One Slip…

Philadelphia, PA – 1969

I was 7 years old and in 2nd grade at Lawndale school. My teacher was Mrs. Koffler. She was like any other lady. When you’re really young anyone older than 12 years old looks like an adult. But I suspect Mrs. Koffler was in her mid to late twenties. A plain girl. Cat glasses with her straight blonde hair pulled straight back in a ponytail. Neatly dressed in the style of the day. Conservative sweaters and blouses, and always a nice skirt. She preferred patterns to solids. Always wore nude colored pantyhose. Comfortable shoes adorned her feet. Flats on most days. I suppose being on your feet much of the day dealing with a roomful of kids would tire any person out.

I remember Mrs. Koffler would sit at the front of the class and read to us sometimes. I remember she would sit cross-legged. I would be listening to the story with the other students and admire her legs. She was a young lady and I’m paying attention to the story, but her legs were distracting me.

I remember on occasion I would sometimes drop my crayon or pencil on the floor so I could bend down under my desk to pick it up, all the while stealing a glance at her well-turned gams.

Funny how you like certain things even as a young boy. You’re too young to even have any thoughts or actions in regard to sex. I know I didn’t find Mrs. Koffler attractive and didn’t even really like her. But I would still check out her legs. Odd, how things fire in the mind even when you’re very young. It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s still a vision you find pleasing.

I was a bright kid but found school in general an enormous bore. It felt more like a prison to me.

It was the time of day for us to do art. Which meant all sorts of supplies appear and an assignment given. I was always surprised that even art was structured in school. You got assignments. I get it. Draw a nice picture and give it to your parents to hang on the fridge. It’s Thanksgiving. Trace your hand and we’ll make it a turkey.

The one thing they never teach in school is creativity. Because they can’t. They can only give you exercises to develop it. Because they can’t do it and don’t even know what it really is. They’re just the hired help. You either have creativity or you don’t.

So, we’re all making something at our little desks with cloth felt and construction paper and Elmers glue. I always like Elmer’s glue. My favorite thing to do with it was to pour a small amount into my hand and spread it out across my palm. I would wait for it to dry and it became like an extra epidermis on my palm. I would slowly peel it off, and I felt like a snake molting its skin. I noticed that the glue made a beautiful impression on my tiny hand. I could see every detail of my palm on the sheet of dried glue. It even felt like skin when dry. I could see the fingerprints and everything perfectly. I used to wonder if this type of glue would ever have any practical applications for law enforcement or forensics. But what did I know? I was just playing with something I should have been slathering on the back of a piece of colored paper so I could affix it to something else. It was non-toxic so no one would die if they ate it. (Which I have done. It’s quite good and not nearly as salty a delicacy as Play-Doh)

I was nearly finished with my little mandatory art project and got up from my desk to throw away some scraps of paper. Maybe I was distracted by the ethereal beauty of my classmate, the lovely Donna McHugh with her blonde wavy hair and ice-blue eyes. But somehow as I rounded a desk I slipped on a piece of felt that had fallen to the floor along with other artistic detritus.

My head struck the edge of one of the desks, just between the suborbital foramen and the margin. (My left eyebrow)

I don’t remember actually striking the desk or any pain. I just remember someone getting me to my feet and walking me out of the class. (I think it was room 6) I was with this person, (Maybe Mrs. Koffler?) and I saw something I never saw before. As we walked down the hallway along the polished light hardwood floor, I watched as drops of bright red blood dripped away from my face and struck the floor. Big drops. Just every few feet as we quickly moved along. Drip….drip….drip.

We got to the school nurse’s office and whoever brought me in left. I simply obeyed the nurse’s orders. I wasn’t frightened. I wasn’t in any pain really. I just laid down on the little cot. I felt the white butcher paper crunch under me. I just wondered why would someone put paper on a bed.

She went to work on me with bandages and compression. My brow was apparently split open in a nasty gash. I never saw it and I suppose that’s a good thing. I’ve seen blood before. No big deal. Boys are always getting banged up in everyday life. It’s part of having wild fun. I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t see it because maybe that’s when the fear may have crept in.

I’m assuming they called my mother first. She didn’t drive so I’m sure she then called my father who worked at the Provident National Bank over on Cottman street.

I remember lying on the little cot when my father walked into the nurse’s office. He was wearing his overcoat and of course his hat. My father always wore a hat. He wore a hat beyond when it was no longer fashionable. He stayed right in the late sixties with his style. He told me that if he wore his style long enough it would come back again. (It later did!)

It was weird to see my father at school. Only moms haunted the school. Not dads. They were all at work every day.

The nurse had stopped the bleeding and had me bandaged up pretty good. My father lifted me up into his arms and carried me out of the school. I liked being carried by my dad. You feel safe in your dad’s arms. His cold coat. His rough face. His aftershave. All safe and familiar. Strong. He’s going to take care of this.

He carried me outside and put me in the back seat of the VW minibus. He asked that I lie down and be still, but hold on. I don’t know how long the ride was. Everything seems long when you’re little. Time is a crazy thing when you’re young. But time is relative. If you’re 50 years old and something’s going to happen in 6 months, that’s no time at all based on how long you’ve been on Earth. But if you were 5 years old and someone told you that Christmas was 6 months away, that’s 1/10 of your entire life. That feels like forever!

Anyway, we get to the hospital. I don’t remember going in or anything about the place. Just that everything was bright white. They laid me down on a bigger bed. (More butcher paper) The doctor came in and looked at my head. I remember him saying he was going to give me a few stitches. I’d never seen stitches except on the Frankenstein monster in the movies. Would it be a long black line, with shorter lines going across it like in a cartoon? Is that what they really looked like?

I know my dad stayed in the room the whole time. I remember looking up while the doctor went to work on me. He had a curved needle and thread. I guess my head had been hurting and the tiny little pricks really didn’t bother me at all for some reason. You’d think with my anxiety I’d have been freaking out, but anxiety is the fear of what might happen. This already happened. The doctor was just patching me up. I felt totally calm.

The doctor told me that he had put 12 stitches in my head.

It didn’t take long, and within no time my dad was taking me out of there. I don’t remember if I sat up or laid down on the way home.

Whenever any of the kids in the family had a cold they obviously stayed home from school. Sure you were coughing and sneezing and were just generally uncomfortable. But the cool thing was, we had a convertible sofa in our living room. We never used it for guests. We only used it when the kids were sick. My mom would open it up, prop up the head, and grab some pillows and a blanket. It was right in front of the TV. So getting sick wasn’t really that bad. getting your temperature taken and eating gross medicine was a bit unpleasant, but you got to watch TV all day and not go to school. Oh, and your mom waits on you hand and foot. Brilliant day.

Soup. Toast. All the fixings!

So, dad gets me home and my mom already has the sickbed ready. I got in my pajamas and hopped right in. I had a bandage on my head so my sisters couldn’t see my injury or my stitches. I remember it being described as a little black eyebrow above my real one.

Everyone was making a fuss over me and I was happy to be home. I just relaxed on the bed with my two sisters around me in the room as we watched TV.

I guess my dad had left for a short while because for about a half-hour I didn’t see him. But he soon returned and handed me a big bag. I opened it and inside it was a box full of little plastic spacemen! They were red white and blue and in all different positions. (Just like army men) I was very grateful to receive such a bounty. It wasn’t Christmas. I had simply slipped and busted my head open.

“Charles was so brave today. He never cried and laid perfectly still during the entire process. I’m really proud of him.”

I’ll never forget that.

Physical pain isn’t so bad. It’s mental cruelty and wickedness at the hands of others that make me cry. That’s an enduring pain.

A week or so later they took me to our local doctor. Dr. Alexander removed the stitches once the wound had completely healed. “The other doctor said he gave you 12 stitches, well  I just took out 13,” he said.

Seems like a more appropriate number in regard to what had happened to me that day. The doctor did a terrific job on my injury that day. The scar is so light you’d never know I had one. I’d have to bring up the story and show it to you.

And if we ever meet, I will.

 

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Rebecca – Chapter 18 – The Return – Part 2

I’m just happy she’s appeared with almost magical timing as my relationship with Cherie is being scattered by the white wings of destiny.

How’s your romantic life, Rebecca?

“Total shit. Nothing. I’m never good at that. I don’t want to get into it right now. It’ll just spoil the moment. Are you seeing anyone?”

Interesting how Rebecca deflects everything back to me. I haven’t seen or heard from her in two years. Every time I ask her a question, she pushes the dialogue back to me. Where has she been? What happened over the last two years in South America?

“I met a girl on Tinder a year and a half ago and it was good for a while, but it’s not so good now. I think the relationship may be riding off into the sunset.”

“Really? What’s she like?”

“Black girl. Pretty. Fit. 28 years old. Has a 7 year old son. Never married. Ex pays support but doesn’t spend much time with his son. White guy. Cherie worked at MacDonald’s for 10 years and is now in her senior year getting her BS in Psychology. She’s majoring in neuroscience and works at Children’s Hospital. She’s a great girl and going places, but like I said, it feels like she’s under so much pressure with work and her kid, I can feel it affecting our relationship.”

I paused. I thought about how much I’ve been struggling with Cherie lately. Everything. I thought how much I loved everything about Cherie and then how our relationship was failing. Why was I telling her all of this?

“It is what it is, Rebecca.”

“What does that mean, Chaz?”

I took a healthy sip from my cocktail. “I think the distance factor, plus we’re always apart and busy has put a lot of pressure on us.”

“Do you miss her?”

“I enjoy her company, but I never miss her when she’s gone. I know that sounds cold, but I enjoy my time alone. I really do. It’s hard now that I’ve gotten older to start the machine to be energetic and romantic. This place in my life… I like to interface with people and activate my energy, but having to be that… is somewhat difficult.”

“Do you mean sex?”

“No. That’s automatic and one of the very best parts of our relationship. It’s always good with Cherie.”

“Really?”

“Yea, It’s just the distance and schedules that’s killing this relationship. I’m not on the dopamine rush I once was with Michelle and Annabelle. (Type either of these names into the Search widget on the Homepage and you can read both their series. Read Michelle Before Annabelle) That was foolish behavior then, but happy just to be with Cherie… but ready for her to leave at any time.”

“I can only imagine what you think of me.”

“I haven’t seen you in a two years, but come on Rebecca, you have cred. We have a little history. We can hang. What are you asking?”

“Look… I’m sorry for all of the flake in the past, but I’m working in the city now. I’m at Penn Medicine. Can we at least hang occasionally?”

I don’t know. Are you up for all of that?”

“Do you still have the hookup at Square 1682?”

“Of course….”

“Can we just meet and chat over life and free chardonnay?”

“Oh course, because we’re getting killed here for drinks right now. I never go anywhere I  have to pay full price for anything.”

“Well I want to sit with you in your favorite bar and be in your life, Chaz.”

“Yea, but we still have tonight. I’m happy to see you.”

Rebecca flipped her hair and grasped my hands. I can smell the sweet faint fragrance of either her perfume or her hair. It’s intoxicating. Her gaze penetrates my soul.

Those emerald eyes.

“Chaz, I need you in my life. You’re so good.”

“I know stuff about life but I just want to go home and watch Netflix. I mean, not now, but that’s what I normally do because I’m so busy with work and I’ve compartmentalized my tiny social life.”

“I get that. Even in the last year I’ve realized what’s important in life. My health, surrounding myself with good friends and family, working to keep a roof over my head, and paying down my damn student loans.”

“That’s pretty much what your whole generation is going through now, but it’s good if you’re starting to see what’s really important in life. I’ve kind of cleared out the detritus in my life over the last few years. I cut off all the crazy women, and recently had to let go of some of the men friends I’ve collected in my life. I like to work as you know, but in order to meet my obligations, I need to work quite a bit. I don’t mind it at all, I love to be busy, but when I’m off from work I need to decompress and do what I want. It’s usually only one day off a week and for right now, that’s all I need.”

“I know, right? I’m usually on the phone all day and dealing with doctors and stressed out with patients, that by Friday I’m just ready to cut loose and go crazy, or collapse on my couch for the weekend!”

“Have you seen anyone romantically?”

I’ve been back for over six months now… I’ve been on some dates. Some longer than others.

“Oh… six months? So you’ve been back awhile.”

“Yea, I’m sorry. I just needed some time…”

That’s weird. She’s been back from South America for over six months and I hear nothing? What the hell? Gotta stay cool. Don’t want to blow this, but it doesn’t make sense.

“So, yea… dating?”

“Yea, and like I said, I’ve been in a few short relationships, but those guys turned out to be assholes. So they’re gone.”

“What happened?”

“The usual, Chaz. Hot guy, seems nice but ends up just being a clumsy oaf.”

“The classic toads every girl kisses before finding her prince in her late twenties.”

“Yea, but what if I kiss all these toads and there’s no prince at the end of the journey? My lips are dry, Charles.”

Most girls in their late twenties after being burned out from empty dating, settle on a guy they think is less worse than all of the other shit they’ve dated previously.”

“Really? Do you know anyone like that?”

“I do. So I know it can happen.”

But I’m only 23! Am I going to have to wait for years to find Mr. Right?”

“Don’t rush it, Rebecca. Let it happen naturally. You can waste your time swiping left and right on a bunch of leftover losers, or simply let love find you. You’re a beautiful young lady. Make good choices and good things will happen.”

Rebecca eyed me skeptically.

I did the same. Am I stepping back into something I don’t really want? I don’t want to be the mentor guy anymore. I can’t let Rebecca’s wiles pull me back into that role. The ear to listen. The shoulder to cry upon. The quiet port in the storm.

“I guess. Anyway I have an early meeting tomorrow morning. Do you mind if we call it a night?”

“Sounds good to me, dear. I sure don’t miss those days of meetings and deadlines anymore.”

“Yea. You’re lucky you don’t have to deal with that shit anymore.”

“Never going back.”

We get the check and Rebecca kicks in half. (Great girl!)

We step out into the dark alley of Ranstead street. We walk up to 20th and Market while she summons and UBER.

“I really appreciate you meeting up with me tonight, Chaz.” She grasps my hands in hers.

“It was my pleasure. It’s always great seeing you, and I’m glad you’re doing well and on the right track.”

A dark sedan pulls up to the curb. “Oh, here’s my UBER. Text me about Square 1682?”

“I will.”

“Promise?”

“I promise!”

Rebecca hops up on her tip toes and plants a swift, sticky kiss on my lips.

“Gotta go!” She giggles.

I watch as she gets in the back seat of the car. Her blue dress rides up her thighs and I briefly marvel at her caramel colored, well turned legs. The door shuts and she looks at me for a moment through the window. She gives me a knowing, sly smile and then waves, as the car pulls away from the curb and disappears in traffic down East Market.

She did that on purpose and knows I was checking out her gams.

I begin my walk home. It’s been an interesting night.

My mind still spinning from Rebecca’s sweet kiss.

I’m about a block from my house when I get the text.

“Home safe! Thank you for a wonderful evening. It was sooo good to see you again!”

“You too, dear.”

“Text me about Square! xoxo

 

God, I live a charmed life.

 

Oh shit! I forgot to set up a date with Kita!

 

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