Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FULL CIRCLE (The First in a Series of Jayson Essays)

Full Circle 
For Jayson

Today hurts like fuck.
Crying out loud fuck.
Big tennis ball in my throat fuck.
Headache from trying to control it fuck.
I can’t explain when it’ll show up, what sets it off, why.
I can only say when it comes, its an overused, rehashed, description: An immense wave of crippling sadness.
How did all the great writers come up with new and fresh descriptions of pain, wistful mourning and loneliness?
It’s like when I hear people say that, “Every band sounds like THAT band.”
How in this time on the planet could anyone at all have an original thought? Melody? Idea? Burst of inspiration? Haven't they all been used, quoted, regurgitated already?

I remember the night our relationship changed, just like it was yesterday.
I can’t remember the color underpants I’m wearing right this second, as I type, but I remember that night. 
Almost every minute.

There was a small party planned at my friend’s house during winter break my freshman year of college.
A bunch of us were headed over to a couple’s house that had been together for years.
“The Brenda and Eddie of Harborfields Class of ’84”.
“Eddie” was my friend since my first day of kindergarten. One of my favorite dudes. Always an old soul.
“Brenda” was his amazingly sweet and kind girl, who showed up late to the shindig that was high school, in the beginning of 10th grade I think.
They met.
They courted.
They were together since.
They “got an apartment with deep pile carpet” in Commack.
It was the first of our coupled friends to get their own place outside of college dorm rooms.
We were all so excited for them. 
So grown up.
I had my mom buy me a bottle of Korbel Brut “Champagne” as a housewarming gift to be hospitable.
I tied a bow around it. 
It was a freezing cold night. Must have been middle of December. I remember there was snow on the ground that had frozen over. Little glistening crystals of ice coated everything and made it all so pretty and festive. 
I scraped off my windshield and drove my white ’76 Chevy van to the party. 
It was a basement apartment around the back of a house.
The stairs down were slippery from a broken gutter that caused patches of ice.
“Eddie” was sprinkling salt-melt on them when I got there.

“Heyyyyyyy! Alright!! Glad you’re here Gee!! Drinks are flowin’” He hugged me and I attempted to hand him the “champagne”.

“Such sophistication Gee! Thanks. Give that to “Brenda”, I’m sure we’ll get to it later.”

When I walked in, I received a similar gregarious welcome.
Everyone yelling, “HI!!! Hey!! Yo Cerone!!!”
More hugs.
“What’s Up? How’s school? Let me put your coat on the bed. Wanna play quarters?”
I scanned the room, there were people I had know as far back as grade school and as recent as 11th grade.
All friendly faces.
A bunch of them were sitting around a small kitchen table plastic cups in front of them filled with foamy beer.
Bumb clink.
“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh! Drink drink drink!!!!!”

Beer pong hadn’t even been a gleam in our future embryos’ eyes yet.
Quarters was the game.
“Cerone, Cerone, Cerone, sit, play quarters!!” someone yelled.
I squeezed my chair in.
Looked to my left.

“Hey Griesing? How’s it going?”
Jayson beamed with fuzzy joy. Big cheshire cat smile. 
We hugged warmly.
“How’s Stoneonta?”
“How do you think it is?  It’s Stoneonta for Chrissakes. It’s awesome! You’re still local, get Terc and come up and visit, open invitation Buddy. You know you’re always welcome, anytime.”
Jayson in the classic, contagious high pitched chortle/exclamation, 
“I KNOW!! I AM!! Right? Heeeeeeee!”
He set me off right there. Constant stream of laughter and yelling with my Buddy to the left.

I was on fire that night. 
Some nights the quarters just landed where they were supposed to. A perfect little “plop” into the cup of cold beer. I was the Minnesota Fats of the classic drinking game that winter evening.
Hell, I was the LeBron of Quarters. Some nights you just had it. It could never be explained.
“Cerone is my partner tonight!! Who’s up? We are unbeatable. Heeeeeee-yeah! Riiiiight?!!”

Hours passed. I literally began to experience what could only be described as “quarters elbow.”
No one could go on. Griesing and I had decimated everyone. 
My Buddy and me made them all look like hacks. Ha
Slowly people started to drift into the bedroom to get their coats.
“We’re donzo!” they’d say.
“I gotta work for my dad tomorrow. Buy Christmas presents. Later guys.”

Jayson smiled at me. 
We high-fived.
“Pussies. We destroyed them!!”
I’ll be honest. I was pretty buzzed. 
Maybe more than pretty buzzed.
I remember just looking back straight at his face, right into his eyes. 
Wait, wait, wait. When the fuck did Griesing develop such blue fucking eyes?
What the fuck was that about?
He was wearing a long sleeved and collared polo shirt with blue and white stripes. The azure blue on the shirt had nothing on those eyes.
I was puzzled.
“Total pussies Griesing!!” I stammered after I snapped to, a half a second away from it being uncomfortable.

Jayson looked down to reached to pick up an errant quarter. 
I glanced around. 
“Later Tommy!” I yelled to break the up moment a little bit more. 
Maybe to disengage the slight fluttery feeling in my stomach.
Since when did Griesing have such white straight teeth?
That big “M” shaped upper lip, that overlapped his bottom lip ever so slightly? 
Looked like he guzzled a glass of cherry kool-aid and it stained his lips that color permanently. 
Shining skin. Light he was lit from within.
That hairline. Perfectly mussed locks grown a little longer than when he was in high school. 
His hair still with the natural highlights from the summer, no? Was that possible?
Tiny little white scar over his eyebrow, that made a tiny slash right into it, where the hair didn’t grow back.
What the fuck kind of beer was I drinking?

Once a lot of friends split. “Brenda and Eddie” sprawled out on their love-seat for two.
Seemed like everyone that was left at the party was paired off one way or another.
“Eddie” put on a movie. 
Turned off the lights so the room glowed only from the TV.
American Werewolf in London.
It seemed as though all the make-out couples had monopolized the furniture.
Fuck it.
I sat on the floor with my back against the sofa. My knees pulled up against my chest.
Griesing sat next to me. 
Just to be sociable. 
He had nowhere to sit either. 
One couple were already in the bedroom screwing around on the leftover coats.
Not a lot of options for the young and horny.

The movie had just started, and he and I started wise cracking the flick.
“Yeah, I’m sure I would ask anyone why there’s a pentagram painted in what might be blood on the wall of a pub, when its freezing outside, and there’s no where else to have a fucking beer. I’m just keeping my trap shut and going with it. That;s for damn sure!”
Griesing exploding with that addictive high pitched laugh.
“Riiiiiight? I knooooow? Who’s fucking up that chance for a beer on a cold night in the middle of nowhere England?”
The two of us cracking up. He punched my shoulder. I punched him back.
“Sssssshhhhhhhh you two. This is the good part....”
“Sorry!” I said stifling a giggle.
 I grabbed Griesing’s beer and sipped.
“Yeah, oh nooooooo, we don’t wanna ruin a movie everyone has seen 25 times. Riiiiiiiiight?”
We both laugh like idiots together.
“SHUSH Jay!!!!! Seriously!!” “Brenda” admonished from the love-seat.

In that nicely buzzed, kind of dream like haze, it seemed as though everyone was getting into the movie. It quieted down. 
It was one of those films you could watch a thousand times and never get tired of it.
I shifted a bit and stretched my legs out straight under the coffee table.
Putting my palms on either side of me on the “deep pile carpet”.

I’m not sure exactly when. I mean I don’t have a timestamp for it or anything.....
(I think in real life no one is supposed to remember such mundane details. They’re good for books and movies, but real memories often weed out the seemingly unimportant stuff.)
But, around that time, I felt the side of Griesing’s right hand brush my left pinky.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get that weird swish of goose bumps and flippy stomach that makes your head light and you swallow really hard without warning.
“Wanna beer?” he whispered.
“Yes please.”

Griesing got up to go to the kitchen. I ran my hand over the spot he had been sitting. It was still warm. I could feel the cold coming from under the doorway just a little. Every once in awhile a tiny hint of chilly, winter breeze. 
I hadn’t felt it when he was sitting next to me.

He opened the fridge. Light spilled into the room.
“Hey! Jay, what’s the deal, it’s fucking bright. Close the fridge!”
“We need a beeah moron. Any left?”
“You see any Einstein?”
“No. (Giggle) Maybe you’re hiding ‘em.”
“If you don’t see any, then there’s none left. Gia brought a bottle of champagne, open that.”
Griesing futzed around the fridge.
“Bottle of bubbly with a bow!!! Niiiiiiiiice, heeeeeee-yeah!”
He popped the bottle and some fizzed up and over. He quickly put his mouth over the top.
“Whoops. Good thing I was here to catch it! Could’ve been a catastrophe!”
I smiled.

Griesing closed the fridge, came back he sat down next to me.
Did he, was he a lot closer?

He took a light swig of the “champagne” and held his mouth over the top. Then he smiled. Those lips. Those cherry kool-aid lips. What the fuck?
He handed me the bottle.

“Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.” he recited in a bad aristocratic accent.
“Yeah, well a real woman could stop you drinking.” I snapped back smiling.
At once, in unison, we said, “She’d have to be a real BIG woman!”
Both of us died laughing. Seriously like tears laughing.
“YOU GUYS ENOUGH. Shut the fuck up!!!
We both muffled our giggles and tried not to look at each other. With only the light of the TV, if we made eye contact we’d crack up. Both of us losing it.

Passing the bottle of champagne back and forth, we continued to watch the movie.
There were some pretty racy parts that made me uncomfortable, for what ever reason.
Like watching a ballgame with my dad and a tampon commercial would come on.
What was the big deal?
One of life’s unexplained mysteries.
Life’s unexplained mystery, just like the moment Griesing slid his hand over and took mine lacing our fingers together. 
My heart stopped.

Long fingers, not particularly big hands for a ballplayer. good grip though.
Those are the things I thought.

Then, a thought so loud screaming in my head I was sure everyone in the room could hear it. Everyone in the world could hear it! 


We started to rub each others fingers and palms and a some point he switched hands and put his arm around me.
I leaned into him.
With my free hand I picked up the bottle of bubbly and took a small swig. Then I’d hold it to his lips. He’d swig and smile at me.


Griesing? Me? Just bizarre.
Whoever was making out with who on the sofa decided to shift positions and kneed me in the back of the head.
“Ow, Shit! I hope it’s worth it.” I whispered.
I glanced behind and up a little to see if I could get a better vantage point.
When I turned back, my nose brushed his.
And just like that his mouth was on mine.
The taste of sweet, fizzy alcohol and maybe tangy, yet ambrosial,watermelon candy?


I noticed right away, we kissed exactly alike.

That night almost 30 years ago was the first time we, well, we, you know......
He asked me to follow him home after we fell asleep and woke up groggily on the “deep pile carpet” both of us shaking off the haze.
I stayed over his house in the basement.
Slept next to him, cuddled together in his bed. 
Slipped out in the morning when it was just getting blue outside, before he woke up.
I saw him a few more times at different parties over that winter break, trying to play it cool.
“Hey, sorry I didn’t call you, it’s been.......”
“No big deal, it’s fine.”
Walk away, go to the keg.
Act like you don’t care. Act like you don’t give a shit.
Two hours later making out in a closet.
End up back sleeping in his basement.
On and off (much more off, totally more off) for 30 years, with some form of that sexy routine. 
Never cheating on respective others if we had them.
Just knowing if we weren’t with anyone for real, and we were alone.....well.
And NEVER, I mean NEVER basing our relationship on anything but true-blue, you can tell me anything, I’ll be there if you need me anytime, friendship.
I can not believe we never fucked that up.
I can not believe it lasted all those years. 
Longer than any other part of the whole thing. 
It’s amazing that the really serious conversation we once had actually stuck.
“No matter what, I don’t want this to get in the way of our friendship. It’s too important.”
“I know. I could deal without the other stuff, I mean it’s a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but our friendship I couldn’t deal with losing.”
Griesing and me. 
Two fully grownup little children made that work!!!
How did we do that? How did we not screw that up?
We both, combined, into one, had the maturity of a 12 year old (and that’s overshooting), yet, somehow we pulled that off.

Just a couple of years ago we were in a bar with our significant others having a blast all together. 
Hanging out. Laughing. Shots!! Him talking baseball with My Old Man and his buddy Lombo. Me talking shit about some skank in corner with Griesing’s beautiful, funny, chick and Lombo’s wife (one of my favorite people) Joanna. We were laughing at the skank’s crispy hair.
I kept hugging him. Squeezing and laughing and smooching him all over his face like a Grandma does to her Grandkid. 
Him laughing. Swirling me around. Dipping me. Squeezing me back.

“You know”, he said to me  “You’re one of my favorite people ever. I love you.”

“Heeeeeeyyyyy, c’mon, you know A LOT of people, you’re the fucking mayor...... you are the Greenlawn Water District Stud”

“I KNOOOOW! Riiiiight? Heeeeeee! But seriously, no seriously, you really are. One of my favorite people of all time.”

“That’s funny, ‘cause you’re one of my favorite people of all time!! Griesing, you know how much I love you you?!!!!”

“How much?”

“Let’s put it this way, I wish I had a dime for every bit of love for you I have.”

“Heeeeeee! Really poor Arthur reference dummy!”

“You kidding? It’s 750 million dollars worth of love!”

“I think one of the horses just fainted. Heeeeeeeee!! See? No one will get that but you!! Know what’s weird? It’s so easy to say I love you now. I have no trouble with it. Oh God. Gee, does that mean I’m a grown up? Does that mean WE are grownups?”

I smiled at him and grabbed his ass, 
“No dope, it just means we’re drunk and you had a brain tumor albeit one that’s better but..........”

“HAAAAAAAA HEEEEEEEEE-YEEEEAAAHHH! That’s the best. I’m serious when I say Thank YOU Mr. Acavano!!”

Then he whispered through a smile.

“Fuck all that. I love you, you beautiful tool.”
I smiled back, “I love you too Griesing.”

About a month and a half ago when he was sick again. Really sick. I mean sick enough that I had to keep reminding him who I was, until he made me write my name down on the inside cover of his suduko book, we sat together in his basement.
He looked so tired. I rubbed his back and he closed his eyes.
I knelt in front of him. Taking his face in my hands. Looking him straight into those ridiculous blue eyes.
“Why don’t you lay back on me and I’ll rub your arms like after you used to pitch? I’ll scoot over on the couch and get you comfy, okay?”
He squinted back at me.
“Okay.” with a tiny smile.
I positioned myself behind him and he laid up against me.
I caressed his head for awhile humming “Wild Horses”. 
Still with that great hairline.
His breathing calmed. I felt him sinking into a comfortable position. I was kissing the top of his head dripping tears on his scalp, trying not to shake. I didn’t want him to know I was losing it. Crying so hard I was almost retching.

“You okay Jayson? Are you comfortable.? You know I love you.”
“Uh Mmmmm Yes. Thank you. I love you too......................Um, Gia”

Slowly, he reached up and took my hand in his. 
He kissed my palm.

Same exact hands. Not particularly big for a ballplayer. Good grip though.

Then, a thought so loud, wailing, repeatedly in my head.
Screaming, screaming, I hoped and prayed he couldn’t hear it. 
So piercing I thought everyone in the world could hear it.


Monday, September 22, 2014


I went to the mailbox today kind of in a doleful, hazy, dream.
Another rough one today for whatever reason.
A million reasons.
I opened the mailbox and saw a padded manilla envelope I assumed was for our wonderful upstairs neighbor.
Sorting through what was left in the mailbox, I glanced once more at the envelope.
It was addressed to me.
I pulled it out and read the label.
My address.
The return address.
I stood outside in the warm wind holding the envelope I know contained beautiful little treasures she wanted me to have.
Tiny trinkets of affection attached to the hope that they would lift me up just a bit.
But I didn't open it.
Instead, I sat on the curb like I did when I was a little girl on Forest Drive and turned the envelope over and over in my hands.
Rubbing my thumb against the front.
"Fragile" (must be Italian, I thought with a smirk) written in swirling artistic cursive on the front.
Beautiful 9/11 stamps lined up perfectly.
I even smelled the friggin thing.
I grasped that envelope and I wept today.
Stop being a pussy Gia.
Yeah? Well FUCK OFF.
I cried holding that envelop from my friend Meryl.
It had been in her hands a few days earlier. She had written the addresses and "Fragile".
She had taken the time to seal it, buy stamps, and bring it to her post office over a thousand miles away from where I sat at that very moment.
I have this friend, I thought.This beautiful, funny, tough, savvy, true blue friend, who goes through her own shitload of personal, physical problems that she can't get a straight answer about.
Doctors are SUPPOSED to do that.
That's ALL they're SUPPOSED to do.
They tell you what's wrong and help fix it. Nope. Not yet anyway, not for awhile.
I have this friend who sent me this envelope.
"HANDLE WITH CARE", it says.
That's what she's doing to and for me.
Handling with care.
And me, I'm sitting out on the curb crying because this envelope shows me just how much she really, really does.