My mom gave me to a complete stranger when I was four
My mom gave me to a complete stranger when I was four like I was passing a stick with streamers to someone else.
Clapping like a monkey with cymbals, waving my wrist like a flimsy handkerchief, I drove off in a red Cadillac to an area called “Miracle Mile.”
My mother was the highest note of joy, her voice shot like fireworks in the sky – “AH!” – and sighed. She was dazzling with a killer smile. She knew no borders and she wanted to party, far from the ground.
Dr J was his name. I’ll call her by her nickname for now because she’s still alive and scaring me – until now. Besides, “Dr. J” sounds good, doesn’t it? He always has.
If I were to step up, his initials are “JR” – as in a “Joker”.
Me? I am Zero as in The Fool of the Tarot deck.
“How can a mother do that?”
I have received this question a thousand times.
“My mother gave me to a complete stranger when I was four” was just the beginning – the subject line that took me almost 35 years to come to an actual event. I was so free, so disconnected.
But I never disconnected from my love for the world, from my true faith in human beings – that there was meaning, purpose in every story, every person, waiting to be activated.
Every person and experience has value.
When I was four, I was sitting in the middle of the living room; my domain, dressed like a doll with a big bow in her hair. I was watching a weird show that was my mom’s ‘business’.
Dr. J had taken over the top floor of our townhouse and turned it into his office. She lined the mirrored walls with sets of collectible teacups standing proud on their own individual pedestals traversing “the common areas” of the house.
Articles written about him were framed, opening up the stairs to his office, the “tax” emergency room, or so I interpreted.
She was called: “the mother Teresa of the tax industry”. She also used the phrase; “Minister of Taxes.” This was published in print.
The woman who called herself “Mama” turned my house money into an ever-changing set of the most fabulous, couture clothes and wigs – every shade of red.
Every day the front door opened to a trail of lost, damned, damned, slippery, regular, IRS Joes rushing up the steps to see the doctor.
The television was behind me; It didn’t interest me, not with this show happening in front of me.
“Don’t mess with the IRS” was Dr. J’s warning in his office of mirrors reflecting each other, optical illusions – my fascination.
Already, the line between screen and real life was rapidly diminishing. I watched more TV to understand – back and forth, my eyes on the screen – and the actual scene in front of me.
“You can’t handle the truth…”
I was four years old at the time. some good men was on TV in the living room. All I remember is that as the movie ended, I was drawn closer and closer to the screen, watching this man! Tom Cruise! I was so mad at him! His desire to know the truth, demanding Jack Nicholson! Enough!
When Jack Nicholson said the famous words, “You can’t handle the truth,” I was relieved. I was then with Nicholson.
I picked up Dr. J from the police station nearly every night for “drinking, driving, and seeking sex in town,” or so my dad’s divorce file attested. I found him in his twenties; he was already dead.
“I’ve come home,” I read his will on graph paper in a sage-colored room.
“And Maria lived in another house.”
It took me up to 35 years to piece together – literally speaking – my life together. We picked up Dr. J from the police station almost every night, so why was this man leaving me alone with her?
Downtown LA: 4:00 a.m. or midnight
I woke up to the back of the ’81 Cutlass Supreme in pristine condition. My father was a big fan of the color blue; the upholstery was dark and light – plush, soft, comfortable.
Lights flickered in the car; on and off, blue and red. They were beautiful, I blinked. The smell of metal and gas; it was cool. I was alone in that car, in that downtown parking lot. I vaguely remember my father telling me to “stay here”.
What time was it?
I sat down.
I pulled myself up with two small hands in the front seats – theirs. I knew what I was going to see through the windshield, and I wanted it.
She was there in a wig of an “Outrageous Orange” shade – straight with bangs.
I thought of the ad I’d seen on television for Pantene Pro-V: “So healthy, it shines.”
As she descended the steps with a fit of cops all around her, she wore her signature long white mink coat. The lights of the police cars – so many – lit up its sequins in a burst of sparks. It shone in red, white and blue.
A woman walks through the door with the name of an angel
I was breaking Barbie heads, one in each hand. I was in a hunter green princess dress with a bow, like a present, all wrapped up and ready to go.
My look was also signature: a princess dress, white tights with red or green hearts sewn into the fabric, and patent leather Mary Janes with white lace-up socks folded over.
I remember the cool, brightly painted blue eyes; my mother’s color. I was in a trance. I didn’t really care who saw it, of course, and who didn’t.
There was a glass panel near the front door the color of the song about “America” - waves of amber.
A woman came in and froze when she saw me in the middle of the living room. I felt the same as her.
In a white tennis skirt, a Bevery Hills Tennis Club cap, she made her way to the “sponge” railing that surrounded the built-in lounge; white and gold.
The Tennis Club 4 years later
I started interviewing the stranger from Brazil who walked through my door 4 years later at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club – a crystal clear pool behind me where she taught me how to swim.
“You were like a fish!”
Eyes over its slender beak, it was the thin-lipped stork in red scurrying up and retrieving a baby from its tennis gear.
“Did I really live with you for 4 years?”
She held up four fingers, waved them, and counted them.
“One two three four.”
She showed me her four fingers again with a grim smile, annoyed, but how we laughed.
“You’ve never been to my house before?”
She was “picking up a tax return for a friend,” or so she said. I knew who he was.
Piercing brown eyes on me in the living room, Dr. J came down the steps with his friend’s tax return. I remember this part; file in hand.
The woman from Brazil thought I needed a friend. That’s what she told me.
She kindly suggested to my mother that she had a daughter my age. They might arrange a play date at some point.
My mother said.
“Just like that?”
I shrugged at her at the tennis club. I couldn’t believe it myself.
“Pee! Take it!”
Why not today?
“I had never seen anything like it in my life! Right here! Take it!”
I looked up when it was time to go
I gave up the Barbies, was I going on a play date? !
She greeted me warmly, “Come on!”
I was amazed by her legs! They were shaped by the Gods! I told him!
Everyone did it!
She kicked them under her tennis skirt – they were 100% Brazilian.
In her red Cadillac with red leather upholstery, she took off her tennis cap and threw it in the back, its brown feathers falling over her shoulders.
“Do you know Julio Iglesias?!
Turning up the volume on the stereo, she stopped me before I could respond with red fingernails.
“I didn’t think so, believe me! »
She clapped, cracking up.
Putting her hips in her seat, she began to dance, the song beginning to flow. She ran her fingers through the Brazilian prayer bracelets hanging from the rearview mirror.
“We’re going to play now, okay? »
She reassured me.
“I have a daughter about your age…”
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Leaning against the steering wheel, she turned to check that the street was clear.
“We were going to have fun…yeah.”
MY VA ME VA by Julio Iglesias
“Now,” she turned up the volume on the stereo.
“Time to be careful.”
And we were gone… for what we thought was a day.
It was time for me to learn all the Great Love Songs. Julio Iglesias was the first.
Her brown hair feathers falling in her face above the center console, she sang the lyrics to ME as we rolled down La Cienega Boulevard.
Let love guide you.
“Do you understand what he is saying? Let love be your guide…the way, okay?
She became sassy, led the way through the windshield – to La Cienega Boulevard – taking small steps with her fingers.
“That’s the way, okay?” But do you understand, she says pointing her ear, her eyes veiled, what he means? Do you?”
I was joking.
She lifted a finger, waved it – no.
Chewing gum suggestively, she raised her eyebrows and increased the volume by one decimal place.
Suspended above the center console, we listened; she was singing in her “angel voice”.
She sat up straight, gave it to me over the steering wheel with her chin, honking at people, yelling at them, changing lanes.
“Listen,” she stumbled upon all of her children’s names.
I couldn’t stop laughing, especially when she told me to stop.
“The words! Listen to the words! Are you listening?”
She turned up the volume a little higher, impatiently.
I saw the sign above San Vicente and Hauser: Miracle Mile.
We were then on Barbara Streisand.
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4 years have passed.
This article originally appeared on Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.