"You're Still a Young Man"
But I'm not so young. Can't you understand, that I think like a man.
Of the many people my mom calls friends I would say Alfredo Andres Michel is her closest. He’s a good friend to me too. He let me and Charlie call him Alfie when we were little boys but now he says we’re too old to be calling him that, and he prefers Andrew. Almost everyone calls him Alfredo though, including my mom. He’s still Alfie to me. Charlie tried calling him Alfredo and Andrew for a while but he eventually went back to calling him Alfie.
Alfie lives next door to us in Santa Barbara. He drives the newest BMW every year. He always chooses black. He sticks to the 5 series usually, but once I saw him drive past our house in a 7 series. He claims to be French and he named his dog Pierre to prove it. My mom tells me he’s Argentine, with a French last name, but whenever I ask Alfie for the truth he starts yelling some nonsense out in French. When I ask for a translation he refuses to give it to me because I deny his French heritage.
He listens to Carlos Gardel, the Argentine tango king, every day. I know everything about Gardel from Alfie. His tango knowledge gives me more reason to believe my mom’s stories over his. Before I had a girlfriend, I’d spend entire days with him, and wherever we were, Gardel was always in the background, playing in his BMW, at his office downtown, or in every room of his home. The night I went to him for advice, I remember “Volver” playing.
“Alfie, can you turn that down a little? I need some advice,” I said to him, and I took a seat in the armchair closest to his desk. I usually didn’t go to anyone for advice but Alfie was a psychiatrist and I wanted to hear what he’d tell me.
“Advice?” he stopped what he was doing, which was probably doodling his name across some scratch paper. “Yeah, I can give you that. What is it about?”
“Can you not tell my mom?”
“Uh, yeah. I don’t tell her a lot of things. I’ve been hiding secrets from her since college.”
“And I did some awful things.” He smiled at something he was thinking of. “Oh God, but I had fun.”
“Aflie, I want to get married,” I said lowly. I caught him off guard.
“I never thought about getting married in college though. Who does that?”
“Alfie, I want to get married,” I said again, a little louder.
“To Marie?” he asked. “She wants to get married too. What’s wrong with you kids?”
“I’m not joking. I don’t if she wants to get married. I haven’t asked her yet.”
“Really, you want to get married?” He leaned forward.
“Have you told your mother?”
“No. That’s why I’m here. How do I tell her?”
He sat back into his chair and went quiet. Gardel’s voice seemed a little louder at that moment.
“I don’t know. Just tell her,” was his answer.
“My mom and I aren’t very friendly with each other right now.”
“Why? What’d you do?”
“Worry her. Not come home for days. I’ve been ignoring her phone calls.”
“And you want to get married? I don’t understand why.”
“I’m in love.”
“No, love has nothing to do with it. I think you’re bored.”
“What? No. I love Marie.”
“Or you need something to replace baseball.” He clasped his hands together.
“What? No. I’m in love.”
“Ok. So that’s why you want to marry then? You’re in love? Ok.”
“So how are you going to tell your mother?”
“I don’t know.” I was getting frustrated. He wasn’t going to be any help. “I wanted your help. You’ve known her longest. And I didn’t want to ask my uncles. They’re just as bad as she is. And I can’t tell my dad until I tell her.”
“Well I can’t help you with that because I don’t even know why you want to get married.” He got up and changed the music to another Gardel album. I stood quiet in the chair and rolled my eyes at his comment. I felt that I wasn’t going to get any advice out of him.
“I mean I was in love in college and marriage never crossed my mind. But then I’m just unmarriageable. I don’t think I’ll ever get married. That’s for crazy people, like your parents. But when I think back, you know, I don’t think it ever crossed your mom’s mind in college either. Oh she was madly in love then, and I’d say she’s still crazy for him.” I had no idea what he was talking about at this moment. “Was she going to marry him?” he asked himself. “Hmmm. With that woman you never know, but then she married your father. ”
“What?” I interrupted him. He said my mom was madly in love in college. I wondered with whom. “What do you mean?”
“What do you mean what do I mean?”
“Who was my mom in love with in college?”
“What? In college?” he replied.
“Yeah, you said my mom was madly in love in college and that she was going to marry him. Who was she in love with? Who was she going to marry? It wasn’t my dad, right?”
“Wha-? No. Yeah,” he stuttered nervously. “Of course it was your father. It was Bernie.”
“But she didn’t know him until later.”
“What? She knew him.”
“They didn’t meet until after college. That’s what they told us, and I believe my parents.” I sat up in the chair.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Benjamin. But the point is, I don’t think that you’re ready for marriage. You’re young. Just wait. You’ll get over it.”
I stood up and I walked towards Alfie. We were the same height but he was so thin, I looked so much bigger next to him.
“I guess it was useless coming here. You’re a doctor, aren’t you supposed to give advice or something?”
“My job is not to give advice. My job is to tell people whether they’re crazy or not,” he said, walking away from me towards his desk. He pulled out a box of cigarettes from his pocket. He offered me one, but I refused. I watched him light his cigarette. He took a long, slow breath and looked at me. “You, Ben, are crazy,” he said. “Just like your mother.”
“I’m going to tell her this weekend anyway. Whatever happens, happens.” I started walking out.
“Well, good luck with that.”
“And please don’t tell her I told you.”
“I won’t,” he promised as I walked towards the door.
“And I’m gonna find out what you meant?”
“My mom in love in college,” I responded.
“There’s nothing to that. I told you. It was your Papa Bernie.”
“I’ll find out,” I yelled back as I left his office.