Hi. My name is Maggie. Well, Margaret. Margaret McGee. Or Margaret M. Silverstein, now, I guess. I was born in Brooklyn, to Catholic parents. My parents were of that new breed- the breed where both parents worked. But this was in the time before day care and other such things had really made it easy for parents of limited means to have a kid cared for while both parents worked.
As a result, I was on my own a lot and I had to learn to fight for myself on the streets of New York. I was always athletic, and perhaps a little bit of a tomboy. I liked to run, miles a day. That was how I vented my pent up anger on the world at large, among other things.
But, well, I was also a person who cared a little too much for her own good. Seeing people truly hurting, that bothered me. But that was a good thing, in the end, I suppose. But I am getting ahead of myself.
While I was athletic, and very strong, I wasn't pretty. And I knew it. If I didn't know it on my own, lots of people went out of their way to tell me. I never even tried to go after boys- I just didn't feel good enough about myself. My face was a little flawed, I suppose. And I was too muscular- girls weren't supposed to be muscular. Whatever.
When I graduated high school, I got a job working as a waitress at a restaurant in Manhattan, and got a little studio walk up not too far from Central Park. I kept running in the park every morning, as I worked the lunch shift. Junior waitresses just didn't get the more profitable night shifts early on in their career. I was making money, I was surviving ... but I was very lonely. I ran to keep my mind off of it, among other things.
After I had been working for a little over a year, I started getting the night shift at the restaurant. Which was a good thing, because I started to make more money. But it also meant that I crashed into bed at 1AM most nights, and didn't get up until noon. So I ran in the early afternoon.
Every day that I went running, at the place where I was deciding to end my run, there was a middle aged man. Salt-and-pepper hair, often not well maintained looking. But he wore expensive clothing, and that clothing changed every day. So he wasn't a poor helpless bum. The other thing about him, the thing that caught my attention, was he always looked sad. He was always crying. Always.
At first he was just a man I noticed as being always there. And then he was a guy I noticed as being very upset. Later, I started to realize this was a man who was very deeply upset. But eventually, when I started making a point of watching him, I began to realize he was a terribly broken up man who didn't have a shoulder to cry on.
But being gooey like that wasn't me, and so I didn't sit around and offer one for him to cry on.
But as the weeks wound on, and I kept seeing him there, well, he started to grate on me. I mean really grate on me.
Then, one day, I asked a cop who was always on beat in that area about him.
" ... You don't know who he is?" the cop asked, "Well, I guess you wouldn't. That's Geoffrey Silverstein."
"Who the fuck is that, mack?" I asked.
"He's the man who..." the cop paused, "Well, his wife, she was apparently a crazy bitch. And he watched her shove his son, and the son fell down a flight of stairs and was killed. He testified at her trial, and watched as she was put to death. Apparently, she had been abusive to him for years, and he just took it for that boy. He snapped. I mean this was all over the news."
"How long ago was this?" I asked.
"Oh, gee, it must have been 6-7 years ago," he said.
I kept ignoring him. I kept trying to tell myself that he wasn't my problem. I told myself this with such regularity and such increasing frequency, I realized that it had become my problem.
The next day after making my decision to get involved, I walked up to him.
"Mack?" I asked very softly. He didn't seem to hear me.
"Hey, Mack," I said with more sharpness, and he looked up at me, "Cheer up."
He looked at me with sadness in those eyes, and a good dose of irritation. For a moment, I thought perhaps he would physically attack me. Not that I was that worried- I was a very strong woman, and he was a fifty year old or so that looked like he hadn't eaten in months.
"Leave me alone!" he growled.
I stared back at him, and had taken all of his sadness I was ever going to be able to take.
"No way, mack," I insisted, "I've been watching you for weeks, and I am just not going to put up with this anymore."
I offered him my hands, and he, looking absolutely dumbfounded, took them, and let me pull him up to a standing position. He just came willingly.
Then an idea sprang into my mind. It might not have been a nice thing to do, but something told me it was the right thing to do this time. I led him to the fountain.
He looked at me oozing pure confusion.
"Gee golly, mack," I laughed, "I gotta lighten you up."
And with that, I gently pushed him into the fountain.
After a few moments, he surfaced, all wet, and looking even more befuddled, as if that was possible, and like a bedraggled dog. I couldn't help it. I laughed.
And then ... and then, he started laughing, too.
A few minutes later, when he was out of the fountain, being sternly looked over by some cops from a distance, he kept laughing for a few minutes.
"Feel better?" I asked.
"Lady, that's the first time I've laughed in, dear god, its been seven years."
"Seriously?" I asked.
"Yeah. Thank you."
"My pleasure," I said. And I meant it.
"Please, come back to my house for a meal," he said, "Its the least I can do."
I was hungry, poor, and broke. What could I do but accept?
"Sure thing, Mack ... but only if I know your name."
"Jeff," he said. So the cop was right.
Like most New Yorker's, Jeff walked a lot, and so we started walking towards the west side of the city, and down away from the park. We walked several miles, and we were just talking about nothing in particular. He seemed a lot more cheerful, which made me no end of happy.
Soon, we were walking down a street that had a lot of brownstone mansions on it, and I was utterly shocked when we went to a 3-story-plus-half-raised-basement double wide on what must have been 45 feet of width- not to mention alleys on both sides- and walked up the stairs. If that surprised me, I was even more shocked when he unlocked the door and opened it into the largest, grandest foyer I had ever seen in a private house, for that is what this must have been.
The floor was all marble, with a staircase that must have been, I swear, 8 feet wide taking up the whole rear center of what must have been a 40-foot deep and 20 foot wide room. The room was two stories high, with a balcony-style railing overlooking about three quarters of the rooms perimeter, also in marble. Off to the sides were rooms. He smiled as I rushed from room to room. One of them had a pool table, but the rest all looked like some kind of variation on a living room, all ornate.
Except for the bathroom, of course, which was huge, with ornate marble fixtures, with gold-colored plumbing. Each of these rooms had several large radiators.
He then walked me back past the stairs, whereupon I soon figured out that this huge foyer only took up about half the houses depth. I walked down a hall under the stairs, to a huge- ten feet wide at least- hall that led past two rooms, one to each side. One was clearly a dining room. The other one was- well it must have been a ball room.
In back of both of these rooms was a huge kitchen, where a man and a woman were both working on what smelled like it was to be a great meal. On one side of the kitchen was a 6-person table for eating off of. The rest of the kitchen was very traditional. All old school appliances.
"Oh, young Mr. Silverstein," the man said, "You didn't tell me we'd be having guests over for dinner. I would have made something a little more fancy."
"Its alright, James, I'm sure whatever you are making will suffice," he told him.
James plated the meals, and the woman, who James called Arlene, served us. Then they both retreated down a set of stairs to what I assumed was the basement.
"I didn't know you were rich," I said, somewhat confused.
"Oh, please don't patronize me," he said, "And besides, I'm as poor as a church mouse."
"How can you-" I started.
"Do you think money is wealth?" he barked at me, "Money is nothing but money. Wealth is having people you care about and who care about you! The only people who fucking cared about me are all god damned dead."
He had started crying again, really crying. I got up out of my chair and wrapped my arms around him. He was older then my father. But the man needed comfort, and I tried to provide it for him.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Its ok, mack," I said, "but dear god, I don't think I have a fountain to dunk you in this time."
He looked up at me and smiled, although he was still upset. "I don't know what I can do to thank you," he said, "I can't possibly repay you for simply making me laugh. It felt, for a moment, as if there was somebody out there who cared."
I raised my hand back and slapped him hard across the face. He looked up at me with great confusion.
"You fucking idiot," I yelled at him, "Do you think, do you fucking think, that I would have walked up to a random person in this fucking city of depraved lunatics, who might have killed me, and tried to break him out of a funk, because I don't care about people?"
"I'm sorr-," he stuttered.
.... There is more of this story ...