So I suppose I did come back from my Florida sojourn, physically but truly I’m only half here mentally. (It was like 99 degrees every day there, with a heat index of 105, as opposed to the soggy New York weather. I suppose I traded the weird devil I’m not so used to –NYC in June in this instance — for the one that feels like I’ve been married to for ages, but we’ve separated and sometimes reunite, and while he occasionally bats me around and is at times irksome, I can escape his less-than-tender mercies with a spate of AC and a nap.) OMG, question: What happened on the internet while I was away and not online? Oh wait, I don’t rightly care. Because now I have returned to worrying about paying bills and all that as opposed to thinking about what delicious thing should I mix with my vodka, and do I have enough ice? How long should I lounge by the pool before watching another episode of “Weeds” On Demand? Heady contemplations, to be sure. That, and if you dwell on the fact that we are dying from the moment we are born, then who does care if a tubby sass mouth got punched in the back of the head? Or a brittle blonde brood hen is divorcing her teevee husband? Eesh.
But also I was reacquainted, while sequestered in the burbs, with the impulse to gossip and insinuation that springs forth In Real Life, manifesting in more sad and tawdry and impactful ways that what appears on the gossip blogs and television recaps.
It started with a phone call from a neighbor, as my parents and I were trying to leave the house to catch an afternoon movie. The neighbor was trying to get in touch with various block captains — no one had answered her emails — because there was to be a memorial on one of the cul-de-sacs for a girl killed in a car accident. Had we gotten the message? The girl, a twenty-three year old college student, had been in a fight with her boyfriend. They were racing down the road, swerving at top speed between the other motorists, pulling up beside one another to yell and scream, when while making a turn the girl had smashed into a tree. She was killed. The tree, it was said, had already been cut down. The neighbor, perhaps already in her cups though it was but early afternoon, repeated the information several times. The girl’s mother, with whom she lived, was not known to my family. But as we left our subdivision we saw the cars already lining up out front of her house, to offer condolences. To be there in that first shock of grief. The story so far one of those tragedies that serves also as a cautionary tale.
The next day, while my mother was at her exercise class, another woman tells that her husband swears swears swears that the boyfriend, seven years older, is with the Russian Mafia. He runs a cigar and wine bar in a shopping center up the street. It is always dark and there are never any customers, I’m told. It is a front to launder money, that one neighbor’s husband is certain. The girl worked there, as a waitress or hostess. The boyfriend, the possible mobster, owned both a Lamborghini and a Bentley. When he would pick the girl up, he would idle in her driveway, never coming inside. (While these clues come out in dribs and drabs I’m reminded of working on Martha’s Vineyard, oft privy to the curious assignations and peccadilloes of folks I associated with or was introduced to, and how when gossiping you found yourself doing a move called the Vineyard Stretch: “I heard so and so…” you might begin and then you would peer up the street over your left shoulder, then your right, and then carry on with whatever sordid nibble of hearsay you had to offer, it being an island and anyone within earshot might know who you were tittering about.)
Later, when going to the grocery store say, we passed the scene of the accident and there were bouquets of flowers placed there, and a stump where a tree had indeed been taken down. And so the embers of that particular strain of speculation, about the girl and the maybe mobster boyfriend, were rekindled.
There was going to be a service at the nearby Methodist church. The younger brother, a college student in Connecticut, was flying in. The mother had disapproved of the relationship between the girl and her possibly mafia-associated paramour, but had come to uneasily accept it. All these snatches of “fact” being assembled piecemeal by ladies in the neighborhood, these amateur Jessica Fletchers, well meaning, but…
One of the neighbors was off to the store to buy a ham, to prepare and drop off for the bereaved mother.
With its sordid excitement, its possible criminality, the story provided a tempting filler to the quotidian days of suburban life: it was so easy to be caught up in the speculation. But at the root, there was the undeniable, extant fact: a mother was going to have to bury her child.
So, what then is happening with Jon and Kate plus their eight spawn, again?