Blackhumouristpress's Blog

February 9, 2010

The Crime of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackhumouristpress @ 6:21 pm
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Susan Hall had her first plastic surgery at age thirty seven, a face lift of sorts.  Susan had spent so much of her time in the sun down in Miami that her skin had a leathery feel to it.  The back of her hands looked like lizard skin and when she smiled, she had lines all over her face.  It was at a party that Susan caught a glimpse of herself in a decorative mirror on a wall and wondered who the old lady was.  How could she have gotten so old so fast, is what she thought as she drank her fifth glass of red wine of party of friends that she met through a social club that met on Wednesday nights to Salsa Dance.  The social group was mostly made of single white women and Latino men.  It all worked out well, the white women fancied Hispanic men and the Hispanic men loved the sport of bagging mentally fragile white women who really liked to dance.  And fuck.

            The forty year old birthday really hit Susan hard.  It was while she was under a man from Columbia whose name escapes me and Susan that the thought hit her that she could hit menopause and that she would be less attractive and then there would really be nothing left except old age and death.  Susan fought the effects of aging well.  Aside from the Salsa dancing, she took spin classes and used the stepper at home while watching Oprah and the View everyday.  Susan’s job was to not squander the ten thousand dollars a month that her father put in a trust fund for her.  Aside from her father taking care of her car payments, insurance on the condo and car, electricity, heating gas and condo assessment, Susan had to make due with ten thousand a month.  Around the 21st of every month, Susan had to start watching her checking account.  Her father hated overdrafts.

            So it was while under the short Columbian man that it hit Susan that she might only have forty five to fifty summers left and maybe only ten in really good health and waning sex appeal.  She began to cry and was inconsolable.  What’s-his-face from Columbia got dressed and left.  Susan stood in front of the mirror crying and crying.   Susan took her anxiety medicine and some sleep medicine but nothing really worked.  Her father couldn’t be reached; he was on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with three Filipino girls under the age of seventeen.  He was deep sea fishing and taking Viagra intermittently.  Ever since Susan’s mother left them all and moved to Italy, her father was never the same.  Susan turned to her psychiatrist, Ira who lived in and worked in a huge house along the shores of Lake Michigan in the City of Evanston. 

            Ira looked strikingly like Sigmund Freud and had sharp features and beady eyes that made him look marsupial in nature.  He crossed his legs in a comfortable chair in his office and dunked his tea bag over and over in a mug that had picture of himself and his partner Tom, arm and arm while on the beach in Aruba.  Ira mostly listened for the $100.00 and hour that he received from Susan’s father.  Ira himself had phobias about leaving the house at night, flying in airplanes, driving on two lane highways, groups of large black men and illness.  Ira was forever using hand sanitizers after touching anything. 

            Ira’s partner Tom was a pilot and a fitness fanatic.  Ira was usually at home cooking for Tom while he ran, swam and biked in his free time.  Ira took to speaking French to his parakeet that he name “je t’aime”.  That name eventually became “Tammy”.  It was at Susan’s lowest point that Ira had reached a crisis.  It was like two frantic women consoling each other on the day that Susan arrived at Ira’s home/office.  Ira was putting the finishing touches on a two foot sailboat that he had made while sniffling and crying when Susan walked in.  Ira tried to put a brave face on his distress.

            “Susan…  We are going to do something different today.  Instead of meeting in my office, we are going to go to the backyard and have… A funeral.”

            Nobody had ever died in Susan’s life before.  She had known and heard of people dying but had never been to a funeral.  Ira said a few words in French that sounded like nonsense to Susan, kissed his parakeet as he sobbed and pushed the sailboat out towards Michigan City, Indiana which would have directly across the lake.  Luckily the lake was like a giant bath tub that day instead of an angry writhing sea as it can often be. 

            Ira’s body heaved as he cried.  Susan put her arm around Ira and held his head to her chest.  Susan found Ira to be unbelievably frail and devoid of muscle tone.  Ira was having a nervous break down.  The shelf was coming down and all the China was crashing to the ground.  Luckily Susan was there.  Ira felt comfortable with Susan because she was fraught with anxieties and phobias too.  Surely Susan would understand.

            “I can’t take it any longer.  Losing Je t’aime is the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Toms become more and more distant ever since he has been on this health kick.  I’m home rinsing his goddamn ground beef of any fat, making scallops and salmon and that damn steel cut oat meal while he runs and bikes and swims.  I mean he looks absolutely like an Adonis right now, honest to god.  We go out and I’m afraid to walk away for a second.  It’s like having a Ferrari in mall parking lot.  You just want to run into Crate and Barrel and you can’t be sure it’ll be there when you come back… Anyway, he meets this man from the gym, another Jew who claims he has found Jesus.  A Jew has found Jesus Christ for fuck’s sake!  He couldn’t find Bin Laden and solve our lifetime quandary of making it from day to day…  No, he finds a good looking Jew who is part of a group called Jews for Jesus.  I shit you not…  At this moment, my man is in Haiti helping this Jew for Jesus build something or other.  I taught him French and he runs off with a latent, closet homosexual who doesn’t know he’s gay or Jewish, to rebuild homes for French speaking Africans in Haiti.  I begged him to go with and he told me flat out no.  I was so crushed…  I’m so crushed.  Je t’aime felt my sorrow and died out of empathy for me…  Mon oiseau…  Je suis tres triste ma petite Tammy…”

            Susan was stunned by the hair that Ira let down seeing as he was losing it quickly from his forehead to his neck.  Ira had always been all business and devoid of much emotion in the past.  Susan had decided that Ira was truly in worse shape than her and felt that she must help Ira out.  They went to movies, plays, museums and shopped together nearly everyday.  While sitting at a café together in the middle of the day, Ira read US Magazine and Susan thumbed through the Chicago Sun Times that was left by the previous patron who had sat at their table.  Susan checked out the weather for the coming week and then turned the page to the obituaries.  Susan could never remember ever really looking at them before.  She looked at pictures of the various old people who were really nameless and faceless and thought that within fifty years, she may make the obituaries and that 99% of the people looking at the paper, won’t know or care who she was.  Susan was going to die as anonymously as all those she was looking at in the paper.  The idea came to her suddenly to attend a funeral of one of those in the paper.  She would read up on them and then conjure up a story as to how it was that her life was tied to some dead person.  Susan was excited about the idea and Ira was in no frame of mind to fight her morbid interest.  Ira went along with not one visit but dozens until it got so that they were attending three to four a week.

            “Ira…  Here’s a good one Alvin “Bebop” Taylor, age ninety of the Pullman District.  Born March 6, 1920 in Mississippi.  Fought in World War II and was a local Jazz musician.  I think this will be a worth while visit,” said Susan.

            “What story are you coming up with this time?”

            “Golly…  I’m not sure but I think going to a black funeral is going to be a great experience.”

            Now with Google and all, Susan was able to find out things about those whose funeral she was about to attend.  She struggled to find anything on Bebop.  The twenty or so others never blinked an eye when Susan came up to console the families.  She always had a touching story about her mother or father who was quite close in some way to the dearly departed.  Her father had been a longshoreman, a soldier, an ambassador, a missionary and now a Jazz musician.

            Susan drove her late model Mercedes with Ira in tow into a section of Chicago that she had only seen on the news.  Crying grandmothers barely able to say that their grandchild was good and a good student and was minding their own business when a stray bullet killed them. Then there were fires, robberies, rapes and carjacking all stemmed from this poor area of Chicago’s south east side.  Every other business was boarded up and the ones that weren’t were barbershops, fried chicken fast food depots and churches.  The order that she and Ira were accustomed to, seemed to have vanished slowly as they traveled further and further from their enclave that really was tolerant or other ethnicities, races and social stratus beneath theirs, even though they did not live among them.  The realization was sinking in to both of them independently that it would not matter to anyone in that neighborhood that Susan had three bumper stickers alluding to her political and social leanings; Obama 08, Change and Hope.  Hope and Change hadn’t hit that section of Chicago that was not more than five miles from where Obama had lived when he was living in Chicago.  The residents of that area still held George W. responsible for the despair and difficulty in achieving change and rich white people in expensive cars too.

            It was like a carnival inside compared to the white services.  The crowded rooms were packed full of well dressed black people that laughed and spoke loudly in the hallways outside of the rooms where services were being held.  It seemed more like the lobby of a movie theater to Susan and Ira than anything else.  They asked around and found the room belonging to Bebop.

            All the other rooms were overflowing with those wishing to pay their last respects to a loved one, a relative or someone who was friends or related to someone who knew someone that was going to put out a really nice spread once they laid the deceased in the ground.  The tiny room belonging to Bebop had four people total in it.  When Susan and Ira walked in, there was a heavy set man singing a song about coming home while a minister stood behind a podium.  The organist never stopped playing when the odd white couple entered, walked up and took a seat behind the family.  The family consisted of an old black woman, her brother, her daughter and a nephew.  The family stoically listened to the canned and scripted words of peace meant to give the family some solace by the minister who couldn’t remember that his name was Alvin.  When it came time for someone to come up and say a few words, nobody budged, batted an eye or even looked up at the minister.  Susan was all hopped up on pills and red wine.  Had it not been for the three glasses of red wine, Ira would have been a basket case, which is funny when you take into account that he was a doctor of psychiatry.  Ira was free falling with Susan and he really didn’t stop to reason what idiocy was taking place in the name of recreation.  Susan should have thought better to have gone ahead with taking a seat in such a small and intimate gathering and she should have thought better that to get up and speak about a man that she did not know but was certain she could get all in attendance to buy her story.

            “You don’t know me or my brother … Robert and why should you?  We are here today because our father, a hidden gem of local Jazz in this town, had played music with Bebop in the fifties and sixties.  My father played where few white men have ever visited.  He was always in search of Dr. Kurtz somewhere in the heart of darkness…  Music spoke to his soul.  It’s a language that transcends so much and is something that brings us together.  My brother William and I want you to know that daddy thought the world of Bebop and thought of him as his own brother…  He had always said that one day we would meet Uncle Bebop…  We never did.  So much of life is made up of things we intend on doing but never get to and that is truly the crime of life…  May god bless Uncle Bebop and all of you…”

            With that Susan began to cry and rushed herself off the stage, clutching a handkerchief to her face.  Ira sat motionless for he was able to read the look of disbelief on the family member’s faces and was worried how this might all end.  Ira whispered to Susan that they should leave due to the intimacy of the gathering.  Susan pressed on.  When the funeral was over, she approached the daughter of Alvin Taylor.  The young woman was set on putting a stop to the façade.

            “I don’t know who you two are or what you’re up to…  My father spent thirty years in jail and died making love to a woman young enough to almost be my daughter.  He was a drunk, a wife beater and he couldn’t find a C note on a piano.  The paper assumed that since his nickname was Bebop, that he was the one that was the Jazz musician.  They mixed it up with dead person listed next to him on the next column who actually did play Jazz.  We posted this obituary so that if any of his other children that he sired out of wedlock, wanted to come forward to pay their respects, that they could.  Now what game you two sick bastards are playing, I’m not certain.  There is no pot of gold or kingdom if that’s what you’re after.  I’m going to give you the chance to leave now before I call security.”

            Susan’s face tightened and she couldn’t move.  It was pulling a flashlight out at night unexpectedly on an opossum.  She went into a catatonic state.  Eventually an ambulance came for her and she was hospitalized.  A doctor, who was less marginal than Ira, was able to determine that Susan had several personalities on top of the schizophrenia.  It might seem at this point that her life was headed for the craper with Ira but as luck would have it, things suddenly were looking up.  A young movie producer read about them wanted to make a movie about their escapades.  Susan was envisioning Meryl Streep and Larry David portraying her and Ira.  The producer was thinking more like Kathleen Bates and Woody Allen. 

            Susan asked very sanely since she was properly medicated sans booze why anyone would want to see a movie about her and Ira.  The smiling young man with money signs in his eyes answered the question with a question.

            “Who doesn’t stop to see what happens when two cars crash?”

            Susan thought about the comment a moment and then asked the young producer a very important question.

            “Okay…  Where do I sign?”


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