Tuesday, January 5, 2016

It's Only Me- Chapter 26- Victory at Last

If peace was what I had hoped to find after my Mom’s passing I was mistaken. It would be almost another 2 years before I was able to resolve the problem of Sue’s fiancée. At one point I actually found her engagement ring, which she never wore around me, and hocked it. I used the money to take her out for dinner.

In September of 1984 I resigned my position with Military Sealift Command. I still remember the wording of my letter;

“In order to pursue a more meaningful lifestyle I hereby resign my position with Military Sealift Command. I do so without coercion and of my own volition.”

I bought a used Ford Pinto for $500 and headed to Baltimore where Sue had already rented me an apartment. With 2 small boys she did not want me moving in right away.The apartment was around the corner from Ben’s place and I spent a good bit of time driving by to see if she was over there.

By November I had enough and so I headed to New York. This was two fold- I would get away from the situation in Baltimore and fulfill the promise to my Mom that I would work for my Dad after she passed. Big mistake!

I took an apartment on the 5th floor of 1310 Avenue R where I had grown up. My Dad still lived on the 2nd floor in our old apartment. Each morning I would go down to his place and we would drive into Manhattan together.

My Dad’s business was Pollution Controls for incinerators. Back then all of the thousands of apartment buildings in New York City had incinerators in order to burn the trash. The resultant smoke was becoming unbearable. We would modify these incinerators by installing smoke “scrubbers” and a by-pass tunnel that would allow the trash to be burned by a gas fired burner. The smoke would then be channeled through the by-pass where a series of shower heads would dampen the smoke causing all the pollutants to fall down into an ash pan. The rest of the smoke, now clear, would go through the by-pass and up the chimney.

Most of our customers were the buildings along 5th Avenue along Central Park. We also had all of the buildings on the West side of the park, including the Dakota. The thing was arranged so that we did about $3,000 worth of work in 2 days to alter the system. We billed $20-30,000 per building. In order to get the contracts we had to go through the Super and the Co-op Boards.

These Supers were unlike the ones in Brooklyn who fixed things and kept the building in good repair. These guys were elected by the Co-op boards and together handed out the contracts for any work needed. Our system was to bribe the Board and the Supers. I was really taken aback by all of this- particularly as my dad was paying me lousy wages compared to what I had been earning aboard ship.

Whenever there was a mechanical failure the local Inspector would issue a summons and I would go to the EPA Court located across from the World Trade Center. At these hearings I would listen to the judge read the Violation and I would then hand him an envelope. Case dismissed.

Meantime I was still managing to see Sue about 3 or 4 times a week in Baltimore. I would go from work to my apartment, shower and change clothes and then make the 4 hour drive from Brooklyn to Sue’s place. I would often arrive at about 9 or 10 at night, stay until 2 and then head back home, arriving at about 6 AM. During this time I amassed a pile of speeding tickets that if placed end to end would stretch from Brooklyn to Sue’s house. I still have them all.

The only way I got through this without a License Suspension was by having 2 licenses. I had one in Virginia and another in Maryland. The whole trick to this was not to get a License in your home state- in my case New York. When I applied for a license I would check “No Previous Driving License.” At 30 years old this was hard to believe so they would send away to New York and ask for my record. It always came back as “No Previous Driving License.”

The only time I really had a problem was when I didn’t pay a ticket in let’s say Delaware and then get stopped again in that state. At times like these I would be made to follow the Trooper or Sheriff to the station where I would have to pay both the old fine and new one in cash before I was released. A few times I was caught with some pot but the officers only made me dump it out and rub it into the ground with my foot. For that I am still grateful.

By September of 1985 I had enough of both my Dad and the incessant driving back and forth to Baltimore. There was also a slight “sea change” in Baltimore and Sue was beginning to come around to the notion that I was not going away. So I packed up again and moved back to Baltimore- taking a furnished basement about 8 streets away from Sue’s. I used it 3 nights in as many months- but it made Sue feel better knowing that if things went bad between us I had a place to go. I just felt it was wasted money.

She was still working at Social Security in the same division as Ben. This was the last hurdle to overcome if we were to make it as a couple. By October I was living at Sue’s almost full time- I even had drawer space in the dresser! The kids couldn’t believe it! Not even Ben had been granted that privilege! So I was making progress.

One afternoon in October I was getting out of my brand new Nissan when Ben sprang out from behind the bushes! Using the heel of his hand he made an attempt to push my nose back into my skull. This would have been a death blow had I not been trained in the Navy to do this exact same thing. Seeing it coming I was able to pull back enough to minimize the blow.

Scooting across the front seat and out the passenger side I was able to put myself in a better position. Ben was 6 foot 2 and weighed at least 30 pounds more than I did. He also had about 2 inches more in reach. But I was not in the mood to “handicap” the odds of this thing that had been brewing for so long. I just got in there swinging, mostly at his head and face. He was tiring quickly but would not go down or even just away! He wanted me to hurt him so badly that he could run to Sue and say what a crazed and violent person I was.

When it became apparent that this stupid bastard wanted me to hurt him real badly I went to the other side of the car and got back in. This infuriated him and he went back to his car and got a tire iron to smash my windows. Again I was out of the car in a flash. Disarming him was easy but now we were back to me beating him about the head and face. Everytime I would stop he would charge! Finally I got back in the car and turned on the radio pretending to ignore him. He got in his car and rammed me! Then he sped away.

I made two calls- one to the Police, giving his name and address etc and one to Sue. The police took my report and then drove to his place where they issued him some citations. My attempt to file charges was unsuccessful due to the fact that only my hands were cut and bleeding while his face was a mess, making me the aggressor. I am not sure he had this in mind when he staged the initial assault, but that is the way it would’ve played out in court.

I remember thinking that we were finally done with him. But bad pennies keep turning up and he made one more attempt to screw things up for us. He called Sue and asked her to meet him for lunch to say “goodbye.” She went. I found out and was furious! It was now time for her to quit her job at Social Security or I was leaving. The situation had now grown so intense that it was likely someone (Ben) was going to get really hurt. Also, it was likely that someone (me) was going to end up in jail.

So in December of 1985 Sue quit her job and went to work for one of the private insurance companies as an Underwriter. It had taken 2 years and 3 months for this drama to play out and I was tired. I was also very happy.

I have often thought back to those days and wondered why I hung in there. I can only surmise that after being rejected by my parents for smoking pot, and later being rejected by Leslie for I don’t know what, I was not going to be rejected again. I knew that Sue was in love with me- but this guy was using her status as a single mom as a weapon against her- exploiting any insecurities that she might have had at the time.

So I had won, and it would take many years to overcome the humiliation of having to compete for Sue’s love. But it was worth it.

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