Freudian Slips: Raising Arizona

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

February 17, 2005

Raising Arizona

Epiphany is a young adult female with a diagnosis of borderline mental retardation. In terms of cognitive functioning, borderline means her IQ dangles a mile marker south of normal intelligence. Epiphany demonstrated behavioral challenges in adolescence that waned as a young adult. Thank goodness too because her idea of teenage fun was taking a bus to the seedy side of town to shout racial epitaphs.

I first met Epiphany in 1997. Epiphany answered the front door of the townhouse, where she lived with her mother. After I introduced myself, a broad smile painted Epiphany’s face. She let me in. I followed her instructions back to a kitchenette, where she invited me to sit down.

Right after she offered me a cup of tea, Epiphany shouted towards a bedroom. “Hey mom, you better put on your makeup then get out here. He’s cute. You're gonna like this one.”

“What?” I said with wide-eyed incredulousness. “Why are you saying that?”

As if on cue, the mother exitied the bedroom. Our eyes met. A fool could see that the mother radiated the same tonic of beauty that her daughter did but professionalism kept me from acknowledging the observation. Mom stood still like a posed model waiting for compliment and camera shutter to snap. Epiphany broke the ice with a chisel. In stampedes, Epiphany ran with the bulls and never got trampled. “Mom needs a boyfriend who will treat her right. Don’t worry, she will sleep with you on the first date. You are gonna enjoy yourself. I hear that mom is pretty good in the sack.”

An embarrassed look gashed the mother’s taut face. “Do you have to tell him everything, Pif?”

“Just being honest, mom.”

Brutally honest I thought to myself. “You have the wrong idea here. This isn’t a matchmaker dating service.” I protested. “This is social services.”

And so began my infatuation with Epiphany and not her mother. A demure quality defined Epiphany’s sweet innocent voice. This combined with an impeccable lack of social grace made her an interesting case study. I learned that Epiphany’s matchmaker intentions were rooted in good intentions. She thought her mother could do better for herself. Mom suffered from a spiraling eating disorder and repeated domestic violence from the ironclad fists of a welder.

I grew fond of Epiphany and her burgeoning sense of independence. I helped her study for her driver’s license. I accepted her invitation to attend her high school graduation. I watched her become an adult. Men had eyes for Epiphany too and her charm attracted men like bees to sweet nectar. On Valentine’s Day, 2003 she married a high school sweetheart after a long courtship. Her spouse spoke only broken English but that mattered little since he kept Epiphany’s best interests at heart. I liked him the moment I met him. He was a transplant from Arizonia. Arizonia seemed romantic to Epiphany, who hated living in New Jersey. Epiphany wanted out the first chance she got. Arizonia seemed as good of a destination as any. I couldn’t blame her. NJ car insurance premiums are the highest in the nation and property taxes are highway robbery with a due date. Epiphany’s husband still had family in Arizonia so discussion about moving west came up early and often in their relationship. In 2003, Epiphany contacted me and told me of definite plans to relocate to Arizona on December 31, 2002. Epiphany acted as her own legal guardian so there was no stopping her. I double checked with mom, who approved of her daughter’s relocation.

“Why are you traveling on New Year’s Eve?” I asked. “That’s one of the worst days to travel. I hope you are flying.”

Epiphany explained, “I got my driver’s license now, Joe. My hubby bought a used car. We are driving out. We will take turns driving. It will be an adventure.”

I told her to be careful and to call me when she got settled. My services begin and end at the State line. Epiphany reported back to me by cell phone of their successful move. She reported things were tight financially but through the help of an uncle, her husband found employment fixing up old homes. She had no working phone, relied exclusively on her cell phone, and complained about the overage charges. They secured housing in an apartment complex called Santo De Rio. Epiphany did not expect to return to New Jersey. They viewed their life as fulfilled. She boasted about making a few friends at a church she joined. She made affirmations about enjoying the hotter climate Arizonia offered and the open road made it easier for a beginner driver like herself. She related that mom had twice flew out west to see her.

I received a handful of phone calls from Epiphany. Epiphany reported that mom and the bruising welder hit a huge jackpot on a progressive slot machine at an Atlantic City casino. The color of money and bruises now cemented their relationship. Epihpany promised to mail me the promotional pictures in the newspaper about their inheritance. She seemed to want to tell me something more. I listened but most of our long distance conversations went something like this.

“Joe Tornatore.” I answered the telephone.

“Hey, Joe. It’s Pif. Can you hear me?”

“Yeah. Why do you have a bad cell?”

Epiphany explained, “I have been getting lousy reception from my cell phone out west. I am standing outside now. It hasn’t rained in three months. Do you know it is 102 degrees today? What is the climate in New Jersey.”

“Seventy two with an all time high of car insurance and property taxes.”

“I don’t miss New Jersey.”

“Did you register for disability services in Arizonia yet?”

“No.”

“Who is receiving your benefits?”

“Mom still. She is forwarding me the money out ot Arizonia.”

“You got to get that straightened out. We talked about this before. Are you happy, Pif?”

“I love my husband and Arizonia.”

“You always know what to say, you smoothie.”

“Have you ever been to Arizonia, Joe?”

“As a matter of fact, I haven’t.”

She invited, “Why don’t you come out and visit us?”

“That's sweet but I don’t think business expenses will cover the trip beyond the Walt Whitman Bridge.”

“Will I ever see you again?” she pouted.

“Now that you mentioned it, I need to explain something to you. If all is right in your world, I need to discharge you from agency services. Arizonia must provide you with case management now.”

For all intents and purposes, we ended the conversation. I had no choice but to terminate her from New Jersey services. About six months later, I receive in improptu phone call from Epiphany’s mother. The mother had a secret to reveal. Given the family dynamics, I wondered where this conversation were headed.

“Epiphany never moved to Arizonia.” A nervouse giggle and sentence stress followed. “…uh, she never left New Jersey.”

“What do you mean? She hates Jersey. She moved. I get calls from her very month.”

“You know Epiphany doesn’t always tell the truth. She carried this fib too far.

“Do you mean she fabricated the whole move to Arizonia? It was all an elaborate lie?”

“I'm afraid so.”

My head spun like a yo-yo doing the loopty loop. “Wait a minute, I confirmed that your daughter moved to Arizonia not only with you but her fiancee.

“Epiphany swore us to secrecy.”

“Secrecy is one thing, conspiracy is another. Look, I don’t know who is telling me the truth at this point.”

“I'm sorry.”

"Not as sorry as I am.” I said curtly. “Do you have any idea how much of a fool I’ll look like when I go to tell my supervisor a disabled client bamboozled me into thinking she went to live on a prairie?”

“Again, I'm sorry.”

“I guess Pif concocted the Pinnochio lie about you hitting the jackpot in AC? I was a fool to believe that yarn of rags to riches?”

“No, that was true. $440,000 dollars.”

I hiccuped. “Congratulations are in order somewhere in this cocamamey story of deceipt.”

“Look Joe, Epiphany didn’t feel she needed services any longer. Don’t take it personal. She is grateful for your help along the way but she wanted to somehow prove to you she could make it on her own. This was the best she came up with. There was a method to her madness.”

I swallowed hard but it was time for this social worker to get back to business. “Can I say something? I love your daughter but she is a walking ambiguity. Tell her to send me proof of New Jersey residency and a handwritten letter indicating her desire to be discharged from our services. If she no longer wants my involvement, there is no reason for her to keep calling me up inventing imaginary tales.”

A month later, I uncover a letter in my haystack of incoming mail. The return address said Pif and nothing more. I open it. It contained three items. I see Epiphany’s angelic face plastered on a copy of a valid NJ driver’s license. There is also a neatly tucked handwritten letter detailing that she didn’t need me as her social worker. Behind it, I see a tattered picture of two non-harmonious people standing arm and arm next to one of those giant sized slot machines with $WINNERS$ at the bottom of the scroll.

Good luck out there, Epiphany. You are as far away as Arizonia ever was.

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1 Comments:

Blogger PaxRomano said...

WOW!

And that's about all I can say concerning that one.

10:49 AM  

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