by Bonnie Lass
Memories of a lost love
Harry had led a privileged life, and an interesting one. My thirsty brain and my hungry soul soaked it up like a sponge and I clamored for more. I was no slouch. I could keep up with him easily. He learned a thing or two from me, and he readily acknowledged that. He knew I was smart and he was the first man aside from Daddy to genuinely appreciate and value that. Jacinto had been proud of it, but was not in tune with it. Harry and I both loved knowledge and learning and we challenged and stimulated each other. Harry did not mind spending money on me and us while we were dating. But he never spent money on me or Cori. Never any flowers or candy. Not a single balloon. Nothing spent on either of us, specifically. Not that I really wanted him to do so; in fact, I probably would have discouraged it. It was incongruous to the way he did spend on our activities. I now know that can be attributed to wealth and Harry’s go big attitude. Back then it was inconsistency with the safety issues and not seeing me to and from the car. That and the spending were similar matters. As big a jerk as Jack could be, even when we were penniless, he would out of the blue, with no particular reason, bring me small gifts. On any given day, it might be a candy bar, a new type of razor for what he called my beautiful skin. He might have cut out an article or a cartoon to look at. They were very inexpensive, but so precious to me. They were tokens of his love. So thoughtful and romantic. Sometimes, it could be a little gift for the baby or a jar of baby food. Jerry had done the same. I gave to each of them in kind. I considered them to be little love offerings. It wasn’t the gift or the cost, it was the act of doing, the act of giving that made a difference. I associated that with love and romance. When I loved somebody, I wanted to spoil him in big and little ways. I missed that sorely. I was grateful for the wonderful, joyful times he provided. We went places I could never have gone, were it not for him. I knew that and appreciated it, but I would have gladly traded a night out on the town for a chocolate kiss or a single daisy. I never mentioned it to Harry. If you have to ask it sort of tarnishes the whole idea of it. And on the other hand, he really did treat me like a princess.|
The Alexander family was indeed well off. He told me his Dad was an important executive for Marriott, and when I asked what his Mom did, he told me she was a Dallas socialite. Wow! His Dad had gotten him in the door at Marriott, but it was up to him where he took it. He’d made manager of the Tampa office, one of the youngest ever. He was very proud of that and happy that he had pleased his father. He loved finding approval in his father’s eyes. It was clear he was going places. I was very proud of his accomplishments. They were important and impressive and they were part of who he was. I knew full well that it had been no easy task to rise in the ranks or to follow in those footsteps, even if he had made it look easy. I admired and respected that part of him and he knew that, but I would have been proud of him if he’d gotten promoted to street cleaner. He knew that too. He would have been just as diligent and faithful to that end. He would have approached it with the same vigor, the same excitement and the same commitment. And he would have been proud of his work and proud that he did it well, whatever it was. That was one of the best things about Harry.
Oh how Harry loved his family. I have never known any young man who was so proud of his parents or his kin. He showed respect and admiration for them always. He loved all of you with a depth that I have seldom seen. I am sure you know you were his favorite. He always smiled when thinking or speaking of his family, but his face took on a different look when it came to his sister. She meant the world to him. Sis held a special, warm place in his heart. He never said anything bad or negative about any of his clan. According to Harry, none of them had any faults. That made him even more appealing, albeit a little scary. That brand of love for family and the loyalty were and are uncommon and two of the most important traits to me. I would have hated to see anybody criticize any of them in his presence. It would not have been pretty.
He was a teller of tales, and regaled me with his wonderful stories. Once, in the darkness of just a single candle, my cigarette glowed in the dark. (Harry only smoked occasionally). He chuckled and told me about a girl he’d dated once. They got in far too late, so turned the car lights off before they got to the house. The girl did not have a key and they did not dare ring the bell. So, they pulled off socks and shoes and climbed in through a window. They’d giggled once inside, thinking they were home free. And, he was happy in knowing that he would not have to climb back out the window and over the shrubbery. The girl led Harry to the front door. That is when they saw it- the red glow of a cigarette. Mother was sitting in a chair facing the window and door. She’d silently watched the whole thing! We laughed and laughed until we cried.
The man had been all over and loved to tell me about some of those places almost as much as I loved listening. He talked about his home state of Texas. He was very proud of Texas and was glad to have been born and reared there. His pride was obvious. He spoke of California, Europe and even Florida. I don’t remember all the places he mentioned. Sometimes he apologized because I had never been anywhere. He thought it might seem like bragging or rubbing my nose in it. It was almost as if he felt guilty that he had been able to travel while I had not had the opportunity. I assured him there was no need for that, I did not take it that way and begged him to continue. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to hear all of it. His tales were so vivid, I could actually visualize the things he had seen. I traveled vicariously through him. The one place I most enjoyed hearing about was Colorado. And I believe it was the place he most enjoyed telling me about. When he spoke about that place, he was transported. His aura changed. It was mysterious and mystical when he talked about it. I always believed he might have had a spiritual experience or enlightenment of some sort in Colorado. And I was reminded of the glass elevator. That night when we flew among the stars in that black velvet canopy. Part of the reason he loved the John Denver song was his similar experience in the great state of Colorado. Because of his special connection to Colorado, I developed a connection of my own.
He told me I had to see it and experience it myself one day. He guaranteed that he would make that happen, no matter what. We’d go together and it would be a very private esoteric encounter. He thought maybe one day we might live there together. I wonder which part of the state he would have chosen for us. It seems I hear about Colorado on a daily basis, get pictures, images, and TV spots. I know they are reminders, subtle hints from him. My daughter has now spoken about moving there, although it has nothing to do with Harry. It is purely coincidental. I know without a doubt he wants me to go there, and I know I must go before I exit this lifetime. He has shown me. It seems to be an essential segment of my own spiritual path. Perhaps he is keeping his promise to me, to take me there by giving me those little “messages”. Those nudges, not always so gentle. Perhaps it is some ancient rite that we must follow to meet again. I look forward to it although the thought of it is enough to make my eyes water. I want to go and I fully expect that our spirits will reunite there. Maybe we can time it for the Perseids meteor shower. At the risk of sounding insane, he smiles about that, along with me.
We were good together, Harry and me. We fit together and complemented each other. He was totally in charge of his life and destiny, and as we meandered together, mine unfolded effortlessly. Things weren’t always perfect. That might have been too boring. For one thing, Harry was an unwilling yuppie. He was very down to earth in spite of his background. He felt more comfortable with the middle class. He was good with and to his employees and they loved him because he commiserated with them. Harry appreciated all he had, all his parents were able to offer. But he believed that he had been born into the wrong circumstances. He felt that he was supposed to be one of the working class. He yearned to be part of that world and that group. I knew his heart and this was very real to him. In spite of his background, he felt more comfortable with people who were low middle class to middle class. He embraced it. Unfortunately, Harry was not very realistic about it. He thought everybody would welcome him and admire him for wanting to be part of them, united with them. They would like and accept him based only on what and who he was. Their judgement would be based on Harry and not on the façade. He believed everyone would just think it was so cool and love him for it; that they would feel lucky to have someone like him in their lives, in their world. He thought they would feel a kinship because they could tell his intentions were true. His name was Winston Harold Alexander, but he chose to be called Harry. He said William was too common and too stodgy. He thought it was a tell-tale sign of his status. His status glowed like a neon bar sign, with or without the name. He just wanted so badly to be a regular Joe.
Unfortunately, not everyone shared his optimism. They were not excited by his feelings or his thoughts. They were not anxious for his attention. The have-nots will always be suspicious, fearful, and maybe a bit resentful of the haves. And rather than think it was beautiful, it made them a little more suspicious of a guy who wanted to jump out of the lap of luxury to become one with them. They all would have traded places in a heartbeat. I tried to help him navigate, ran interference for him, and sometimes was a bully on his behalf. I was under 5’3” and never over 100 pounds, but I could be scary if I had to be. Especially when it came to my daughter or him. Incidentally, Harry was the only man who never complained about me being too skinny. He often commented on how a little bitty princess could be so fierce and have such a lack of fear. He was in awe, I know, but it scared him a bit. He was fearful of my safety and well- being. The goal was to have these folks get to know him. Of course, they would like him, and they did after a while. He would soon be accepted into the group, with a little help, but he was still part of that other life that they envied. He had “well to do” imprinted on his person and they all had seen it. Harry felt slighted sometimes, and it hurt me. Shame on them. He told me a time or two that even I was not completely part of the group. I was too smart, independent, capable, and assertive. In a game of wits, I would beat them all, hands down. Perhaps he had a point. "One man (or woman) that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven't and don't."
George Bernard Shaw »
I often imagined that one day people might raise fists and start chanting Harry! Harry! As they did for Che when he entered the room. He wanted that same sort of connection to them and to their world. One thing of which I am certain is that he knew it mattered not what world he was part of, as long as he was part of mine
Like Evita, his thoughts were in earnest and his intentions were pure, albeit misdirected. He was noble and his heart was always in the right place. However, he had not taken into account that he had never walked a mile in their shoes, he’d never had to do so. We can imagine what grief feels like, but until we actually experience it, it is not real. To be honest, if he was required to wear those poor quality, uncomfortable boots, in order to join their ranks, surely he would have declined. Supposing he had accepted the challenge, how long would he have survived without his creature comforts. When would he say when? He would have given it his best shot, but I don’t believe he would have been able to hold onto that lifestyle indefinitely.
In spite of his claims of a connection with, and wanting to be part of the middle class and live that lifestyle, there were times when Harry’s love of extraneous pleasures would belie his assertion of his identity with the middle class working folk. He liked living in a nice place and having simple but nice things, including furnishings and clothing. I loved his mind and how it worked. He used knowledge, logic, common sense, business sense, and a bit of compassion thrown in, to make decisions. He knew that about himself. Once he made a decision, he was unlikely to rethink it. He would not argue or fight, he would just shut you down if there was any question about his decision. All of the above caused friction regarding my apartment. He did not love my apartment as I did. He did not care for the heavy, dark furniture. The warmth of hardwood floors, the fireplace did not impress him. True, a big part of that was his concern about safety and security. That was a big deal to him in all situations. He believed that I lived in an unsavory area. Truth be known, his apartment was on North 116th Street and I believe that his area was just as bad, if not worse. He hated the screened in porch at the front of my place, again because of the safety. He really worried about the baby with nothing to protect her but the screens, aside from the fact that he figured it was too easy to break into the apartment. I understood and appreciated his concern. But I adored it and wanted to make it look like a French café. Neither of us would use the front stair way, which was closed in, steep and dark. We had to pass the downstairs neighbors who were weird and nosy. They creeped us out. I wonder where his concern ended and something else began.
The back stairway made him fearful. He was afraid of me carrying the baby and her belongings up and down. “You could fall and both of you could get hurt”. I will always appreciate that he thought of and cared about her safety too. Many times when he questioned me, he’d say, “and what about the baby?” So because of his aversion to my home when we spent an evening in, it was usually at his place. It was a 30 minute drive to his apartment, and I had a baby to care for before and after a visit to his home. When I had to leave, Harry would beg me to stay. It would have been so easy to have agreed. Connie would have kept the baby. But I felt a strong sense of responsibility to Cori. And he needed to be aware of that. It explained me better but later on it would have a big impact on his life and our life together. I reminded him that if I was too late, I would not be able to take the baby home and would have to spend the night at Connie’s. Looking back now, maybe that was part of his intent. Still, I mentioned it to him, wanting a discussion. He answered that after careful consideration, he thought his home made more sense. I couldn’t understand his reasoning. His was newer, nicer, with carpet and central heat and air. His furniture, he thought was nicer and more modern. This man who longed to be living in middle class America almost came off as a snob. However, his was also a place far removed from the world, with quiet and peaceful solitude. That is the one thing with which I did agree. Jack could not come around at will. My family and friends would not go the distance to find us. They did have the address and phone number to reach me in case I was needed for my daughter. Had I not asked to give it, he would have insisted. There was no changing his mind. Once he used his famous line ‘after careful consideration’, I knew there was no point in pursuing it. Mouth set in that thin line, voice calm but with a touch more bass, firm and sure. That look of finality in his eyes was a challenge for me, but more often than not, I would acquiesce. I thought of it as a compromise. At least that is what I told myself. It was actually giving up and giving in. I would not have allowed myself to admit that, but that is what it was. He did not gloat. Ever. He simply would not do that. It would be bad form. But self-satisfaction could not always be masked.
Part of me wanted to stand my ground. I remembered what my mother said. Sometimes you have to go along to get along. And I simply did not want to fight or argue with Harry. I surely did not want to hurt or upset him. I could not risk losing him. Nor could I stand the thought of Harry being angry with me. I loved him so much. He was so good to me in so many ways. I could do that one thing for him. I gave Harry great latitude. He did not carefully consider the time, the drive or the gas I spent. Nor did he take into account me driving a long way, late at night by myself. He could have lightened my load, made it easier on me, and easier for us to spend time together. It was a bit hurtful and confusing. It did not fit in with his character. There was also some inconsistency with his safety concerns. He lived on the second floor and would wait on the terrace for me to pull up. I could see his smile even before I parked. And that still makes me smile. Then he would wait with the door open for me. I could not get in the door until Harry welcomed me in Harry fashion. If you have never been greeted by Harry, then you have missed out on one of life’s great pleasures. There was nothing like it before or since. He would wrap me in those big arms and make me feel loved and wanted and safe and secure. It was never a quick process. He took his time and held me tightly, sometimes lifting me off my feet and just standing there holding me. That was awesome. I can’t tell you how many times I would start running toward him on the landing. As I reached him, I would leap into his arms. He had no trouble catching me and I never doubted that he would catch and hold onto me. I’d giggle and he would chuckle. My legs wrapped around his waist and my hands clasped behind his neck, he would dance around the room and it felt to me like I had taken flight. I have never flown so lightly and highly again. I was like a feather in his arms and he pointed out that it felt like that to him as well. Oh the great fun we had, we often threw our heads back and laughed for no reason at all. We were just overjoyed so much of the time. Life was good and even at our relatively young age, we were smart enough to know how lucky we were and to show our gratitude. The fact remains however, that he never walked me to or from my car. That puzzled and bothered me a lot. Maybe it’s safe to say it irritated me a bit. But all in all we got along famously.
The first time Harry took me out for dinner, he told me about a girl he had dated. I believe he dated her just before we met. She was a model, tall and willowy. I was short, and very thin but always believed I was fat. (How Harry had laughed when I confessed that to him, that big boisterous laugh that came up from the depths of his belly). How could I possibly compete with her or the others like her? And oh yes, did I mention she was blonde and beautiful? She’d been very haughty and very spoiled. That was what he was used to. The Hauteur. I was completely opposite. How, I supposed did a wonderful man like Harry ever find any rapport with them? The first time he’d taken her to dinner, she’d ordered the largest, most expensive steak on the menu, along with appetizers, sides, etc. When the meal arrived, she had eaten 2 bites, then pushed her plate away. I supposed that women like her would find that acceptable, but I was shocked. It made me angry. “You’re kidding me. I can’t believe she would do that.” ‘Why not? I wouldn’t expect her to eat if she wasn’t hungry.’ I did not understand. What made them think this was acceptable? Surely, she knew her own appetite? Perhaps that was admissible in his world. My head shook side to side when he replied to my question that she had not at least taken home a doggie bag. The waste of food was worse than the waste of money “Well, I would never do that“. ‘You wouldn’t?’ he asked, then answered his own question. ‘No, you would never do that.’ He reached for my hand, and then kissed it. ‘You really are a princess.’ That became his pet name for me and that is how he treated me. He knew me so well and loved all he knew. He accepted me and understood me. And he always wanted to know more. I did not like talking about my life much; compared to his it was a bit dark and sad. He looked straight into my soul. He felt what was in my heart. And he not only loved me, he liked me just as I was. I felt the same about him. If I was his princess, he was my king. I treated him as such, because in my world he alone ruled.
I often have wondered if we would have grown any closer or drifted apart. It is wonderful to think of how it could have been for both of us. Parts of us would have lingered no matter what happened and, what we were would have remained a blissful memory. I chose to believe we would be together as one soul for eternity. There was no reason for disbelief. Teresa came over exceptionally happy one day shortly after that date. I waited anxiously for the “Harry Report.” “He says he is absolutely crazy about you.” It made me happy to hear it and happy to know he shared his feelings for me unashamedly, unapologetically. But it was not a news flash. I knew he was crazy for me, as I was for him. We always showed each other how much we cared for each other. We were very affectionate and loving in every thought, word, and deed. We both got lucky, and I felt blessed that he felt that same way. If I had never led a privileged life before, I had found my fortune. I had become rich beyond belief.
I always wondered how I was lucky enough to have a man of Harry’s stature in my life. I felt extremely fortunate. Lacking confidence, I allowed my insecurity to take hold. In those times I would ask myself how a man like him could want to be with me. What could he possibly see in me? How long before he dumped me for one of those model types? They were, after all, to what he had been accustomed. Why would he welcome me into his world? There were many times I would express those doubts to him, and it always made him sad. He shook his head at me a lot. Sometimes, he would hang his head and look at the floor. Often, his head would hang down while his eyes looked up at me. And there were the times he would pull me up, hold me in his arms and tell me what a silly girl I was. He asked questions. Why did I continue to feel that way? Didn’t I know how much I meant to him? Was he doing something wrong or leaving something out that caused me to have those concerns? How odd that he felt the same in reverse about me. Many of those times he would say I was top drawer, and that would make me shake my head. He would say he was the lucky one and wonder how I could love him as I did. He would say those girls couldn’t hold a candle to me. He thought that I could have any man I wanted and that he worried about that here and there. He had made it perfectly clear that he was not the jealous type, but there were small signs of that trait in him. It would show in his eyes. I never acknowledged it, because I knew it would bother him to know it showed. It would hurt me deeply to see him feel insecure and worried, even sad. He thought I might leave him. He actually thought I was beautiful, although I could not understand why. He loved my face, my hair, my brain and my body. He loved what a good mother I was, how I loved my daughter. He liked the way I dressed and talked and cooked. He loved my compassion and loyalty. My sensibility along with my sense of humor appealed to him. He found it attractive that I could debate without fighting. I laid things out in a way that was becoming to him. And he loved my sense of social and individual justice. It was okay that I got fired up here and there, that was a plus to him. And he loved how fearless I was, although it worried him sometimes. He went on and on trying to convince me of how close to perfect I really was, and how sad he was that I did not know it. He knew he would have to work harder to have me see me in his eyes. He wanted me to see and feel the way he saw me. I knew I had won the grand prize, but he insisted the grand prize was me. I was his princess.
One night when we’d gone out, I caught a glimpse of The Drummer. I kept my silence. Two nights later I walked into a convenience store. The Drummer and The Pig followed me in. Not a word was spoken. He was just reminding me that he was still around. Harry and I had talked at length about his life and his past. When the subject of my past had come up, I had hedged, evaded and avoided. It was time for me to tell him and possibly forewarn him. It was scary, because I knew he might not want to deal with it I also knew he would not like that I had waited so long to tell him. I realize that a small part of it was that he would see it as a lack of trust. Oh my God what if he leaves me? Please don’t let him go away. But I could not keep it from Harry. I had to be fair to him, no matter the cost. Trembling and stuttering, I told him most of it, but not all. I was a very private person, and still am. Also, I was in great fear of him knowing the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I was focused on making him aware of The Drummer and how disturbed that man had become. I was not scared of him really, but other people were. A shadow of doubt appeared on Harry’s face, then vanished instantly. But it had been there, I had seen it. I could never unsee it. When he tried to assure me that it was no big deal, I couldn’t help thinking and worrying that it very well could be. I was scared for him, as well as for us. I should have known that Harry could hold his own and he and I both knew his capabilities. Harry did not fear the Drummer and did not want to think about it unless he had to. He would wait until he had to cross that bridge. I hope he knew it was my fear of what I had known, and not a doubt about him, because I knew he could and would do whatever it took if the time ever came. Knowing Harry as I did, I knew he would just put it out of his mind, but all The Drummer had to do was make one of his infamous scenes. The man I was dating came from another world. He’d been accustomed to dating models and debs. I did not believe he could or should have to handle something like that and knew he wouldn’t want to. Truthfully, that bothered me. Strange, too, knowing that he was ultra- safety conscious. He lectured me-often about my personal safety, or rather not taking enough interest in it. When we went out, Harry always walked me to and from the car, and opened the doors for me. He always proffered his hand. That was probably at least as much good form as caution. It seemed confusing to me that form and caution did not always apply. When I visited him, the rules changed. It puzzled and annoyed me slightly.
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