3:1 ~ We Better Tell the Kids
I wasn’t totally lost in my thoughts. I thought about a lot of things after receiving news from a neurosurgeon that my tumor was inoperable. Foremost in my mind were my children, and how they would take this news. I waited a couple of days and then called my firstborn son, Bruce. I recalled how I met his father, and the disastrous events that followed.
I was still on probation after my stint in juvenile hall, but still, I hadn’t yet crossed certain lines. I met George as he sat in a turquoise ’57 Chevy parked across the street from the high school. My last class, math, had ended and all I wanted to do was get home and out of the hot sun. Math always gave me a headache. “Wanna ride?” he asked.
“Sure,” was all I said. And that was that.
He had dark hair combed straight back, just like my father’s. His thick lower lip gave him that Frank Sinatra appeal, like my father’s. He stood at an even six feet and was as thin as a piece of spaghetti. He could eat his way through a buffet line without gaining an ounce, just like my father. But that’s where the resemblance ended.
The year was 1967. Light My Fire, by The Doors was at the top of the music charts. I was just fifteen years old. My father, although he had his faults, wasn’t a convicted felon. My dad hadn’t stolen the car he was driving. He didn’t watch the game on televisions he acquired by breaking into other people’s homes. He had never finagled the driver’s side window of a friend’s car to gain access to a fine pumped up stereo system. And I’m quite sure my father’s crowd didn’t include gang bangers from East Los Angeles or pimps and prostitutes from South Central. George had done all these things and more. It just added to his James Dean image as far as I was concerned, though it wasn’t an image at all. He was the real deal. But still, he seemed like a nice enough guy to me, so at first I assumed he had paid his dues and his life of crime was over. Unfortunately, I was wrong about that.
My grades fell quickly. All I cared about was hanging out with George, cruising around, and meeting his friends. He was five years older than me and had graduated high school two years before.
One day I found myself sitting at a Formica table with one of George’s friends in the small dining area of his apartment. Slim was a tall, black, big hulk of a man. Five twenty-something white prostitutes sat next to each other on the dirty couch, like so many pieces of fruit rotting on a windowsill. A quick tap at the dingy white door of the apartment produced a short, sweaty man who looked like he came straight from his job at a car repair shop.
He stood, staring at the girls. His fingers fluttered near the pockets of his wrinkled, grease-stained khakis. He glanced towards Slim and then locked eyes on me. “I want that one.”
“She ain’t working,” Slim answered. I froze, glancing over at the girls. They stared back, hostility behind blank eyes.
“I said I want that one.” The man stared at Slim, daring him to refuse his request.
“And I said she ain’t working.” Slim’s hand slipped under the table. The man lifted his eyebrows. Holding up both of his hands, he backed towards the door. “This is bullshit,” he muttered. He turned and was gone.
A sigh escaped my lips and I smiled up at Slim. His brown eyes bore holes through mine. “You just lost me money,” he said. He could break me like a twig. Adrenaline began it’s voyage through my bloodstream and my heart thumped to the rhythm of a brand new idea. Men can hurt you and they should be feared. I glanced back over at the girls on the couch. The only sound in the room was our breathing. They watched Slim, their eyes wide. Yes, their eyes said, men should be feared.
Unfortunately, experience would reinforce this belief for many years to come. Only my relationship with Tom would bring with it the corrective experience needed to begin filling in the deep ruts of that well-traveled road. And I wouldn’t meet Tom for another thirty-two years. But in the meantime, I was about to get married for the very first time.
Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals. 1 Corinthians 15:33
Note: Although this relationship and subsequent marriage did not last, we produced a healthy baby boy when I was just 17 years old. By then, we had been married for 16 months but Don had already abandoned us. Because of our son, I never regretted this relationship and learned a lot from it. For our son’s sake, I tried for many years to find him. I never did. I always hoped and believed he would have grown up and matured, and wondered about his son. I finally found out that he died in 2003 of lung cancer. My present husband took me to his gravesite in Hood River, Oregon, where I snapped a photo of it with blossoming fruit trees and Mount Hood in the background. I sent the photo to our son. By that time, it had been 32 years since he had last seen his father for one short visit when he was two. “Wow,” was all he said.
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