Billy and Lorna Come to Dinner - A Lazy Day in Flushing, Queens, New York
Thursday 5th February 2015
I woke up at 8.45 and the household still asleep, went back to bed and tried to sleep to no avail .... got up at 10 and quietly boiled the kettle, took a cup of tea back to the bedroom, and did my fb and blog. Another cup of tea, and a plate of fruit. Dickie, as the shopper and the chef, is amazing, every single item of fruit and veg is washed and dried before it goes into the fridge. At 1 pm Bev woke up and we sat and talked and talked about our families, our sisters in particular. Dickie joined us 2 pm, and I had some toast about 2.30 pm, with more tea. Billy and Lorna are coming to dinner, and last night Dickie cooked up bbq ribs and chicken, which he will heat up for dinner tonight. I ask why. He says "You eva bought a bbq store chicken?" Yes. "Well, same principle." OK. He spent hours preparing last night and has been in the kitchen for two hours now, preparing rice and beans and fruit. He is a man who loves to be of service.
I pay him the money I owe for my jacket, as the store would not take a credit card, only a debit card, which I had left at the apartment. I give him $145 dollars and he returns me $2. The coat cost $143. I say, don't worry! He says, "Saaaaaandra, bizniz is bizniz, right?" Right. I give him $80 for my ticket to the Valentines Ball tomorrow night, and he pushes my hand away. I protest, he says, "Saaaaaaaaandra, I paid for my wife and my ticket. Somebardy else pay yours. Its a donation, its a gift, you have to accept it." Right. There are no arguments.
I shower, and my darling calls me. His dear familiar face on my screen makes my heart ache. I see my little girl, looking VERY peculiar! - her hair shaved, her body skinny, as long as an exclamation mark, even her ears are shaved! The vet nurse did this, as well as cleaned her ears, her anal glands, and trimmed her nails, but Tracey, our regular groomer, will have a fit when she sees it!
Peter calls, it appears he is coming tomorrow and will be here around 11.30 am - Ann is not coming, he says the four hour round trip 'will kill her'. Given the conversation I had with Ann, this is odd, but this is not my circus, and this is not my monkey. He ends with endearments, repeating that I have come thousands of miles, he can travel a couple of hundred - and says "The only thing that will stop me is snow." So we will see what happens.
When Lorna and Billy arrive, Dickie and Bev are busy in the kitchen and setting the table, and tell me to sit with Lorna and talk. She is an absolute delight, born in Guyana, highly intelligent, a go getter, currently working for Mars - she has worked for J.P. Morgan, travelled the world, is highly successful, owns her beautiful home in Chester and another in Florida, the mother of a 10 year old daughter Aspen whom she shares custody of her with her ex - a man who had an affair, and she subsequently kicked him out. He now lives with a 'hippie' and some years ago she discovered that her daughter had been sexually abused by this hippie's son - a white 23 year old, who lives in a small town and has had 'protection' from the police, despite her spending $170,000 on attorneys in three different states. It is a story from hell, I have no reason to disbelieve her, yet she is such a powerful woman, and has been unable to get justice for her daughter - who is still in the environment of the very man who abused her. Something just doesn't fit. She and Billy are booked into the Landmark Forum on 27th March, I shall connect with them - they are both so community minded, so passionate, and so excited about participating, who knows what they will cause?
Conversation never falters, it’s a wonderful place to be, although at times, it is challenging, as Dickie has the loudest voice I ever heard, even standing next to you, he shouts as if he was at the other end of a football field. The TV is on and the sound is up high, Billy is talking on the phone, Bev is talking on speakerphone to Yvonne, Dickie talks to himself quite a lot, and Lorna and I are talking to each other. There is so much going ON here!!
Dinner is delicious - a roast chicken, Dickie's famous pork spare ribs, green beans and potatoes, orange squash, red jelly which is cranberry sauce, a big bowl of gravy, iced water and a beautiful blessing by Billy. “Thank you Lord for this nourishment, for this meal, for our family, for our relationships, and for the abundance of our lives.” The talk is about justice and fairness, always in the background, Billy is talking about someone who is transgender, Bev is talking about young black men who are doing well in programs yet she believes the government stops those programs deliberately to prevent these same young men succeeding. Lorna is talking about the work she does running programs for young people in Leadership, Dickie is ensuring everybody eats too much. I love how he calls Bev “Kitten". I love how she reaches her arms up seductively, and encircles his neck - with a loving “Thank you” for the meal.
After dinner, us three women talk about sexual harrassment, and the anger we all feel about sexual abuse of children - I have shared the indigenous program I led in Australia, and the mistreatment of those men and the rape and violence they endured personally, and then subjected on others. The conversation turns dark. Lorna says, and I get it, as her three year old daughter was abused - she would use a knife to “Cut it off!” - and her second choice is acid. Bev shakes her head, "No, I would take him out to the desert, stake him out like the Indians used to, cover him with honey, and let the ants have a field day." She nods at each of us in turn, and emphasises "And let the ANTS have a field day." Lorna tells us of the harassment she has endured at work - once by the CEO of her company - when she smacked his hand off her rear end, and read him the riot act. She was also responsible for having a man sacked, who had propositioned one of the young men in the leadership training program she was leading, which he was assisting on. Bev tells us of Dickie's mother, a woman from the South "You don' wanna mess with those Suthen Wimmin" she says, mocking a Southern accent - "They carry knives in their bras." She tells us the story of when Dickie's Mum went on an aeroplane - her first plane journey ever - and was terrified of the journey - luckily Bev remembered just in time before she went through security, to retrieve the knife from her bra. That old lady said "I ain' goin' nowheah witout my knife!" Bev is an accomplished actor and doing such a grand impersonation, she pats her breast and pulls out her imaginary knife, and I am rolling about laughing. She explains it was a flick knife, and they would “cut you as quick as look at you, and you DON’ KNOW you cut till the blood runs down!” We laugh, but the underlying story is a serious one, these women were afraid, they needed to protect themselves, and that mistrust continues down the family tree. Beverly talks of the advice she gave her kids, things that my mother never told me, things I never told Josh. To be wary, even of old ladies in the park, they could be bad, if they don't have kids, keep away - and, if they have a dog - keep away. Never invite even your best girlfriend into your hotel room when travelling, as they may bring a male friend to the door, and he will have another friend. Lorna says if she is in the park with her daughter, and a lone male is there - she dials 911, and tells them to come get him. Bev tells stories of feeling threatened by men, and despite her small size, she puts all of them in their place, with the threat “I will hurt you - I will throw you down the stairs - I will kill you”. She says this with such gravity that I am in no doubt.
There is a lot of fear here, and lots of mistrust of white people, authority, the police - and clearly all with good reason. It’s a life I have not known. There is also a mistrust of all men. Neither of these women say they would allow a male to bath their baby, hold their baby, bounce their baby. I know they must have valid reasons for this thought process, they are both very intelligent, but I despair at what is lost in the world when this conversation is the foundation of family and life. Despite my African beginnings, I have led such a privileged, white, arrogant life, and I feel guilty for having grown up with good messages about the world, about men, about sex, about life and in healthy surroundings. I KNOW - KNEW - there were bad men - "Uncle" Don Holmes, our never exposed next door neighbour in Bancroft, was a a paedophile. I know from what he did to me when I was ten years old. In the terms of what these women are talking about, it was ‘minor’ thankfully, and I recovered, wiser, with no damage to my heart or my ability to enjoy men and my sexuality. Compared to today, I think they were isolated instances, and my world was not tainted by the conversation that the world was bad, nor told that people were untrustworthy, nor was I told to protect myself from people were out to get me, do me over, or take advantage of me - by men or women. This conversation may have been necessary to survive, but it is not a healthy way to be, it is not a way I want to live, not a life I want for my son or grandchildren one day. Today my friend Paul Pearce posted a message on facebook after returning home from to Australia from international travels: "I am happy to be home in our healthy country - whilst we have our issues - this is a great land!” - or words to that effect. My example is based on a minuscule experience, but this is a pervasive sickness, and it is this is one of the things that makes me uncomfortable in the USA.
Lorna has a habit that at first confuses me, which becomes endearing. Like Bev, she never misses a detail, her stories are long and take several turns. Whilst Bev makes a point with dead pan face, then points a finger to emphasise what she has said, followed by "Right?" Lorna, on their other hand, in response to a murmured comment from me (for example when I say "Good for you" or “Oh no!" or "That must have been awful!") - sits back in her seat, clasps her hands, and says "Thank You!" as if I had just presented her with a bouquet of flowers.
I am tired, I am sneezing a lot, my nose is running, and I am ready for bed. The constant company, the gravity of the topics of conversation and the wonderful noise, as much as I love it, is unusual and wearying. I long to walk barefoot on the beach in fresh sea air with a wide blue sky with Cino, I want to fling my arms wide and twirl around without knocking something over, and move my body which feels tight and restricted. I am unaccustomed to being indoors for so long, and feel claustrophobic. The apartment is very hot and very dark, but the day outside is very cold and very sunny and very icy. I could not walk and fling my arms about even if I went outside.
What another fabulous, unforgettable day this has been. I have learned so much. Its my bed time, tomorrow is another Big Day!