Robert Haydon Jones
and Matthew Levine

Matthew Levine
“View From a Place I Knew”
Inspiration piece

The Blindness of Yearning
By Robert Haydon Jones
Response

Gloria Pagano, a squat, morose, acne-scarred, single mother in her early thirties worked as a paralegal with a white-shoe law firm and lived with her 8-year-old son, Jerome, in an apartment over the garage of her parent’s house in New Haven.

Gloria had matured early and was popular in Middle School. She was a Cheerleader. She had very big breasts and the boys were after her. They talked openly about wanting to lay her. Gloria was Catholic and saving herself for her husband but she liked knowing that boys wanted to get her.

Then when she went to the High School everything changed for the worse. She did make the Cheerleader squad but half way through sophomore year she got horrible acne all over her face  – and she got big. She swelled up. Her breasts got too big. Her butt got too big. She got fat. No neat girl wanted to be her friend – just losers.

Then a horrible rumor started that she had done it with Richard Flanagan – a greaser kid that she had been stupid enough to go to the movies with. She hadn’t even held hands with the creep – but he told everyone they did it in the back seat of his father’s van. So, everyone treated her like a slut.

So, Gloria was alone. Even cheerleading, she stuck out like a sore thumb. (Or like a big boob.) None of the other girls talked to her ever. Then, when she was a Junior, four cheerleaders started talking to her a lot in overly nice voices. Gloria found out she was a project for their Sunday school class. She told them to fuck themselves. She went back into all-alone mode.

Sex saved her. She was a fabulous lover to herself. She had the most wonderful orgasms. She got through her days looking forward to her nights.

The night after graduation she met Phil Maestri at the Catholic Church picnic she attended every year with her parents. Phil was an older fellow just back from eight years away with the Marines. He was going on the Police Force. He asked Gloria out to the movies on Saturday. It was her second date ever. They married three months later.

When they had sex for the first time on their wedding night, Gloria liked it a real lot. It wasn’t as good as she could do herself but it was wonderful being draped by Phil. He seemed to really love her. He said he loved her huge breasts. He said he loved her big butt.

“More bounce to the ounce,” he would say repeatedly and wrap himself around her naked body and give her a long, tender, hug of his nakedness and kiss her long and thoughtfully on the lips. Gloria liked Phil. He was a really nice guy even if he was a loser to be with her. She kissed him back with secret love and longing.

Jerome was born nine months to the day of their marriage. Phil had been dead for four months – shot to death in an accident on the firing range. Gloria and Jerome got only a tiny pension. The Police Chief said that the accident was Phil’s fault.

So Gloria gave birth to Jerome alone. Her mother held her hand but she was alone. And she raised Jerome alone. She and Jerome lived with her parents in an apartment over the garage.  Her parents were terrific. They never horned in. They acted like grandparents and let her do the mothering. But it was mothering alone. She was alone and Jerome had no father.

When Jerome was two, Gloria’s mother signed her up for a Singles Mixer Friday nights at the Lutheran Church annex. She attended pretty much every week for six years. She never had a single date come from it.

Time after time she would sit there and talk with a group of girls like herself who didn’t get much action. She liked talking to the girls. She liked dressing up a little and putting on make up. She liked going out and having her mother take care of Jerome.

She liked the music. Once in a while, a fellow would ask her to dance. She was a real good dancer. Some times the girls would go on the floor and dance with each other.

At the end of the evening people would pair off. And Gloria would walk out to the parking lot with the girls who were left. They called themselves, “The Left Girls.” Most of the time she would be smiling as they walked on out because she would be thinking about making love to herself later on that night.

The Internet changed everything. The Friday night mixer got smaller and smaller. Then it just stopped. Her mother signed Gloria up for Match.com, and eHarmony. She had coffee with quite a few fellows and a couple of follow up movie dates but there was nothing in it. Then she had coffee with Billy Ryan and it was like the movies. They just hit it off. They took long walks. They had long conversations.

Things progressed slow but steady. Finally, they made love. Billy was a trucker who drove long distances. He lived in a rooming house twenty miles away. So they had sex in Gloria’s apartment during the day when Jerome was at school. Billy was shy about it. Some times he had a problem finishing. Gloria was patient. She helped Billy using the same techniques she used on her self. But some times even then nothing happened. It was no big deal for her, she reassured him. Billy was grateful.

Best of all, Billy and Jerome developed a wonderful relationship. They played catch in the back yard. Billy took Jerome to Mets games. They went on hikes. A few times in the summer when Billy had short overnight runs, he took Jerome along.

Billy talked about getting work as a short haul driver so he would be there every night when they got married. He made good money and he had saved enough for a down payment on a house for them. They agreed to wait till he could change jobs.

Gloria was in no hurry. The two years she had been with Billy had been wonderful. Everything was good for her and for Jerome.

Then one Saturday, Billy was going to take Jerome to the Mets game. When Billy didn’t come on time, Gloria called him on his cell phone. A strange voice answered. It was a Detective in New Haven. Billy was in jail. The bail was a million dollars.

Billy was a member of a nationwide ring of pederasts that preyed on boys. They exchanged photos and videos of the boys naked – many of the shots were of actual abuse. The shots were horrifying. Even veteran police and FBI personnel were sickened. Jerome appeared in more than a hundred of the photos and videos.

Gloria talked with Jerome right after she found out that Billy was in jail. Jerome told her that Billy had said this sort of man-boy love was natural and good but that women didn’t understand it and that it would only upset his mother if Jerome talked about it with her.

Frank Pellegrino was the lead local detective on the case. Gloria knew him a little. He had graduated from the Police Academy with Phil and lived a few streets over from her. He was a genuinely nice man. He was also a single parent. He had a 7-year-old daughter. His wife had died of breast cancer two years back. He was very gentle with Gloria about what Billy had done to Jerome. Gloria could see he was very uncomfortable questioning her.

She demanded Pellegrino show her the photos and videos of Jerome. The detective tried to persuade her not to look but she insisted. So he showed her four photos and a 90-second video. Gloria vomited into the waste paper basket by his desk. Afterward, she had the dry heaves.

Pellegrino urged her not to blame herself. There were scores of other mothers like her all around the country, he said. Billy and the others were masters of deception. They won the trust of the parent first.

During the investigation, it came out that the ring of pederasts had developed a written manual they followed to find vulnerable boys. “Look for single mothers of boys – the fatter and uglier the better,” was one of the maxims they followed. “ When you meet her just tell her she’s interesting. Then sit there and listen to her story and tell her you understand. Buy her flowers. After a few sessions, you can move right on to the boy. The mother will be blind.”

Pellegrino told her Jerome wouldn’t have to testify. The photos and videotapes were enough. Billy and the others were making plea deals. Billy had agreed to 25 years. “We have approval to use the State’s Victim Fund to help Jerome. He’s cleared for three sessions a week at the Mental Health Center at Yale for two years. Plus, even though you didn’t know about Billy, you’re cleared for counseling once a week for two years.”

Gloria held up her hand. “I could say that I didn’t know that Billy was doing those awful things to Jerome and that would be true — but the moment they told me that Billy was in jail for molesting boys — I knew that I had known something was very wrong all along. You could say I didn’t know I knew until I knew.“

Pellegrino winced and then he just looked at her. He told her she was being too hard on herself. Gloria replied that she wasn’t being too hard on herself. She told him she was in agony because the pederast’s manual had it right.

A year and a half later Gloria got married to Frank Pellegrino.

Gloria had been doing okay. She was promoted at work and got a raise. She had joined the choir at her church. On weekends in the summer she played golf with three friends. In the winter, she went ice-skating with the same three friends. She went to all her counseling sessions for a year – and the therapist got her extended for another year.

Jerome was healing. He was doing well in school. He was popular. He was a star pitcher in Little League. He said he didn’t really need his therapy sessions any more but he never resisted going.

Frank had started calling the day after he interviewed Gloria at the Police Station. He called every day. At first, he said, he just wanted to see how she was doing. Then he suggested they meet for lunch. It went on from there. Frank Pellegrino was a nice man and he was good looking too. He looked like a manly Tony Curtis.

Gloria didn’t have any feelings for him.  She was pretty much in agony all the time. Her therapist knew this. So did Frank Pellegrino. He told her no one deserved to hurt like she was hurting. He told her that in time the pain would diminish. Gloria didn’t argue – but she knew Frank was talking about the pain he felt when his wife died of cancer – and that was a long way from what was hurting her.

But she was glad to marry him. It was good for Jerome to be in a real family. It was good for her parents to have their house and their lives back. It was a big wedding. A lot of people came – it was a popular marriage.

On their wedding night, they had sex for the first time and it was a lot better than she thought it was going to be. Afterward he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her strong but tender and told her that he really loved her big body, her big boobs and her big butt.

Then he said, “More bounce to the ounce!” and for the first time since she found out about Billy she felt something happy stir in her heart.

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16 Comments

  1. dan shulman
    Posted July 3, 2012 at 5:57 am | #

    Very, very moving. The emotional punch is enhanced by the simple declarative style, which makes the story so much more credible. A real tour de force.

  2. Perry
    Posted July 4, 2012 at 11:12 am | #

    Tough stuff that really grabs you. The emotional war and tugging going on underneath comes through. Much bounce to the word ounce.

  3. seanbeaudoin
    Posted July 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm | #

    No one has the stomach for what other people do. Makes you want to take Frank Pellegrino out to lunch.

  4. Posted July 7, 2012 at 10:08 am | #

    This is a well crafted tale showing how America values superficial beauty
    .Fat people with acne and children are worthless except as trampolines for the roving pervert. There is an echo here of the famous Lolita and just as incisevly related . We must needs open our eyes our hearts to the lonely abandoned folk in our midst be they fat and not societally attractive. Well done Mr Jones another hard hitting slice of of our so called democracy

  5. John H. Tucker
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm | #

    Again, with Jones, it’s the you-can’t-make-that-up detail — from the “The Left Girls,” to the accident (his fault) on the firing range, to the Friday nigh Singles Mixers at the Lutheran Church annex. Plenty of bounce to each ounce of prose. The whole thing is numbingly heart-wrenching. God bless you Gloria, wherever you are.

  6. Carl jacobs
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm | #

    ok,ok,ok

  7. Dave Monroe
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm | #

    Tough story. A woman blinded by her need for love makes the ultimate sacrafice to get love. The scary thing — creeps like the perp in the story are out there, and they’re organized.

  8. paul zalon
    Posted July 14, 2012 at 11:19 am | #

    Great story- truly shocked at the 2nd act; did not see it coming. Mr Jones has an unusual insight into Gloria’s inner life. The details of the story ring true and horrible.
    God bless Gloria, Frank and Jerome. May Phil rot in hell.

  9. Chris Egan
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 6:30 am | #

    Well done! Gentle treatment of an odious subject. A nice reminder that there are many truely good people who stay the course, do the right thing against mighty odds and persevere.

  10. Charles DeFanti
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm | #

    I sent this on to Ellen Hofmann, my former student and one of the best writers I’ve ever known. Her novel, “One Hand Waving Free,” is now on Amazon, with the same shocking, true-to-life realism that anchors this story.

  11. Margot Kinsey Jones
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm | #

    This story gave a voice to every woman who was a tortured teenager. As I earned at my 50th Staples HS reunion last year, we all had a bit a Gloria gnawing away at our self-esteem. Even tall, blond, skinny teenage girls like me had to overcome gender bias and cruelity. Good girlfriends saved us all. Suggest you see the film “Damsels in Distress,” for a satirical look at young women.

  12. Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm | #

    The staccato style pulls me along quickly, even when I might want to turn away. I feel sorrow and pain for humans that become targets for deception, abuse and false love. Most of us don’t want to consider that sick fringe, we turn away. Who’s a target? Who’s a deceiver?

  13. Ed Lambertson
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 10:02 am | #

    Hard to accept that there are “Billy’s” out there doing their worst, makes me want to put on a cape and go after them…..Strong,punchy, insightful story.

  14. Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm | #

    Made my gut flip throughout, even at the end. Many thought provoking moments. Wonder if the sick ever truly heal?!?!? Thanks!!

  15. Greg Lippert
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:47 am | #

    Wonderful story Bob, so much emotion. The picture has a somber look with lots of emotion as well I was curious where you wouldgo with it. Both great, enjoyed this very much!

  16. Mary
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 8:08 am | #

    Wow. Really excellent story — and I love the painting. Bravo!

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