Mistress of the Mayor of Buffalo

Back when I was young, I didn't like kids. In a couple of decades, not much has changed. I still don't like most kids; but, now, I also don't like most adults. However, living my life wearing a pair of friendship blinders hasn't left me friendless. Most of my currently closest friends have been in my life for close to twenty years. I can find a few exceptions to this rule, but those exceptions are still within a five plus year range. I'd love to say I don't plan on making any more friends. But, I guess no one plans on making new friends. Once I do, though, I plan on keeping them.

Back around 1978, I was living in a four flat with my mom. It was a vintage dump. It wasn't a fixer-upper. It was a letter-rotter. The landlord had no interest in anything but the rent. Because of my throbbing brain filled with decades of useless memories and data, I remember many things about this place. The hallway was covered in a velveteen wallpaper straight from the 1920's. I once had a nightstand lamp thrown across the room at me by unseen forces, bursting into flames. I had to apologize to the old sagging, clown-faced whore who lived downstairs for telling her and her lap dog to shut up. The nights spent making slides of urine to inspect under a low-powered microscope. Hours spent hiding in cupboards, waiting to jump out and scare people walking past. I used to lay in bed and practice not breathing, because nothing would kill you if they thought you were already dead. I figured out my theory of spontaneous combustion and Hell while living there. It goes a little something like this: spontaneous combustion is simply an act of the Devil and since the basement is the closest place in the house to Hell-- you are more likely to spontaneously combust in the basement. I would cry heading down to change the laundry over from the washer to the dryer. There are other things about that place. But, the best thing was Bev. My first best friend.

Bev Rosencrantz lived directly across the hall from me. She was probably about 78 years old when we met. I was seven. We shared a wall running along the hallways in our flats. "Pound on the wall if you ever need me to call the police. And, you do the same for me. I'll be listening," Bev would tell me.

I spent every day after school with Bev. I was a latch key kid. Do they even still use that term? If they do, they shouldn't. It's a stupid term. By no means should you ever believe even the most intelligent young child is willing or capable of staying alone in a house for hours on end without incident or fear of incident. What they should be called is we-don't-have-any-other-choice-kids. But, I didn't have to worry about that once Bev and I became friends.

I would run up the stairs, throw my coat in my apartment, and then take my homework over to Bev's. As I did my homework on her marble (no, not marble TOPPED... MARBLE period) coffee table under the light of a chandelier shaped like of a bunch of grapes, Bev would watch Guiding Light. I would be spread out in my Catholic plaids. And, Bev would be decked out in her rhinestone encrusted, velvet housecoats with a head wrap and black slippers. Bev would offer me peanut brittle, and it would always be stale. Bev wouldn't eat, she would just chew on the rhinestone encrusted cigarette holders that she kept next to her chair in an unused standing ashtray.

Bev's apartment was lush. Ebony and teak dining room pieces, constantly set with goldware for six. I once saw inside her bedroom on a trek to the can. And, what would the next two sizes up from a king-sized bed be? Well, that's what she had... with a red velvet, pillowed headboard. And, I was always amazed the shitty plaster ceilings never gave way under the weight of all the suspended lighting (mostly more chandeliers). And, on and on. Not the typical decor you'd find on a retired school teacher's wage. Yeah, I forgot to mention Bev was a school teacher.

Bev didn't use her kitchen much. Not since someone tried to kill her by setting her refrigerator on fire back in Buffalo. That was decades ago. Back when Bev was the mistress of the mayor of Buffalo. Yup. And, according to Bev, there were plenty of people who would like to see her dead. That's why Bev had the windows and the doors electrified. Yeah, electri-mah-fied. Bev would talk and talk and talk while I did my worksheets.

Another story Bev used to tell quite frequently was about a scientist with snakes forever crawling over his grave. She was a Jew for Jesus before the Jews for Jesus knew they had a choice. She converted to Christianity and had a priest come to her house to give her communion. All so she wouldn't spend eternity covered in snakes.

It's pretty easy to see how Bev and I became close friends. I was a young kid with a wild imagination and an edgy paranoia. And, she was an old lady with one foot in reality and an edgy paranoia. I am surprised we never wound each other up enough to accidentally kill the agents of the Mafia and Satan otherwise known as the postmen.

It might seem kind of sad that I wasn't running in the sun and scabbing my knees in a hearty game of tag. But, I truly enjoyed all my days with Bev. I just wish I knew more about her life than just what she told me. But, don't you know! I can't find a damned thing


- Melissa Sullivan