Pained Reunions

Why is it the only acquaintances I ever run into after a long absence…are people I loath.

I recently attended a Christmas party for a company, and there was my ex-brother-in-law, being praised as a highly regarded officer of this company who had formulated its highly-touted profit-loss formula.

I hadn’t seen him in 30 years, not since he divorced my sister. This was the guy who abused my sister, and would desert his house, but not before cleaning out what little was left in the refrigerator, drinking the last of his three-month-old baby’s milk.

The only thing he could be successfully used for is as a bad example, a waste of skin. He’s one of the few people I’ve met who started at the bottom, and went down in the world. He opened up a tuxedo rental shop, and after two weeks got bored, and left the store to be run by my sister and mother. The store went bankrupt.

Now, here he was, being lauded by this company as one of its top men. The company is a rather devious operation that routinely disseminates gross misrepresentations to its employees, and has a 92 percent turnover rate.

I can imagine when they called my ex-brother-in-law in for an interview.

“You have quite a resume,” the boss says to my ex-brother-in-law. “All in all, it’s a testimony to your viciousness, cowardice, greed and dishonesty.”

The boss pauses. “You should do well here.”

What do you say to a person like that, after 30 years?

I introduced myself and his eyes flashed surprise. In the five-minute conversation I had with him, it seemed age had made him, in addition to being grayer and more stooped, a little wiser and more human than he’d been. It was as if he’d finally realized the grandiose fantasies he’d held about himself weren’t going to come true, and this calmed him.

Oh, I neglected to say that he also kept stacks of Playboy magazines in his garage. I was 16 years old at the time he was married to my sister. Because of my burgeoning sexuality, I’d sneak copies of the magazine and look at them.

A few years ago, my mom was describing for visitors, with a touch of horror, a remembrance of how she’d once discovered a Playboy under my bed when I was a teenager, as though there was something wrong about it.

I felt like getting up before my mother and saying, with a little cynicism. “Mom. Why would you think a healthy, 16-year-old boy, whom nature has suddenly and dramatically endowed with reproductive equipment, would possibly have a girlie magazine under his bed? The way you raised me………you’re lucky it wasn’t pictures of guys.”

Uh oh! I got off on a tangent, off the subject of my ex-brother-in-law, didn’t I.

I wish him luck. He’ll need it.

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