The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
Room for Two
Words by J. Ray Paradiso
*Editor's Note: Originally published at Dream Magazine.
She turned, smiled, nodded. And then…
Two rows left, four rows UP in Room 4-2 in St. Brides School at 79th and Coles on Chicago's South Shore bloomed Mary Rose Sullivan. Minty-Irish, and close enough for me to sneak-a-peek at "MRS" in CAPITAL letters on her brown Kraft lunch bag. Stuffed in the right corner of an old-school Heywood Wakefield desk. Yet, f-a-r enough away to ignore me.
Posing Venus de Milo-dreamy for our fourth grade class stood Sister Hugo. Ou-la-la French, and close enough for me to admire her shiny black penny loafers. To my mind, THE fashion statement of 1954. Yet, f-a-r enough away to mask the 10ish years between us.
Tick-tocks before lunch, what possessed me to print and fold - one, two, three times - a note, passing biblically from Mathew to Mark to Luke to John to Mary, rests Herodotus- ancient history. Like Howard "HoPaLoNg" Cassidy, creamy Clearasil, sticky plastic covers on my Grandmother's 3-piece sofa, red wax candy lips and the oh-so-sweet smell of Johnson's baby powder.
"Dear Mary," I implored, "Wanna skip school this afternoon? Catch a movie at the Shore? It's not far. I can pay. Walk you home in time for Spin and Marty.”
Exactly why Mary turned, smilJd and nodded remains a Raymond-Chandler-mystery like why the world exists, where is Jimmy Hoffa, how to open plastic clamshell packaging without scissors, how to square a circle, where does black energy come from and why the spiral shape of a galaxy is so similar to the spiral shape of a s/l/i/c/e/d head of cabbage.
Was it the first time I penciled non-fiction? Perhaps, though in third grade, my creative autobiography won a 3rd Place yellow ribbon.
Yet, turn, smile, nod…she did. And then…
Leaping UP at the 11:45 Rrring, we flew down 79th to 75th, veered a few blocks left and landed at the Shore's entrance. Where, I gulp-chirped, "Two tickets, please." to the steely lady in the outdoor booth.
I cared that Marlon Brando tongue-tied-threatened as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront as much as I cared about the first names of Custer, DuSable and Babe Ruth. And the surnames of Galileo, Michelangelo and Little Richard.
What goose-bUmPeD me was, Mary and I slumped alone, dark-center, Row Z. Where, demonically-driven, I fantasized about s-n-a-k-i-n-g my arm around her shoulder. But…
Preempting a Brioschi moment, an Officer Krupke look-alike in a blue suit from Chicago's Finest startled, "Will you kids please follow me?" too-few frames into the flick.
At home, why my rosary-chokin’ Grandmother, who dropped out of fourth grade to help her parents during the Depression, didn't stare-sneer her signature "Now, you r-e-a-l-l-y cooked your own goose." holds another story for another time on another day.
Like the Saturday, 10 years later, standing in her Mother’s living room, I jaw-drop-gaped at a photo of Sister Mary Rose, taking vows of chastity, obedience and poverty.
And the time Sister-promoted-to-Mother Hugo and I, like Odysseus and Penelope floating in space, ZOOOOOM’D in my 2-seat, white TR 4 convertible, top down with Rhode Island license plates JIMIE. To celebrate our mythical reunion over sliders and malts at a legendary old-neighborhood-restaurant, White Castle. On the same day.