by Bonnie Lass
Memories of a lost love.
Along came Tall, Dark, and Handsome. His name was Jacinto but often went by Jack. Jacinto was passionate, with a great sense of humor. He loved children and animals. He was a drummer and loved music. So charming, he could sell sand to the Arabs. He never met a stranger. He was over six feet tall with broad shoulders, and a chest that tapered down to the waist in a perfect V. There was a twinkle in his deep, dark dreamy eyes, and he had a mischievous grin. It was love at first sight. And miracle of miracles he fell for me, too. I left my family home to move in with him. Passion was his name and the two of us together were ferocious. We lived, loved, laughed and fought with an intensity that often seemed to contain a certain amount of fury in the mix. He could be cocky or subtle depending on the person or situation in his sights. He could be bold, disarming and a bit intimidating. Nothing scared him. He taught me many valuable life lessons and for that, I am thankful. One of the best lessons was if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. He was an expert. I learned from the best. He gave me a child and for that I am eternally grateful. Jacinto, along with a large portion of the population started dabbling with drugs. I could not see the road, his road and mine steadily declining. When he was good, he was very, very good, when he was not, he was a terror. Times the very good of him showed through became fewer and farther between. At eight months pregnant, he left me for another woman, a really beautiful woman. Tiffany was also a Pig. They were both doing drugs, and lived a horrible life. Dabbling became a dangerous addiction. She never stopped being jealous of me and did her best to make me miserable. She succeeded brilliantly. I did my very best to return fire on the enemy.|
My family had disowned me when I left with him. I hadn’t a clue about what I would do after he walked out the door. Enter his brother Benecio and sister-in-law Consuela. They had two kids. When they offered me a place to stay, I did not want to accept, and initially declined. I spent a week or so on the streets. The drummer kept telling me not to trust Consuela. But I had no choice. There was no place else to go. Had I not been pregnant, I would never have agreed. The drummer did not want me but did not want anyone else to have me. He had always treated me as if I was beautiful, even dedicating songs to me, and singing my praises. He’d cut out little love cartoons and mail them to me. And he did that although I would see him sooner than the mail might arrive. He bragged about me and how smart and beautiful I was. He made me promise to never cut my long blue-black hair. He liked to show me off. I never really believed it, but knew that in his eyes, I was beautiful. Somehow that all changed without warning. Suddenly, he was telling me that nobody else would ever want me. I believed him. He told me I would never love anyone else. I believed that as well. He told me that nobody else could ever love me. And I believed that. I ached but I believed all he said. He reminded me of my obligation to him as my daughter’s father. He was only corroborating what I already knew. They were his actions but I allowed it. The drummer seemed to be ever-present. He had become obsessive and demanded to know everything, questioned every detail of my life, every moment of my time. I often had to apologize when truly I had done nothing wrong. Sometimes I felt like I had to explain my every move. At times, I didn’t know how I was explaining, because I really didn’t know why there was need for an explanation, what called for one. He became extremely controlling and out of nowhere, demanded that I refrain from wearing lipstick. Reviewing this, tells me he just didn’t want anyone else looking my way. It was his insecurity. I would not have believed it at the time. I was sure he was certain that that nobody else could ever be attracted to me. I promised myself I would never let that happen again. I would not explain or apologize. I sort of went overboard with those notions. Nobody else would control me and no other man would lord over me. I would refuse to be interrogated, especially with no grounds. Harry did not know much of what had been me before he came along. Part of that was due to fierce pride. A lot was due to embarrassment. And some was that I thought he would turn and run. I mean this was Winston Harold Alexander, after all.
Reluctantly, I moved in with the couple. The house was too small for all of us. The kids were brats. Benecio and Consuela were Cuban as were most of their friends. Teresa and Tommy (a real jerk) were there a lot, along with their children. And they were all friends with Ralphie and Julie. I had a beautiful baby girl in December 1971. Consuela had a small home based day care which included my child. I paid her to watch my daughter in order for me to work. They entertained a lot, and it was very loud, very intense, crowded and full of drama. It would have been nice after working long hours to come home to some peace and quiet and maybe a little privacy. Still I was grateful for a roof over our heads.
Daddy had taught us to love boxing. I had a passion for Jail Alai, knew the game well and won 98 % of the time. Otherwise, I had no interest in card games, board games, or organized sports in general. They played lots of poker, cribbage, and pinochle in that house. I did not know how to play any of those games. Nor did I want to know. I just was not interested and they thought I was quite odd. That fierce competition was not part of my persona. They rubbed it in and that bothered me. Another of my short comings pointed out to me. You can only say ‘to each his own’ so many times. It made me feel inferior. I could feel a bit of contempt on their part. I have never understood why it was and sometime, still is so important. It was very clear that they scorned me and my lack of participation. They all gathered for sporting events. The only time I ever sat to watch sports was later after I met Harry because he wanted me by his side. He tried to explain it all to me, bless his heart. But I could never quite grasp it.
Every Thursday night after choir practice, there was a full house. Consuela’s sister Carmelita usually watched the kids until the adults returned home, or I got home from work, whichever came first. Many of the visitors were friends to me as well. I was always invited to stay and visit. Since I did not play any of the games, I put myself to use and played hostess instead. At least there was one thing I was good at. I made appetizers and other victuals, served coffee and chilled beer. I rarely ate and did not care for beer. They did offer me rum and Coke and I could handle that. But not very much of it. I was always a light weight. I have met men years later who called me a cheap date. All the running around I did on those nights neutralized the alcohol. Soon I was the hostess when there was any kind of get together. Connie gladly relinquished that role. Everybody loved my cooking, and my lead role. Dinner parties, especially were well received. We had many of those and they became very popular. It was great watching our friends enjoy the dishes I would present. I basked in the limelight.
I wanted my own place for my daughter and me. Benecio, Consuela and the crowd advised me against it. But someone for whom I did side work, made an offer on an apartment she owned for very low rent. And she loaned us beautiful mahogany furniture in every room of the apartment. Benecio and Consuela begged me not to go. He somehow thought I was moving so that his brother could move back in with me. Everybody always thought that would happen sooner or later, including me. And probably the drummer as well. There was no truth to it but he would not be convinced. I promised that I would continue with my hostess duties, and on the nights that they entertained at their home, we would sleep over to avoid having to wake and transport the baby on those late nights. A childhood friend named Jerry was the only one that offered to help me move. He became interested in me. Benecio and Consuela pitched a fit. Jerry wanted to marry me. He was so good to me and even better to my child. But the crowd, led by Ben and Consuela would not get off my back. I let them have too much influence in my life along the way. My land ladies also told me Jerry was not right for me. I don’t know how I let them push me into hurting a perfectly nice man who had done nothing wrong. And I have never known why they disliked him so much. But everybody seemed to agree. I thought they might be seeing something I did not see. So I broke up with him. I hurt him, and felt guilty. I still do.
The exterior of the apartment building was unremarkable. I wasn’t crazy about being on the second floor. The front stairs were off a main road, steep and dark, enclosed with no lights. The back stairs were multi leveled and rickety, unpainted and unlit. But once I entered, I fell in love. It was spacious with polished, hard wood floors. The dining area was huge with a fireplace. It was homey with many extra features. At the front of the apartment was a screened in porch with a café feel to it. The apartment was on Roland St., situated between West Tampa and South Tampa. I was still not on comfortable terms with my family, but at least we were speaking. Benecio. Consuela, and the gang started going out to Jai Alai, Movies, etc. I was always the fifth wheel, but it got me out of the house. I hated when Teresa and Tomy went along. She presented herself as a good, caring person, believably so. He was an obnoxious loud mouth, and a braggart. He always wanted to be in charge, always had to be the boss. He talked about poor Teresa behind her back and he carried tales to The Drummer about me. That cost me dearly.
Every time we went out, Ralph would follow me around with something important he had to say. He would follow me to the ladies room, and then Julie would see him returning to his seat just after I did. It became a regular thing, and somehow, even though I kept telling him to leave me alone, I got the blame for it all. Julie was convinced I was encouraging him and my friends thought I must be leading him on. Otherwise, why would he continue and why would he risk his wife’s ire and very possibly a divorce? They treated me with reproach although I really was totally innocent. Our friends expected me to apologize for causing problems in that marriage. They insisted every time. I refused to apologize when I had done nothing wrong. I had made that promise to myself. I finally abstained from going out with them and from going to their home if Ralph was going to be there. To tell the truth, I was frustrated and angry that he continued to put me in that position. And I was more than a little hurt and disappointed that my friends took Julie’s side. Too, I was expected to explain and apologize with no valid reason. Again. After promising myself that would not happen again, I could not avoid it.
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