Friday, May 1, 2015
Just as I had predicted, the honeymoon phase was quickly dying. Grandmamma was starting to tire of Nick and began treating him bad. By this time, they had been dating for six months tops, maybe even less. I could tell that Nick was trying to win brownie points with Grandmamma but he wasn't having any such luck. I thought that he would give up and move onto another woman but, no. He stayed right by her side, always trying to please her.
By this time, I considered Nick a friend. I was all done telling Grandmamma that I didn't like him, nor was I threatening to not let her in my house if she came to visit me and brought Nick along like I had done months before. I found that the more time I spent with Nick the more I began to respect him. Nick also seemed to respect me at this point, too. His voice still had that hard, stern sound to it but he no longer regarded me as though I was a tiny child, unworthy of respect. He started letting me come up to his house even without Grandmamma with me to play on his drum set, which was quite a bit bigger than mine. It fascinated me a great deal.
Unlike my drum set, which was just a standard Pearl drum set, his had two or three symbols, two of which he called gongs. He also had two high hats and, to the best of my knowledge, he had two bass drum petals instead of one, which was what my drum set had. He didn't let me play very often because they were special to him but, occasionally, he would let me play a few beats and then he would get on the set and show off all of his drum rhythms, pounding on the gong symbols a great deal as he played.
During these visits, I learned a great deal about Nick. Now that he had warmed up to me, he began confiding in me, which wasn't something he did very often with my grandmother. He told me that he didn't have many friends in school and that he didn't make friends very easily. He confided to me that, all throughout his elementary and middle school years, his peers made constant fun of him because of his oversized ears.
"My ears are bigger than most people's ears," he told me on one of my visits to his house without Grandmamma around.
Nick's peers also made fun of the way he talked. Nick never could fit in with any group of people so he mainly was a loner, wandering the halls of his school all by himself.
"I can relate to you in some degrees," I remember telling Nick when he confided in me.
"I don't have many friends either. I can't relate to any of my peers because none of them are blind. When I was in elementary and middle school, kids always came up to me, shoving their hands in my face and saying, "How many fingers am I holding up?" It was annoying as hell so I, too, found refuge in being alone."
Grandmamma was spending less and less time at Nick's apartment and his visits to hers became shorter and shorter. One day, while I was visiting my grandmother, Nick called her and invited us up to his condo for a visit.
"I've got some really delicious wine," he tried to bribe my grandma.
"It's really, really good! And I've already poured a glass just for you."
"Okay," Grandmamma conceded.
"We'll be up there in just a few minutes."
So we went up to his condo and, as soon as we walked into his condo, I looked down at the delicious thunder cake carpeting and thought of chocolate. As we walked into his living room, shoes still on our feet, I wished that the carpet was a REAL cake so that I could REALLY eat it instead of just pretending to.
I never had to take my shoes off at Nick's house because his carpet was pretty dirty. Whenever I visited Grandmamma, though, and at my mother's house, it was absolutely REQUIRED that EVERYBODY who entered their homes had to take their shoes off so as not to attract mud and dirt onto their spotless floors. Nick was a landscaper, though, and said that his carpet was really dirty because he was always attracting mud and dirt in when he got home.
"That's why I have such dark carpeting in here," he told me on one of our visits. The explanation made perfect sense to me, but Grandmamma was always making snide remarks about how dirty his house was.
On this visit, I really remember feeling angry for the first time about how Grandmamma treated Nick. I mean, I knew how nasty she could be but this was really the first time I had seen her treat a man who had done nothing to deserve such harsh treatment with such disrespect.
Nick and Grandmamma sat in the living room drinking their wine. Sports was playing on the television and Nick was watching the game and not really engaging in conversation with us. Grandmamma hated watching sports on TV so she began singing really loudly, purposefully trying to make it impossible for Nick to follow the game.
Finally, after some time had gone by, Nick gave up trying to watch the game and said to Grandmamma, "I need to shave. Will you shave my face?"
"Sure," she said, glad that she had sabotaged Nick's afternoon of sports watching. I could just HEAR the satisfaction dripping from her voice when she answered him.
"I want to help shave your face, too Nick," I called out to him as he started heading to the bathroom to collect his razor and shaving cream.
"You can help," Nick said to me.
"But only if your Grandmamma is guiding your hand. I don't want you to cut me."
"Fair enough," I said.
A couple of seconds later, Nick arrived with his razor and shaving cream.
"Let's go out on the deck to do the shaving so the hair doesn't get all over the carpet," suggested Grandmamma as she jumped up from the couch and headed for the deck without waiting for an answer from Nick.
As if facial hairs will really dirty up the carpet more than it already is, I remember thinking as Nick and I slowly followed her out onto his deck.
"Wow, she's so bossy," Nick whispered in my ear as we walked.
I giggled quietly and just shook my head in agreement. It amazed me how much Nick allowed my grandmother to boss him around so much in HIS OWN HOUSE!
Once we got onto the deck, Nick turned the electric razor on. It was loud and rearing to go.
"Come here Ashlee," Grandmamma called to me.
"You grab the razor and I'll guide your hand."
Excitedly I walked over to Nick and felt his face. It was quite hairy. He was indeed LONG overdue for a good shave.
I grabbed the razor and relished in it's power as it vibrated violently in my hand. Grandmamma grabbed my hand and then she started roughly moving the razor across his face.
"OUCH!" exclaimed Nick as he backed away.
"What?! What did I do?" I was horrified that I had hurt him.
"No, it wasn't you. Your very impatient grandmother didn't wait for me to put the cream on my face first."
"Well, hurry up then," Grandmamma said, impatience radiating from her entire body. The feeling was palpable in the air.
Nick hurriedly applied the shaving cream to his face and then said, "I'm ready now."
I was still holding the vibrating razor. Once more, Grandmamma grabbed my hand and began again to roughly scrape the razor across his cheek.
I could tell that Grandmamma was shaving him too roughly. I hadn't ever shaved someone's face before but I could hear it in the way the motor of the razor protested as she applied way too much pressure and speed to Nick's face with the razor.
Here's how it sounded. I'll try to describe it as best as I can.
Before I started shaving Nick's face with the razor, the motor just made a smooth VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV sound. When Grandma began using it with force to shave Nick's face, the sound was much different. The motor was clearly in distress and I'm sure Nick's face was, too. When Grandmamma was being forceful the motor sounded like this:
VVVVVVVVRRRRRRRRRVVVVVVVRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDVVVDDDDDRRRRRRRR, only it wasn't in one smooth motion. This was the speed that Grandmamma was carelessly using to shave his face.
Again and again she continued brutally slashing the facial hair from his face. Sensing how aggressively she was shaving him, I tensed my hand a little bit and tried to force Grandmamma to guide my hand more slowly. Tensing up my hand and arm, I thought, would force her to go slower. But it didn't. Rather than taking my hint, she simply applied more pressure to my hand and went even faster. I can't even imagine the expression that must have been on Nick's face as she worked her brutality on him. It must have been a painful one.
Finally, Nick had had enough. Backing away from us, he said, "Stop, STOP! I'll take it from here."
"I'm sorry Nick," I said. I knew it wasn't really ME who needed to do the apologizing; it was Grandma who should have done it. But I knew that she never would admit any wrongdoing and I felt very strongly that Nick really did deserve an apology so I decided to apologize for the both of us. As much as I knew that I really shouldn't be feeling any guilt, I felt it anyway. Why couldn't I have stopped Grandmamma from being so ruthless? Why didn't I tell her to be more gentle? How could I have let this happen? I did have some involvement in Nick getting hurt because I had been the one helping him shave, too. Yes, the feelings were stupid, but I couldn't make them go away.
"Owwwwww," Nick complained, rubbing his face with the palm of his hand.
"You cut me!"
"Oh," Grandmamma said with absolutely no emotion in her voice.
"Well, it wouldn't have been so hard to shave your face if you had taken better care to shave it more regularly yourself."
Nick went inside to clean the cut and then he came back on the deck to finish the job. I watched him as he slowly and with much care, shaved his face. Again, the razor's motor began to sound normal.
Even with Nick making it work, it still sounded smooth. There were no ripples in the motor sounds, no sounds of distress coming from the poor razor.
"Okay, well, thanks for the wine," Grandmamma said as she turned and started heading for the inside of Nick's house so that she could collect her things and leave.
"We're leaving now."
"You're leaving already?" Nick asked.
"Yes we are. All you're doing is watching sports and just sitting there like a lump on a log. It's a sunny day outside and I most certainly do NOT want to be sedentary and stuck in a dark, smelly house all day. Ashlee and I are going to take a walk and enjoy the sun. Come on Ash, let's go."
"Bye Nick," I said, still in shock over how brutal and emotionless my grandma had been.
"Oh, is your face all right?" I just had to ask him.
"It's a little sore still," replied Nick.
"O he's fine. He's just being a big baby. Come on Ashlee, let's go enjoy the sunshine."
That was Grandma talking.
"Bye guys," Nick said a sad aire about him.
"We'll see you next time Ashlee."
"Bye Nick," I said to him and then walked up to him and gently touched his hand.
"Enjoy your sports game today."
"Thank you Ashlee," Nick said and then I had to half-run through the sliding glass door to catch up with Grandmamma, who was already halfway out the front door.
"Weren't you going to wait for me?" I asked as she slammed his front door shut behind us.
"You were being too slow," Grandmamma told me.
"I don't wait around for slow pokes."
There are a lot of times where I remember very clearly Nick being very mistreated and disrespected by my grandmother and mistreated some by my mother and aunt Giselle, too. I plan to share all my memories that I have about it in other parts of the story.
There was another weekend that I came to visit my grandmother at her condo. I can't remember what time of year it was, I only remember that I was visiting her and Nick, of course, was around then. We were hanging out at my Grandmamma's house. It was just Grandmamma and me. Suddenly, we heard rapid footsteps on the stairs, followed by the strange knock.
By then, I knew it was Nick and jumped up to answer the door, excited to see him.
"Hi Ashlee," he said when I opened the door. Only he didn't say my name quite that way. You see, for some reason, whenever Nick spoke my name in greeting, it sounded more like he said, "Hi Ashleeee,", making my name sound longer on the EE part. I hadn't noticed it before but I did notice it then for the first time and I liked how it sounded. I wanted to tell Nick about it but, remembering that he had been ridiculed a lot in his past; I decided to keep the thought to myself. I didn't want him to think that I, too, was now going to start picking on him.
"Hi Nick," I said, throwing my arms around him in a bear hug.
"I'm so glad to see you."
"Hi Giovanna," Nick said, walking up to my grandmother, hoping for a kiss no doubt.
"Hi," she said and offered him a very short, stingy kiss on the cheek. No make out sessions this time.
I wished that I could enjoy the fact that they weren't going to take forever to make out right in front of me, planned to enjoy the moment, but I couldn't. Instead I found myself feeling sorry for Nick. It was so obvious how much Nick longed for her affection, how much he had been craving it for so long, and yet there she was, being cool and abrupt, affectionless as a sleeping bear. Right then, I found myself wishing that Nick would dump her already and find himself a kind, loving woman who would give him all the affection that he so craved and deserved. It was inevitable. Grandmamma was going to dump him sooner or later, I could just tell, and I knew that Nick wouldn't take it well at all. Nick, I was starting to learn, was a very sensitive guy, who often cried when he felt upset or someone hurt his feelings. I hadn't seen him cry then but Grandmamma said that she had seen him cry and I believed her. I was quite sure that, when the time came when Grandmamma decided to pull her love completely out from under Nick once and for all, that he would cry like a baby over her. I could tell that Nick really did love her and wanted to live a nice life with her. But Grandmamma would never go for him. He wasn't rich enough for her. He didn't have fancy stuff like she wanted him to have. Nick would never have a life with Giovanna, of that I was dead sure.
"I came over because I have a little surprise for you Ashlee," Nick said, turning back to address me.
"What is it?" I asked, hoping it was something chocolatey.
"Well, your Grandmamma told me that you were coming over to visit her this weekend in advance, so I took some time to create a little agenda of fun things that we will do this weekend for you."
I stood there, mutely, wishing I could speak but finding myself unable to. This was the first and only time that someone had ever created an agenda of fun things that we would do for an entire weekend.
"What's wrong?" Nick was on point now. I guess Grandmamma had been scolding him a lot and he was on the defense. I totally knew the feeling and I empathized with him.
"N-nothing's wrong," I stammered.
"It&helip; It's just so&helip;"
I struggled to find the right word.
There, that was the correct word.
"Oh," Nick said, visibly relaxing.
"I'm glad you like it. Would you like me to read what's on the list of fun Ashlee Weekend things to do?"
"Absolutely," I told him and sat down on the wicker couch to hear it. Nick sat down at the barstool and began to read it.
As thoughtful as his gesture was, I am afraid that I can't remember everything that was on his agenda. I only remember a couple of the things on it.
"Okay," Nick said and then cleared his throat.
"This list is called Ashlee Weekend. This weekend is all about Ashlee," he began to read.
"The first thing we are going to do is make brownies with extra chocolate. We will have them with ice cream. If there isn't any ice cream in the freezer, your Grandma can take you to the store to pick some up."
He paused, probably waiting for Grandmamma to say whether there was any ice cream. She said absolutely nothing. Instead, she busied herself with watering her plants, not bothering to sit down with us and acknowledge what he had written up. I knew that the weekend was all about me but&helip; STILL, the least she could have done was sit with us and PRETEND to listen.
"Next," Nick began again, seeing that Grandmamma would not provide him with an answer.
"We will go swimming at our pool here and we will soak in the hot tub. This is all for today, which is Saturday, just so you know. After that we will go to the King's Wok All You Can Eat Buffet and feast until we nearly EXPLODE!"
Mmmmmmm! The Kings Wok was one of my favorite restaurants. Grandmamma liked it, too, so I was surprised when she still made no attempt to say anything about Ashlee Weekend. Was she jealous that Nick hadn't made a list of things for her for her own special weekend? Had Nick ever done that for her before, or tried to, and she gave him the same cold shoulder that she was giving him now? All these questions wandered in my mind as I listened to the list as Nick read on.
The list was long and, as hard as I try, I cannot for the life of me, remember what he had planned for the rest of Saturday and Sunday. I only remember feeling really special and, well, noticed. Noticed and respected. Respected in a way that I never had been before. All by this very strange man named Nick Ali Naficy.
When Nick finally finished reading the agenda, he said brightly, "Okay, well, let's start making brownies now. Oh wait, what about the ice cream?"
He turned to my grandmother, this time very expectant for an answer. She gave him one but it wasn't the one he was expecting. I was half-expecting it but it still gave me an unpleasant jolt inside when her answer came out in harsh, lashing words, like a whip beating the air as words flew from it with each cutting lash.
"Nick, I'm not making brownies right now. In fact, we aren't doing any of what is on your 'list'."
"Nick and I sat there in stunned silence, waiting for the next round of hurtful words, words that would leave huge, bleeding welts. Welts that would eventually shrink over time but that would leave behind a red, faded scar. A scar, which in turn, would last a lifetime.
"Ashlee and I, for your information, have our OWN plans for this weekend. And your agenda&helip; Well, it's very long and overwhelming. I don't want to feel like I'm on a set schedule for the entire weekend. So take your list and go somewhere else with it."
"Okay Giovanna," Nick said his voice just above a whisper as he got up and headed quickly for the door.
"I won't taint this house with my presence anymore."
He left, closing the door with a sharp CLICK behind him. Then I could hear the steady STOMP, STOMP STOMP of his feet as he quickly ascended the stairs, eager to take refuge in his house, where he could cry and nurse his emotional wounds with another round of wine. Or maybe even a little snort of coke. Yes, Nick was a cocaine user. He only used occasionally but, rumor had it that he used whenever he went to parties and hung out with his friends. I personally never saw him use cocaine before, but something about the way Nick acted and sounded and the way his life was for him, hard and brutal, made me believe my grandmother when she told my mother and me that he used coke from time to time. Apparently Nick had even admitted it to my grandma on one occasion when she confronted him about his pupils being dilated and his eyes being red and bloodshot.
"Wow," Grandmamma said as she poured a cupful of water into the pots of one of her plants in her living room.
"That was quite the long list. What did you think of it?"
"I thought it was very thoughtful," I replied, knowing very well that she would disagree majorly with my statement. I couldn't have cared less.
"Nick spent a lot of time on it and it was obvious just how much thought he put into it. What did YOU think of it?"
I kind of already knew what she thought of it but I wanted to make her say it.
"I thought it was overwhelming," Grandmamma said, coming back into the dining room to refill her cup so that she could wander into the bedroom and water that needy, thirsty plant, which stood, tall and pretty, beside her bed and dresser.
"It felt like I was in the military or something, like I was on a strict regiment all the time. I didn't like it at all. I'm glad he went back home. That's where he belongs."
"Making brownies sounded like fun," I told her.
"I'll make some later," she told me.
"I just didn't want to share any of them with HIM. And, I want to make them on my terms, not his."
When she told my mother about the Ashlee Weekend agenda, they both laughed and ridiculed Nick over it. Nick, of course, wasn't there to hear it, but I was.
"He sounds like he has WAY too much time on his hands," Jennifer said, laughing her evil, witchlike cackle.
"I'm telling you," Grandmamma said, laughing to.
"Seriously Mom, you've got to get yourself a new man," Mom told Grandmamma.
"He's such a loser, not to mention BUTT ugly. What's up with you and bald men?"
"Nick's bald?" I asked. Somehow I had failed to notice that.
"He's completely bald," Grandmamma answered me.
"Bald and UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-GLY!" added my mother.
"Yeah, I'm getting pretty tired of him," Grandmamma told her.
"He's so immature. It's because of his drug use, you know. His mind is stuck at a teenage level because he's killed his brain cells with all the drinking and drugging that he does. Sometimes I can't STAND to be around him. I feel like I am dating a child, not a strong, reliable man. And, he doesn't have any MONEY! He's in so much debt Jennifer, it's crazy. And, he hardly works. He says that he plans to get rich when his parents die and he inherits something, but I told him that they probably won't die for a long time. His parents are old but they are very healthy and active."
"Yeah, say bye-bye to that one Mom," Jennifer encouraged her.
"Seriously, just say BYE-BYE!"
They laughed again in delight over their next victim to make fun of, poor Nick. I wondered when they would run out of things to make fun of with Nick and when they would move on to their NEXT victim. I was sure it wouldn't be long. Disgusted with both of them, I got up and silently made my exit to my room, my sanctuary, my place to vent and swear and rock back and forth and listen to music and, overall, just be myself. Which, if you have been following my stories, was absolutely FORBIDDEN in my mother's home. No being yourself allowed, rule number 1 in big, bold letters, figuratively written right in our windows in front of the house for all to see.