by Bonnie Lass
Memories of a lost love
Harry told me his parents were going on vacation for two weeks. They were headed to Tahiti. That had been my happy place for a long time. I wanted desperately to go there and had imagined being there on many long sleepless nights. That is when I realized just how well off his family was. If I had thought they were from another world, I thought then they were from another planet. How could I ever make that transition? They might have trouble accepting a foreigner but what about an alien? Panic set in. I began running again, at least mentally. Yet I could not walk away. I had to take the chance. Once I’d accepted the way I felt about Harry and how he felt about me. I could not imagine him not being in my life. I never wanted to be away from him. He was my happiness. Jack had been my first love and my first choice. I would have loved to have fulfilled our commitment and kept our vows but it was time to face the facts, and know that was not likely to happen anyway, with or without Harry. How lucky I was to have found Harry and love again! A different kind of love, but love, nonetheless. Better, sweeter, deeper. We were a good match and we and everybody else knew it. What we were was and is so rare. Harry taught me how to love again, how to believe again. He was a dream come true. It suddenly did not seem so foolish to dream after all. Nobody ever touched me like Harry. Physically, emotionally, mentally. I came alive with him. He restored my faith and hope. I knew him and trusted him. I would have to somehow let go of the fear and the past. But I would not go back. I would not, could not even think of living without Winston Harold Alexander. I would never go back to the lonely existence I’d known before him. I could not bear that pain. The thought and process of letting go, started getting easier. And I knew in the end, my choice would always be Harry, my sweet love. He was the obvious choice, the best choice, and the only choice for me. If a decision was really needed, there could not, would not be any other. The love I felt for Harry would sometimes grip my heart so strongly that it was excruciating in a delicious sort of way. The lack of oxygen was dizzying. When I couldn’t breathe, Harry would breathe for me.|
After knowing him and his love, after allowing myself to love anew, fate could not be so cruel as to snatch it all away, again. No, that could not possibly happen. Life could not possibly be that unfair. It made no sense hanging onto old baggage. I could let go of the negativity, after all. I wanted to be free to grasp and experience the joy that was meant for Harry, for me and for my daughter. They both deserved it, and so did I. I began pretending again that Jacinto did not exist. Each time he came into my mind, I forced him out. I became quite good at it. When I became too confidant, however, he would drive by or call me. It was never too much, he never went beyond that imaginary line. It was just enough to keep memory, feeling, and hope alive. Regardless of how adept I became at blocking him out, no matter how content I was, there was always that little dull, throbbing pain somehow, down deep. But I knew in the deep abysmal recesses of my heart and mind that the future with Harry and the love we would share far outweighed the past or anyone in it.
It did not then, nor will it ever make sense to me. When I saw or heard from Jack, it turned to a sharp, burning, twisting pain. That, I was never able to shed. Even now that he has passed and I rarely hear his name, there are enough reminders to last a life time. And so many times, when I am happy, when I succeed, I want to share it with him. When my heart breaks, when life is just too unfair, I long to bury my face in that curly, hairy chest of his. There are still times I want to talk to Jacinto, because he will know what to do. I do talk to him often and sometimes, I swear he answers. It is just not the same from his heavenly plane. But I know he applauds me for my successes, comforts me in sadness and he is happy when I am happy
Harry made me happier than I ever imagined I could be. What we felt and shared was beyond imagination. The aching became almost imperceptible. I am quite sure Harry and I could have led a full, satisfying life, a happy life. The temptation to run sometimes was overwhelming. But aside from the obvious, I had grown a lot in many ways. I grew up and grew old loving Harry. The fear was not as real as it had been. I thought of Jerry. Poor guy. I had run away from him and lived to regret it, because I had hurt him with no good reason. I had handled that badly. I did not want to make the same mistake. It’s taken a long time to realize that with Harry, I was in the same spot Jerry had been in with me. Harry’s living, social and financial status was a few rungs higher than mine. His goals and aspirations left mine looking pretty lame. Those differences, although reversed were what had come between Jerry and me, along with outside influences. Now they threatened Harry and me. I would not go for it. As I think back, I did not show Jerry enough admiration or respect. I was coached, and goaded, but regardless, he surely had felt as I felt. Yet he had been willing to stand his ground to do his damnedest to make it work. He was able to look past what I should have. I wish I could explain to him and tell him how sorry I am and always have been. I did not do as well as Jerry. Instead of anxiously anticipating the upward move, I wondered if I was entitled to go there. I was full of worry and self-doubt. There was a problem with acceptance and loads of guilt. I could accept, relax and enjoy the present with Harry. And I truly did. The future was another story; a chink in my armor.
Harry approached me with the news that he was going on vacation to Dallas. He’d be gone for a week. I was very disappointed and knew how terribly I would miss him. I never met before or since a man who loved and honored his parents and family, the way he did. I wanted him to go home and have fun with friends and to spend time with his family, just as long as he did not have to be gone. “Oh, please don’t look like that. It’s only a week,” ‘I know and I want you to go. I want you to have fun. Really it’s just that I will miss you so.’ “I’ll call you.” ‘No. It’s too expensive.’ “I can afford it Bonita. I’m not worried about that.” ‘I am. Save your money.’ Silly me. That was a mistake. A big one. I still didn’t understand having money. I could not grasp it. In my world, we thought long and hard about making a long distance call. And if we did, it was Sunday evening, after 6PM. We kept the call short as possible. To be fair, I now realize that he could not understand the way in which I thought about long distance. He had never had to worry about conserving as I had. But I am confident that he knew my intentions were good. At least I hope he did. I did not understand having money and he did not understand not having it. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” ‘Really Harry?’ How trite, I thought. “Yes and I have heard that separations are good. It’s time for thinking with our heads, for cooling off and reflecting. Also a good test of feelings.’ I passed on the opportunity to remind him what had happened the last time we had tried a cooling off period. “Sounds good, anyway.” It seemed that he was reading my mind. He got that look that was one of the reasons I loved him. It was as if he lowered his head while looking up at me. Almost a bashful, questioning look. ‘Yeah this will be good for us. Just don’t pick up any stewardesses (as they were called back then) or models.’ “I won’t even be looking. Sure you don’t want me to call? “I lied and said ‘Yes. Just think about me’.” Oh I will, believe me. You know I’m going to miss you too.” ‘You could write.’ “I won’t say yes and then not do it. By the time I did, I’d already be back.” He was honest and so it was easy to trust him. “Hey, how about a post card?” he sounded so cheerful at that thought. ‘Oh yes, that would be really nice.’
As the hours ticked by, I became more insecure and sullen. “Harry, you are coming back, aren’t you?” ‘Of course I am. He held out his arms and said, come here, you silly girl. As he wrapped his arms around me, he continued ‘Do you really think I could walk away without a word, without a second thought? You must be confusing me with someone you used to know. I bit my tongue. That comment was not missed, just ignored. I want to come back. There is you and our friends. And you. I have an apartment and a job here. Remember? I’ll be back. I promise you.’ No Harry would not let go and he certainly would not walk away without a word. I have heard those words in my head for four decades. Writing this and remembering, it is farcical, and bitter sweet.
I wanted to drive him to the airport, but he would not hear of it. He did call me from there. “What’s your address? For the postcard.” ‘Do you have a pen and paper?’ “No, I’ll remember it.” ‘Okay, it’s 3205 Leon St. I miss you already.’ “I’ll be back before you know it. I’ve got to go. See you in a week. I love you.” ‘I love you too. Have fun.’ That call made me feel a bit better, but to tell the truth, I told myself that I’d believe he was coming back when I saw him, when I could touch him.’ I was trying to protect my heart, and in so doing, pulled back a little of it and would just not think about any future happiness with him. He was right. I was a silly girl.
Something was amiss at Connie’s house. Nothing in particular was obvious. But the tension was thick enough to slice. After work I was running in, grabbing my daughter and our things as quickly as possible and nobody complained about that, which was also strange. We went home to an empty apartment. We did not even have a TV, although we had a record player. While Cori was up and playing it wasn’t bad. I loved being with her and watching her grow and develop. It was fun. She took my mind away from things. I often thought if I had it to do over, I might have named her Joy. Once she went down for the night, the unbearable loneliness kicked in and my mind was working overtime. A good portion of my over thinking was total nonsense. Mostly reasons to assume Harry would not come back, or worse, would come back but not want me anymore. I could just hear him saying he was sorry but had run into someone he used to date and well… At other times, the opposite would slip in and shake me up., What if he came back and wanted something I was not yet ready to give. It got worse as three, then four days went by without a call. I had kinda hoped he would do it anyway. Of course, that was my own fault. But the postcard never came either and I cried bitter tears over it. See? He’d forgotten about me. He wasn’t even thinking about me. Going home probably made the difference in our castes very real to him. He probably thought I would not fit in. Maybe he was thinking he could do so much better than me. Good. I didn’t need him either. I’d show him a thing or three. I had seriously kept to home waiting to hear from him. But I would not continue to put my daughter and me on hold. I’d done that before and did not want to do it again. Look what it had gotten me. My mind went in many different directions all at once. And I began trying to convince myself that he really did not love me. If I could make myself believe that, somehow it might not hurt as badly when the time came. I couldn’t really go out; I had no sitter,
Consuela was not approachable as she had once been. There was no money. And besides, I really did not want to. I would put that sweet child in the car and we would go for long drives, listening to the car radio. It helped Cori sleep at the very least.
One of those nights, I had just managed to doze off, when the telephone rang, startling me. My heart was pounding as I reached for it, thinking it would be Harry. Instead, it was Jacinto. Just what I needed in the state in which I’d put myself. How true to course our lives were running. He wanted to know where I had been until so late. Where was the baby? Were we with the boyfriend? Oh how I wished. “No, we were not, but it is too late and I am too tired for this shit. What do you want?” ‘Look, I know this guy is rich and can provide a good life for you and Corinna. Part of me says I should be glad and just let you go.’ “But you won’t? ‘No, I can’t. I might not have money, but I love you. He will never love you like me. Nobody will.’ “Thank God.” ’Do you have to be a smart ass? I am trying to talk to you. ‘“Yes Jacinto, I have to. You came along and filled my head and my heart with wild ideas, longing and hoping, dreams and building castles. You keep telling me how much you love me, yet you live with another woman. When I exert a little pressure on you, you tell me you love her and can’t leave her. I can’t believe in you or your fantasies any longer. When are you going to see how ludicrous this all is?” ‘Never. But for once, this is not about me, it’s about you. And you don’t love him like you love me, either.’ “Oh you think?” ‘I know. Don’t you want what you once had” “Maybe not. Look what it got me. Maybe it’s time to try something else. Maybe I just want a quiet life with a good, sane man who happens to love me.” ‘You’re settling. I never, ever thought you’d do that. But if you can live with that, it’s okay. I just don’t think you can. ‘“Did you think I would sit around crying over you the rest of my life?” ‘No. Something better. Something more.’ “And what if I lose him and something like that never comes along again?” I wasn’t sure where he was going with it. I think now, he was sure he could change and win me back. It makes sense. He was still hoping that he and I would end up together, no matter what happened in the time leading to that end. ‘It will. Believe me. But if it doesn’t, you can live without it. Can you live with less? I don’t think so.’ “I’ve already told you we haven’t even thought about that.” ‘Sure you have. You’ve thought about it a lot. It must seem pretty appealing to you from where you are.’ “You’re so sure of yourself.” ‘No but I am sure of you. I know you. I know how you think.’ “How dare you presume you know what I think or feel? Considering all you have done, that cannot be. I think this is just another one of your cons. You just don’t want to let go. You want to keep me around. You don’t want me but you don’t want anybody else to have me. You really don’t want me to be happy with somebody else.” ‘All that may be true, but that is not what this is about.’ “You listen to me you audacious son of a bitch. Harry loves me and I love him. Got it?” ‘Yeah but you’re not in love with him. I think you are making a big mistake.’ “Well it can’t be any worse than the one I already made.” ‘Sure it can. At least we were in love. However it turns out, at least we had that. If you go through with this, you’ll end up being sorry. It’ll kill you. That is what I am trying to stop.’ “It’s not your choice Jack. When you were in my life you controlled the direction it took. Now you don’t. I am on my own, thanks to you and I decide on my own. You just have to stand back and let me.” ‘You’re not going to listen to me?’ “No Jacinto, not this time.” ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ “I won’t.” ‘I am sorry Rita. Really truly sorry.’ “Don’t be. There is no need“.
I hung up on him, quaking with anger, and frustration. At the same time, a satisfied grin came to my lips. He was sorry for what he had done, and sorry I wouldn’t listen to him, sorry for the impending disaster he imagined. He was sorry for the love he was sure I would miss. And he was sorry for leading me to that point. There had been concern for our daughter and me. He cared enough to call and try to warn me. To be sure, his motives were mostly selfish, but I knew he still loved us. Enough to try to keep us from harm. Enough to try to keep us close to him. He was right. I would never love anybody the way I loved him. And I was pretty sure nobody would ever love me like he had. It was very sad for me. And maybe one or the other or both was possible. But to love and be loved like that, to have what we had, not likely. As he had pointed out so long ago, that was a once in a lifetime thing. Most people don’t even have it once. To tell the truth, I believe what he said. I believe he meant it all. And I believe it was one of those rare occasions of lucidity and clarity that I had not seen in a long time. He never denied anything I said to or about him. I look back over the words of that conversation and I truly believe he did not want me to live with less than we had had. He had thought about it and hurt about it and he was desperate for me to hear. Do I think it was all selfless? Not at all, but I believe he was as sincere as he could be. There was almost some delight in his hurting and his pleading. Perhaps it is natural to want someone you once loved with your entire being to feel remorse and to say he still loves you, and wants you. They say revenge is sweet. I did not really want revenge, but the feeling was sweet nonetheless.
Jacks’s timing on the call was either impeccable or atrocious, depending how you looked at it. Had he called the week before, I probably would have reacted differently. Harry was gone. I was feeling lonely and unloved. My insecurities wreaked havoc. I was beginning to believe again that if I let my guard down, if I tore down my own walls, toss caution to the wind, I would be hurt again. Maybe Harry didn’t really love me. The instinct to run was gaining momentum. But I knew I really would not be able to do that. It would be possible however to distance myself physically and emotionally. With everything going on at Connie’s house, I really did not have anyone to talk to, and the negative thoughts festered. Fate. Had Jack not called or had he called at a different time, had things been different at the house it would not have fazed me. If Teresa walked in and given me one of her Harry reports, assuring me that he was crazy about me, I think it would have been fine. It was all happening at once and the clouds were dark and heavy. One of the theories Jack and I shared came to mind. We believed strongly that a minor detail or a series of seemingly trivial incidents could alter a person’s destiny or put one out of sync. It’s easy to see and believe as I write, this very thing happening time and time again. Easy to pin point. If only I had been able to do that with Jacinto and re-identify the exact moment, the event or series of events that caused our slipping out of time. If only I could have done it back then. I am not sure destiny could be set back on track without the aid of a time machine. Of course, that would have created yet another set of problems. Changing one thing would change everything. One thing I have never doubted; Jacinto and I were meant to travel at least part of this journey together. I knew it then and I know it now. And that connection is still strong. We had a single love, a single life and there was never a question or a doubt From the moment we had met, both Harry and I had expressed our belief that we were one another’s destiny and that fate had brought us together. It is a belief I cling to. We were meant to be. It is wonderful to know that he agreed. For a man like Harry to believe and accept that whole philosophy was phenomenal. One would not have expected it. His belief and acknowledgement was a bit disarming. This was sensible, staid Harry Alexander. Harry, the business man with the sharp, quick mind. Right brained Harry that believed in logic, math, and science. It turns out those were only pieces of his many facets. He believed in fate, destiny, magic, and flying with no wings. I was impressed with him even more and I fell in love with him all over again. He was a warrior, a knight, my king, and love itself. There was still so much left to explore in those soulful eyes.
That was before he left. I did not know precisely when Harry would return. I had not heard from him in a week, no call, no postcard. He obviously hadn’t thought too much about me; couldn’t be bothered to keep his word to me. Hey, he probably wouldn’t even call when he got back. Worse, he would call to say he had had a change of heart. I knew I should not have let myself love him, or trust him. Well, he had another thing coming. I’d not sit around waiting. That is what I told myself. More truthfully, I was avoiding the disappointment I was sure would come. No call at all or a call to dump me? I did not purposely avoid him. Neither did I make myself easily available. If he did call just to call, let him see how it felt. Let him worry and wonder as I had.
Two more days went by. Surely, he was back by now. Temptation to call him was strong. Many times, I started dialing his number, then place or slam the receiver back in its cradle. In addition to all the other stuff, so much was just my foolish pride. Late on the third night, I climbed the back stairs, dead tired. After putting my daughter to bed, I made myself coffee, and sat on the edge of the bed to undress. I glanced over and there on my pillow, perfectly centered was a white business card. In neat, black little letters, it read, ‘See? Anybody can come in. You really should lock your doors.’ written on its back. I knew who’d left it, before turning it over. It was one of Harry’s personal business cards. It was good quality stock, of course. After staring at the card for a bit, I picked up the phone and dialed his number, although it was quite late. Harry would remind me over and over about how unsafe it was leaving doors unlocked for me and the baby. And of course, there was always the matter of the stairs.
He answered. “Hello.” ‘You’re back!’ “I’ve been back. For two days.” ‘Why didn’t you let me know?’ “I would have if you were ever available for my calls. I guess you have kept yourself pretty busy.” It was late and he surely had worn himself out in Dallas, perhaps accounting for his mood and tone. ‘How was your trip?’ “Great. What have you been up to while I was gone?” ‘Oh you know the same old thing. As you said, keeping busy.’ “Uh huh.” ‘Well it doesn’t sound like you really want to talk, so why don’t we just say goodnight?’ “No, I wanna talk. I’ve wanted to talk to you since I got back. Unfortunately, I could not reach you.” ‘Well Harry, I wanted to talk to you too, but what was I supposed to do? Sit around and wait for your call?’ “No. No, of course not. I did, however, think maybe you might be around when I got in, knowing I would call, knowing I would want to talk to you. I thought you would be as anxious as I. You could have been around some on that first night. It seems you could not make that small effort. Or perhaps, you could not take time out of your busy schedule.” His voice had a nasty edge.
Slowly, it finally dawned on me what was eating at him. He had, indeed, been worrying and wondering about where I had been, what I’d been doing, and with whom. Wondering and worrying that I had been avoiding him. So much for cooling off. Again. ‘That would have been difficult since I did not know exactly when you would be home. For all I knew you could still be in Texas, and when I did not hear from you…’ “Didn’t I tell you? Oh. No, I didn’t. It was just so frustrating and to tell the truth, my feelings were kind of hurt. I was so looking forward to seeing you; kept thinking about it all the way home. Then, not being able to track you down, I finally got in the car and drove to your apartment, hoping you’d be there. But even though it was late, you weren’t.” ‘Still, you came in?’ “Yeah does that bother you?” ‘No, but it surprised me.’ “Me, too. Just an impulse.” ‘Thank you for the card and the message. I’m sorry I missed you.’ Boy, had I been wrong. I was an over thinking idiot. He had wanted to see me. “Are you?” ‘Yes. Look, I have a hectic life and a busy schedule. You know that. And, honestly, it was just too lonely, cooped up in this apartment, and way too boring without you.’ “Yeah?” ‘Yeah.’ “I really would love to see you. Why don’t you come on over?” ‘I’d like nothing better, but I can’t. It’s late and the baby is asleep already.’ He asked after her welfare, as he always did. On this one subject, my daughter, Harry never interfered and was mindful of her schedule and her needs as well. It would have been nice if he had offered to come to me, but he did not. That bothered me. A lot. “Oh? When, then?” The tone was back. ‘How about tomorrow night?’ “Great! About 7:30?” ‘All right.’ “Okay, then, I’ll see you tomorrow.” ‘Yes. And Harry? Welcome back.’ “Thanks, goodnight.” ‘Goodnight.’ Much as I did not like the tone or the fact that he had felt hurt, I wish he had been that honest and straight forward later down the line.
The Big Texan was waiting anxiously for me the next night. Both arms went around me as he kicked the door shut. We stood there for a long, long time, just holding each other. In those precious moments, I was convinced that he did truly love me. Doubts began to fade. I wanted to let them all go, but knew I should not. We sat in our spot, quietly, just being together. Finally, I spoke. “So tell me, how was your trip? Fill me in.” ‘Oh, it was great.’ Harry told me all about seeing his family and old friends, going out doing the town. “You did have a good time, didn’t you?” ‘Yes, but toward the end, I couldn’t wait to get back. You know, I really like my job. Missed it and the people there. I missed my friends. And you. I really missed you.’ He leaned over and kissed me tenderly. “That’s nice, but you couldn’t have missed me too much.’ He looked shocked. “It’s okay. You were having fun, seeing people and probably running around like crazy. You couldn’t have thought about us very much.” ‘Why would you say such a thing?’ “I didn’t even hear from you.” ‘You told me not to call, remember?’ Yes, I thought to myself, but you could have at least tried. “Uh huh.” ‘I sent you a post card.’ “No you didn’t.” He sat up. ‘Yes, I did. The second day.’ “Well, I didn’t get one.” ‘Rita, I sent you one.’ He stood, strode over to the desk and picked up a piece of paper. ‘Soon as I got on the plane, I wrote down your address and carried it with me until I could send it. Then, it got carried with me anyway.’ The full impact of that statement never hit me until now. He was carrying a reminder of me with him the whole time. Why, oh why did it not dawn on me then? How I wish I had that little piece of his love for me. ‘Here, look.’ He handed me the square piece of paper with an address on it. “Harry, this is the wrong address.” ‘No, it’s the one you gave me.’ “You transposed. It’s 3205, not 3502.” ‘Oh man. No wonder you thought…I am so sorry.” It was obvious that he was sincere. “It’s okay, at least I know you tried.” ‘I stood there, trying to pick out the perfect postcard for you, one you’d really like, I chose Dallas at night.’ “I would have liked that. Thank you.” The image of that big businessman combing through postcards makes me smile to this day. So unlike him, it was a testament of love. The enormity of that did not completely sink in. That is quite possibly where my postcard collection started. At the least, it formed the idea in the back of my mind. ‘I did think about you. And talk about you. A lot.’ “You did?” ‘Yes, I did.’ “Awww Babe,” If I wasn’t very careful, this man, this good, good man would blast right through all my reserves. Without any effort, instead, they began to dissipate slowly, but surely.
‘Okay, you’ve heard all about my week, tell me all about yours.’ ‘Same ole thing. Nothing special.” ‘What did you do to occupy yourself?’ “Nothing much.” That big man laughed right out loud, and I asked what was so funny. ‘Rita, you are never home. You are not at Connie’s much anymore. I can’t track you down for days. You did nothing?’ ”I kept busy. I always do. It was just routine. Really nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary.” ‘Hmmm what is going on with you and Consuela I asked Teresa, but she said she has not noticed anything different.’ She was not the brightest crayon in the box but how could she have not noticed? “It’s not us, it’s them.” ‘Them?’ “Ben and Connie. I am not even sure what it is.” ‘A lot of fighting?’ “No, that is the strange part. It’s nothing you can put a finger on. It’s just soo tense. I think they are just very unhappy. But it is awfully uncomfortable there right now.” ‘I am sorry to hear that. I like them and the open house thing they’ve got going on. And I know this has to be hard on you. It’s a shame when things like this happen. ‘“Yeah. I just get in and out of there as quickly as possible now.” ‘Well, one good thing about it.’ “What’s that?” ‘You’ll have more time for me now. At least I hope you will.’ ”Sounds good to me.” ‘You know, I really did miss you.’ “I missed you too, Harry” ‘I’m glad to hear that ---finally.’ “What do you mean finally?” ‘I’ve told you several times that I thought about you and missed you. You have not done the same.’ “I did miss you, but I tried not to think about you.” ‘Oh?’ “I wanted to see what would happen with time and distance. A cooling off period, (the one he had suggested, for the second time), and…” ‘And what?’ “Never mind.” ‘No, tell me. What?’ “Well when I didn’t hear from you, I thought maybe you had changed your mind.” ‘Why would I do that?’ “Oh I don’t know. Maybe once you got away, you’d feel differently. Once you re visited your old life and your old friends. Who knows, maybe you ran into an old girlfriend from that other world and decided that is what you wanted, and where you wanted to be after all.” ‘That’s what you’ve been thinking, huh?’ “It crossed my mind.” ‘I see. Where am I? I’m here with you, that’s where. This is where I want to be. I love you. I’m not ready to talk forever yet. You know that. But I am where I want to be and with whom I want to be. I’m quite content, and I don’t see me making any changes. Unless, of course, you make that choice.’ “I won’t.” ‘I love you.’ “I love you too, Babe. I really do love you.” ‘Rita, don’t you think I know that?’ Do You? ‘I do. I really do.’
There was a night soon after when we sat in his apartment, listening to music. My head was on his shoulder and my feet tucked up under me. Harry had his long legs stretched out in front of him, one arm around me the other elbow on the seat of the sofa. His touches had been so soft and tender that evening, almost imperceptible. He looked far away and he was twisting his hair. That was a sure sign that he had something on his mind. And it was my cue to be silent and wait. He sort of cleared his throat a little, unusual for this straight shooter. Harry, said “I really did talk about you while I was away”. ‘You did?’ “Yeah everybody noticed something different about me. But I really liked talking to my sister about you the best. You know I’ve always felt very close to her and I know I can talk to her. One of the things I really like about her is that she is non-judgmental. And there is no ruse about her. Nor does she repeat. She does not gossip or carry tales. She is a cut above most women and I trust her and her instincts”. I nodded.
Harry told me that his sister and he had shared a special moment. The two of them sat alone together, no one else around. She looked at him for a few moments, cocking her head and asked, ‘Well who is she?’ He said he could not stop smiling while he told her all about me. He told her he had never met anybody like me before. And that there was always something new. When she asked if he was thinking of marriage he answered. “Not right now, but yeah I think so. I haven’t quite made the commitment but I know it is coming and it will be good and right”. He confided that there were some issues, but he would not share them with me as he repeated the conversation. ”But she makes me so happy, really and truly happy, and happier than I have ever been”. Sister said she must, you have not stopped smiling since you got here and every time she comes up you get that silly grin. He recalled that she told him that I must be very special and he replied. “She is, and I will never find another one like her. I don’t even want to. I don’t even look anymore. She is it. The one. She is a princess. Not an ordinary, run of the mill princess, a real true life princess. And she is MY princess. You’ll understand once you meet her.” ‘When will that be’? “I am not sure, but soon”. When she asked if I felt the same, if I loved him, he responded with a simple yes. The thought of him being so sure makes me very happy. Harry’s sister said she couldn’t wait to meet this girl that had made her brother so happy. He knew whatever happened, his happiness was all that mattered to her and that she could tell he really was happy. He was somehow different to her. His sis offered to support him and me. I don’t know if she remembers that, but thank her. I am glad Harry had someone to confide in and to love him unconditionally. I am glad he could open up to her and share that moment of vulnerability. She was his sister, his friend and his confidante. I hope she had an understanding of how deeply he loved and completely trusted her.
We settled into a way of life that was incredibly wonderful. There was no grand passion, no mad desire to be together not really any impulsiveness. But there was no fighting, no lying, and no crying, except for tears of joy that came from out of the blue at times. There was just contentment and enjoyment being together as a couple. There was calm and peace. It was so delightfully different and it was totally satisfying. I‘d never known love or life like that before. There had been fear of the unknown in the beginning. But I came to relish that time and all that went with it. Life took on a different quality. The song was the same but the melody was different, mellow and soothing. Jacinto had been Saturday Night Fever; Harry was A Sunday Kind of Love.
Two ordinary lives found each other and then found a fairy tale. We stumbled and tumbled into it gladly. This was going to work out, somehow, and we were going to have a beautiful life together. I didn’t just love him anymore, I was in love with him, and I was pretty sure that although he wanted to take his time, he was in love with me. Harry seemed to have no qualms. Teresa confirmed that opinion. Girls at work, especially the one I had met, still flirted with him unmercifully. He did not even acknowledge their existence. Pointedly, he’d spoken of me in their presence. He thanked Teresa for introducing us (poor Teresa), assuring her things were going great with us.” The girls were good and pissed off. She mentioned, over coffee, that Harry was acting like he was engaged or already married. You got him she said. This is a sure thing. They all thought so. Our future seemed carved in stone to us and everybody else. By that time a commitment with Harry was all but confirmed.
Ben and Connie settled into a sort of peaceful existence. However, there was always a chill in the air. They looked through each other. Teresa and I began easing back into a routine, we were there more and Thursday nights continued. But things were not the same and were never to be again. Those good times were lost. It was a different feel, a different flavor. The band had had problems and fell apart, although they were trying to regroup. I couldn’t wait to take Harry to one of the gigs, and he was so looking forward to that. Jai alai and poker became sporadic. Although Carmelita and Consuela went without me more and more, I was not ready to let go of my independence altogether, and still went occasionally. But the simple truth is that I preferred being with Harry. Later, much later, I would come to find out their main concern-money had changed to men. What happened between Consuela and Benecio did not come out for a long time, and I believe there still to be some missing pieces. However, a lot of it was financial. They were in dire straits. Collectors were calling and writing. They were being threatened with repossession –including the free statue they were given with the purchase of furniture. Staples became sparse. I was doing okay, so I paid a bill here and there and started buying all groceries and taking care of all the laundry expense. I loaned them my car to save wear and tear on theirs and to save them gas money. Still, I paid her to watch my child, and she had no qualms about accepting payment.
Funny thing is, I don’t think Ben ever knew all I was doing for them. The only two who really knew were Consuela and Harry. He wondered if it was wise, but thought it was very nice, as well. Since he looked at it like my money and my business, he pretty much left it alone after giving me his opinions. But it was obvious that it bothered him. He worried about my finances and cautioned me to save. He told me that my help might very well be interfering with what was supposed to happen. They should work it out themselves, especially during times of adversity. I should stay out of it and let the chips fall where they might. Did I mention that he was a smart man? I should have listened to him more closely. They never showed signs of appreciation and that money I was spending would have come in handy in the near future. “There is no disputing all of that in my head, but I am doing it from my heart.” ‘I know and I appreciate that. I hope they do’ “Doesn’t matter. I don’t do it for thanks, or acknowledgement. Not even for gratitude. I do it simply because I love them and want to help.” ‘You really are a princess.’ “I guess that would make you my knight.” Knowing that he really felt that way about me was pretty neat. I am still grateful. And it still makes me smile.
Harry also thought I should find a new home. “I like my apartment.” ‘I do too. (He didn’t). But ughhh those stairs. I almost broke my neck. I don’t see how you do it, especially with the baby and all.’ I did not go into the arrangement I had made with the Spanish women who rented the place to me. He would not have liked it at all. All I would tell him was that moving at that time was out of the question. They gave me a hefty discount, and paid utilities. There was also the furniture loaned to me. I could never find such a sweet deal that left me with some jingle in my pockets. I wasn’t sure I could swing a new place, especially after investing so much money into my friends and their home. What a big mistake I had made. I really did not want to tell Harry about that. I knew he would be sympathetic, probably a bit irritated that I had not listened to him and upset that they were spending a lot of my money. But there was also that fear of him knowing the contradiction in our different stations. Why in the world did he not suggest moving in together? It just does not make sense. The apartment was a very big deal to him and he would just not let it go.
I could not bring myself to tell him about the rent being dirt cheap and that it came with benefits. The land ladies spoiled my daughter, giving her things I could never afford to give her. We could eat free at their restaurant, although we did not venture in but often they brought us food. And we were allowed to order and pick it up. Because they had loaned us the furniture, I would not be able to take any of it to a new place. I would not be able to replace it. I should have realized that everything has a cost. Nothing comes free, there is always a tradeoff. What started out as two old ladies offering their hearts and helping hands slowly turned into a business arrangement. The compassion they had shown me was a ruse. Those women conned me. They expected favors. I could not refuse them outright, but I could and did set personal limits. I was very clear on what they could not ask of me. And, at least I can say that they did respect that. I knew Harry would never understand or accept the price of our survival. He would have insisted that I extricate myself from the situation. It would be hopeless finding rent that cheap, and I could not afford anything more expensive. Not to mention linens, kitchen items, and all the other things we would need to outfit a new place. The women had sucked me in and I was trapped, and could see no way out. Pride would not let me admit any of that to Harry, and again, Harry could not always grasp not having money. Perhaps had I mentioned it, he might have asked me to move in. I trusted that instead, he might offer to help me financially. I could not have accepted that. Nor could I tolerate a lesson on financial responsibility. I had hoped Harry would ask me to move into our own place. And I wonder why he did not, all things considered.
Harry could and would have helped me if he had known. I am torn on this. In some ways I am grateful that he did not know. What he had to have known, and be clear, I wanted him to know, that I loved him with or without money. It never mattered. Had he shown up with just the clothes on his back rather than his knight’s armor, I would have loved him. I would have fallen in love with just the man, no matter what his circumstances were. In my eyes, Harry the man was all I wanted. That was what made me fall in love with him, and probably what at least contributed to him falling in love with me. Going to him and asking him for, or him offering me money was not acceptable. I knew it would make him and others question my motives. Besides, I had learned early on not to ask for help. There is no way in this world that I would even consider it. We would do without rather than have him think even for a second that I wanted anything of him but his heart.
Jacinto called again. It was like a baseball accidentally breaking through the clarity of a window. The conversation was almost identical to the last, except I had developed, by way of my new lifestyle, abundantly more patience. “You are absolutely right; I will never love anybody like I love you. And I know nobody will ever love me like you. You opened my eyes and my heart to life. You taught me unconditional love. You gave me exquisite joy, untold happiness. You taught me fearlessness and self- confidence. You taught me love and you taught me life. I don’t expect I’ll ever pass that way again. But that doesn’t have to mean that I will not have a full, happy, meaningful life. A good life with a lot of love in it. Remember on that roller coaster ride, we reached dizzying heights, but we plummeted back toward Earth at a terrifying speed after we reached the very top. Too many times to remember. I’d go back on it again with you if I thought we could. It was a wild ride. It was madness. I didn’t like the heights or the speed. But I went along because I would have gone anywhere with you, to any length. I would have followed you to the ends of the earth. Then the calliope appeared for me, and that is where I now find happiness. It is slow, steady, and sure. There are no astronomical climbs, but neither are there any grand, traumatic falls.” ‘You’re settling for second best.’ “Different doesn’t necessarily mean inferior. I’ll never have the same. So I can take different or I can take nothing. Suppose you had a favorite pair of shoes. You love those shoes and will wear no others. But then they start to deteriorate and they hurt. Do you go barefoot for the rest of your life? No, you go find another pair of shoes. And you wear them. They’re not the same. They’re not the fad. But they are an attractive pair, sturdy and strong. At first they seem so foreign so unlike anything you’ve ever had. After wearing them for a while, you realize they are a perfect fit, and you grow quite accustomed to them. They are comfortable and easy to wear. They are beautiful, classy, and complementary. They go with everything. And they are the right choice.” ‘You’re not in love with him.’ “Maybe not like what we had. No fireworks, no shoot out’s. But make no mistake, I do love him very much.” ‘And you’re happy?’ “I am content and happy.” There was complete silence on his end. “Jack? Jack, are you there?” ‘Yeah, I’m here.’ “I’m so sorry. But you had to see it coming.” ‘I knew it, I just didn’t believe it.’ “Me, either.” ‘How does he treat the baby?’ “He’s not our idea of a father figure. He comes from a different lifestyle, but he will always be good to her. There is not a doubt in my mind” ‘You won’t let her forget me?’ “No.” ‘She’ll know I love her?’ “Yes.” ‘Every night when you tuck her in and kiss her, you’ll give her one for me too?’ “Yes.” ‘And you’ll tell her?’ “I will.” ‘Rita, whatever I’ve done…’ “I know.” His voice had been cracking, now he choked out ‘I gotta go.’ And hung up the phone. My heart was being torn into shreds. Jacinto was part of me, and always would be. The time and experiences we shared were part of my whole being. They helped make me what and who I was. And so, I sat there, hand still on the telephone receiver, letting Jack go and letting myself go. I felt all I had known of love fading away. Part of my life and part of me was slipping away, to wander aimlessly and uselessly in oblivion. Who knows how long I remained there in real time. It seemed like years as I sat there growing up a little more. No, it was a lot more.
I worried about Jacinto. I could see him stretched out on his back, one arm under his head, the other bringing a Camel cigarette to his beautiful, full lips, never moving any more than that arm and cigarette. He’d smoke it until the glow touched his fingertips. He’d come to with a start. In his head he was reliving every moment we had spent together, every word we’d spoken, the times we’d laughed right out loud, every smile we had shared. There were so many of those. There were thoughts about when we’d met, when we had fallen in love and when it had all turned to shit. He thought about what he should have done and what we could have done together. He wondered if he could turn the tide. He rationalized that he must let us go, but he didn’t want to. Jacinto simply did not know how to do that, and so he tried to prevent it from happening. The one constant in his life was slipping away. Because he did love us he was torn between nobility and selfishness. On the one hand what was best for us was his priority, on the other hand he wanted what was best for him. When it came to us, he was very greedy. With a low moan he covered his face with both hands. I understood his feelings and from whence they came. To be perfectly honest, I was conflicted as well. The man I had loved, nurtured and comforted was in agony, and there was nothing I could or should do for him. I knew it was he who had brought us to this place, but still my soul ached for him. Nobody uttered these words to me, I was not there with him. Call it what you will; ESP, telepathy, whatever. I know that scene is true and correct. I could see it, hear it and feel it, as real as these keys beneath my fingers.
How could a person live with such sadness, such a sense of loss and still go on, go about the day-to-day job of living? How could that person hope to find even a modicum of happiness? I just did it. I pulled myself together and went on. Keeping that part of me separate, hidden, I moved forward. Jack, however, was finding it much more difficult to cope. I could feel his despair, and sensed his regrets. There were many, and he voiced some. Some came in silence to me, although I could not really identify them individually. There were times I was wound up tighter than a clock. Strangely it felt as if my insides were pacing. Seemingly, there was no apparent reason. Then I realized it was him pacing around inside of me. He’d grown nervous, tense, and scared. He was on the move constantly trying to expend the ball of nervous energy he had become, without motivation or purpose. He just wandered. Irritable and easily agitated, his fuse became shorter. I feared he was ready to snap. It is bad enough having one’s own feelings; having them vicariously is perhaps worse. A person can work on solving his own problems, work through them. Hopefully, there is a partner, family, or friends. Counseling is often available. Imagine me going to a therapist and saying that I have some real problems to work out, everything is jumbled up. I long to do something, anything to relieve the stress and anxiety, but I don’t have the energy or the desire to do so. And oh by the way, these feelings are not mine. They belong to somebody else, but have somehow been transferred to me. Who would believe that? Many years later I found a therapist who did understand that. And believed it. He was a student of Carl Jung.
Finally, I approached Consuela and gave her the gist of the matter. As expected, she looked at me as if I had gone mad. She didn’t say a word. Next, I tried Benecio. “How’s your brother?” ‘Same as always.’ “No change?” ‘Why are you asking?’ “I’m very worried about him.” ‘You’re always worried about him. You and everybody else.’ His voice was tinged with jealousy and resentment. That was usual when it came to his brother. “This is different. Not more of the same. Urgent somehow. ”What’s happened now?’ “Nothing.” ‘Then what makes you so sure there’s something wrong?’ “I feel it.” ‘You feel it? Will you stop this preoccupation with him?’ “I’m telling you. Something is very wrong.” Before he could interrupt, I detailed what I knew. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Aha, he knew I was right; he’d seen and heard it firsthand. ‘Are you seeing my brother again?’ “No. You know I am with Harry.” Further validation that he knew something was wrong. ‘What am I supposed to do about it, anyway?’ “Intervene.” ‘Me? I am the last person he would accept help from. You know that.’ I was becoming frustrated. Why was I the only one who felt the need to do something? “You know it’s funny, your fucking family and that man who calls himself a preacher didn’t mind having me locked up. They were all ready to have me Baker Acted. Why hasn’t that come up? He needs to be confined.” ‘It has come up. My mother won’t hear of it.’ Hypocritical bitch. She would do it to me for her own sick, selfish reasons, but she wouldn’t do it to try to save her son. She had friends in high places and an unscrupulous member of the clergy. Along with a shyster attorney who thought they would be able to take my daughter from me. It did not work. But that is another story for another time. “Then, I’ll sign for crying out loud.” ‘You know what kind of hell you and I both would catch. Because of a feeling?’ “I don’t care. Something must be done. And you know my feeling is right on.” ‘Look, you can’t save him. Neither can I. Nobody can.’ “Somebody has to try.” ‘We have tried. All of us. Everybody is tired of it. Except you. When are you going to have your fill of it?’ “I hope I never do.” I had tried many times to help him or find help for him. It was the most helpless, frustrating feeling in the world. My chair scraped back and I started to walk away, hurt and angry. ‘Rita… I’ll speak to my mother again. In the meantime, you have a good thing going with Harry. Don’t screw it up.’ “I won’t. Thanks.”
Although most people insisted that I had to give up on Jack as a person, there were those who encouraged me to stay, to keep trying. Jacinto had a sort of following; people who found him charming and kind and worthy of help. They fed me thoughts about never giving up, to be there for him as long as he needed help. That I was the only one he trusted and listened to, thus I had a responsibility to him as a human to keep him from sliding into the depths of hell. But none of them could help me help him. Nobody knew what to do, aside from encouraging to keep doing whatever it took. Once I wrote To David Toma*, who was kind enough to reply. When Mr. Toma lectured here in Tampa, I dragged my sister along to go see him. He spoke with me privately after the lecture. After I had explained to him briefly, I asked him when do I say when? He replied. Never. You never say when. I believed he was right. Had I been able to save Jack, I would have. He was the first in a long line of folk I thought I could save. I am still learning that some people cannot be rescued, and some don’t want to be rescued. I knew, after feeling that way for a while, that Jacinto was delving deeper and deeper into the drug scene. Still, I firmly believe he was self-medicating, trying to compensate for some sort of chemical imbalance. I have seen it so many times since. But I, along with the rest of the world was ignorant of these things at the time. People, medical and mental health professionals routinely miss it even now. Benecio was right. I wanted to save Jacinto, and would have given up at least a big part of my life, in order to do so. If I had not had my daughter, I would have given all to rescue him. But, his brother was correct I could not save him, no matter what I gave up. None of us could. Had certain advances been made at that time, I would have dragged him kicking and screaming for treatment. And I would not even think about giving up Harry.
Sooner or later, I would have to tell Harry. I had been putting it off because I did not want to cause a rift, if there was no need for it. If I had to back off from helping the drummer, what would be the point in telling him? I eventually spoke to Harry about it. I had to be fair with him and honor him. He did not like it at all. But when he understood what I was trying to do and why, he begrudgingly was okay. Ironically, he is one of the few people who did seem to get it. The only thing that worried him was that I would leave him for Jacinto. This man who swore he did not have a jealous bone in his body. This self- assured, confident man who could have his pick of women was indeed a bit jealous and a bit insecure when it came to me. I explained that was never going to happen. Never. I had made up my mind. I would not leave this wonderful man for anything or anybody in the world. But somehow he got it, he understood my feelings and my plight. And like it or not, he was on my side despite the circumstances. He was extraordinary. Had I not already known that, his steadfast allegiance to me during even this situation would have convinced me. When I finally stopped being the full-time card carrying activist for Jack, Harry did not utter a word, but I felt his relief. That gave me a sense of satisfaction.
Lilliana and Mel had been our good friends, Jack and I had hung out with them quite a bit. Most people shortened her name to Lilly. Jack refused to do so, thinking she had a beautiful name. So typically charming of him. I followed suit. I called Lilliana to find out if she had seen Jack. ‘To tell the truth, we don’t see him anymore, except in passing. ’Not for nothing, but I am glad.’ “Why is that? “ '‘He’s getting a little strange, Rita.’ “How so?” ’Nothing in particular. What’s going on?’ “I was just worried about him and thought you might know something.” ‘Quit worrying about him.’ “I can’t.” ‘I know Honey, but you have to.’ We talked for a while about the baby and other things. Lucy was a good, valued friend and she was honest. I’d hoped she would have been more forth coming, but it was clear where she stood on the subject and really, I’d gotten what I’d called for---confirmation. She saw what I felt. At that point in time, I think it is safe to say, he was in crisis. Back then, nobody had a label for what was going on with him. Many of those around him must have seen him sliding down the path of destruction. Did nobody care? That made me care even more, and reinforced my sense of obligation to him. Some of those who were watching his descent fully expected me to carry the torch. I suppose everybody was just tired or fed up. It seemed I was the only one left in the drummer’s fan club. I was terribly sad for him and for us. Ben told me he had asked his mother again about taking advantage of the Baker Act. She refused and warned him that that he should not make any efforts in that vein. The court had told me that at least one family member had to sign the sworn statement. At that point, I had to face facts. There wasn’t anything I could do, like it or not. It had finally sunk in that Jacinto could have no place in my current life. I could not let him be there except as the father of my daughter. He could not be part of the life Harry and I shared. Even if I had not come to that conclusion, Harry would put an end to it very quickly and efficiently at some point.
Ben’s and Lilliana’s words sprang to mind. It was time for me to focus my attention elsewhere. I did have a good thing going on. I did not want to do anything to jeopardize it, as much for Harry as myself. I still thank God for allowing him to be in my life. He was my light and my safe. He gave me love, laughter and pure joy. Every kiss held a promise and I became more devoted to him each day. My love grew as I knew his love grew. One night, even he could not get me out of my funk. ‘What’s the matter?’ “Nothing.” ‘Nothing?’ “Just a case of the blues.”’Wanna talk about it?’ “Not really.” ‘Okay.’ The record changer clicked and Harry stood, stretching out his hand to me. Holding me in his arms, he slowly and adeptly danced me around the apartment. ‘I know you don’t want to talk, but does this have anything to do with us?’ “No. Heavens no.” ‘Would you tell me if it did?’ “Yes.” His insecurities were showing again. It was endearing in a way. ‘Can I do anything?’ “Just what you are doing.” And that summed up our love. Harry was my saving grace. I needed him and wanted him in my life, and by the grace of God that is also where he wanted to be. How had I gotten so lucky?
I had been conditioned to expect fireworks, roller coasters, fiery passion, fury, intensity. Thunder and lightning dotting the threatening sky. It was all part of the package or so I had been lead to believe. Being with Jacinto was often like waiting for a hurricane, one never knew which way the wind would blow. It had been exciting and enticing. It ended so unexpectedly. It felt like I was trying to push against gale force winds. Breaking free of that was very similar to fighting an addiction. Then came Harry Alexander. He showed me a different way. We learned a different way together. Being in love with him was deeper, stronger, and just so lovely. Intensity grew as we continued to develop. We both learned to look at love with fresh, new eyes. The black skies shone with millions of stars. We learned a lot from and with each other about love, life, and so much more. He brought reality and stability to my world and I brought fantasy and whimsy to his. He was pragmatic, I was impulsive. We were mystery and intrigue. It all came together as a workable happy blend. Thunderstorms followed me and the cool autumn days arrived with Harry. The storms were now void of trepidation and we appreciated and enjoyed those storms. Even in a tempest, I was assured that I was safe. Harry would comfort and protect me. Although we relished the Florida sun, the darkness took on an appeal of its own. I thank Harry every day for showing me the difference and teaching me to appreciate that. Jacinto might have taken me to the carnival, but Harry was the golden ring.
As our love flourished, so did our friendship. Harry was my best friend and I know I was his. We shared so much, we listened, really listened. We were always interested in one another, our thoughts, our dreams and hopes. We found the small details of our daily lives captivating. We often expounded on my feelings and thoughts, as well as his own. We were kindred spirits. The love and the friendship went hand in hand, equally important. Although, sometimes it was more one than the other. We were the perfect union of souls.
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