It was a bad break up. Baaaaaaaaaaaad baaaaaaaaaaad break up. He was my entre into becoming an expert in dating dangerous men. Which kind of dangerous you ask? The controlling kind. The drinking kind.
The kind that did not like being the one dumped.
Though it took me three years and several verbal and emotional bruisings to understand that, yes, I could get out and I could make it on my own at twenty-six, (even though I’d moved to New York alone), I managed to finally muster up the courage, get over my Daddy Complex, and exit stage left.
At this point in my life my father had already died and my step-father was fifteen hundred miles away in Texas. He was not the rescue type (and I was not telling my parents everything either). But they did know enough call in the tertiary troops.
This “troop” came in the form of my mother’s first cousin, who also lived in New York, and had five children of his own. All grown. The moment my mother made the call, I became number six.
He made damn sure I knew it.
“You’re my kid,” he’d flatly state.
That’s a man, my friends. That’s a Stand-In Dad. “SiD.”
SiD, my first cousin once removed, not really my dad, too fatherly to call cousin. I’ll call him Uncle. Very Shakespearean.
Fleur and “Uncle Sid” (a/k/a Robert Braine)
Uncle SiD arrived from Long Island on the official day of my departure from an Upper West Side apartment, (rank with Stench du Wino), in his car; locked and ready to load. He came as moral support, too. Oh, let’s be real – He came as The Protector. Dad Protector. The only thing missing was the cape.
We loaded the car with all my things. We were just ready to hit the road when he spotted three boxes packed and stacked against the wall in the corner off the hallway.
“What are those?” questioned SiD. He was eyeing labeled boxes. Conspicuously labeled boxes. Boxes labeled in black Sharpie: “FLEUR’S STUFF”.
I explained that I was going to come back and get them (what was I thinking?) later.
He made no response.
I reasoned that they were heavy and I thought I’d just load them in a cab…you know…later. The truth is I didn’t want to be a burden to this relatively new relative-acquaintance of mine. I had no idea at the time he would become Uncle Stand-in-Dad. Perhaps he just needed a little reassurance.
“It’s okay. I’ll get them…ya know…later.
There was a brief eternal pause.
Then Uncle SiD spoke as if he was separating lights from darks, ordering a burger, choosing a tie.
“Let’s take them now.”
This is not my native tongue. What is this language he speaks? I suspect he has spoken this Speak before. It’s as if he knows what he’s doing. Could this be… Dad-Tongue?
Yet Little Red continued down the garden path. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said, skipping toward the door, “I can get them laaaaaaater.”
SiD didn’t move. Laundry done, Burger gone, Tie tied.
This was the moment of truth. A subtle game change. The first clue was the glint in his eye. But not knowing him well, I couldn’t read his glints yet. Was this hypnosis? Telepathy? Was he simply confused by this newly adopted Southern transplanted orphan? It was a face-off at either end of the hallway. Who would draw first?
I think I saw tumbleweed blow past the bathroom door.
“Why don’t we take them… now.”
Phraseology be damned, he was using the word “We” in its royal form. And We were not questioning anything. We were now hoisting the first box, (heavy books), onto Our able shoulder.
Yet still she doth protest! “But —!
There are moments where action takes place right before your eyes. You see it happening. There it is. Yep. Right there. Happening now. Look at that. La la la. Your mind wants to debate, defend. Yet words will not go from space between ears to sounds out of mouth. Duh, duh, duh.
By the time I managed to catch up with what was happening he was out the door with the third box.
I forgot to mention that the now “Ex” was witnessing all of this from a safe distance in the kitchen the entire time.
I slammed the door for the last time to the hungover screeching of “GIVE ME BACK THOSE PEARLS I GAVE YOU,” reminiscent of a wild peacock in heat.
I still have the pearls. I keep meaning to sell them. Or give them to the homeless woman on the Times Square Shuttle who loves to sing Donna Summer’s On The Radio in thirty-second increments.
But the death knell from the croaking peacock that day could never outlast the Song of SiD:
“You’re my kid.”
So sweetly singeth Uncle SiD.