Saturday, September 23, 2006

Evening in Paris

The corner store on Henry and Dixwell sold wigs, toiletries, cheap perfume (for those of you a certain age- “Evening In Paris” perfume was a dollar a gallon). It was run by Ben and Rose, an older couple living in the wealthier part of New Haven near St Brendan’s Church. Always being sent to the store on a regular basis for my mother’s cigarettes, I came to know Ben and Rose. They ran this family business with their only son, Adam.
Adam was a nice kid who tried to emulate his parents in any way he could. Charming, willing to sell you anything and everything and convince you at the same time that you really needed it. He was old enough to be out of high school and was being groomed to take over the family business one day.

During the summer on slow days, Adam would play “catch” with me in the back parking lot. Hanging around with Adam would occupy me on the days I wasn’t taking the bus into downtown New Haven to spend the day playing with the “downtown people”.

One particular evening around dinnertime Ben and Rose suggested that Adam take me to their house for supper and show me around. I had heard stories of this "mansion type” home they owned.
At least that’s what we were always told. We always trick or treated on this street because the people were rich and had the best treats. Compared to the 3 rooms I lived in, this seemed like an adventure I couldn’t pass up.

I remember leaving the store walking hand in hand with Adam down Henry Street, across Beaver Pond Park, up the Goffe Street hill and over to Elsworth Avenue.
I felt safe, happy and protected. Adam never treated me like my brother or his friends. He was kind and paid attention to me.

As we neared his house, I couldn’t believe that someone I knew not only lived in a house like this, but that I was actually going inside. As Adam opened the front door visuals came to me that I only saw on TV. I saw huge ceilings,a winding staircase, and rooms, oh so many rooms, with lots of furniture that I didn’t even recognize. The rooms were bright with lots of windows and open spaces.
Our three room apartment was always dark.
Venetian blinds were drawn either keeping the light out or the darkness in.

They must have had 2 or 3 couches. We had none.

After supper Adam took me for a tour of the upstairs. His room, his parents room which seemed bigger than my entire apartment, was full of family photos framed, art work and what I thought at that time, were rugs hanging on the wall. We had linoleum on the floor.

Adam then asked me if I wanted to see his special room in the basement. He was learning how to develop pictures. Not everyone was allowed in this room he said. The liquids in this room were very dangerous and you had to be very careful.

He explained that the room had special lights, yellow ones to protect the film and paper he was using and asked if I was afraid of the dark. Trying to be brave, I said no. I had to lie. I could never tell him that my punishment for “being bad” was to sit in the hallway in the dark for hours until “I learned how to behave.”

With Adam holding my hand we walked into this “dark room”. I was a little scared, but I was sure having Adam by my side would make everything ok. Adam turned on the yellow lights and things began to come into view. A large machine sat on a long table with a bunch of trays next to it. Adam explained that this is where the pictures were made and the trays was where the chemicals went.

He then asked if I wanted to see how a picture was made. I was excited. This was something that no one I knew ever saw this.

As Adam took a big jug of liquid from the bottom of the bench and opened it, he accidentially tipped it over and spilled it all over me. Adam said in a very soft but scary voice, “Don’t move an inch, this is very bad and you could be really burned.” I was frozen. I was scared. I didn’t move.
Adam then explained that everything would be alright as long as “we” washed it off.
Even with his assurances I was crying.

He carried me upstairs so I wouldn’t drip any of the liquids over the house and took me into one of the bathrooms on the 2d floor.
He explained that he would wash my clothes and dry them so no one would know what had happened. He undressed me slowly and carefully telling me that if we were lucky the clothes wouldn’t stick to my skin. He said the liquids could burn me.

I remember being placed in the bathtub but the perspective suddenly changes in my recall, and it was as if I were standing next to Adam watching myself being cleansed. Adam’s tall lanky frame would bend over the low set tub and slowly but gently rub the wash cloth over my chest, over my back, up my legs and between my legs, over and over, all the while Adam assuring me that I would be okay if we “got all the liquid” off my body.
After we finished, Adam picked me up out of the tub and held me while I cried for what seemed the longest of times.
He carried me to where my clothes were drying, dressed me, took my hand and walked me home in silence. As he left me in front of my house, the last words he said to me were, “Don’t tell anyone, this is our secret because we could both get in really big trouble.”

I never played with Adam again, never told anyone what happened out of fear.

How ironic it is that come 20 odd years later, I would become a professional photographer and spend the next 20 years in a darkroom at Yale developing black and white photographs.

But the “dark room” phase is gone. No more for me.

Maybe it was my way of conquering the dark, the scary, and my fears.
How ironic is it today that in my late 50’s I think I just may be coming out of the dark.

11 Comments:

Blogger jennifer said...

Wonderful writing, wonderful story telling, thank you!

1:31 AM  
Blogger Jerri said...

You have found he light and you are sharing it with others.

And it is a miracle.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...

Beautiful writing, Suzy, beautiful you.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Mystic Wing said...

Gutsy writing, like all your posts. I very much admire your fearlessness.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Go Mama said...

Yet another broken trust. Just how much can one soul withstand?

"How ironic is it today that in my late 50’s I think I just may be coming out of the dark."

...into the light, my friend, into the light that you already are.

12:19 AM  
Blogger serenity said...

Suzy,
As always, you write with so much heart, so much that speaks volumes about that heart and spirit that live inside of you. To continually have your trust betrayed over and over again, and yet to live with a spirit of Love and generosity the way you do....it is a miracle, and it is a living testimony to the power of light, the power it has to heal. Thank you for sharing your heart, your spirit, your light, your story. You are an inspiration and a blessing.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

amazing writing, suzy. just as i am sure you were at the time, i was confused at how what started as such a loving afternoon could have turned so wrong. very evocative. great work! so happy to have met you and now to share in reading your work.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous susanspsychobabble said...

What an amazing story and yet so sad. I am so glad to have met you this weekend. It was a very powerful weekend and for me you and your work all helped to make it that way. Thanks.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

The triumph of your spirit is amazing. Your writing is beautiful.

I have a feeling that major changes are heading your way due to your bravery in coming out of the darkness.

God bless you.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Jenny Rough said...

Glad you are coming into the light because you are a beautiful writer and a beautiful soul. Keep up the good work.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I thought I had the whole story and it just keeps coming! Love ya Suz... keep going!

3:35 PM  

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