Beauty and the Beast

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In order to understand my recollections of Marjorie and Steve, I must go back to a memory that actually isn’t my memory. Others have told me, and well….here’s the story. For reasons I have never fathomed, I had to use a ceramic pot for a toilet when I was very little, just a toddler. This pot was in the back room, no locked door, anyone could cruise in, but then I was just a baby, so nobody cared about a baby’s feelings. They don’t have feelings, right? So on one occasion, as I was availing myself of the aforementioned pot, Marjorie brought home her new boyfriend, Steve. And Steve is being given a tour of our small little farmhouse. He comes to the back room and there I am! Now I suppose there is a rich tradition going back many generations of laughing at babies taking a crap in a ceramic pot. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. Steve laughed and laughed, and I think Marjorie was there as well, my Mom and Dad, Linda, probably Keith, maybe David, Lawrence. Hell, I think there were probably a few neighbors invited in to take a gander. I was mortified, enraged, and so embarrassed that I can say with confidence that I am still embarrassed to this day! This set the tone for my relationship with Steve. And Marjorie? I don’t know if she laughed, but I knew she was the person that brought this jerk into my life. Guilt by association! I say I don’t remember this, but I do have a kind of recollection, I can recall the anger and hurt and embarrassment. Never do this to your kids!! They do feel violated, and it will fuck them up. Take it from me.

But more about the jerk, later. I remember Marjorie as this beautiful woman that just happened to be my sister. She seemed like a cross between Lucille Ball and Ava Gardner. She had such a beautiful smile, and an easy laugh. She had kind of a fiesty quality about her that made her a lot of fun to be around. She carried herself like a movie star. If Mom was the Queen, Marjorie was the Princess. It was hard for me to really get to know Marjorie, but I recall some times we had when just she and I sat quietly, and she talked to me as if I were an equal, although I was ten years old, She respected my intelligence, and thought I was very funny. There weren’t enough of those times. Strange how even though I was a young kid, long before puberty I was able to see the sexiness of my sisters. And they were very sexy! I was proud to have sisters like them! (what can I say? I was a ladies’ man in the first grade, giving a girl I had a crush on, a fake diamond ring). I hope they take that as a compliment, it isn’t meant to creep them out! But I have creeped people out my whole life so why stop now? (But speaking of creeping people out….but I’ll get to Steve later.) Ok, so if you are still reading this…Marjorie had such an elegant, self-possessed manner that it was a shame that it was wasted on Windsor. I thought she would be famous, when I was little. I think I felt the same way about all of my brothers and sisters. They were all celebrities in my young eyes. I remember that Marjorie and Steve’s home felt like the waiting room in a dentist’s office. Very clean, orderly, and formal. And you could have all the bologna sandwiches you’d like while waiting. But no cooking. Plenty of magazines. Ok, I’ll stop now. I fondly remember sitting up late (quite the treat for a kid), watching the Tonight show in their bedroom. Steve and I would discuss politics (even when I was a little squirt, I was a Democrat at age nine). Steve was, as everyone in the fucking universe knows, a Republican! He let everyone know how conservative he was and how great Nixon was. Gee, do I sound annoyed? We played chess and Steve always won. Boy was that ever fun.

Ok, we’ve heard about the Beauty, time now for the Beast! It is to Steve’s credit that he took in stride all of the outrageous remarks, and deliberate tactlessness I unleashed on him when I was a kid. (when I stopped being a teenager, he stopped taking it in stride. Not such a funny story). But I would tell him he was full of shit (this was as a teenager), and he would just laugh. Once Steve asked me how long I thought I would stay ugly, and I said “well, let’s see, you’ve been ugly for how long now? About as long as you, I guess.” What was even better about that incident was that about an hour later, Steve says “I don’t think I’m ugly!” I had gotten to him! Score one for the pimply-ass kid. Steve really went out of his way to get me to like him, and he almost succeeded. But then something would happen, and he was a jerk once again. It is kind of pathetic, because I never spared his feelings, I made it clear how I felt. And he still wanted to be friends (or perhaps, more accurately, my Dad). I gotta hand it to him, he was persistent. I was Steve’s unrequited love. ok, now it’s creep out time again, speaking of which, I couldn’t hold a candle to Steve in the creep out dept. We’re talking about his hairy butt hanging out in front of the inlaws. Dude! Get a belt! Here’s Steve on the telephone: What am I doin’? Just sittin’ here scratching my balls! Great stuff! He should have had his own HBO special! I don’t think Marjorie would tune in to that one, though. Probably not Andra or Megan either. But Steve gave generously to those who needed help, he helped me get through college, he helped me out many many times. As well as other relatives. He was not a Scrooge by any means. He took an active interest in my welfare. (I thought it was too great an interest, at the time. I was fiercely independent, never took advice, I’m still like that). He bought me a console stereo for Christmas just before college, and I played that thing to death. I remember Lawrence defending Steve when I was being particularly harsh towards him, saying that Steve had helped many people anonymously. “So how come you know about it?” I replied. But that’s not fair. He was a good guy in many ways. But, I won’t deny it, he and I didn’t get along. We fought each other in fun, and then, after I was grown, we fought in earnest. I remember a time when Steve and I were screaming at each other over the phone. We got as down and dirty as two totally tactless assholes can get. Shit! I guess we were made for each other! I think Steve just smiled at that remark. God damn it! Did I love this son of a bitch? I recall the pain and sadness in his eyes when I last was talking to him, as he was giving me a ride back to the KC airport after Keith’s funeral. It was as if I was gazing into his soul. He seemed to be saying, “Please don’t hate me.” Perhaps he remembered our harsh exchange a few years earlier, perhaps not. Maybe I imagined it. I’ll never know.

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