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Lightstar Blues V : “The Strongest Man In The World”

March, 1982 Foxboro, Massachusetts

I was living in a tiny apartment across the street from the Foxboro Fire Department- “Hicksville, U.S.A.” I had a $4.25 an hour minimum wage job as a Teacher Aide in a special needs classroom  in Walpole, a stones throw away from the medium security prison my childhood nemesis Brian McKay was doing time in. Most of my work day was spent working with six kids that were labeled “profoundly retarded”  in the clinical terms of the day. I rewarded them for their small successes with spoonfuls of chocolate pudding and fruitloops. Times were hard. Rachel called me from her parent’s house in Maryland. She had returned from two years in Europe and the United Kingdom and wanted to visit. I said “sure” , not certain what we were to each other anymore but nonetheless eager to see her again.

I parķed my 1974 Ford Pinto at the Wellesley Commuter Rail Station and boarded a train for Boston. I met Rachel in South Station like we did almost 3 years before. She greeted me warmly with a big hug and we went to get dinner. We took the train to Wellesley and drove to Foxboro. We stayed up for hours talking about what we had been doing since Rachel’s departure from Fall River. It got late. Rachel had brought a sleeping bag but we both kind of collapsed on my futon. Early in the morning waking up I was struggling with feelings. I knew that our relationship had changed and Rachel’s entire orientation was different. Intellectually I could accept that and strive to be supportive. Lying next to her watching her sleep was different story. My mind could accept but my body remembered something different, and it was very hard dealing with that change.

The next Rachel visited my work where she was welcomed like a foreign dignitary. Jeanne my boss was so happy to meet her, knowing that Rachel had volunteered for Clamshell Alliance made her instantly okay in Jeanne’s book, and I think the kids liked having a funky hippie girl in the classroom. Rachel hit it off well with Mary, the Irish Catholic 40 something Adaptive Phys-Ed teacher, and we were invited to dinner with her and her huge family that Friday. We had a fun evening but were shocked by how dominant Mary’s husband was. At the school Mary was like a commandante, very energetic and take charge. At home she was meek and quiet and her ex-marine husband dominated the household, booming voice, monopolizing conversation, a pleasant good natured guy but it was like a walk backwards in time. Next day we went to Gloucester. My dad was away fishing but my mom was delighted Rachel had visited. I think she was still hoping the lesbian thing was a phase and she’d have  a nice Jewish daughter in law. We were well fed, mom told Rachel she should write a book about her travels, and we headed back to Foxboro.

We went to see the movie La Bamba with Lou Diamond Philips. On the way back to Foxboro we got into an argument that continued when we returned to my apartment. “I don’t think you’re being affirming and supportive of who I am” Rachel said. “I’m trying. I’m not trying to be a jerk Rachel it’s just really  tough having to adjust feelings about what we’ve been to each other and where we are now. I was fighting back tears. “Wait, are you crying?” she asked. I shook my head no, which was laughable since the tears were now streaming down my face. I wanted to climb a wall. “It’s okay. If you’re crying Paul that means you’re the strongest man in the world. Not many men are strong enough to cry”. She hugged me and I started to pull it together. We went out for a walk down some very quiet side streets, hugged a tree that Rachel said had special power. We came back to my apartment. “My older brother can be a real jerk sometimes” Rachel said. “Yeah, my big sister is like that too” I replied. “Can you be my brother Paul?” she asked.” Yeah, I think so.” I said. It will be nice to have a sister that isn’t a Republican” We both laughed pretty heartily at that thought. To this day Rachel remains my adopted sister. Our kids call her “Auntie Rachel”.

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