I’m Breaking Down

 

Hi! Booboo DiStefano here. Well, actually, my real name is Barbara, but my parents gave me the nickname “Booboo” because my mom’s pregnancy wasn’t something she and my father had planned for. At first I really didn’t like it, but later I grew to love it as a name that set me apart from other girls. I work in this Connecticut real estate agency with my mother, who had been employed here for several years before me and is a member of the office’s management committee.   One of the fun things that my mother and I did together was to make a video on the Internet in which we took turns advertising some of the houses we have listed.

Although everyone here works for the same company, there is a fair amount of competition among the individual salespeople. In my case, I was the 2015 agent of the year for the most housing units closed, which made me a director’s council member, a platinum circle member, and earned me the president’s bronze circle award. I also won the most housing units sold award in 2012, which got me the president’s silver circle award that year. In recognition of my achievements here, my mother arranged for the management committee to present an actual medal to the most successful salesperson each year, and because I had received so many honors, the medal was called a Booboo.

About a week ago, the strangest thing happened to me. I had spent the morning showing houses to a prospective buyer who was looking to move here from another city, and we had gone to a restaurant for lunch after a full morning of looking at possible homes. I was sitting at a table facing the front window when I looked up from my lunch to see someone who looked very familiar walking down the street holding hands with a woman as they ambled past the restaurant. Then I recognized him: it was my old boyfriend, Paul Galvin, who I hadn’t seen in years. More importantly, I was under the impression that Paul was dead. My father, who was about the same age and had always liked Paul, was the one who broke the news to me back in 1989.

“I don’t know if you heard, but your old boyfriend shot himself at work this morning,” he telephoned to tell me one evening. “He made quite a splash on the evening news. One of his doctors was on television, explaining that Paul had been suffering from some obscure neurological disorder, and rather than struggling with an incurable illness, he apparently elected to end his own life”.

I was in shock. I had met Paul when we both worked in the Economic Research group at a large commercial bank in midtown Manhattan, where he was responsible for the domestic interest rate forecast, and I was a support analyst in the Gross National Product forecasting group. My father had a job at one of the large brokerage firms in the city, and one of his colleagues was able to arrange an interview for me in the Economic Research group at the bank. I had just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Connecticut, where I majored in both Economics and Italian, the language of my grandparents.

I became friendly with Paul at work. He was very knowledgeable about all sorts of economic issues, so I always learned a lot from talking with him. He had accomplished a lot in his life. He had a Ph.D. in Financial Economics from an Ivy League university and he had been a professor at a major university in the Midwest before leaving to work as a bank economist. So, you might ask, what did I bring to the table that would interest him? The answer is, and there’s no easy way to say this without giving the misleading impression that I’m conceited,  I was the prettiest girl in the whole department. In fact, most men think I look a lot like Natalie Wood.

Well, Paul had always behaved very professionally toward me, although I could tell he (like all the rest of them there) found me very attractive. It was close to the Christmas holiday, and I mentioned to Paul that it would be nice if we could have a departmental Christmas party. Just as I hoped he would, Paul offered to host a party at his apartment in the city. After everyone had left, we were alone together, and he must have thought I was getting ready to leave too, which I thought was a little insulting, so I asked him why he didn’t take me seriously. We wound up kissing, but Paul remained a perfect gentleman.

After that, we started dating. I knew he was in love with me, but although I liked Paul, but there were at least three reasons why I didn’t lose my head over him: first, he was fifteen years older than me; second, he wasn’t Italian; and third, he always treated me a little too respectfully, so I never got the feeling that that I awakened any strong passions in him. One day, he asked me to marry him, but I had to tell him that, although I was very flattered, I had to turn him down, and I heard he later married someone else. Meanwhile, I needed to turn my attentions to finding a serious marriage partner while I was still of childbearing age.

My parents had three daughters, and I was the middle one. Both of my sisters were already married, and each one had three children. My older sister had three girls, while my younger sister had three boys. I knew I needed to shake a leg if I didn’t want to fall too far behind my siblings. There was a mixer dance at the local community center, and I thought I would go just out of curiosity. I met a boy there who worked in the county government, and we started talking. He didn’t seem to be very excited about his work, but he spoke passionately about his artistic hobbies, which I thought was a good sign, since my father had a big interest in opera. This boy was my own age, and although he wasn’t Italian, I figured two out of three wasn’t bad. We began dating, and later, when he asked me to marry him, I accepted his offer.

We didn’t waste any time, and I got pregnant almost right away. The baby was a girl, and following my urge to give girls more traditional names than my own, I named her after a female movie star. Later, I got pregnant a second time, and this time, the baby was a boy. Not having any guidelines for boys, I named him after an old boyfriend. My third baby was also a girl, so I thought it was only fitting that I name her Natalie.

It was a couple of months after Nat’s birth that my husband casually mentioned to me over dinner that he could no longer remain dishonest about our marriage. At first I thought he had discovered and was referring to one of my various secret extramarital affairs, but he surprised me by disclosing that he needed to get in touch with his softer feminine side. After delivering this body blow, he informed me that he had made a connection with another man at work with whom he had created a bond, and he wanted a divorce so that he could be with his true love. “I can no longer continue living a lie,” he said after finishing his coffee and dessert.

Naturally, I sent him packing, allowing him exactly twenty minutes to gather his belongings and get out. But here I was now, with three small children to support, to ensure their education, their health, and their social skills, all on my salary at the real estate agency. I knew I’d need to sell a lot of houses to be able to afford college tuition for all of them. When I remember how cavalierly I treated Paul, I could just cry! Oh, What a fool I was!

But now, with Paul’s reappearance, maybe all is not lost. I left the restaurant to go to look for him, but he had already left the area. I resolved that I would return to this spot every day around this time until I saw him again. We’ll have a big laugh over that crazy rumor erroneously reported on the evening news that time. And I’ll tell him about the many important events in my life. How it looks like I’ll be on track this year to win yet another Booboo medal. And I’ll tell him about my three children and how my example will be an inspiration to make sure they graduate from college, and go on to have successful careers and satisfying marriages. They’ll all be very happy, smart, well adjusted, successful, and kind adults.   It will be a very tough transition for me, and afterwards, I’ll be an empty nester.

But that’s where Paul will come in. I sent him an email to alert him to the fact that I saw him here, and I am looking forward to seeing him here again soon. I know he’s already married right now, but as I know from my own experience, that’s no guarantee of anything. And he may be my last chance for happiness. As I was thinking these thoughts, the lyrics from that Crystal Gayle song, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” came into my mind:

Don’t know when I’ve been so blue
Don’t know what’s come over you
You’ve found someone new
And don’t it make my brown eyes blue

I’ll be fine when you’re gone
I’ll just cry all night long
Say it isn’t true
And don’t it make my brown eyes blue

Tell me no secrets, tell me some lies
Give me no reasons, give me alibis
Tell me you love me and don’t let me cry
Say anything but don’t say goodbye

I didn’t mean to treat you bad
Didn’t know just what I had
But, honey now I do
And don’t it make my brown eyes blue

It’s now a week later, and I still haven’t received a reply to my email. Of course, that by itself doesn’t mean anything. He may no longer have the same email address, or his computer program may not recognize my email code, screen out the message, and trap it in his program’s junk mail file. I’ll just have to be patient. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a —

Suddenly, I spot him. Paul Galvin is striding purposefully down the street, holding hands with that same woman. I can see them coming, and I fall in a few paces behind them. I walk a little faster so that now I’m directly behind them.

“Paul? “ I ask hesitantly. Upon hearing my voice, he spins around to face me, and I can see at once that it’s not Paul. He has some of the same facial features, so that from a distance there’s definitely a resemblance, but it’s not him. He looks at me questioningly, and the woman also stares at me as she turns back to her companion.

“There are so many mentally ill patients in this part of town that make it their business to harass law-abiding citizens,” she said with the self-assurance of someone who neither knows nor cares what the impact of her malicious words will have on me. She was so mean.

After returning home, I sat and reflected on these new developments for a long time. I knew I just needed to take stock of the situation. There was no percentage in panicking and losing perspective on these matters. After all, the only thing that’s breaking up is my marriage, so there’s no need for me to go breaking down.

“Well, that’s all right,” I said to myself, “I never really cared about Paul anyway. I’m sure there are lots of others who would be thrilled to meet me”.

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