December 19, 1955
“Come in, Marsha, come in!” Holding the door open, Ida stepped aside.
“Aunt Ida, how nice to meet you, finally.”
“Mitchell was right.” Taking hold of Marsha’s hands, “You are lovely!”
Feeling tiny pinpricks of hair on her cheek as the old lady kissed her, “Thank you.”
“It’s going to be so nice having you here, my dear.” Leading then into her overly-heated kitchen, “How do you like Seagate?” Motioning to the chairs around an old oak table, “Sit, please.”
“Thank you, but we got here too late…”
“Or too early.” Mitchell interjected, holding a chair for Marsha.
“…for me to see much of anything. But what I’ve seen so far, I like. It’s beautiful here.”
“Yes, here, but outside the gate things are changing.” Reflecting a moment. “It used to be so lovely here—it still is, inside—but outside? Coney Island and Brighton Beach, I mean.”
He had seen Coney Island and Brighton Beach in daylight, and the signs of decay, that Mitchell vividly remembered from the west side of Chicago—but still, not even remotely understanding the reasons for—were conspicuously visible here.
“So,” going to the refrigerator, “you want breakfast! You like bacon, sausage?” Knowing Mitchell would eat just about anything, Ida posed the question to Marsha. “Or maybe you keep a little kosher?”
“No.” Surprised, though, that Ida didn’t, “I’m not kosher at all, not even a little.”
Seeing the questioning look on Marsha’s face, “Meyer, my husband, alav ha-sholom—may he rest in peace—liked ham, so when we were married, I asked, ‘Meyer, you want to keep kosher?’ And he said, ‘maybe a little,’ so we never did.”
“That’s kind of how it was with my mom and dad, too.”
“The little I remember of Walter, your papa, I thought he wasn’t the kosher type.”
“You want another bagel, more tea, maybe?”
“No, Aunt Ida,” putting her cup down, “this is plenty, thank you.”
“Living so far from your family, you don’t think you’re going to miss them, your mama, papa?”
“No,” glancing at Mitchell, “he’s my family now… It must be very nice here in the summer, living so close to the beach and Coney Island. I love the beach, and it’s going to be perfect for me here. Of course I’ve got to get a job, but even so, I know I’m going to love it here.”
Sopping up the last of his egg yoke with a piece of bagel, “Aunt, Ida, maybe you can help us.”
Looking at him over the rim of her cup, “If I can.”
“We’re going shopping today for groceries, and we want to buy a television, and we’ve got to open a checking account. Can you tell us the best places to go?”
“For a bank, I use Coney Island Federal; it’s on Neptune, just past Ocean Parkway. For groceries, try the A&P on Brighton Beach Avenue, and for a television… probably it would be best to go to Bensonhurst. Try under the el tracks; you should be able to buy anything there. Also,” looking at Marsha, “Bensonhurst would be the best place for you to find work… You worked in Chicago? You didn’t go to college?”
“No, I didn’t want to go to college.” Finishing the last of her bacon, “I wanted to work, and was in training to be a corsetiere…”
“She’s a meat packer!” Mitchell interrupted again, using Marsha’s joke, but both women ignored him.
“…and I figure with my training selling women’s undergarments I shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job.”
“Then Bensonhurst is certainly the right place for you to look, and it’s so easy to get to. All you do is take the bus outside the gate, and it’s a ten-minute ride to the subway. Brighton Beach is the end of the line, so you can only go one way, and it’s two stops to Bensonhurst.”
“Thanks, Aunt Ida. That’s where I’ll look, then.”
“I’ve a great idea!” Looking from Marsha to Ida, “Why don’t you come with us today? If there’s anything you need from the A&P, or anyplace else, we’ll take you. Then you can come along with us when we get the TV, and you can show us Bensonhurst.”
“Maybe Aunt Ida would rather not go out in this weather.” Turning to Ida, “If there’s anything you need, though, we’ll be glad to get it for you.”
“Thank you.” Looking at Mitchell, “I could use a few things, but Marsha is right. Old people don’t like snow. You never know what’s under it and it’s too easy to fall. And at my age you do your best to never fall.”
“You’re sure, then?”
“Yes, but I’ll give you a list, and if you’d be kind enough, I’d appreciate it.”
Driving slowly, he pointed to the sights of interest, but quiet and unresponsive, Marsha merely looked out the window.
“Marcie,” glancing at her, “why so quiet? Anything wrong?”
Not looking at him, “No, nothing’s wrong!”
Sensing a tightening in his stomach, “I’m getting to know you, and I know when something’s eating you. What’s wrong?”
“Mitchell,” turning in his direction, “you are not one person anymore! You are not single! You are married!”
“Yeah,” the tone of her voice angering him, “I know that I am not single! I know that I am married! So?”
“So? You don’t act like you know that!”
“What the hell’s wrong? What in the hell did I do now?”
“How’s about before you make a decision that involves both of us,” she said harshly, “how’s about discussing it with me first!”
“Decision? What decision? Discuss what with you first?”
“Your aunt Ida!”
Thrown by this, silent a second, “Aunt Ida?” Looking at her questioningly, “What about Aunt Ida?”
“As far as I’m concerned, this is our first real day together.”
“Yesterday doesn’t count because we had to do that! Today’s the first day we’re together doing just what we, the two of us, want to do!”
“Uh, we’re not doing exactly what I wanted to do, but, yeah, so?”
“You didn’t ask me if I wanted to have breakfast with Ida!”
“Okay, I didn’t mind that. As a matter of fact I enjoyed it and I’m glad we did and I’m glad we live across the street from her, and I’m sure we’ll get along just fine, but then…”
“So what in the hell’s the fu… uh, problem?”
“You had to ask her to come shopping with us! To buy a TV with us! To even open a bank account with us!”
“But she didn’t did she? She’s not here, is she?”
“No, she isn’t! But that’s not the point!”
“Jesus! So what is the point, then?”
“The point is, before you go making plans for us—for you and me—how’s about remembering that there is an us, and that maybe I’d like to be asked and given a choice!”
“Are you telling me that before I do anything, before I say anything, I’m supposed to get approval from you first?”
“No, not everything, Mitchell, but if it affects me too, then yes! I’d like for you to use your head once in a while and talk to me first so that maybe I can voice my opinion, too!”
“Use my head once in a while? Shit! I didn’t know I was making a life and death decision there! I only accepted breakfast for us! And so long as we were going anyway, I asked an old lady if she wanted to get out her house for a while! Big deal!” He glared at her, but Marsha had turned back to the window.
Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, a head of lettuce, oranges, apples, bananas.
Marsha pushed the cart. Mitchell walked alongside.
White bread, chocolate chip cookies and, of course, Twinkies. She dropped a box of Cream of Wheat into the cart and then a box of Shredded Wheat.
They hadn’t spoken for about thirty-five minutes, and their silence was deafening.
Napkins, paper towels… “Marcie.”
….Toilet paper. “What?” answered without looking at him.
“Look, baby,” draping his arm about her shoulders, “I’ve been thinking, and I guess you’re right”—he really didn’t think she was right, however, and although he still felt that she was making a mountain out of a molehill, so he thought, regarding his mother yesterday, and like yesterday, he found that he could not stand having her angry at him—“I should have asked you first. I’m sorry, and from now on, before I make any arrangements that involve us, you and me, I’ll try to remember to talk to you first. Okay?”
Unpopped popcorn, potato chips.
Marsha was still silent… still… till, passing through the candy aisle, taking his hand, “All you have to do is remember that it’s not just Mitchell anymore; it’s us, you and me, Mitchell and Marsha.”
Relieved that she’d forgiven him, and that she was talking to him again, “Okay,” he said. As they were walking through the candy aisle, “Look,” taking a box off the shelf, dropping it in the basket, “they’ve named a candy after us: M&Ms.”
Salt, pepper, cinnamon. Milk, butter, eggs.
The multitude of staples was filling the basket. Face soap, scouring powder, steel-wool pads, a floor mop and a dust mop. Writing paper along with envelopes and a small, round bottle of Carter’s indelible blue/black ink.
Approaching the meat counter, “Any idea of what you’d like for dinner tonight?”
“Actually,” Mitchell said, “I thought we’d go out for dinner tonight. I’d like you to see Times Square, and there’s this great Chinese rest…”
“No,” making the decision—by herself—“I want to make dinner tonight. Tell you what!” Making another decision, picking up a one-pound package of ground chuck, “You like meatloaf….”
Unsure if she was asking or telling him.
“…I’ll make a meatloaf!”
“Have you ever done it before; make a meatloaf?”
“I’ve got a cookbook. What could be so hard about making meatloaf?”
By now needing a second shopping cart.
Mayonnaise, mustard, two types of salad dressings, catsup, flour and sugar. They got aspirin, Band-Aids, cough syrup and a thermometer. Glancing at Marsha, a thought passing between them, remembering something he was rather sure they’ll be needing, soon, very soon, he hoped, Mitchell put a small, round bottle of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly into the cart.
“Wow,” Loading the last of the bags into the back seat because the trunk was full, “that sure cost some dough!”
“Sorry, Mitch, but when you don’t have anything, you need everything.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s not your fault things cost so much. But, Jesus, almost fifty bucks!”