I am honestly not sure what brought this up, and I am not sure I have ever written about it before. I will warn you that it is a bit disturbing, and frankly, odd. I still cannot really make sense of it myself. These are not the type of issues addressed by people like Miss Manners.
Maybe it is because Father’s Day is looming, and my own father’s birthday was this past weekend, but somehow I got to thinking how I had not one, but three father (figures) pretty much abandoned me. Now granted, none were very good role models, and the logical part of me knows that I should thank my lucky stars that I never got sucked into any of their lives more than the time that I spent with them growing up. But still, it makes me question myself.
I was remembering how my sister and I discovered that Bozo was really gone from our lives. Essentially my mother invited the new guy over for dinner, and while the two of us were doing the dishes, we heard noises coming from the bedroom. Of course, it was more complicated that that. This man was her boss, the same age as her father, and well, married. Let’s call him JC to make it simple (he was Jewish, if that matters).
My sister and JC did not get along. Actually, that would be quite an understatement. She did her best to ignore him, and that did not go over very well. Of course, she often did this by slamming doors. A part of me actually applauds her for taking a stand. It was brave and bold, but also stupid. I am sure it was a big part in my mother’s decision to send her back east.
Now I am sure that I could not articulate this as well then, but I know that on some level, I realized how much held in the balance because of this relationship. It wasn’t only my mother’s job potentially at stake, but also our apartment. You see, when my mom took this position, it was agreed that for two years we would live on site at one of the apartment buildings the company owned with the goal of cleaning them up, so to speak. The plan was to stick it out two years in the Valley and then finally buy a house and move to the West side of LA (which we did). But even at 13-years old, I knew that if things were to go sour, or someone should discover this tryst, all bets were off. I had nightmares about how bad it would be.
I think part of the issue was that I knew how things had gone with Bozo. They were were chaotic. Over those six years that they were together, they broke up many times, and of course, got back together. We moved across the country and lived in seven different places. In fact, when we left that summer (to visit our father), it seemed that Bozo and my mother were back together. So understandably, we were more than a bit stunned that not only was he out of the picture, but that by the start of school, there was someone else. Although we talked to our mother regularly over the summer, for obvious reasons, we couldn’t bring up Bozo. And she never brought up JC. Or maybe she did, but I didn’t catch on.
The thing about JC was that he seemed to want to get to know us. Of course, he had a very weird way of showing it. There was the one time pretty early on where my mom announced JC wanted to take us to dinner and a movie. It sounded like a good idea, but I really don’t know what they were thinking.
After dinner, we went to one of those $1 movie houses. Honestly, what happened was so traumatic, I cannot tell you what movie was saw. They insisted that my sister and I sit in the row in front of them, and then the two of them proceeded to make out (very very noisily) throughout the entire film. I was too afraid to move my head, both for fear of what I might see, and for fear of what they might do in reaction. I also remember not wanting to go to the movies again, and don’t think I did until later in the school year when I was required to see Gandhi for religion class.
Once more, no one dared say anything about that night. I mean, really what could you say? Well, I suppose I could have been sarcastic and made some comment about how they thought that would promote “family bonding” or getting to know us better. It really was gross. I mean don’t most parents try to keep their sex lives hidden from their children? And certainly it isn’t normal to invite them to the movies and make out in the row behind them?
I was new to my high school, and it was still pretty early in the year, so I didn’t have any real friends to speak of. And even if I did, I mean, how would you broach such a topic. I am sure that at least one of them might have gone to the movies with a sibling and his or her date, and perhaps found themselves in a similar situation. But again, this wasn’t something I could really talk about for fear that somehow this secret would get out.
I don’t remember exactly when, but it was probably not too long after the movie incident, that JC came to me with a proposal. He wanted me to write down a list of five goals for the month on an index card (which he would keep). Then when the month was up, we would discuss it, and he would give me $50 (and the card back). As I said, weird.
I really wanted to refuse, and I think initially I tried to refuse his money. But I quickly realized how much that set him off, and so to keep the boat from rocking, I agreed. I tried to make my goals vague and impersonal. It was tough. He expected more. I do believe he wanted to teach me how to set goals, although I have no idea why.
The worst part about it was often we would talk about my goals before well, you know. My mom would go to the bedroom and wait for him. The only good thing is that we probably never talked for more than 15 minutes.
This would continue though all through high school. I am not sure how it finally ended. I was just glad it did. I didn’t want him inside my head. I knew more than I needed to know about him. I so wanted out of these bizarre relationship.