Chapter 15 Propinquity

Updated: Jun 14

Even though I stopped hanging with my three drinking buddies, I was still doing some risky things. One night, I was having drinks in Johnny Eagan’s bar with a “new” male friend.  You could smoke in bars back then. I would pretend to smoke to look cool. I would buy a pack of Newports. Mostly hold the cigarette and pretend to inhale. The smoke would barely enter my mouth before I would exhale it. We were both sitting in a booth holding cigarettes when he suggested a game. He held the cigarette to his hand for 30 seconds. Then told me to see how long I could last. Without hesitation, I held the ember to the base of my left hand. I don’t know how long it was but he said I won. I still have the round scar to remind me of how reckless I could be. I also did not realize that a pattern of self-harm was developing. Behavior that indicates a need for better coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including depression, eating disorders, anxiety or post-traumatic distress disorder. Those at the most risk are people who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse. For instance, if a person grew up in an unstable family. Later that week , Curt, my deflowerer from prom, walked into the Casey bar. I was not working that night. He had filled out that once scrawny body and looked quite attractive. He bought me a drink and I apologized for being such a bitch when I broke his heart. He was charming and funny and I was getting drunk. We ended up at his place. His lovemaking had improved too. However, when we were finished, he told me to get the hell out. He said, “I loved you with my whole heart and soul and you shattered that. I just wanted to even the score by rejecting you.” I got dressed and left immediately. In retrospect, I don’t blame him. I only hope that he obtained closure from our “one night stand”. I was 22 years old and getting tired of nightlife and being alone. My biological clock was ticking. The Baby Boomer generation married young. Hell, I had already tried marriage before I was 21. I thought I could make a better choice this time. I had been dating musicians, drummers, and piano players. I had dated bartenders and bar owners.  I did not want to get involved with married men or “made” men. None of the men I was meeting were the “marrying type”. The pickings were slim in this town. There is a theory called Propinquity. In social psychology, propinquity from Latin propinquities, "nearness" is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or the psychological proximity between people. Two people who live in the same town possess a higher propinquity than those who live elsewhere. If I had gone to college or moved to Los Angeles, I would have had a vastly different selection of men. But the options were stymied by my parents, mainly my father. Scranton was my only resource for romantic relationships. I ended up marrying three times to men from Scranton. Not just Scranton but they all were from South Scranton. The bouncer from the El Dorado who had been my bodyguard kept flirting with me. He was not my type. He hinted that he was a collection enforcer for one of the crime families. So far, my type always seemed to end in heartbreak. I told him if he had his hair styled and bought some nicer clothes, maybe I would go out with him. A few days later, he showed up looking like a different person. He cleaned up nice. We started dating. Bobby Riccardo seemed like a safe bet. Everybody seemed to like him. For some reason, most people called him Harpo. I was never sure why. He said it was because of a boxer that was deadly in the ring. He thought it was Max Baer, who did have many nicknames. Bob had been a boxer in the Army or so he said. At any rate, I never called him Harpo. Since, he was the bouncer and doorman at the El Dorado, I spent even more time there. Butch Thuran, Babe Tononi and Sonny DiLeo were the bartenders there. They too had a huge circular bar. Butch worked at all the bars downtown when needed, he was one of the best. There was also a dance floor with a disco ball. It was a lot wilder than the Hotel Casey bar. Drag Queens, gangsters, prostitutes, all types came in there. I made friends with a transexual named Lovey. Lovey was always dressed to the nines from head to toe. Nails painted, earrings, sequin dress and high heels. One night we both needed to use the ladies’ room. I was only in there two minutes when a girl came in asked if I was the bouncer’s girlfriend. I said yes. She told me he had said, "She better get her ass out of there right now!" When I came out, he wanted to know why I would go to the ladies’ room with a drag queen. I tried to explain to him that I thought of Lovey as female when she dressed like that. Gender never occurred to me. Obviously, Bob was very narrow minded. Soon, I would find out how toxic his sense of masculinity really was. It was closing time and the staff was sitting at the bar having a drink. Bob challenged Butch to an arm-wrestling match. Even though Butch was on the skinny side, he was known to be quite good at arm wrestling. The first match he won. The second match Bob won. They had to have a tiebreaker. The two locked arms and both held on like they were fighting for their lives. After a few minutes, Bob put in an extra thrust. There was a sound I had never heard before. The sound of breaking bones. He had broken Butch’s arm. I remember feeling sick to my stomach. I didn’t know anything about Toxic Masculinity when I was young. Even though, I had been victim to it many times. Men who had been violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. Men who thought that REAL men need to be strong and that showing emotion is a sign of weakness, unless it’s anger, that is considered okay. The problem is these types hide that side of their personality when they are courting you. That's what Bob did. Bob pulled out all the stops to woo me. Took me to the fanciest restaurants in Scranton, Dunmore, and the Poconos. He would order Chateaubriand and escargot to impress me. He told me he didn’t really like that I worked at the Hotel Casey, especially the night shift. I had kept the efficiency apartment on Spruce Street that I had rented with Johnny. The room at the hotel was free, but I didn’t want to lose the apartment so I was still paying rent there. Bob wanted to spend the night with me. He lived over the El Dorado and I was not about to be that public with our relationship. If I took him to my room in the Hotel Casey, I would look like a prostitute. I told him that the landlord of the apartment thought I was married to Johnny and I couldn’t risk losing the apartment. It so happened that outside the apartment window was a fire escape. Bob’s solution was that he would come in through the fire escape so no one would see him. A few days later, I had pulled a day shift at the Casey. In walked Al Baldassari. He always sat by the phone booth at the Lackawanna Entrance. This was a common thing. People would come and go, giving him money or slips of paper. The pay phone would ring and he would be making deals or I suspect taking sports bets. That day he asked me if I would come work for him. He wanted me to work the day shift at the Silhouette. The thing about the Silhouette was that it was a cozy little bar that didn’t do much business during the day. However, after dark it was known for being a gay bar. His girl Helen worked that shift. He said he would pay me more than I was making at the Casey. I really think Bob called in a favor to get me that job. Working the huge bar at the hotel was physically taxing so I said yes. I really made decisions quickly in my twenties. In a nanosecond everything would change, although I didn’t know it at the time. Every choice we make activates a unit of power. The struggle for power was about to begin once again.

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