My best-loved friends know all about The Poors. Regaling my women friends, laughing until we can’t breathe, is perhaps not the kindest way to treat The Poors but frankly they are laughable. In chronological order they are: Poor Bill, Poor David, and last as well as least Poor Joe. To be honest, I have residual guilt in the unfortunate business surrounding Poor Bill, who was handsome but insufferably smug and confident in the way of adored youngest children, and Poor David, who lied so he should have known better but he believed anyway because he had no choice in the matter. Poor Joe had a complex problem. He was lazy and quite possibly a masochist. Nothing else could explain it, he begged to be treated badly. In fact, he had a reputation as a cuckold many times over. His behavior was such, that in retrospect, only masochism can explain his defeatist, passive conduct.
As badly as I behaved at The End (The End demands a dramatic flourish if not a plane ticket to another time zone) people asked Poor Joe what he did “to that nice girl”. Poor Joe, being the person who was wronged and bested at last, did not like to be blamed for doing anything to someone who hadn’t behaved so nicely after all. I was surfing the crest of my prolonged and misspent youth when I finally jettisoned Poor Joe, which is funny now but was just a tad shameful then. As with all of The Poors, he tested my patience and he got precisely what he begged for while I got just a smidge more than I bargained for.
Poor Joe was 17 years older than me. He was 17 years older than me in a bad way; a hasn’t been if you get my meaning, washed up, worn out, done. He once told me he’d been to a classic rock concert where “they’d played a lot of the old favorites.” That was after the big heave-ho and he was trying to illustrate the EXCITING good time I was missing listening to all of the old favorites. He’d been to my apartment for the 3rd time that morning, to say absolutely nothing, so I told him he needed to go elsewhere and find something to occupy himself because I was too bored for company. I saw him once again right after my husband and I got married. I was with my long-suffering sister and one of the aforementioned friends who is complicit in laughing to near asphyxiation at the expense of The Poors. It was uncomfortable. He glared at my ring finger, like I owed the lazy, sloth anything. He rarely completed an honest day’s work in the time that I knew him, and I swear this is the truth, he would eat his dinner in a hot bath. I once said to him, “I suspect you’re independently wealthy and you’re testing me to see if I’m worthy.” He wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed. He liked to imagine he was Doc from Cannery Row and THAT was a delusion of grandeur!
Cruel kismet prevailed a few years ago when I was waiting for my niece to join me for breakfast. I felt someone looking at me and glanced up to see an older man with an insipid smile spreading across his face. I started to smile and realized, horrified, halfway through that it was Poor Joe, who recognized me at the same time. I made a graceful smile retraction but Poor Joe was trapped in his booth with a book. He obviously wasn’t reading, his eyes raced back and forth over the pages as he thought, “It’s her and I’m trapped.” As he tried to exit, people who knew him arrived and kept him trapped even longer. Oddly, once he got out on the sidewalk he stared in at me for longer than necessary, a masochistic minute.