July 2002: Jenny, Jenny Who Can You Turn To?

I speed walk down 34th toward Penn Station to pick Dad up once I’m out of work.

Even though he stands a mere 5’3”, I easily spot his tattered black suit and bloody wooden cross in the crowd.

Dad grins ear to ear once he locks eyes with me. “Jenny, Jenny! Goddamn, this place is busy. Shit you could really get lost in here.” Dad’s remark causes me to roll my eyes. He’s just complimenting you because you’re the small-town girl who navigates the city every day. At least for the summer.

I lead him toward the path trains back to our Wall Street sublet. “Slow down girly. You have to remember your old man has midget legs compared to you.”

Each step now consumes conscious thought, as if I have to walk in slow motion. This is NY, Dad. You gotta hustle.

Once we get on the subway, Dad reaches into his suit jacket pocket. The tone is more of an off-black with a faint pinstripe. “Here! Daddy’s so excited that I made this for you. I couldn’t wait until we got back to your apartment.”

Jesus! I hold the shellacked cross in my palm, and then clench it tight before anyone else catches a glimpse. Dad impatiently asks, “Do you like it?”

My eyes glow, wide. My brain forces my head to bob up and down. Keep it together.

“I knew you would! It’s just like Daddy’s cross. I’ve been making them. Lots of them—down in my basement. You never knew your father could carve wood like that did you?”

“Mmmm, nut uh.”

“No of course not. Because I taught myself. You know a lot of people think that’s blood on my cross, but it’s just shellac. Also, I may or may not have mixed some real blood in.”

A look of horror crosses my face.

“Dad’s kidding! I just let people believe whatever they want to. It’s paint. I mix it in to make them that way on purpose. You know, like Jesus’ blood?”

“Oh wow.”

What the hell would ever happen if you said one true thing to him? I mean would the world implode? At the very least he would pop you in the nose.

Dad continues to reminisce about last summer.

“Jenny, your Father still can’t believe those bastards blew up the Towers—The World Trade Center. Remember when you took Dad there last summer and I predicted the whole thing?”

I clench my fists tight. Resist the urge to knock him out. Dad, I mean no disrespect but have some common decency and shut up for once in your life. And no, you didn’t predict anything.

Naturally, I glare at him, in a pleading sort of way, instead of saying anything.

“Your Father knew when I stepped foot in those towers that they would blow them up. I had that spell in there and almost fell down. You remember right?”

I nod, just hoping it will end before someone overhears his barreling tale.

When I begin to bore him, Dad engages subway passengers. They actually talk back. Why dear God?

He tells me he wants to move to New York City. That he thinks he would fit in.

I grin, but think, stay away from my city.

When we arrive back at the apartment, I realize that it’s criminal to have 4 people in crammed into such a tiny space. Especially when one of them does not respect boundaries.

I try to steal a moment of peace by hiding in the bathroom. But it’s useless. I hear him at the door.

“Jenny, where did you go? Dad’s missed you all summer and I’m only here for the weekend. I hope you’re coming out soon, you know, whatever it is that you’re doing in there.”

My blood boils. I consider my options. How dare he? I mean now I can’t even go to the bathroom? It’s been 5 minutes. Maybe 10.

Before I have time to let the pressure valve release slowly, I hear him knock. I burst open the door and confront him.

“Dad, ever heard of someone going to the bathroom? You really need to back off. I am devoting an entire weekend to you. We are, actually. I think I can have 5 minutes to myself!”

You’re a fool. What did you do? You could get us all killed.

Dad doesn’t miss a beat. “Well I can see you don’t have the respect that your Father raised you with anymore. Brain washed by that fancy college?”

I don’t let him get away with it. “You’re ridiculous. No one wants to hear you go on and on…”

He spares my life and eventually retreats to the living room. 6 steps away. But now he goes into stealth silent mode. The worst.

No one can console him. We bribe him like a child with candy and ask if he wants to go to Ellis Island and find his family. A smile starts to form. Eventually he caves into our pleas.

After the weekend concludes, I call Mom. Who else can you turn to?

“Jenny? Jenny Penny? Wow I didn’t expect a call from you, love.”

“Hi Mom, I know we don’t really talk but I need your help or advice or whatever.”


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