Taboo: A Memoir Ch. 07-09

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Chapter Seven

Our love nest was broken up, though, by the reappearance of a forgotten member of the family. One Saturday afternoon the phone rang. “Is this Tommy?” a man’s voice asked, friendly like a salesman.

“Uh…yeah.” I wondered who it was.

“Hey, guy, this is your dad, Jacquot. You probably don’t remember me, but I sure remember you. How’s it goin’? Say, I need to talk to mom.”

I went and told Diana, “There’s a man on the phone…he says he’s my dad.”

Her lively face froze and drained of color. She shut her eyes in shock. “What could he….” she mumbled. Her hand moved towards her mouth, and her teeth pressed distractedly on the knuckle of her thumb. After a long pause she shook her head to clear it and stood up. “I’ll talk to him,” she said decisively.

When she closed the door to the living room, I instantly resented it: What were they saying that she didn’t want me to hear?

I was sulking in the kitchen when she came out. Her face was pinched and her chin sagged. She looked at me, then past me. “Your father’s been in prison…a long time. He just got out.”

“What does he want?” I asked suspiciously.

“I think he wants…a family.”

My stomach clenched with dread. I knew what he wanted: Her! Exactly what I wanted. What if she liked him better than me? She must’ve liked him quite a lot…and liked doing it with him. After all, that’s how I got here. With the urge to put him in a bad light, I asked, “Why’d he go to prison?”

“Don’t know,” Diana said. “Maybe he’ll tell us tonight.”


“He’s coming to dinner.”

The threat spread its tension up to my chest and throat. “You just invited him?” My voice cracked. “You didn’t check with me?”

She gave me a sharp, puzzled look. “I thought you’d want to meet him. He’s your father!”

“Do you want to see him?” I tried to make it sound like a question, but it was really an accusation.

“Well…yeah. I’m curious…what happened to him…what he’s like now.” Diana appraised me keenly. As she tilted her head, her thick chestnut hair draped over her shoulder, and she cupped her chin with her small fist. “Tommy, are you jealous?”

My face reddened. “No! It’s just that….”

She took both my hands in hers and kissed my cheek, which made it even redder. “Don’t worry. I lost interest in Jacquot a long time ago.” She gave me a look that wrapped me up with her eyes, and my fear lessened. “He gave me you. That’s the only reason he’s important to me.” She squeezed my hands and shook my arms back and forth. “But we need to see him. You especially. You should know your father.”

My father. I used to wonder about him: what he was like, what he was doing now, what he thought about me, why he never tried to see us. I would stare at pictures of him and then at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t see much resemblance but I thought maybe I’d look like him when I got older. He looked kind of OK.

Diana had some of his poems. I’d read them a long time ago, thought they were weird, but sort of liked them. I’d even memorized one, “Cascade Mountain Fights Back”:

Moonworts fiddleneck maidenhairs in the sphagnum

while pikas chirp revenge on you, armed-toothed narcoleptic lumberjack

in the double-bitted sprawl of the night. The ptarmigan widows

are gathering to bring you in. You’re a wanted Man,

the Man of the hour, but it was only an hour,

and now it’s over.

They can’t kill youÔÇöyou’re dead already.

They can’t jail youÔÇöyou own all the keys.

But they can drive you crazy

with agoraphobias of infinity

and old haphazards of heartbreak to a mescalero beat.

What it meant, I didn’t know. Maybe that was why I liked it. I also liked that my dad had written it and that he was out there somewhere writing other weird poems. He was this mysterious figure brooding in the sprawl of the night. I thought he was a jerk for running out on us, but I was still curious about him.

But all that was back then, before mom and I became lovers. Now I couldn’t see anything but trouble coming from Jacquot Funk.


“Hey, long time no see. But I know it was my fault. Sorry about that. Thanks for having me over,” he said when he came in the apartment that evening. His voice had a hoarseness that sandpapered the edges off his words. Diana shook his hand but kept her arm stretched out far enough to discourage a hug.

I was pleased by how tall he was, about six feet. That meant I’d probably get tallerÔÇöso far I was only five-eight. His smile showed stained yellow teeth. He had short straight black hair with long sideburns, a droopy mustache, and a little tag of whiskers under his lower lip. His skin was pale, probably from not getting much sun in prison. Although he wasn’t old enough to have any gray hair, his face was lined and his mouth turned down. The long blade of his nose was crooked from being broken. His eyes were a clear, hard, brittle blue, and they kept darting around, bostanc─▒ escort unable to look into yours for more than a second. “This must be little Tommy,” he said. I hated him instantly for the “little,” but shook hands with him, trying to give a firm grip. His hand seemed cool. “How’s it goin’, son?”


“Last time I saw you, you were still in diapers. How old you now?”


“Well…that’s great…a great age to be. I remember when I was eighteen….” His voice trailed off and his long thin face turned wistful. “Old enough to know better, but too young to resist, huh?”

“I guess so,” I said, thinking about last night with mom.

“Hell…I just spent half that many years in slam.” His smile fell back into a frown. His skinny body was dressed in a denim shirt, thin jeans, canvas belt, and black, clunky shoes. That must be what they give you when you get out of prison.

“What for?” I was hoping it would be murder, something that would really turn mom off.

He gave me a mind-your-own-business look and said, “I’ll tell you about it sometime.” That sounded like he was planning to stay.

Diana was wearing pale lipstick and a black leotard, maybe out of nostalgia for the old Beat days. She looked great in black; it brought out the red in her hair, which fell to the tips of her breasts. The tightness of the outfit brought out her curves, which made me wonder if she was trying to turn Jacquot on. I had to admit they looked good together, her all in black and him all in blue.

On an impulse I ducked into my room and changed from my white T-shirt to a black one. With my jeans that made me black and blue, a combination of the two of them.

When I came back, Jacquot was talking to Diana. “…after all that time in a cell, get nervous in new places. I need to know all the ways out.”

The door is right there, I told him in my mind, then was sorry to be so mean.

“You mind if I look around…just so I know where I am, so I don’t get claustrophobic?” He tugged on the tuft of whiskers under his lip and gave an apologetic shrug.

“I’ll show you around,” she said with a cautious but understanding nod. Diana was used to the jitters people have when they’re just out of prison.

He’s probably casing the place, I wanted to tell her.

We had the upper floor of an old brownstone near downtown Denver with a view of the gold-domed state capitol. With its high ceilings, large windows, refinished wooden floors, bright rugs, and modern furniture, it was the opposite of a prison cell. Jacquot prowled it with lanky, loping strides, thumbs hooked in his jeans, nodding appreciatively, grinning greedily. Every once in a while the side of his face would suddenly tighten in a tic that made him blink his right eye. He gave mom’s queen-sized bedÔÇöwhere she and I had screamed last night in naked, incestuous ecstasyÔÇöa look that could only be described as goal-oriented. Glancing around the bedroom, he raised his eyebrows and tapped his yellowish teeth together. “Diana…you did good. What a crib! Hey, you come a long ways from that little pad we had in Five Points.”

“Well…it wasn’t easy…a single mother,” she said with a look that made him wince and look away.

He gathered himself and glanced back at her, his face older, sad, sincere. “Worst mistake I ever made was leaving you…running out on you like that. And you too, Tommy. Wish I’d’ve stayed…and helped you both out.”

It was hard to imagine what help he might’ve been. “Why’d you leave?” I gouged mercilessly.

He looked past me, through the walls. “So long ago…I don’t know….”

“Well,” Diana said, “you’re probably hungry. Let’s eat.”

“Yeah!” He smoothed his mustache.

We started with antipastoÔÇöa platter of artichoke hearts, olives, cheese, salami, cherry tomatoes, and jalape├▒o peppersÔÇöusing forks at the beginning but ending up with fingers. Then we divided our attention between spaghetti with tomato sauce full of sausage and garlic and a crunchy salad of lettuce, carrots, croutons, green onions, and vinaigrette dressing.

“Hallelujah! I’ll say! Girl, you learned to cook,” Jacquot crowed, mouth red with tomato sauce, staring at her like she was dessert. He refilled his wine glass from the straw-covered Chianti bottle and took a lip-smacking sip. “Mmm…a lot better than that Red Mountain rotgut we used to drink.”

I had some wine, too, but didn’t like its sour-bitter taste. Why drink rotted grape juice when the fresh stuff was so

much better? After we finished up with chocolate ice cream and hot fudge, Jacquot leaned back in his chair glassy-eyed. “I thank

you, ma’am. Best meal I’ve had in … I don’t know when. Mind if I smoke?”

Diana shrugged. “No, go ahead.” She got up and dug around in a drawer until she found an ashtray. I minded, but that didn’t matter. I opened a window. Jacquot took out rolling papers and a pouch and started to roll what I thought was a joint. I perked up, but it ├╝mraniye escort bayan turned out to be Bull Durham.

“So … you got a boyfriend?” he asked her.

She turned her eyes on me with the trace of a secret smile. “No. Not really looking for one either.”

“Oh.” He crossed his long legs and tugged on his whiskers again. I was curious to know more about this seedy guy who was

my father, so I kept firing questions at him. Loosened up by wine and food, glad someone cared enough about him to ask, he got talkative. His family was from St. Paul, Minnesota, out of Boston out of Ireland. His real name was Jack Frye.. He’d studied English for three years at Carlton College before dropping out to become a poet. He worked as a logger in Washington State but quit because he hated how they clear-cut the forest. That’s when he wrote “Cascade Mountain Fights Back” as a protest. By then he was doing lots of grass and peyote and smuggling it in from Mexico to deal. On one of his marketing trips to Denver he met momÔÇöthe best time of his life. After he got spooked by the family scene and split, the biggest mistake of his life, he went back to his import business, expanding it to hashish from North Africa. Then he made the second biggest mistake. He started working for the syndicate, bringing in lots of drugs, making lots of money. They bribed the narcs but that wasn’t enoughÔÇöthe fuzz still needed a bust every now and then to keep the chiefs off their backs. So Jacquot, the new guy, got set up for a fall, then sent to Attica for a hard nickel: five years before possibility of parole. He got hold of some heroin in prison but got caught in a shakedown, so he ended up doing nine years, more time than some murderers do.

I felt sorry for him, he’d gotten a raw deal, but he was still kind of creepy, glancing around like somebody might be after him.

“You write any more poems?” I asked.

His expression dropped, and I could tell he wished I hadn’t asked. “Oh yeah, I’m always writing poems. I write ’em in the sky, I’m a sky writer now.”

“Tell me one.”

“I write ’em…and they blow away. You gotta be there. That’s a poem right there: ‘You gotta be there.’ My life is my poem…and it’s getting better.” He sat glum for a moment, then turned to Diana. “I gotta ask you something. I know you got a nice tight little scene here…and I blew my chance at it. I’m not trying to horn in…now that’s it’s too late. Understand? But if I could bunk down here just for the night.” Diana eyed him leerily and started to speak, but he continued faster. “I got nowhere else to stay. I’ll be gone in the morning. Promise.”

She swallowed, looked displeased, but said, “OK…just tonight. We’re not really set up for visitors.”

Jacquot sighed with relief. “Thanks. You saved me from all night in the bus station.”

I was furious. His sleeping here never occurred to me. I was expecting him to leave now. He could come back in seventeen more years to see how we’re doing. This was our Saturday. Mom and I’d had a great time last night and were looking forward to another one tonight. Who was he to break up our weekend?

But she made up the couch in the living room for him, and we all went to bed. I left my door open so I could see if he tried to sneak into her room. Imagining rescuing her from this repulsive rapist, I vowed to stay up all night. But at some point I fell asleep.

In the morning they were both already up, which made me wonder what had happened. I couldn’t help tormenting myself with images of mom and JacquotÔÇödoing it.

She made waffles, which made me mad. How could she share our special breakfast with him? She even put amoretto in them; the most I ever got was vanilla extract. If she wanted him to leave, why was she feeding him so well?

We sat around the same table she had recently bent over and leaned on so I could take her from the rear. Now she was in the middle between Jacquot and me, which I resented even though she was closer to me. She should’ve sat on the far side away from him.

I felt sorry for my dad but still couldn’t like him. I was hoping he was on his way to Mexico or Tangier to smoke hash for the rest of his life, but he said he wanted to stay in Denver, good memories here, the best time of his life, a place for a fresh start.

Diana knew some companies that hired guys out of prison, and said she’d try to get him a job.

Her being a Public Defender really impressed him. “Hey, I bet you give those cops and DAs hell. If you’d been my lawyer, you’d’ve got me off. I never would’ve gone to the joint.”

She shook her head. “Let’s not try it. Don’t get any ideas about going back to dealing. The heat is coming down…harder and harder. And Ca├▒on City isn’t any better than Attica.”

“Don’t worry, I’m all done with that. Stayin’ clean…as a desert bone” He stood up. “Well, I’ll be on my way…as promised. Thanks for everything. Good to see you. You too, Tommy. Maybe we can do it again sometime.”

“Sure,” kartal escort I said, relieved he was finally leaving.

At the door Diana pushed a folded bill into his hand as she shook it. He beamed with gratitude, bent his rangy, mangy body down to kiss her cheek, and was gone.

Chapter Eight

“Goddamnit, I hate prisons…what they do to people,” Diana said when she closed the door. She lowered her head and put her hand to her forehead. “He used to be a bright guy…flaky but sweet. Now he’s…. What a waste.”

Mom and I walked into the living room and she collapsed onto the couch, her face contorted with sadness. I sat down beside her and held her hand while she blurted out her anger. “I’ve seen it happen so many times. A guy with some potential in life…makes a mistake, messes up…goes into that system…and comes out ruined. Now I just want to keep people out of prison. That’s what my job really is. I don’t even care if they’re guilty anymore. I just want to keep them out of those terrible places…so they don’t get more screwed up than they already are.”

“Did he go into your room last night?” I hated myself for asking but couldn’t help it.

She stared at me like she couldn’t believe what was on my mind. “No! And if he did, I could handle it.”

I could feel my eyes narrowing and my forehead furrowing. “What do you mean, handle it? Did you want him to?”

“Tommy, what’s got into you? Come off it.” Her irritated expression turned worried as her eyes probed me. “I feel sorry for Jacquot, for what happened to him…for what he turned into. But I don’t want him. He’s a turn-off to me. If he’d come into my room, I would’ve kicked him out. That’s how I would’ve handled it.”

“Oh…OK.” I felt better and a little foolish for getting so upset. Dad isn’t a threat, I told myself.

A couple of days later, though, he called and convinced mom to go out to dinner, just the two of them, “to talk about old times.” I stayed home and ate canned enchiladas while they went to our favorite Mexican restaurant. At least they could’ve picked some other place. I was in a rage, imagining them kissing over sangria and going back to his pad and doing all sorts of unspeakable acts. I felt unwanted and inadequateÔÇöhow could I compete with him? I was just a kid. Part of me knew I was having an irrational fit, but I couldn’t get out of it. Because of our double relationship, all the passions between us were magnified. Love was squared, but so were jealousy and possessiveness.

I thought about going out with a girl to get even with her, but the idea of a girlÔÇöall that nervous, teenage inhibitionÔÇöseemed ridiculous. I’d been spoiled for girls by having the real thing.

I was slumped sullenly on the couch watching Laugh In when Diana came back. I refused to look at her. She sat on the edge of the couch and took my hand.

“What happened?” I managed to blurt.

“Nothing happened. We just talked.”

“Did you go back to his place?”

“No, of course not.” She shook her head. “You’re really in trouble over this, aren’t you?”

My jaws were clenched so tight I couldn’t talk.

“God, you’re such a Scorpio.” She shook me by the shoulders and gave me an embracing look that filled me with reassurance; I felt the fear melt from my face. “Now let’s just sit here a minute and be quiet,” she said.

In the silence I could hear how loudly I was breathing. As a current of calm ran from her hand into mine, my breath slowed and fell into sync with hers. We just sat there, each enjoying the presence of the other. The enjoyment grew more physical as we felt this warm, pulsing closeness, and our breaths gradually grew faster, staying in sync. Finally she squeezed my hand and stood up and I wordlessly followed her into her bedroom.

Mom took both my hands in hers. “Look at me,” she said.

Framed by straight auburn hair, her oval face was unsmiling but calm, full of love. Her smooth skin seemed to glow from within. The corners of her golden brown eyes were crinkled. Tiny lines creased the edges of her full lips. “Touch your mother’s face.”

I brought my fingers to her cheek and felt its silky warmth.

“Kiss my lips.”

As I came closer, her face seemed to expand to fill my vision; my eyes absorbed her as I pressed my lips into hers. What had been a dull dark void inside me now sparked with light and chimed.

“These lips are only for you. No one else kisses them.” As she spoke, I could smell sangria and salsa. I kissed her again.

She stepped back. “Tommy, look at me here.” She pushed her chest forward and I feasted my eyes on the bulges in her batik blouse. “Now unbutton this.”

My fingers trembled as they reached towards her and undid the wooden buttons. Each one revealed more of her beauty: swelling d├ęcolletage, deep cleft of cleavage, lacy white bra filled to overflowing, ribs set far under these gracefully cantilevered mounds, friendly tummy with its dimpled middle.

“Take off my blouse.”

I eased her arms out of it, tossed it away, and reached immediately, greedily for her tits.

Diana crossed her arms over them. “Not until I tell you.”

I lowered my hands obediently.

“Kiss me here.” She touched the little hollow at the base of her neck.

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