Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Close Circle of Friends

My mother was never meant for the remote wilderness of what was then the unexplored territory of suburbia. We moved from the heart of Chicago where everything was at hands reach and a car was not a mandatory necessity. 

As a result of her comparative isolation she became a one woman neighborhood watch. Not looking for lurking suspects or evil doers combing the dark shadows of alleys but rather, she seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of what anyone was up to. I suspect to some extent, suburbia was boring for her.

One morning I entered the kitchen only to receive her report last evenings doings and this particular soliloquy was delivered with a heightened sense of mystery.

“Last night I watched and parked right across the street was this black limousine..” So?

“Don’t you think that’s odd?” Unusual yes, Odd, no.

Flash forward in a haze of deja vu and as I sat eating breakfast in our small kitchen Mom reported the same doings overnight. The same black limousine parked in the same spot, which according to her, was there as some sort of sentinel “all night long”. Again, according to her, someone must have been inside watching something because the interior lights were on.


Accordingly at some point in the early morning hours having to use the bathroom, I happened to remember Mom’s reports and wandered over to the living room window, pulled the heavy curtains apart just enough to peer out to see what was probably an empty street.

There it was, the black limousine parked where she said it would be. The interior was lit with a dim greenish fog. Out of nowhere in the midst of the drab regularity of rows of uniform houses, someone or several someone's were either watching or waiting.

When I reported that her sighting was confirmed by yours truly she blithely responded with “I told you so” and began vacuuming.

The following night my curiosity remained with me and so I set my alarm clock and went to the living room window only to find an empty street. So much for mysteries in the hum drum of routines.

The next afternoon I arrived home to find my mother absent mindedly handing me a larger than usual envelope. “This came for you, I wonder what it could be ?”

Upon unsealing it, there was a card with a floridly depicted bouquet of flowers. It read “With Sympathy” Unfolding the card I found a scrawled personal message that was unsigned.

It was a death threat. “What is it?” she asked.

“Nothing” I took the card and immediately stuck it in my pocket. My mother was known for being what is now called a drama queen, or at least to her children..meaning myself at that age.

At the same time, my mind began to run in circles. What had I done? Of course if this would occur in the present, my reaction would be, to say the least, an entirely different one.

That afternoon my friend Pat reported she had received the same card. She had the same reaction and tossed it. I guess we assumed we were invulnerable at that age. The best analysis or reaction we could come up with was that the card gambit was very “weird”

Shortly thereafter in the evening Pat called to tell me that Cathy , a mutual friend was upset as a good friend of hers was found dead and had apparently hung himself in his bedroom on the day of his birthday. She ( Kathy) had recently spoken with him and he seemed his usual self. While this was disturbing, she thought it was murder but as she said at that time, how could someone enter his home and hang him?

Bob was Cathy’s boyfriend and a mutual friend to the rest of us. He weighed in that it was the result of a dope deal gone bad, I rejoined that of all the ways to get revenge this was ridiculous and beside that, according to Cathy he didnt smoke what was then called “weed”

Another day passes. Bob says “You are not going to believe this..a guy was found hung at a construction project ( more suburban building). He was our age. “Bob knew the guy as a friend of a friend and according to Bob he was “ a normal guy”, whatever that meant.

“Weird”, we said

Sure enough the following day I spent a dime and bought a copy of the “Independent Register”. Not that I did not believe Bob, but rather it seemed that one strange occurrence was following another in a short span of time.. What was going on?

The hanging was in the paper. Police were investigating.

There the story ends.

As 19 year old's, we never were concerned with such things enough to make our curiosity on these events an indelible mark.

At the age of 63 I wonder. I guess from a distance this conglomeration of strange events within a brief period of time was akin to a wave among a close circle of friends. Naturally, having read since that time the seeming mythos of black limousines being the portent of real or implied threat, there will always be a question mark in my mind. Where did these death threats come from? Were the two deaths a homicide or a suicide or both?

My friends since that time like many friends of long ago have dispersed far way. Bob is a retired school teacher in California. Cathy is a data analyst for a Chicago hospital. Pat moved to England and continues her involvement with rock and roll culture.

It has been several years since I have spoken to them. Do they remember this? If so, how and why?

At the time all this occurred, I had telephone another friend in Pennsylvania by the name of Ed who now runs a coffee shop. I suggested I might be better off over in his neck of the woods.

I wonder why I had never asked him if he recalls my reaching out to him so long ago?

Some things that occur to us seem to be suspended in time. Some stranger than others. This one falls between structure and anti-structure, between fact and appearance.

Our nonchalance decades ago. makes this a story worth repeating.

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