You never told him that his friend’s mother called him Svengali. You wouldn’t have to tell him which friend; he would know it’s the best friend, the one who left to get out of the web you spun together so seamlessly.
Nothing was seamless about your relationship but the webs you could spin for each other. You were only eighteen when you met him, the hippie prince with Byron’s face and the tall body of a boy not yet a man. As you looked fifteen on a good day, it was a fated meeting.
You ignored him the first ten times you met. So many gorgeous boys; you were in shock over the attention paid just to you. Recently he told his son you were the “prettiest and most popular girl on campus.” You didn’t feel it, but a part of you knew it then.
Though forever after you would tell people that you were his creation; you were an illusion he made out of air. He took some basic good features with too many flaws only you could see, and voila, a Long Island legend was born. You would be the first one to understand the irony as he recreated a true Long Island legend some decades later.
It felt like all you had to do was look at one of his friends for half a second and they’d fall in love with you; he would hear about it and come running back. Oh yes the game began and you were the primary player, the primary winner and the primary loser. Three weeks together; three weeks apart, that seemed to be the pattern. Only you understood why you agreed to his terms.
You wrote a poem: he was a pied piper leading people back to his lair whether on the Island or the East Village. He was the second of many boys/guys/men you
dated slept with, lived with in a five block area in two seperate geographic locales; he was the first you loved.
That first summer you wore out two copies of Tom Rush’s “The Circle Game,” after he stood you up. On your birthday; the day the astronauts first landed on the moon. How were you supposed to explain to your parents that he was scared of meeting him? You didn’t.
You went back to your college dorm room and let friends cure your broken heart with pot, chocolate (you remember them as bonbons but they couldn’t have been. You stayed in bed, got drunk for the first time, ran around campus and refused to go to Woodstock though many people offered to take you. The summer you had turned fifteen you had camped to the Grand Canyon and back. It was a once in a lifetime experience; never again would you willingly stay in a sleeping bag, even with a tent, without a real bathroom. There was the yurt in Sonoma years later but you made them stay at a motel the next night because you had no idea.
Forever after you pretended not to think about the hearts you broke then; they stopped talking to you. It was so obvious to everybody but you that you were using them, biding time until he came running back to you. Years later during lonely times you would wonder what if ….No sense playing that game; it just goes round in circles. Though…what if your kharma was so nasty then that you spent your 40’s paying for your wild late teens, 20’s and 30’s. Sheet, you had a long run.
When you turned 20, you stopped living for his approval, for the bones he threw at you. You started becoming a woman. He appeared begging for your approval. Forever after you would understand the dynamic allure of the hard to get.
You left, and went as far as a nice Jewish girl from Long Island could go. First there was the obligatory solo back pack trip through Europe, and stay at an Israeli kibbutz where they would pay you to volunteer. It was just a stipend but your father had insisted on opening a bank account for you.
You had nice luggage because your father would have died on the spot if you had taken a backpack and ruined your back.
As it was your father told people that he would have flown half-way with you, parachuted out and swam the Atlantic. Your father was both afraid of heights and the ocean.
He was very much like the boy you left behind.
Once you came into the city to go to Planned Parenthood to find out if you were pregnant or not. You and your boyfriend, that week, stayed up all night talking. You were going to use the abortionist all the girls at school went to. Pearl was a nurse who dispensed a needed though illegal still service.
He told you that if you went through with the abortion he would jump off the subway tracks. You just laughed as you knew how scared he was of the subway.
You had turned out not to be pregnant, but on your way to Planned Parenthood you ran into your mother who was going to the Cooper Union Museum with a group of suburban housewives. She never would have seen you if you hadn’t yelled “mommy, mommy,” like the true idiot you were. Her friends had to pour her off you as you were supposed to be at school on Long Island, not on the beginning of The Bowery.
Maybe you were pregnant; maybe you weren’t; you bled as you had never bled before soon after. And you’ve always been the heaviest of bleeders.
You felt so guilty and at the same time, adult for you were eighteen, and you loved this boy though you knew he should have been out of your life. You couldn’t stop helping him spin the web.
What is it with Russian/Polish Jewish men and that droll sarcstic wit, or the dramatic gesture that would make you laugh because you knew that they were babies and would never do anything that could possibly hurt them?
Yet you still find them irresistible; they don’t have to be Russian/Polish Jewish to have the darkness that inhabited the inside of their souls and made them seek great adventure through stories, not action, though in every other ethnic group the male usually knows how to change a light bulb, at least.
The web he spun that you helped weave fit so perfectly. You knew you were toxic together, why else would it have taken you two months to say yes when he asked you to marry him? You only said yes when he issued an ultimatum, and you knew that was wrong.
You were 21 and his was your third serious proposal. Maybe nobody would ask to marry you again. Third time is the charm; three on a match. You know all the magic of three; all the stupid sayings.
When he called you that most affectionate of nicknames “idiot,” he knew what he was saying. Of course that’s what you called him also.
After the brief marriage, after he left, and then followed you all over the Island, after you moved from the house of junkie/lesbians, old friends who neglected to tell you what they had changed into, as you had been distracted for the past several years and hadn’t really paid attention to anybody but you and him, you moved to Cambridge.
You were happy in Cambridge where you made many friends and were offered jobs immediately. You had really only gone to visit your sister for the weekend.
You shouldn’t have accepted his phone call when he got your number from the friend with the mother who called him Svengali. But you did and the web began to be spun again.