Eddie and his older sister, Janice had an enormous impact on me growing up. I stayed at their home as my mother would often be in the hospital and my father otherwise engaged. Eddie and Janice were the children of my mother's oldest sister, my Aunt Geraldine. I discovered masturbation with Eddie, rock 'n roll from Janice and the lowest depths of bitterness from my aunt.
"It's a goddamned beautiful day," Geraldine would say with her teeth gritted and an air of scurvy. She was never without a cigarette in her mouth and a can of Bud in her hand. She would preface everything that might seem nice and fun to others with the word goddamned.
"Hurry up and eat your goddamned food," or "Don't stand in front of the TV so I can watch my goddamned programs." It always sent me a little jolt as I was raised to believe that word was the worst thing you could possibly say. I can almost hear her say, "Look at those goddamned flowers blooming," but that might just be my imagination.
Staying over at their house was always an adventure because my Uncle Eddie Sr. was a grimly hen-pecked man given to bouts of head rubbing depression. He would sigh and pretend all was fine while his nasty bride would shout about the "goddamned puppy," peeing on the carpet. She also had upside down sleeping habits as if she worked the graveyard shift sitting at the kitchen table smoking and drinking. She would stay awake until ten in the morning then fall asleep only to arise again at dinnertime. This gave her plenty of time for mischief in the dead of night.
When I was about twelve, she had a terrible accident. She fell down their long flight of stairs and broke her neck. From that moment on, she had to wear a neck brace usually worn by young girls afflicted with scoliosis. It was loudly rumored in the family that Eddie Sr. had pushed her down and no one could blame him. This accident, however, did not interrupt her habits for a moment. She was simply more accessorized while smoking and drinking all night long.
Every single night I spent at their house, while Eddie Jr. and I were finally asleep, the bedroom door would fly open and Geraldine would be standing in the light of the hallway with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.
"Come on! Go to the goddamned bathroom!" she would order in a tone that left no time to spare. Eddie and I would groggily make our way to the bathroom. Sometimes we went in together and peed in the toilet. Sometimes the request from my aunt was more extreme.
"I want number two!" she would bark, "And don't flush!" During these nights, Eddie and I would go in separately. After we were done with numbers one or two, she would come in and look into the toilet. "All right. Get back to goddamned bed!" we would hear as the toilet flushed.
Eddie Sr. passed away just as Janice was leaving for college. Eddie Jr. was left at home with just his mother. Once he turned eighteen, he moved out of the house and in with his girlfriend's family. His girlfriend got pregnant just before they graduated high school. He soon got another girl pregnant who had twins. I was away at college and had already started to lose touch.
But not Aunt Geraldine. She would call my dorm room all night long and hang up. The phone would ring, I would answer, there would be only a heavy breathing on the other end of the phone then she would hang up. This happened almost every night while I was living at the dorms. Sometimes the calls would come in clusters; sometimes just one. My dorm mates and I would scream and yell obscenities and absurdities into the receiver. We would collapse in giggles. It became a dorm sport answering my phone. Even when I moved off-campus, the calls continued.
She passed away shortly before I graduated. I went back to Chicago for the funeral. That night, long after the relatives had gone, Eddie and I went out and got stoned. We were driving around the old neighborhood and ended up in a nearby forest preserves. It was a dark and cold March night.
Eddie turned to me and said, "Sometimes I pick up a guy and let him blow me." I was stunned but I could clearly see how the conversation would finish. As kids, we messed around a few times but this was something completely different. We were adults and he had four children by this time. With little room for more discussion, we ended the evening with us both zipping up our pants and driving back to the motel where I was staying. He said good night and I hadn't spoken to him since he called this week.
It seems in the years that have passed, he got married and had one more child. A daughter. They got divorced eight years ago and he has been single ever since. We didn't talk about his mom or his dad, we spoke a little of Janice and we certainly didn't discuss anything sexual. But when I hung up, for some reason, I had a goddamned pit in my stomach.