A CURIOUS VIEW: TRUE CONFESSIONS
I walked out of the movie theater on Fifty-Eighth Street and Columbus Circle.
It was late August and there was a cool, refreshing breeze blowing. I thought to myself that, hopefully, this was a good omen and that autumn would be making an early arrival.
The summer, up to this point, had been brutally hot and humid. No amount of drinking ice-cold beer made much of a difference, but I never stopped trying.
I’m sure it didn’t make my father very happy, but my father was such a wonderful and loving person that he didn’t complain, especially since his middle son would be moving to California.
Sadly, our communications suddenly would be limited to letters and very short phone conversations.
For those not alive in 1982, a fifteen-minute phone call from Los Angeles to New York could cost as much as a day’s pay. “Free long distance” would not be in the nomenclature for a few more years.
For those not familiar with Italian culture, phone calls were never finished until everyone in the house had talked to the prodigal son. Many times before hanging up, I would have talked to at least ten people. The idea of time and space (and relative costs) were an alien concept to them.
Deep in thought, I walked down to Fifty-Eighth Street and Park Avenue, across from the entrance to Central Park and looked at the water fountain where people of all ages were sitting and enjoying the cool weather.
For two years, while attending John Jay College, I used to get off the bus directly across from the fountain and walk up to Fifty-Eighth Street and Tenth Avenue where the college was located.
I walked across the street and looked through the window of FAO Schwarz’s toy store and waved to the giant-sized animatronic bear, Teddy Ruxpin, who waved back his “goodbye.”
I was still holding my movie program for the film I had just seen…“True Confessions,” starring Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall.
I thought it was a good film, and reviewed it to myself as I walked, commenting silently that Duvall’s performance overwhelmed DeNiro’s wooden and stiff presentation.
I had planned to stop in a bar while in Manhattan for the last time, because I literally had no idea when I would be coming back east.
But it just so happened, that I wasn’t in the drinking mood and decided to skip the bar.
And people say miracles don’t happen.
I walked to Fifty-Seventh Street and Fifth Ave and waited for the express bus back to the Bronx.
I was about ten minutes early, and while waiting in line, I heard someone ask, “Did you see that movie?”
I turned, not even sure if the question was intended for me, and looked down at a young lady. “Did you just ask me if I saw the movie?”
“Yes, did you?” She was petite, around eighteen- or nineteen-years-old, and she had lovely olive skin.
Her face was a near-perfect oval, and she was pretty, yet her facial expressions and tone of voice were childish. She was looking at the movie program in my hand.
“Yes, I did see it and it was good.”
“I really want to see it, but I don’t think I will be able to.”
“It’s playing in the Bronx.” I remarked as I handed her the program that she studied with a high level of intensity.
“They won’t let me. I’m so seldom allowed out.”
I looked closely at her as her total focus had shifted to the program.
“Not even to a movie?” I asked.
She looked up and shook her head as she handed the program back to me.
“Do you go to a lot of movies?” she asked.
“Yes, about once a week,” I replied.
She suddenly was silent as the bus pulled up and the door opened.
I motioned for her to go before me, and she dropped her money in the terminal.
The bus driver said, “You’re thirty-five cents short. It’s one-fifty, not one-fifteen,” the driver said rudely. “You should check that before getting on.”
Before he had a chance to humiliate the girl any further, I interrupted, “That’s my fault. I gave her the wrong amount.”
I put the missing thirty-five cents in the terminal, and then paid for myself.
I walked down the aisle, but did not see her.
She was so small that, if she didn’t want to be seen, she easily could hide toward the back.
The bus was relatively empty and I took a seat in the middle of the bus next to the window.
I was not going to embarrass her any further.
I had been humiliated and embarrassed far too many times not to sympathize with her situation.
I couldn’t help feeling that maybe if I had stopped off at a bar as I planned and had a few beers, I would have had some choice words for that bus driver.
The bus pulled out into the traffic, and suddenly the girl slipped into the seat next to me.
She whispered, “Thank you, I don’t know how I would of gotten back if I got kicked off the bus.”
“I’m sure you would have found a way, but you don’t have to worry about that now,” I reassured her.
“No, but it’s one of the reasons ‘they’ don’t want me to go out on my own.”
“Who are ‘they,’ if you don’t mind me asking?” She looked at me with her big brown eyes as though I should have known who ‘they’ were.
“I wish I could go to the movies all the time. I would love to see that movie.” She looked at the program in my hand as though it held some magical power.
“Do you ever look at movies on TV?” I asked.
“Sometimes, but not for very long, so I never know how they end,” she replied sadly.
“That would drive me crazy if I didn’t see the ending to a movie, especially if it was really good,” I added.
“Did that movie have a really good ending?” She asked as she motioned to the program in my hand.
“Yes, it did have a good ending,” I assured her.
“Did he confess to the priest?” The billboard had a picture of Robert DeNiro dressed as a priest. Robert Duvall had played his brother, a detective.
She had studied the program so long at the bus stop that her question was not at all shocking to me.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I think he confessed to the priest. Did he?” she asked quietly.
“Yes,” I replied, even though that was not how the movie ended.
“Great! Now if it comes on TV, I will know the ending and won’t feel so bad about having to leave in the middle,” she smiled.
It was a beautiful smile. The dimples in her cheeks made her look even more childlike, lovely and innocent, like a little girl picking flowers in a field bathed in sunshine.
The bus came to her stop and she jumped up and I also got up and handed her the program. “Here. Why don’t you keep it,” I said as I gave her the booklet.
“Really! It’s the best gift ever!” she exclaimed.
She hugged me for a moment, and then ran down the stairs and out the door of the bus.
I watched as she crossed the street.
As she got to the other side, she turned, smiled, and waved to me.
I waved back, and watched as she walked through the gates of The Bronx Psychiatric Center.
I suddenly realized who “they” were that wouldn’t let her go to the movies.
“They” were the voices battling for control over her very being.
The labels and stereotypes cruelly impregnated in her mind…that stopped her from being the whole person she deserved to be…that all of us deserve to be.
I had seen it and studied it as a Psychology major during the first few years I was at Stony Brook University. As painful as it was, I had volunteered twice a week to visit the patients in a mental asylum.
I got off at the next stop and I was so tempted to run back to the psychiatric hospital and save that young girl, but it was too late. It always seemed to be too late.
I thought about her suffering as I walked through the beautiful neighborhood of Morris Park toward my parents’ home.
The streets were still alive with the sound of children playing, while their parents and grandparents conversed, siting on the stoops of their homes.
It was a scene with which I was very familiar from the time I was a small child living in my grandmother’s house.
I walked up a street with a steep incline, and as I got near the top, the sounds of the neighborhood suddenly went silent.
The streetlights dimmed, and as I started walking downhill, the world around me went black, and threatening voices started fighting for control of my being.
“They” who would not allow that young girl to go to the movies were now trying to get control over me.
But I was an old hand at this battle, and I knew their tricks. I would not let “them” win.
I fought back, and before long, the streetlights glowed brightly once again.
The sound of laughing children and chattering adults returned and church bells rang out to celebrate my victory.
Iris out. The End.