Posts tagged ‘tunnel-vision’



by mdjb

October ’95, I think it was Friday the 13th, we had a cocktail party. Wanted to get both families together. Figured it would be a lark to invite Malachy, who was a personality. If he would come. Nora asked him to bring his brother Frank, a darker light, because she wanted the balance right.

They came and the party was a success. All evening long, Malachy regaled us with personal achievements. Frank quietly impressed with tales of overcoming hardships. He never mentioned he was writing a memoir, only that he was about to retire after many years of teaching.

At one point there was a toast to Nora’s mother, who had been hospitable when first Frank the lad, then later Malachy, had returned to America.

I joined in, though this was only a story to me, and I felt inadequate under Malachy’s gleam.

The next year, on publication of Frank’s book, saw a shift in their status. Suddenly, the quiet one was the star.

Nora and I went to every booksigning and reading within our range.

One evening, I’m sure it was before the Pulitzer, I had to work late. Nora went to Barnes & Noble and saved me a place. When I arrived, they had already closed off the public access. When Frank arrived, I was allowed with a couple of other latecomers to ride down in the elevator with him and his agent. I nodded but there was no sign of recognition. As we exited, someone led him to a table and handed him a glass of wine. I joined Nora and her young cousin Stephen in the seated crowd.

After a sparkling reading, he signed many copies of his book. We straggled until there were only a few people left.

Nora placed a book in front of Frank and asked him to address it to Stephen. The agent spoke up. “Please, no personal requests. Only autographs at this time.” I looked around the room. There were only nine people still in attendance.

Nora said, “That was a wonderful reading, Frank. I wish you much success.”

He looked up and for a moment it seemed he had trouble connecting the words he had heard with their source.

Then he said, “Nora? Is it little Nora? Jaysus, don’t do that to me. You scared me half to death. A voice out of my past.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. I was holding her elbow and I could feel her tensing.

“How many years has it been?” Frank asked.

It was then that I realized he had crossed over. Twenty minutes earlier the room had been filled with close to two hundred people, and Frank had treated them to bits and pieces of his dark history, opening his soul as it were, and he hadn’t seen, I mean really seen, any of the faces in front of him.