Ain’t Love Grand
William L. Gensert
My ex-wife tried to kill me with my own gun. My last girlfriend tried to kill me with a hammer borrowed from my best friend to do work around the house. My current girlfriend just wishes I were dead, but she does that all on her own, nothing old, nothing new, nothing borrowed, nothing blue.
I consider this great progress. Not only are those I love increasingly more independent, with the progression from gun to hammer to just wishes, it’s becoming much less dangerous to be me.
Yoon Hee, the wife, er…ex-wife, gave me perhaps the most magnificent four months of my life. She followed that, however with eight years of despising everything about me. She is however, a nice person and in the end, a good mother. I know it sounds funny saying nice things about someone who tried to shoot you in the head, but she was and is a genuinely kind soul. Only twenty-three when becoming pregnant with our son, she was just too young and didn’t know how to love someone else.
Born Korean and some other indeterminate nationality, a homogeneous society like Korea had no place for her. Adopted by a Polish couple, transported to the Bronx waterfront in Throggs Neck, enrolled in Catholic school, and fully ensconced in the upper middle class life her father could afford, she stopped speaking Korean and melted into the American mainstream.
When I met her, she was wild and sweet, beautiful and exotic, just what a 28-year-old deli owner working seven days a week needed.
Our relationship, tumultuous from the start, was one fight after another. When she wanted to leave after the baby was born, I sold my businesses and bought the house I still live in today. This allowed me to keep my son while letting her go.
I never knew my father, who died young, leaving my mother with a broken heart and the unenviable task of raising three children alone. She did her best, but back in the day, growing up in the Italian and Irish Bronx neighborhood of Morris Park, it was unheard of.
Attending St. Francis Xavier Grammar School, I can’t remember any other children without a father. Growing up fatherless, there is a pervasive emptiness haunting all aspects of youth. It is an indeterminate longing, an ever-present void. Something is missing, but what? In the end, the magnitude of what is missed remains hidden until years later, when you look back, and by then it doesn’t matter.
I wasn’t about to let my son grow up that way. Being fatherless truly marks a person and my son would not be so scarred.
I kept John Vincent as a baby, but I never fully let her go, children really do need both a father and a mother. Eventually when he was about six, in an attempt at reconciliation, we married. He was at the wedding, as was my best friend, John, the man I named my son after, the man with the hammer.
It was not to be however, and our relationship slowly slid toward oblivion and attempted murder.
In the end, we became good friends. She married a South African chef and they’ve been together for fourteen years. We all get along swell, and when he changed careers to become a contractor, I hired him to renovate my kitchen. We manage so well, we even hang out together regularly, with or without the boy, who now is 22-years-old and a man not a boy.
We get along better now than we ever did.
I am pleased with whatever happiness she has found, I consider her my family.
Lia, or as Yoon Hee’s husband Chris likes to call her, “Hammer,” was probably the love of my life. She was beautiful with long curly blond hair and the face of an angel. An Ecuadorian princess, in America since she was six, she was also a nice person. Perhaps a little too attached to her mother.
Sixty percent of the time she was perfect, loving and gentle, a pleasure to be with, everything I ever wanted in a woman. I never had so much fun in my life. But, ten percent of the time she was absolutely crazy. And I don’t just mean, the slightly loony charm of someone’s daft, 85-year-old aunt constantly asking, “What time is it?” I mean, punch you in the face and knock you down the stairs, type of insanity. I loved her though, and was determined to have her as my wife, despite the fact that the remaining thirty percent of the time she was gone, returned home to mom and a rigid policy of not taking my calls.
Eventually she went back to Ecuador in search of the father she never knew, a man who had deserted her mother years before. A quest, that for the seven years we were together, held absolutely no interest for her, but one her mother insisted she needed to go on.
Maria, her mother, had been frequenting a fortuneteller for some time and said the woman told her the trip was necessary if her daughter wanted to get married with a clear conscience and providential karma.
Considering her a first-class clairvoyant, every week for a year, Lia berated me with information the fortuneteller gave her mother about what I was doing, usually involving other women. I tried telling her that it was unlikely this particular “seer” spent every session speaking only of me, someone she had never met. I told her it was more than possible that her mother just didn’t want to let her go.
After all, daughters live with their husbands when they get married.
The very next week, she heard the same disturbing revelations about my supposed indiscretions from “someone else,” confessing later that it was her sister repeating visions told to their mother.
Just before her trip, the fortuneteller unexpectedly died. Ironically, she never saw it coming. In any case, it didn’t matter; for Lia and her mother, it was the message, not the medium.
Upon returning from Ecuador, she discovered pornography on my computer and deduced that I had fathered multiple children in other states and was out every day with a different woman. Funny thing was, not only would I have never let a child of mine grow up without me, I loved her so much; I couldn’t be with anyone else.
Next came the hammer, and then she sued me. I haven’t heard from her in over three years, but her attorneys keep in touch.
After hiding in my room for a year, I tried Internet dating. Following a string of disappointing dates, I met Francisca when she friended me on Myspace. She liked my biceps, which I had been sculpting since my youth in hopes of attracting as many women as possible.
What? I was looking for love.
One of seventeen children from the same mother and father, she was a good girl, and perhaps the only good girl I have ever known. She came here from the Dominican Republic when she was twelve, became a citizen, earned a college degree, raised two children on her own and survived cancer.
She broke my heart when, with a smile on her face, she told me of how she would sit in her room, hair gone from chemo and one breast missing, telling men she talked to on Myspace that she was a model traveling the world in luxury, wanting for nothing and living the jet-set life of champagne and caviar.
This was said without an ounce of self-pity, not a drop of bitterness for opportunities missed and misery undeserved. She is perhaps the finest human being I have ever met, always a smile on her face and always happy.
It’s not her fault I’m a jerk, hence the wishing I were dead thing.
Not malicious, I am confident her murderous musings would be forever unfulfilled. Even if she were the type to actually kill someone, which she is not, it’s nice to know my potential killer would at least smile as they did the deed; it’s probably a lot less scary that way.
I consider myself to be a good man. I have all the same friends I had when I was ten years old. I have built houses with Habitat for Humanity and cooked for the homeless; I have mentored youth. My son speaks highly of me as a father. My life has been an exercise in doing the right thing, while trying to treat everyone the right way.
I am a good man, however, as I mentioned, I am also somewhat of a jerk. It