THE TONY TELLING
March 3, 1966
Now that Roberto is back, Mom’s dirty little secret — me — is finally out. I told Mem it was time for Mom to admit to everybody that she has a daughter and to stop telling lies about me. Well, okay, maybe she shouldn’t tell the truth to St. Ambrose School and Church.
Mem responded that the truth always comes out, for good or bad.
But when I asked her about the lies we told to St. Ambrose, she explained that nothing good would come out of telling the Catholic Church that Mem and Mom were excommunicated sinners.
From what I heard, when Roberto told his family about me, the “Tony telling” created an enormous problem, so I’m sure nothing good will come out of that either. Should anyone be surprised?
Mom said Roberto’s mother, Bella, was hopping mad and told Roberto that Mom needed to figure out a way to get back into the good graces of the Catholic Church, or he needed to part ways with her. Is there such a thing as getting un-excommunicated?
Oh, and also, according to Mom, Bella wants to meet me and have a talk. A talk with me? What kind of talk could she possibly want to have with me? I don’t have a say in my life. I don’t have a say in anything. I’m invisible, remember?
I overheard Mom tell Mem that Roberto has two sisters, and Babs, the youngest in the family, refuses to have anything to do with him now that she knows that Mom is divorced and has a twelve-year-old kid.
His older sister, Gia, adores Roberto and loves Mom. And it turns out that Gia has a daughter, Patrice, who’s my age, so Mom said maybe that’s why she’s open to meeting me and giving me a chance.
I told Mom that Gia’s daughter might be the same age as me, but the difference is that she has a dad, she’s nobody’s secret, and maybe I should be the one to give them a chance, and not the other way around. Mom told me to shut my trap.
Mom also informed me that we are all having dinner at Bella’s house soon. I’m scared to death. What if Roberto’s family hates me? Then what?
When I asked Mom what was going to happen to Nick, she just glared at me. But I know for a fact that she’s still going out with him because Mem told Mere Germaine that she was “stringing Nick along just in case.”
Since Roberto got back with her, Mom’s been pretty sneaky about where she goes these past few weeks. And I know Nick calls because I hear them on the phone together.
I still had hope for Nick until today when Mom came home from somewhere secret. It wasn’t that much of a secret because I saw Roberto’s fancy black car drop Mom off.
Speaking of fancy black cars, I was riding my bike on the sidewalk by Court D yesterday when I noticed a black car driving slowly past me. I figured it was loser Roberto.
But when I looked up and into the car, I could see it was my father. I’ve certainly seen enough pictures of him in the local newspapers to recognize him.
I saw his handsome face, and I felt pride, but I also felt his pain. And I could see from his dark, beautiful eyes that he saw me, too. And for a second, it seemed like our pain was something we could share.
But then, just like that, he quickly drove right past me. I chased after his car, hoping he would see me riding my bike behind him and stop.
The whole time I was peddling to catch up with his car, I kept praying, “Please see me, please see me, please see me.”
But he didn’t see me, or if he did, maybe he got scared and decided stopping would only cause everyone trouble.
I knew he was trouble — double trouble — but I didn’t care. I rode that bike as fast as humanly possible. As I watched his car fade into the distance, I had no choice but to give up trying to catch my troubled but handsome dad.
Maybe he saw me, and maybe he didn’t. I’ll probably never know.
I rode my bike back to our apartment and felt crushed — while Mom was in an unusually happy-go-lucky mood.
“Roberto’s mother is making a huge Italian feast, and the whole family will be there,” Mom kept repeating herself over and over again like a broken record.
Also on repeat: “And if you embarrass me, I’ll kill you.”
I was still hurting from failing to catch up with my dad, and I was thinking about all the different ways that I could try to find him. And for the record, he also has a big nose, which fits his beautiful face perfectly, giving me new hope for myself and my nose.
Mom broke into my thoughts with, “HELLO. Anyone in there?”
I burst into tears and ran upstairs while Mom asked Mem and Mere Germaine, “What’s her problem?”
What’s my problem? I miss Steve. I miss Adam. I miss Yolanda. I miss Nick. I even miss White Street, but not the rats and cockroaches. And I miss my dad, even though I don’t know him.
Mom should be able to see that I’m hurting. And yet, all she cares about is that I shouldn’t embarrass her so that Roberto’s family will accept me. It seems to me that I don’t have any control over whether Roberto’s family accepts me or not.
How can I possibly know what NOT to do or say so as NOT to embarrass Mom? Why is the pressure on me? Mom is the one who brought me into the world, so she should be the one they need to accept, not me.
I didn’t ask to be born, and yet I’m the one everyone’s blaming — and my acceptance or rejection is all up to them and completely out of my control.
I hope they hate everything about me. Then maybe Roberto will kiss us all goodbye, for good this time.
And who knows? If Roberto’s family rejects me and refuses to accept me, then maybe Nick just might have a chance.
Or maybe even my dad.
Mem came upstairs, ruffled my hair, and asked me why I felt so blue. I lied and told her I was sad and afraid for Mom and there was nothing I could do to save her from making the biggest mistake of her life — when, in truth, I was sad and afraid for myself. How much more should I have to suffer for Mom’s irresponsible decisions?
Then Mem said something that will stay with me for a long time. “It seems to me that with your Mom and Roberto, it’s all about the chase. For both of them. Once the chase is over, who knows what?” I nodded in agreement because I just had a chase of my own.
I collapsed into Mem’s arms and tried to cry it all out. I accused Mem and Mom of keeping me in the dark about everything. “I’m not a baby. I need to be heard. I need to be seen. I’m strong. I can take the truth,” I whimpered through my tears.
Mem hugged me tight and kept apologizing for stuff I wasn’t even crying about. “Go ahead. Ask me any questions you want. I’ll answer you truthfully.”
I sat on our bed, dead silent. The only question I had was buried deep inside my scrambled-up brain:
Dad, did you see me?
Stay tuned for Chapter 26: The Tony Show