Cover image courtesy of Nina
When Janet and John approached Walter’s house, there was a note taped to the front door. On the folded piece of paper was written “For J. and J.” Janet took it, opened it and read aloud. The note stated, “Dear Janet and, I presume, John. Walter here. I am writing for everybody. You are reading something written by me, your father, Harold Goldman, Oliver Bentley, Spencer Tilden, Peter and Luke Marvin, and a fellow who knew Sherman Goldman, named Tyler Findlay. In reality, Tyler’s attitude is included. He had no say in the writing of the letter. I just wanted to give him respectful credit. Everyone else, however, agreed upon the words contained herein.”
John asked, “Whoever heard of a letter written by so many people?”
She shrugged. The letter continued, “If you knocked on my door and received no answer, we have decided to go in hiding. One of Peter Marvin’s coworkers found out about the complex bank embezzlement. Yes, we referred to lawsuits but it was purely embezzlement. No money has been embezzled yet and the police are not looking for us but we figure there is nothing wrong in securing our freedom and privacy. The name of the coworker and the amount of money will not be mentioned by me. You won’t get in trouble for what you don’t know.”
“This sounds a bit suspicious.”
She continued reading. “Your father wanted you to know he understands why you still resent your mother. He also resents how she decided to leave the family. She told him she was joining a spiritual commune. He had reasons to believe she used that as an excuse because she felt he shunned the world of thinking to become another jerk in the cesspool known as the law. In reality, Steven never gave up the art of thinking. He used it to implement a practical type of occupation so he could make money. Bernadette, knew this.”
“Do you resent your mother?”
“No, I don’t. I miss her and I would like to see her again but I can accept if she needs to find a different situation more akin to her peace of mind.”
“Well, if it makes you feel better, I only had first names of people who could have been my father. Tom, Paul, Rick, Lowell… I never knew him.”
“Maybe your father wanted nothing to do with what could have been a life of hell with the Goldmans.”
“That would apply to all the possible men.”
“Nine or ten.”
She whistled. “Okay. In that case, concerning how blood tests were not considered as accurate as they are now, they didn’t want to be pinpointed for something they figured there was only one tenth of a chance in which they were responsible. It’s a different kind of escape than what my mother did but I’ve come up with a theory. Anyone who runs from something is running to another thing. Sometimes the compulsion to run towards something is so strong, it takes over. It does not mean there is neglect intended.”
“Is that why you’re clinging to me? You want to run to me and away from what you’ve known?”
“Do you want the full answer to your question?”
“So far, this has been a rather strange mystery. I would like to know.”
“Let’s go back to my place first and then I’ll tell you.” They walked back to her house and then went inside.
He asked, “First, are you getting tired?”
“I think so. It’s been an interesting day and my gripping your hand does take effort. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. It just means I’m aware of how energy works. Anyway, you’re my ideal. I hold on to you and I become you. You have something going on because you act awkward in unacceptable situations. You remind me of myself. So, I’m latching on to that which takes me away from fake reality.”
John said, “This might sound strange but I get what you mean. You, with your tucked in shirt and rolled up sleeves… when you met me and shook my hand, you respected me because you looked your best for when we became attached. You could have easily just as well have overlooked that aspect of what you did but you were conscious of your appearance.”
Janet looked at the letter. “There’s something about that here. Should I read it?”
She read, “Steven mentioned how Bernadette had not been greatly concerned about if she looked presentable. Not that she thought about looking bad but she just did not think about it. You, Janet, were and still are the opposite. You always tuck in your shirt and refuse to wear it any other way, even if someone tells you to do so. Perhaps you remember when I offered to pay you close to one thousand dollars and you refused. Your father thought you showed the same type of persistence he had when becoming a lawyer. He saw a stubbornness in you that would be right for the types of cases he deemed eccentric.”
“Is your style a direct attempt to not be like your mother?”
“If you’re asking if I wanted to be the opposite of my her because I resented her leaving the family, my answer is no. She saw spirituality only through thoughts. I see spirituality in physical things as well as mental. I see spirituality also in actions. I believe that persistence is spirituality. Persistence is honesty and sincerity. This is the true me. Truth is not only in deeds done but deeds repeated.”
He pointed to the letter. “This goes on quite a bit.”
She read, “As far as your father and Harold Goldman are concerned, Steven had a friendship with Harold’s father, Sherman, and accepts Harold grudgingly. You took care of Sherman for approximately six months before he became close to an invalid. Sherman associated you with your father, as far as kindness was concerned. Sherman also sensed his grandson, John Goldman, was also very kind and he meditated every night, hoping there would be a way you would connect with John. He talked with a friend of his, Tyler Findlay, about how to discover a way to bring both of you together. Tyler was a mechanic along with Sherman for the San Francisco transportation system. Tyler brought Sherman to Himalayan Journey for dinner. Tyler told him that once the mind was open to new ways of thinking, new solutions could be discovered. Sherman had never eaten that kind of food before and he understood that if John became familiar with you, instead of only his relatives, his life would be better. Sherman did not know how that would have came about but, if he knew that you planned on gripping John’s hand forever, he would be pleased. He was hoping you would find a solution for his wishes.”
He said, “It was like the spirit of Sherman went inside you and it’s him gripping my hand.”
“No. I talked with Sherman about you and jokingly mentioned doing this and he thought it was a good idea and then later I thought of it seriously.”
“What else does the letter say?”
She read, “This part of the letter is for John. Young man, you never knew your father and neither did I nor Steven Baker or any of the Goldmans except your mother who knew that one of the men she slept with fathered you. However, Sherman resolved that your father was probably a better person than any of his family. I would disagree with him. Harold kept me company when I was in the hospital and had no one I could call a friend to talk with me. I must say my peace in that respect. I do not agree at all with how Sherman felt about your uncle. I will tell you what Sherman thought of most of his family because it ties into his philosophy according to your momentary situation. I am assuming you are with Janet. Sherman thought that Harold was gay and never revealed it. I know Harold is gay because of personal experience. During an encounter, he got caught by his boss and was fired. I will assume you do not need further details.”
He said, “I guess I should have known, even though I didn’t.”
She continued reading. “Harold knew Peter Marvin independently of the situation involving the embezzlement. However, Peter suggested Harold get involved but not because of the money. Peter wanted Harold to feel better about himself by meeting other gay men. Oliver Bentley and Spencer Tilden and Peter Marvin all knew each other and they were happy to know Harold. Luke Marvin, Janet’s friend and coworker, is only involved with the embezzlement part of things. He knows about the other and he does not care. Sherman thought that his children were purposefully wanting to put misery upon their own children. He saw how Christine, Harold’s daughter, was obese. He also thought Harold was miserable to his wife, Thelma. She was also obese. Your mother was obese. Sherman saw that you were slim and he figured you were capable of happiness, more so than the other Goldmans. Since we are all in hiding and you will not see us anytime soon, I will say that Steven approves of the both of you staying joined together. Harold hopes you find happiness because he is finally at peace with his sexuality and does not feel guilty about eating spicy foods anymore. I don’t know if what you are doing is right or wrong but everyone deserves to be happy. Yours truly, Walter Denton.”
He shook his head. “Wow. That was interesting. I’m wondering, though, if you have any food.”
She shrugged. “I made a soup earlier today before I went to work. I put it on low heat and it’s probably ready by now. That was a peculiar segue way.”
“I just figured we had food for thought so maybe now it’s time for food for stomach.”
She laughed. “Okay. I understand that.” They walked in the kitchen. With her free hand, she put out a small bowl and then ladled some soup from a pot. She put a spoon in the bowl and said, “Enjoy!”
John took the spoon and sipped some soup. “This is tasty. It’s nothing like my mother makes. What’s in it?”
“It’s my own take on the ideas I heard from Sherman. There’s lentils and lima beans and ground turkey meat and potatoes and broccoli. The spices are black pepper, salt, mustard, sage and savory and tumeric. It’s my take on a synergistic health trip. I believe in a positive vibration coming from food.”
“That’s not how my mother thinks. She’s afraid of spices.”
She nodded. “She’s afraid of them because she was conditioned by them being prepared poorly by her mother. Her fear of spices is equal to your fear of me. That’s another reason why I’m adamant about our touching. I’m taking away your fear.”
“Do you think I’ll get over my fear?”
“Are you admitting you’re fearful of me?”
“No but I don’t want to be argumentative.”
“Okay. I think that, if you are fearful of me, the fear will eventually go away.”
He finished the bowl of soup. The warm broth felt like natural medicine. He asked, “Are you going to have any of this?”
She turned off the stove. “No. I might eat tomorrow. My day has been exciting and I’m ready to rest. How about you?”
“Sure. Let’s go to sleep.” They walked up the staircase. Everything looked close to exactly how things were in his dream. They entered her bedroom and sat on her bed.
She asked, “Did this room look the same in your dream?”
“How did you know I was thinking about that?”
“It’s probably the energy from you to me.”
“I want to lay down.”
“Okay.” They laid on the bed. John moved his hand back and forth, handshake style. He figured that, since that was the way she was holding on to him, he might as well think of them involved in a regular handshake that lasted a little too long. She smiled and said, “Nice to know you.”
“What if I escape?”
“Please don’t say things like that. It’s not a trap.”
“But you know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean. I would think I failed.”
He smiled. “Well, don’t worry about that now. I’m going to sleep.”
He closed his eyes. His plan was to wait. In the meantime, an image came into his mind. She was outside a courthouse in Bulgaria. She had on a white turtleneck tucked into black and white checkerboard pants with a black belt and a black jacket. She had a silver owl necklace on also and she did a thumbs up when John strolled by.
She said, “Congratulations. You won the case.”
He asked, “What case?”
“The case concerning whether or not compulsion is appropriate in our lives.”
“I wasn’t in court. I just finished leaving a jazz concert.”
She smiled. “It’s a wonderful night, right?”
“Yes. It’s nice and cool. ”
“By the way, you were in court.”
He frowned. “How so?”
“This building that I’m standing by… it is a courthouse… it is The Center for Performing Arts… it is everything.”
“How did we get here?”
“Your grandmother, Gerte, catered dinners here. She’s Eastern European.”
“She was born in New York.”
“Her parents weren’t.”
She sighed. “How easily you forget. We are stuck together. This is an image in your mind.”
“Does that explain why you are not holding on to me?”
“You got it.”
He opened his eyes. She was resting. According to his observation, she was asleep. He waited an approximate ten or fifteen minutes to make sure. He lifted his hand. Hers was still firmly clamping tight. With his other hand, he tried prying her fingers open but could not do so.
He got out of bed and tried walking but could not go far. He pulled as hard as possible but her grip remained firm. He went back on the bed and laid down.
She was breathing peacefully. There were no odd movements indicating she was fooling him.
As soon as he could get his hand free, he would show her how she could trust him to stay with her. He felt like they would not be a couple until she let go.
The process was taking longer than necessary. She must have employed a type of super grip that allowed nobody to alter it. Was she perhaps studying martial arts?
More time passed. He thought about tickling her but he did not want her to wake up. He wanted to sleep, also, but felt way too hyperactive to relax.
She was affecting him more oddly each passing minute. He needed to maintain calm. Today was an unusual day. Tomorrow, things would get back to normal.
Finally, sleep overtook him. He knew he was dreaming because he was in Bulgaria with her again, by that building. However, now they were holding hands like a regular couple. He did not want to find out if she would prevent him from letting go. He was not even sure he was in a dream but he did not want to spoil the magic. The moment felt good. He said, “Maybe we should see a movie.”