I wasn’t kind today.
And I sort of don’t feel bad about it, even when it goes against the promise that I made to the Universe.
It was cold and windy this afternoon, so I took my 4-mile walk in the lengthy hallways of my building in Long Beach. A lot of people live here, but it’s rare that I ever bump into anyone. The population is mostly elderly, and they’re holed up in their apartments watching TV all day long. Many are nice.
This guy wasn’t.
I was strolling along, dutifully making the first of my twice daily calls to my 93-year-old mother, when the man asked what I was doing. Since my promise was still about me, I smiled and said that I was taking a walk and talking to my mother, and then wished him a happy new year.
It was when he blocked my path, asking a million questions as if he were someone that I answered to, questions like, “what are you doing on my floor, do you live in the building, where do you REALLY belong – and on and on and on” – that my New York Italian came out, and she’s not so pretty.
Meanwhile, during his interrogation, I’ve got my mother on the other end of the line, and she’s questioning me too, “Glor, what’s happening? This sounds dangerous. You better get out of there.”
I answered her, and right in front of the man who was blocking my way, “Mom, it’s okay. It’s just some elderly macho guy, he can’t hurt me.”
“Glor,” she screamed hysterically, “it’s those types that go the easy way. Get out of there before he gets a gun and blows your head off.”
She said this loud enough to give the man ideas.
And while the man didn’t go for a gun, hearing her did embolden him further.
Shouting over him, I said into the receiver, “Ma. He’s like 4’5” and 80 years old. I’m not afraid of him.”
To that, he upped his New York, “Oh, so you’re THAT type! Get off my floor! No. Wait. Give me your number. I’m calling the police.”
And that’s when I got ahold of myself. I wasn’t exactly nice, but I wasn’t mean either. I threw my glamour high and stared at him until he moved, and then walked on without coming up to his continued threats.
Thirty minutes later, after a long conversation with my mother about my brother Robert’s death – a topic she’ll rarely step near – I started to say goodbye.
But this mother of mine, who keeps surprising me in her later years, wouldn’t hang up until she said, “Glor, don’t change.”
“What do you mean, Mom?”
“I mean, keep standing up for yourself.”
This is a complete 180 to what she’s always said before, “Gloria, keep your mouth shut and leave well enough alone.”
So, to this new version of my mother, I responded that I wouldn’t change, adding that I didn’t know any other way to be anyhow.
And that’s when she turned back into the mother I’m more familiar with, giving me whiplash, “Yes, you do Glor. You can keep your mouth closed.”
Here’s wishing us all a Happy, Happy 2019! Even that man down the hall that I’d like to crush.
The photo: Me and my childhood friend, Shawn, a nice New Yorker, and my son Andrew in the background.