elevator came and he stepped inside.
“So, Anthony, does Lydia have any tattoos?” It was the gypsy lady.
“What is going on and why are you here?” He asked her, more in fear than anger.
“Why Tony, can I call you Tony? Why Am I hear? Well a ‘thank you’ would be nice. I did give you that charm around your neck and if you didn’t notice you are feeling better this morning aren’t you?”
“I am not feeling better – I am having-”
“Having what Tony? Have you seen your reflection in the mirror yet? Have you seen Lydia?”
“Of course I was just with Lydia.”
“But have you looked into her eyes this morning? If you look through the windows of her eyes you will fall in yourself but if you do not and its too late…don’t come running to me…” The elevator door opened and he stepped out – he turned but she was gone.
He walked towards his apartment, push in his key and opened the door to find Ike waiting patiently for release.
As he walked Ike through the usual streets and Ike mercifully let it go – he noticed that the usually people he would see in the morning were acting as if he was a stranger or someone they barely knew. He walked back into the building, feeling as if walking on air and headed up to Lydia.
Anthony and Lydia -Chapter 11- Look in the Mirror!
Lydia answered the door without asking who it was. She had taken Groucho for his walk in the yard behind the building, had come back to her apartment, lay down and had fallen asleep.
Anthony knocked three times before she opened the door without even asking who was there. Dwight D jumped at Groucho and they played like toddlers on a play date. Anthony walked into the apartment and lay down on the bed next to Lydia. They didn’t even glance at each other – they just lay there and both slept the day away.Dusk fell on the streets and the darkness seemed to cause a stir in the apartment. Groucho and Dwight D. were jumping on the bed and clamoring for attention. Lydia woke up nudged by the darkness and Groucho’s urgency. She saw Anthony’s silhouette to the left of her with Dwight D. nudging him awake.
“Anthony – are you awake?”
“I was hoping this was you licking my face.” He answered.
“No such luck – maybe later. Lets take the President and the Marx Brother for a walk and pick up some coffee.”
Feeling as if drugged Anthony and Lydia both stood in the dark room and embraced. Despite the sluggishness there was a feeling of lightness in their steps. Lydia locked the door as Anthony called the elevator. The elevator came and Anthony walked inside to hold the door for Lydia. As she walked into the car they saw each other for the first time. Lydia dropped the leash and Anthony stared at her – awestruck.
“Anthony? What is happening?” She was frightened and instantly teary eyed.
“I don’t know…the amulets?”
“Do you think?”
“What else is there to think?” Groucho and Ike both started barking for freedom – the elevator took them to the lobby. They ran ahead and did their business by the tree out front. Lydia sat down on the bench by the entrance, Anthony beside her. They were in a traumatic state and had no idea what to do, where to go or what to say. Anthony stood up and walked towards the mirror which stood as a wall opposite the entrance. He stood there and stared at himself. Ran his hand though his full head of brown hair, touched his face and pinched his cheeks as if checking if he was in a dream.He made some quick movements as if trying to fool the reflection of himself in the glass.
Behind him came Lydia – smiled as she recognized herself as the friend she had not seen in some time.
“You are even more beautiful…”
“You are so…”
“Handsome, right? I was a good looking guy.”
They sat down and held hands.
“I need to go to my apartment and lay down alone for a while – this is freaking me out.” Lydia said.
“OK – Yes, I agree – I don’t even comprehend what is -”
“Lets meet for dinner – we can go to the Diner, ok?”
“Yes I will pick you up at 7?”
“Sounds good – call me if you need me before or ever.”
Anthony threw his keys on the table by his door, pulled off his jacket and sat down on his chair. He closed his eyes and he heard a song from the apartment next door?
“Crying, over you, Crying over you – Yes now you’re gone and from this moment on…” He thought to himself that it was odd to be hearing Roy Orbison – especially a song that was one that he had sang many times, coming from the apartment next door.
He closed his eyes again…
“Hey pop – you remember that song? You used to sing it in the shower all the time?” Anthony jumped up – just a dream – just a dream.
In the apartment next door “Yesterday” was playing now – not so unusual. What was unusual is the fact that he could hear music coming from there. Especially since his neighbor was an old man from Puerto Rico who spoke only fragmented english and never spoke or showed any signs of life.
“Grandpa – the Doctor said you might be able to hear me. I just wanted to tell you that – well, we never did get to be close or anything. But – I hear you have a nice nest egg from the sale of the house and all – so I was hoping if, despite the fact that we barely speak or spoke – I can get some cash in your will?”
Anthony opened his eyes and went to see Lydia. Looking at the clock he noticed the time was 11:02 pm – he had missed their date. He closed his door behind him, walked to the elevator and went to see Lydia. He knocked lightly on the door to see if she was awake.
Lydia had gone back to her apartment and fallen in a deep sleep. She had felt wonderful and loved the way she looked. She was beautiful and young again. She was at peace. As she slept she had some funky dreams about her grandchildren singing her a song from “The Sound of Music” and each one telling her that they loved her. She heard her children each telling her how much they missed her and that they were hoping she would make the Passover dinner with them. She heard tapping and tapping – she jump startled and realized that someone was at the door. She said, “One minute, coming.” As she put on her robe and looked at the clock that said 11:14 pm. “Who is it?”
“Anthony.” He walked into her embrace – picked her up and took her to her room. His mouth on hers, her lips against his – he could feel her heart against his as he lay her down. Then with the vigor and need of a young man who has been alone too long – he made love to every inch of her. Lydia for her part was equal to the task and they went on for hours before they were spent and the sun began to shine onto their naked bodies – she looked at him and smiled. He looked back and smiled, laughed and kissed her.
“Dad – if you can hear me…I could be speaking to myself here – but whatever its worth the shot. I just want to apologize to you…I should have came to visit more often…”
“Did you hear that, Lydia?”
“Hear what? My heart beat?” She smiled.
“No…yes your heart beat. Its mine now, I won’t let you go.”
“I don’t want you to…but there is a light shining and it might be calling us home.”
“I am not ready…Lydia; I am not ready.”
“I know – neither am I but, together. Let’s stay together.” She lay her head on his chest and he embraced her in a protective way. But sometimes despite our most gallant attempts there is no way to stop the world from dictating its own plan and changing destiny. Sometimes the more we resist the more we are forced into a solitary confinement with no parole, no way to open the door. The warden is silent despite our screams, cries and banging for salvation. Silence. All we can do it bide our time, do what we can to keep our faith that this will all end one day and the our watching and waiting for salvation will arrive.Anthony looked up at the ceiling and smiled – if this was heaven he was OK with it. He was tired of waiting, tired of being alone. He looked away from the ceiling and felt the warmth from the sun and from Lydia as she lay sleeping in his arms.
EPILOGUE Lydia, Groucho, Anthony and a Dog Named Ike Chapter 12 – When the Dust Settles
There is a fading sense that comes upon us suddenly. Sort of like a song ending, a sunset over a lake after a long day outside or a storm that ends and leaves us with a cooler air and rays of sunlight to dry the dirt roads and the trees, bushes and grass. Decorations hanging by a thread with a sense of after glow.
The songs leaves us slowly but the words and music still echo.
The sun sets but the warmth of the day envelops us within its memory.
The storm once fueled by humidity and expressed with thunder and lightning has come and gone but the scents of the precipitation still hang in the air.
Death is something that will come traumatically to those who surround the dead. But the vanished still linger in spirit, in deeds, in the gentle or maybe not so gentle touches.
Lydia had watched the “Marx Brothers” her whole life. Groucho was the keeper though. She followed him on his TV shows and other appearances throughout his life.
She quoted him in jest, “I woke up and saw an elephant in my pajamas, how he fit into my pajamas I’ll never know.”
She named her dog Groucho when she brought him home from the her neighbor’s apartment – originally named “Patches” she changed his name to “Groucho” and the Yorkie took to it quickly.
Anthony had admired General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower when he was the supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe during World War II. Marie had surprised him with the Yorkie and he quickly dubbed him the “Supreme commander of the house.”
There two beds in the hospice in New York City – two people who were both considered terminal and were in comas. Each day children and grandchildren would visit each of the dying patients. They had become friendly the two families – friendly enough that over the month they were there, the Granddaughter and Grandson of each of the patients had fallen in love.
There was construction going on the same floor in the hospice. The knocking and banging though brief, could be irritating to the patients. In one bed the old man would squirm and had to be restrained. His son would play songs softly and talk to him.
“Crying, over you, Crying over you – Yes now your gone and from this moment on…” Roy Orbison
“Hey pop – you remember that song? You used to sing it in the shower all the time?”
Across from them an elderly lady was accompanied by her daughter singing to her, “Everyone says I love you…But just what they say it for I never knew. It’s just inviting trouble for the poor sucker who says I love you.”
The sun came up the next morning as the two were taken away and prepared for burial. They had each opened their eyes at the same moment let out what sounded like sighs of relief and were gone.
Somewhere there was a song ending, a storm clearing up and fading sunset while on another side of the world the opening beats to a song began, lightning was seen and thunder was heard with a golden sun rising right behind the rain.