Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Rear View Mirror

In the car today on the oldies station I heard Elvis Presley singing Hard Headed Woman. Suddenly I saw in my mind those wavy black and white lines they always used on old television shows to signal that a flashback was coming.

I'm playing a short center field the way I always did, daring opposing batters to hit it over my head. I'm twelve years old and, in my mind at least, there is no fly ball I can't run down. At the crack of the bat I instinctively take off in the direction I know the ball will be traveling. After a few long strides, without slowing down, I sneak a look over my shoulder to try to pick up the ball's flight. There it is, soaring toward the fence. I adjust my direction slightly and stick up my glove. I hear the thwack as it hits the webbing. I spin and throw hard on a line to third base. The runner who was going to tag up at second goes half-way to third and goes back. He gives me a grudging 'nice catch' nod as I trot back to my position. I'm good. My body is strong, my reflexes are quick, and I have that unshakable confidence unique to the young.

"Well a hard headed woman, a soft hearted man, been the cause of trouble ever since the world began, oh yeah...." is blaring out of the radio of my 1961 Chevy Impala. Heads turn because the car windows are rolled all the way down as I cruise along Cross Bay Boulevard past the Big Bow Wow Drive-In. I can smell the burgers and hot dogs on the summer breeze as I pull into the lot. I look good in my French-toe shoes, black chinos with the belt in back, and my pink and black shirt that laces-up the front. I take an admiring glance at myself in the gleaming finish of the black car before strolling to the miniature golf course to see if any of the guys are there. I wonder how any of the giggling girls, with their hair in giant rollers under bright aqua scarfs can resist me. I have that unshakable confidence unique to the young.

"Now Adam told Eve, listen here to me, don't you let me catch you messin' round that apple tree, oh yeah..." I couldn't wait to get out of high school; college was definitely not for me. I'm in a dead-end job working as a bank clerk and thinking I have the world on a string. I'm pulling in a sweet $52 a week and spending twice that. The free checking account that the bank gives to every employee is my ticket to living beyond my means. Some of the bad checks I wrote are still out there bouncing. I soon discover credit cards and my finances worsen. As Tennessee Ernie said: Another day older and deeper in debt. My prospects are poor, but I'm having too much fun to realize it. I have that unshakable confidence unique to young.

"Now Samson told Delilah loud and clear, Keep your cotton pickin' fingers out my curly hair, oh yeah..." My best friend Rich has a girl he wants me to meet. She's a friend of his girlfriend JoAnn. Her name is Jasmine, she and JoAnn are classmates at Bishop McDonnell High School on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. We meet at JoAnn's house in Richmond Hill. Jasmine seems nice enough and we hit it off pretty well. I am especially impressed with her sense of humor; she laughs at all my jokes. I think we went to a movie and after that had a few dates, but we went our separate ways. Hey, why rush into anything, there are plenty of girls out there and most of them would be happy to date a guy like me. I have that unshakable confidence unique to the young.

"I got a woman, a head like a rock. If she ever went away I'd cry around the clock, oh yeah..." As the light changes and the guy behind me honks, I drift back to reality. I reflect on the ending to my story. It must have been divine intervention that brought me to my senses, and sent me back to the lovely Jasmine. Luckily she saw something in me that even I didn't know was there. She married me, and began the process of turning me into a better man. She sacrificed so that I could finish college at night, get a better job, and make a life for our family. I wanted so much to justify her faith in me.

Whatever I've accomplished in life, I owe to her. Even when I make mistakes she is always there to help me. The only way I can think of to repay her is by trying harder to be the kind of husband she deserves.


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I think we marry these good women, then when we don't know it, they knock us out and sell us for glue!


Jim Pantaleno said...

And then hook up with Pablo the cabana boy.