Mitchell treated Rhea and Eli with complete respect.
Because he wasn’t what Rhea considered to be a good provider? Because he’d slapped her daughter?
No! Rhea hated her son-in-law because… Actually, if pushed for an answer, Rhea did not know why she hated Mitchell.
Oh, yes, Marsha had pride and stubbornness and her mother to hold her hand.
Mitchell had his ever vacillating anger and distance and, afraid to speak to and certainly afraid of seeing Marsha or, most certainly his baby for fear of “falling apart.”
Two weeks away from Marsha—though he had sent one check—he’d made no direct contact, but did have a secret channel for information.
May 19 through June 20, 1957
As soon as he got off the phone, going into her office, “She’s moved, Mom! I just got off the phone with Marty and he told me that Marsha’s given up the apartment and moved in with her parents.”
In a deep place beyond hatred and anger, as was Marsha, Mitchell, too, had the pinpoint, common sense thought that, Maybe, if I had someplace to go back to, maybe…?
Not wanting to believe, having to see for himself, driving to the building at ten that night, getting out of the car, going into the lobby he looked at the row of brass mailboxes, and, Oh, God! His throat tightened, his eyes became moist because there, on the name tag for 912, it read Goldman/Lipensky. And because at that time it all seemed so final, his heart sinking, Mitchell recalled the one other time in his life that he’d felt as sad, lonely and despondent as he felt at this time.
Then, he’d joined the Coast Guard to escape the sadness. But now he was an adult, and in his sadness and loneliness and anger, because he was an adult, Mitchell Lipensky did a very adult thing…
Pressing his thumb to the doorbell, counting to seven before releasing it, running to the car, stamping on the gas the blue Ford peeled away from the building.
Rather than west to McCormick and north to Skokie, he drove the long block to Sheridan Road, made a left turn, drove a few minutes, stopped the car at the curb and lowered the top. Driving again, Mitchell twisted the knob of the radio till he—surprising himself—found a station playing classical music… Past the far north side of Chicago, through Evanston. Twisting sharply in and out of hairpin turns, Sheridan Road follows the Lake Michigan shoreline through Wilmette into Winnetka.
Knowing where he wanted to go, driving faster than he knew he should, the balmy air ruffled his hair… and dried his tears.
In the darkness he missed the turnoff and had to backtrack about a mile until he found the short road leading to the bluff that overlooked the lake. Once there, although it was near eleven and a school night, still, he was surprised to find the local make out spot deserted. Inching forward till the bumper touched the safety rail at the edge of the cliff, he turned the lights and motor off.
Slouching in the seat, he listened to the crying strands of a violin concerto, which seemed absolutely appropriate for this time, place and mood. Staring at the star speckled sky, wondering, How’d it go this far? Mitchell again felt the bitter ball of emotion work its way into his throat. Divorced? Marsha and me divorced? Angry at her for allowing—causing—it to go this far! Hurt because Marsha had let it go this far! In his anger, in his hurt, It’s her fault, damn-it! Mitchell forced himself to think of the one thing that possibly might make even the thought of divorce palatable: other women! And the wisp of a remembrance came to mind. In the peripheral vision of his memory, he could actually see the girl’s sun streaked, straw coloured hair… Who is she?
She was sitting next to him and both were looking at the water… Only he wasn’t. He was looking at the golden strands of pubic hair that had strayed from beneath her tanned, well rounded thighs and the tightly stretched elastic bands of her bathing suit, and… Oblivious to the thoughts or problems of the upper brain, the completely detached—so it had always seemed—lower brain of Mitchell Lipensky awoke and, sensing the twitch in his penis, Who the hell is she?
The eye of his mind—his lower mind—travelled upward, to the top of the two piece bathing suit, to the soft, deep valley, to the overflowing flesh of the girl’s breasts… Mitchell’s mind—both minds—focused on the phantasy of this girl, and another twitch.
Jesus! Remembering the brief encounter with the girl he’d met on the Coney Island boardwalk on that other sad, lonely evening when he and Marsha were—as it turned out—temporary separated.
Remembering the girl’s name, “Karen!” he said aloud as, feeing the flow of blood, wanting—needing—a sensation other than misery! Wanting—needing—a sensory release, rubbing the palm of his hand roughly over the growing bulge within his jeans causing a hot, delicious friction on his—oh, no, not nearly as flaccid as it had been a minute ago—penis, till…
Stopping, considering whether he really wanted to do this, here, in the open, he decided—the decision no doubt made by his lower brain—Why not! No one’s here! Why the hell not?
Knowing he’ll be needing it, taking his handkerchief from his pocket, unbuckling his belt and popping the top button, unzipping his pants and parting the fly of his Jockey shorts he freed his partially engorged penis, then, closing his eyes, holding his breath he sensed the kiss of comparatively cool night air upon the sensitized flesh causing an immediate, full erection, as…
Laying his head back, staring at the dotted, silver pierced sky, taking hold of himself, beginning slowly, he thought of the absolutely inaccessible golden haired Karen of the long ago, far away, memory…
But that memory triggered a more recent memory and the long ago, far away Karen transformed into another Karen, a possibly accessible Karen: Karen Rosenberg, the lovely, dark eyed, darkhaired Karen he’d met two weeks ago, that by now might, just might be looking for a replacement, a Jewish replacement, for her Kenneth, her shaygets, and Mitchell fantasized what this Karen might look like naked: the size of her breasts, the texture, shade and size of her nipples, the triangle of her pubic hair…
Transposed once again, no longer having to imagine the, oh so well remembered texture, shade and size, they were a different dark eyed, dark haired girl’s breasts, nipples and pubic hair, before she became pregnant, and…
Welcoming the metamorphosis, lost within this sexual fantasy:
Marsha, naked, is above him, straddling him… And the scene of the past became the illusion of now as Marsha’s breasts swayed above his face, and Marsha’s long hair and excited, elongated nipples brushed his lips and, in the throes of her passion she screwed her eyes shut, and…
The movement of his hand increasing with the rate of his breath, “I love you!” he said to the unhearing sky. “Oh, God, I love you!” and…
The Marsha of his memory, the Marsha of his imagination, the Marsha of his fantasy replied, “I love you, too, Mitchie!” and…
Mitchell again sensed the slight, all but imperceptible pulsing from within her vagina as the Marsha of his memory, the Marsha of his imagination, the Marsha of his fantasy orgasms, and as she did…
Feeling the itch that precedes the onset of his orgasm, missing but one beat, Mitchell shrouded his penis with the handkerchief, as…
More than three months of physical desire and mental tension gave sudden release to an orgasm of such breathtaking magnitude that his ejaculations bordered on pain, but…
As his semen flowed, slowed, then stopped, as always, so too did his passion and he was then left with a hollow, depressed feeling so that, as he waited for the penile blood to reverse, Mitchell Lipensky became angry; not the faltering anger of the past fourteen days brought about by his vacillating love for and hatred of Marsha, but steel hard, cold anger.
Having the need to urinate—as he always did after orgasm—stepping from the car onto the gravel strewn ground, walking to the rail, Mitchell urinated over the steel barricade. As his stream went from straight to arched, he stared at the place his water joined the darkness. Replacing his penis, zipping his fly, turning to the car he took three steps, turned back to the barricade and, thinking a moment of what he was about to do, feeling an overwhelming sensation of helpless frustration, “Fuck you, Marsha!” he yelled as, twisting the band of gold from his finger, Mitchell threw it, “Fuck you!” as hard as he might at the dotted, silver pierced sky.
Not everyone, though, was an advice giver or a flame fanner. A few mutual friends and relatives did their best to keep their two cents worth to themselves.
Rosalie and Marty were deeply saddened at the apparent breakup of the marriage of their friends and remained neutral, and they, in essence, became double agents and were the clandestine source of non harmful information to each about the other, hoping, in some small way, that they might be instrumental in helping effect a reconciliation.
When Marty told Mitchell—thinking the move logical—about Marsha’s move to the apartment of her parents it was meant as a means to help relive Mitchell—by no longer having to pay rent—of a bit of his concern over his overwhelming debt.
Because he truly loved Marsha, Lawrence also remained neutral… Although, really, he might have had an ulterior motive for wanting his brother and Marsha to reunite because he was not too happy about having to give up his bedroom and move back into the rear bedroom with his younger brother.
Eli, too, although loving his daughter dearly, for the sake of his grandson tried to remain a voice of calm in a sea of turmoil.
Oddly enough—and Mitchell would be shocked if he knew—but his staunchest ally in “the enemy camp” was Marsha’s brother, Roger, who, while he was always his mother’s favorite, had secretly despised Rhea since the time he’d found her giving “Uncle Manny” a blowjob, and—although unaware that his mother had been the major instigator in the breakup of his sister’s marriage—Roger vehemently argued with Rhea for allowing Marsha such quick and easy sanctuary.
Besides, his mother’s mental abandonment of his sister had never registered on Roger and he’d always thought of Marsha as a spoiled brat.
He did not believe what he heard about Mitchell, but even if all the stories were true , knowing his sister as he thought he knew her, wondering how anyone could ever live with her, Roger thought that if Marsha did get smacked, more than likely she got exactly what she deserved.
Okay, Mitchell thought, if she don’t want to be married to me, then screw it!
It took but one day of driving with his hand in direct sunshine for the sun to tan and equalize the circle of white around the fourth finger of his left hand.
If she don’t want to be married to me, then screw it!
Wearing his snazziest Robert Hall sports jacket and coolest tie, carrying his art portfolio—so he’d look the picture of a Michigan Boulevard Ad Exec—he went into Chauncey’s, a Michigan Boulevard watering hole catering to the downtown, after work crowd of advertising and allied field “hotshots.”
His portfolio propped against the bar, as were the portfolios of some of the other hotshots, he stood with his elbow upon the high sheen bar, as were the elbows of some of the other hotshots.
“What’ch’ya drinking, pal?”
Drink? He hadn’t thought about that. Looking blankly at the bartender, “Uh…”
“Beefeater martini, dry!” A hotshot two bodies down ordered.
Yeah! “Beefeater martini, dry!” Mitchell parroted.
Within three minutes, “Here you go, pal!” The stemmed bar glass was placed before him on a white paper napkin along with a cash register receipt.
Looking at the receipt, “Ulp!” audibly swallowing, Mitchell took two of the twelve dollars he had with him out of his pocket but, as he laid the bills onto the bar a deep sense of guilt overtook him because, for the cost of this one drink, he could have bought three days formula for Mikey. But, So long as I’m here, and so long as he’d paid for it, I might as well enjoy it! Swirling the appetizingly fat, pimento stuffed olive by its fancy toothpick, tempted to eat it, he looked at the hotshot two bodies down, who, sipping at his martini, held the olive at bay by putting pressure on the toothpick against the rim of the glass with the tip of his finger. So, doing as the hotshot did, the olive held steady, Mitchell also lifted and tilted the glass to his mouth.
In the span of his not quite twenty-three years, Mitchell had occasion to get drunk on scotch and Southern Comfort, and get sick on Canadian Club bourbon and homemade “Dago Red,” but he’d never had gin along with a whiff of dry vermouth and, the transparent bland appearance of the martini deceiving, taking a large swig, “Gaghht!” As none of the other hotshots appeared to be gagging on their drinks, willing himself to stop in mid gag, holding his stomach down by sheer willpower, surveying the action, Mitchell’s attention was drawn to a young woman standing at the far end of the bar.
The complete opposite of what he was looking for on this early evening, the tall, thin, dark complected, young woman had long, dark brown hair and, frowning, turning away, Mitchell Lipensky became angry at himself because the one woman… the only woman in this entire crowd that he was even remotely attracted to, resembled Marsha.
Even though he was wearing his snazziest Robert Hall jacket and coolest tie, feeling very much out of place there, Mitchell left Chauncey’s without finishing his Beefeater martini, dry, or leaving the obligatory, minimal twenty-five cent tip. He did, however, eat the appetizingly fat, pimento stuffed olive.
“No, I don’t want to do it that way!”
“Marsha, he did hit you! Didn’t he?”
“Uh, yes…” She had gone too far and said too many things to admit that she’d hit him first, twice. “He did, uh, slap me,” she said unconvincingly. “But I don’t want to use that as a reason for this.”
“Honestly, Marsha, I don’t understand you!”
“Rhea,” straightening his body, placing the pen onto the desk, “I’m getting paid to handle this, so let me do my job!” Noticing Marsha’s hesitancy in speaking with her mother there, “Matter of fact,” Bruce Berman said, “why don’t you wait out there,” pointing to the closed door, “and let me talk to your daughter alone.”
“Bruce, really, I’d rather…”
Punching a button on the intercom, “Harriet, Mrs. Goldman is going to wait with you. Get her a cup of coffee, please.” Rising, walking around his desk, “I’m being paid by the hour, Rhea, and we’ll get through this much faster if I talk to your daughter alone.” Taking her by the elbow, the lawyer steered Rhea to the closed door, opened it, and all but shoved her through. Closing the door, he returned to his place behind the desk.
“Marsha, you’re my client, not your mother! What you tell me is strictly between you and me! Tell me the truth! Did Mitchell really hit you?”
Sighing, “Well, yeah,” she said, adding quickly, “But I hit him first… two times, I think… And also,” remembering, “I scratched his arm pretty good.”
Wanting to get this straight, “And Mitchell slapped you before or after you did this?”
“After.” Adding, “I think.”
Bruce Berman had been the Goldman family attorney for a number of years. Early in their attorney client relationship, Rhea had “approached” him, and at that time he emphatically informed her that, first off, he loved his wife, and secondly, that he never mixed business with pleasure…especially that kind of pleasure!
Being legally involved with Rhea on a number of occasions over a number of years, he knew something of not only her business affairs but, as some were cojoined, her amorous affairs, too. Berman also knew how manipulative she could be.
Actually, Bruce Berman thought of Rhea Goldman as a “bitch on wheels” and was sure she had more than just a little to do with the separation of her daughter from her husband—whom he had met and did like—and now intuitively sensed a strong feeling of hesitancy from Marsha.
“Marsha,” Bruce said kindly, “sometimes newlyweds go through, to say the least, a tough period of adjustment.”
“We’re not newlyweds! We’ve been married more than a year and half now.”
“Yes, I know, but,”—having been married thirty-five years—“trust me, you are newlyweds! And sometimes things can be kind of tough.” Thinking, especially with a bitch of a mother sticking her nose into your life! But saying instead, “You know, Mrs. Berman and I were at your wedding, and we both agreed that we’d never seen a better looking couple than you two kids and I really don’t want to see this happen to you, Marsha!”
He waited for her to respond but, staring at her folded hands on her lap, she didn’t. “I know sometimes things can pile up on you: bills, the baby…” Wanting to get her talking, “How is Michael, by the way?”
“Oh,” looking up, the shadow of a smile crossing her face, “Mikey’s fine! Just great!”
“That’s good, Marsha.” Then, “Marsha,” he asked bluntly, “do you really want to go through with this thing?”
Momentarily hesitating, “Yes!” Finally becoming animated, “I do, Mister Berman! He lets his parents, especially his mother, run his life! We’re buried in bills and he does practically nothing to get us out of it!”
Thinking, Christ! His parents, too! They’re getting it from both sides! “He’s not working, Marsha?”
“Sure! He works for his folks, but they’re not paying him enough and he refuses to leave them and look for another job, and what he makes on his part time job isn’t enough!”
“He’s got two jobs?”
“Yes. But he’s on what’s called a draw with his folks. That’s when they pay you and you’ve got to…”
“I know what a draw is.”
“Oh! Well apparently he’s not a good enough salesman to make even enough to cover his draw and he just doesn’t make enough money there. And he makes straight commission on his other job, where, so far as I know, he’s only made two sales. And when he does that job, it’s always at some woman’s home, and I don’t know if he’s, uh, you know, fooling around with any of them.”
“Do you have any reason to think he is fooling around with any of them?”
Her mother having planted that seed in her daughter’s mind, too, “No, I don’t,” Marsha said. “But who knows?”
“Marsha, just because his job causes him to be with women,” thinking specifically of her mother and himself, “it doesn’t mean he’s fooling around with them.”
“Okay,” begrudgingly, “maybe not.” Now harshly, “But I didn’t feel good and he refused to help me with the baby! And all he ever wants from me…” looking to her lap again, “is, uh, for us to make love,” she said softly. “And I can’t do it!” Her voice rising, “I won’t live like this any more! Yes, Mister Berman,” she said emphatically, “I do want a divorce!”
Divorce, huh? Berman thought. What you need is a spanking. “Well, in the state of Illinois,” he said, “there are only two grounds for divorce: physical cruelty, and so long as you’ve ruled out anything physical, we’ll have to go with…”